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The European Legacy, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.

305318, 2001

Derrida and Kierkegaard: Thinking the Fall


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AVRON KULAK

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Is it important to think the Fall? Is it equally, or perhaps more, important not to think the Fall? Can one simultaneously think and not think the origin? What is the relationship between thought and origin? The paradoxical relationship between thought and origin becomes, in the texts of Derrida and Kierkegaard, the basis for thinking through ideas of history, freedom, and responsibility. For both thinkers, the concept or non-concept of origin is linked to the biblical story of the Fall. In either asseverating or in placing under erasure the concept of origin, the biblical story of the Fall, for Derrida as for Kierkegaard, expresses the very structure of modern thought. It appears that, for Derrida, the biblical story of the Fall uncritically presupposes the idea of origin, an idea that he then places under erasure. For Kierkegaard, it is because the story of the Fall itself places the idea of origin under erasure that he is then able to formulate a concept of origin that, as biblical, provides the very structure of modernity. How are we to understand the difference in approach that these two thinkers bring to the story of the Fall? How is this difference possible? What is its origin? Does it have an origin? Do Derrida and Kierkegaard, in their accounts of the idea of origin, also account for the relationship between their idea of origin and the origin of their ideas? Derrida accounts for the origin or possibility of deconstruction in two apparently different ways. First, Derrida appears to locate the condition of possibility for deconstruction in the play of differences or traces which, he holds, constitutes the very nature of language. In eliciting the aporias and paradoxes which follow upon the deconstruction of language as constituted by the relationship between a signi er and the originary self-presence of that which it signi es, he equally deconstructs the possible existence of a concept immediately present either to itself or for thought. For Derrida, language in principle makes the signi cation of meaning present in its transparency or original self-identity impossible. In thus accounting for the possibility of deconstruction through the nature of language, Derrida arrives at the notion of an auto-deconstruction that always already will have occurred. Derridas argument proceeds as follows. He claims that the maintenance of the rigorous distinctionan essential and juridical distinctionbetween the signans and the signatum, the equation of the signatum and the concept, inherently leaves open the possibility of thinking a concept signi ed in and of itself, a concept simply present for thought, independent of a relationship to language, that is of a relationship to a system

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of signi ers. 1 (We shall later return to Derridas notion that the distinction between signi er and signi ed is juridical.) For Derrida, all thinking modeled on the concept of the sign inexorably acquiesces in the idea inherent even in the opposition signi er/ signi ed, that which he calls the transcendental signi ed.2 The transcendental signi ed is that which, in and of itself, in its essence, would refer to no signi er, would exceed the chain of signs, and would no longer itself function as a signi er.3 It would remain outside language, outside each and every text. Derrida holds, however, that there is no(thing) outside language, no(thing) outside the text. Not even philosophical discourse is to be accorded the exemplary privilege of acceding to a truth either outside or prior to language. All such claims to systematize, stabilize, or ground meaning in a transcendental signi ed tacitly presuppose, he holds, a concept or an origin of meaning which, rather than producing, is itself the product of, the opposition between signi er and signi ed. Further, Derrida claims, it is not only the existence of the transcendental signi ed which is thus brought into question, but from the moment that one questions the possibility of such a transcendental signi ed, and that one recognizes that every signi ed is also in the position of a signi er, the distinction between signi ed and signi er [also] becomes problematical at its root.4 Given that every signi ed is also in the position of a signi er, the conceptual opposition between the two is rendered unstable in principle. Derrida thus reconceives their opposition as the expression of a non-originary play of differences, one that involves what he calls the trace. The play of differences supposes, in effect, he holds, syntheses and referrals which forbid at any moment, or in any sense, that a simple element be present in and of itself, referring only to itself. Whether in the order of spoken or written discourse, no element can function as a sign without referring to another element which itself is not simply present. This interweaving results in each element being constituted on the basis of the trace within it of the other elements of the chain or system. Nothing, he repeats, neither among the elements nor within the system, is, therefore, anywhere ever simply present or absent. There are only, everywhere, differences and traces of traces.5 Since there is no concept that is not already the trace of a(nother) trace rather than the sign of an originary presence, the very concepts of origin and presence are revealed as the contradictory, illusory, if nevertheless inevitable extension of language (thinking) understood according to the metaphysics of signi cation. Inasmuch as language in fact exceeds that metaphysics, the concepts of origin and presence are, Derrida argues, always already subject to an internally ordered, lawful auto-deconstruction. Thus, given the nature of language, deconstruction will always already have been operating wherever thought surreptitiously presupposes, in one form or another, the binary oppositions inherent in the structure of the sign. The auto-deconstruction of the text, in other words, will always already have occurred wherever thinking is conceived as a foundational enterprise, as an attempt to recover its origin in full presence. In his second account of the origin of deconstructive methodology, Derrida argues that the condition of possibility for deconstruction is a call for justice.6 It is the call for justice, he holds, which gives us the impulse, the drive, or the movement to improve the law, that is, to deconstruct it.7 He therefore insists that the fact that law is deconstructible is not bad news. We may even see in this a stroke of luck for politics, for all historical progress. But, he adds, the paradox that Id like to submit for

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discussion is the following: it is this deconstructible structure of law (droit), or if you prefer of justice as droit, that, along with the call for justice, also insures the possibility of deconstruction. Justice in itself, he writes, if such a thing exists, outside or beyond law, is not deconstructible. No more than deconstruction itself, if such a thing exists. Deconstruction is justice.8 Yet, since there is, for Derrida, no(thing) in itself, no(thing) outside, and no(thing) beyond the text of the law, the distinction between justice and law which he has just outlined is already problematic. Everything would still be simple, he writes, if this distinction between justice and droit were a true distinction, an opposition whose functioning was logically regulated and permitted mastery. 9 His original formulation of the relationship between justice in itself and law is thus aimed, it appears, at maintaining the relationship between deconstruction as justice and justice as undeconstructible while simultaneously deconstructing any possibility of justice as pure presence in itself. In order to preserve the distinction between justice and law, without which deconstruction would not exist, Derrida re-articulates in three movements the paradox which constitutes the condition of possibility for deconstruction. First, he writes, the deconstructibility of law makes deconstruction possible.10 Second, the undeconstructibility of justice also makes deconstruction possible, indeed is inseparable from it.11 Third, the result is that deconstruction takes place in the interval that separates the undeconstructibility of justice from the deconstructibility of droit 12 The interval that separates the undeconstructibility of justice and the deconstructibility of law is charted by Derrida in a series of aporias that, he claims, are in fact one aporia, the one potential aporetic that in nitely distributes itself.13 But how is one to chart an interval that cannot be traversed? It is impossible, he writes, to have a full experience of aporia, that is, of something that does not allow passage. An aporia is a non-road. From this point of view, he says, justice would be the experience that we are not able to experience.14 Yet, he continues, I think that there is no justice without this experience, however impossible it may be, of aporia. Justice is an experience of the impossible. A will, a desire, a demand for justice whose structure wouldnt be an experience of aporia would have no chance to be what it is, namely, a call for justice.15 What, then, are we to make of the interval which separates justice and law? The interval, the aporia, in which the call for justice is sounded and in which the relationship between undeconstructible justice and deconstructible law is preserved, though neither exists in themselves, Derrida here calls will, desire, and demand. It is, for Derrida, will, desire, and demand which constitute the impossible experience of the aporetic and which, as themselves the gap, the interval, the non-road in experience which preserves us from presence, thus preserve the concepts of decision, responsibility, and singularity, without which there would be no justice. It is, he writes, the impossible experience of the aporetic in which, between law and justice, deconstruction nds its privileged siteor rather its privileged instability.16 Yet, given that it is will, desire, and demand which constitute the interval in which, between justice and law, deconstruction nds its privileged, unstable site, is it not will, desire, and demand which, always already, thus constitute deconstruction? Since both justice and law fall within the interval of will, desire, and demand, Derrida intends the aporias which he sketches, and which we shall not take up in detail

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here, to make explicit or perhaps produce a dif cult and unstable distinction between justice and the exercise of justice as law 17 As an experience of aporia, the exercise of justice as law, the very possibility of a just decision, would involve, he writes, a reinstituting act of interpretation, as if ultimately nothing previously existed of the law, as if the judge himself invented the law in every case. 18 One must come freely into relationship withone must reinstitute as if begettingthe very history of just decisions by reinvent[ing] it in the reaf rmation and the new and free con rmation of its principle.19 What, however, is the principle of this history (the history of this principle)? For Derrida, the deconstruction of all presumption of a determinant certitude of a present justice itself operates on the basis of an in nite idea of justice, one which, even though there be no justice in itself, is irreducible in its af rmative character. This kind of justice, he continues, which isnt law, is the very movement of deconstruction at work in law and the history of law, in political history and history itself, before it even presents itself as the discourse that the academy or modern culture labels deconstructionism. 20 How, then, are we to understand the relationship between Derridas two accounts of the possibility of deconstruction? In deconstructing the sign on the basis that self-presence is the product of an illusory extension of a conceptual framework which the very nature of language, properly understood, belies, Derrida arrives at the notion that the auto-deconstruction of the text is one which will always already have occurred. Yet, he in fact describes the distinction between signi er and signi ed as one that is merely juridical. Does he thereby mean that it is a distinction that is not yet just? Is the law of the sign subject not merely to its structurally pre gured auto-deconstruction but also to deconstruction as justice, that is, to deconstruction as it is constituted in (by) the aporetic interval of will, desire, and demand? How, in other words, are we to comprehend the relationship between the notion of an auto-deconstruction which will always already have occurred and the notion of agency which Derrida presupposes in making the concepts of decision, singularity, will, desire, and demand central to deconstruction as justice? Justice, for Derrida, is the very movement of deconstruction at work in history, even before it becomes conscious of itself as such or is reduced to its isms. What, then, is the notion of history which Derrida presupposes in claiming both that the deconstruction of self-present certitude will always already have been operating on the basis of an in nite idea of justice and that the privileged site of deconstruction is to be found in the aporia which is both one and in nite and which exists only insofar as it is reinstituted? Does Derrida reinstitute here the very paradox central to the biblical concept of God as creatorthe paradox that God as creator is both one and in nitein order to describe the deconstructive interval of will, desire, and demand? Does he continue to elucidate this deconstructive interval in terms of biblical paradoxthe biblical paradox of creation ex nihilo21when he further claims that a just decision is ultimately made as if nothing previously existed of the law? Is it the case, in other words, that the deconstruction of the origin in fact presupposes biblical thought as the origin of deconstruction? When Derrida, in Of Grammatology, links the deconstruction of originary presence to the auto-deconstruction of the sign, he writes that The sign is always a sign of the Fall. 22 What, however, is the Fall? What does the Fall have to do with will, desire, and demand? How is the Fall possible? How is its deconstruction possible? Is the

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question of how (its) deconstruction is possible the same as the question of how the Fall is possible? In order to take up the relationship of deconstruction to the Fall, I shall now turn to the exegesis of the story of Adam and Eve that Kierkegaard provides in The Concept of Anxiety. In developing there the self-conscious concept of origin which he understands as constituting the biblical story of the Fall, Kierkegaard also provides a remarkable account of the origin of his concepts. Central to Kierkegaards analysis of the possibility of the Fall are the relationships between contradiction and paradox, sin and faith, fate and freedom, possibility and actuality, and the Greek and biblical worlds. It is, for Kierkegaard, the Fall which, in providing the critique of the very concept of origin which it appears to depict, inaugurates the impossible interval of will, desire, and demand that separates the Greek from the biblical world.23 The narrative structure of the Fall, as Kierkegaard develops it, is, however, presented so paradoxically that it often seduces its readers into accepting its surface contradictions. Yet, it nevertheless presupposes as its ontological basis a hermeneutic which enables its readers to confront as paradox the contradictions in which both it and they freely enmesh themselves. As we shall see, the ontological basis which the Fall presupposes is, for Kierkegaard, the freedom whereby the single, responsible, just individual expresses existence as the paradox of the qualitative leap. It is thus worth noting, in anticipation of his analysis of the Fall, that, for Kierkegaard, freedom is never possible; as soon as it is, it is actual 24 Is the Fall, too, possible only once it is actual? Kierkegaard begins his analysis of the possibility of the Fall with the question: Is the concept of hereditary sin identical with the concept of the rst sin, Adams sin, the fall of man? At times, he writes, it has been [properly] understood so, and then the task of explaining hereditary sin has become identical with explaining Adams sin.25 Yet, when thought inevitably met with dif culties, an expedient was seized upon. In order to explain at least something, Kierkegaard notes, a fantastic presupposition was introduced, the loss of which constituted the fall as the consequence. The advantage gained thereby was that everyone willingly admitted that a condition such as the one described was not found anywhere in the world, but, he reminds us that they forgot that as a result the doubt became a different one, namely, whether such a condition ever had existed, something that was quite necessary in order to lose it.26 As a result, the history of the human race acquired a fantastic beginning. Adam was fantastically placed outside this history. Pious feeling and fantasy got what they demanded, a godly prelude, but thought got nothing.27 The problem in comprehending the paradox that constitutes the story of the Fall, Kierkegaard thus points out, is the temptation dualistically to oppose original and hereditary sin. Adam is then placed fantastically, contradictorily, outside history, Kierkegaard argues, with the result that thought gets nothing. If thought is not to deprive itself of the true content of the Falland it will turn out that this content is indeed what Kierkegaard calls the qualitative leapit appears that the relationship between origin and history must be conceived such that neither falls outside the other. Kierkegaard in fact reiterates several times within the opening pages of The Concept of Anxiety his opposition to any interpretation of the Fall that opposes origin and history by piously placing Adam outside thought in fantasy. No matter how the problem is raised, he claims, as soon as Adam is placed fantastically on the outside, everything

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is confused. To explain Adams sin is therefore to explain hereditary sin. And no explanation that explains Adam but not hereditary sin, or explains hereditary sin but not Adam, is of any help.28 Kierkegaard thus begins to indicate that Adams story is, and indeed must be, our story if we are not to deprive thought of historical content, thereby placing not only Adam but also ourselves outside history. The problem, he writes, is always that of getting Adam included as a member of the race, and precisely in the same sense in which every other individual is included.29 Our task, our problem, is to include Adam in the race and the race in Adam if we are to preserve the possibility of the qualitative leap. In addressing the contradictions that constitute the surface of the Genesis story, Kierkegaard insists that, just as the story depicts Adam as both a single individual and yet as the whole race, at every moment, the individual is, in fact, both himself and the race. This, he writes, is mans perfection viewed as a state. It is also, however, a contradiction, but, he continues, a contradiction is always the expression of a task, and a task is a movement, but a movement that as a task is the same as that to which the task is directed is an historical movement. 30 It is only when the movement of the task and that to which the task is directed are the sameit is only when they are not opposed contradictorilythat we can speak of a task as historical and of history as the appropriation of contradiction. The movement of the task must be directed, Kierkegaard says, towards its own movement: the task must be its own critique. It must presuppose a moment of self-referentiality if it is to overcome the apparent contradiction of beginning outside, or without, history. A contradiction, in order to be possiblethat is, actualpresupposes a history by which it is already exceeded. Adams original perfection, viewed as a state (of innocence), is thus a contradictionit contradicts both Adam and the interpreters of his Falluntil we see that what his (our) story expresses is that he (we), as original, must already have a history. In thus indicating that a contradiction is possible only given a larger ontology by which it is exceeded, Kierkegaard continues to develop the alternative to any interpretation of the Fall which places Adam outside history precisely by continuing to point out the storys apparent contradictions. When it is stated in Genesis that God said to Adam, Only from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you must not eat, it follows as a matter of course, Kierkegaard observes, that Adam really has not understood this word, for how could he understand the difference between good and evil when this distinction would follow as a consequence of the enjoyment of the fruit?31 The story of the Fall, Kierkegaard thereby indicates, in order to bewritten or readpresupposes knowledge of good and evil. The Fall presupposes itself as not merely possible but as actual. Thus, Kierkegaard writes, the Genesis story, despite its apparent contradictions, presents the only dialectically consistent view. Its whole content is really concentrated in one statement: Sin came into the world by a sin The dif culty for the understanding is precisely the triumph of the explanation and its profound consequence, namely, that sin presupposes not a prior state of innocence but, rather, itself, that sin comes into the world in such a way that by the fact that it is, it is presupposed. 32 For Kierkegaard, then, the hermeneutical import of the story of the Fall is that there is no(thing) outside sin, no(thing) outside history. It is, in fact, the hermeneutical structure of original sin which, in articulating Adams story as the story not of the rst

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individual but of each single individual, deconstructs the very notion of origin, the very notion of what (who) is rst, the very opposition between that which is rst or original and that which is second or fallen. That the rst sin signi es something different from a sin (i.e. a sin like many others), something different from one sin (i.e. no. 1 in relation to no. 2), is, Kierkegaard writes, quite obvious. The rst sin constitutes the nature of the quality. The new quality appears with the rst, with the leap, with the suddenness of the enigmatic. If the rst means one sin in the numerical sense, no history can result from it, and sin will have no history, either in the individual or in the race. For the conditionality is the same for both, although the history of the race is not that of the individual any more than the history of the individual is that of the race, except, he reminds us, insofar as the contradiction continually expresses the task.33 Kierkegaard thus concludes that sin comes into the world as the sudden, i.e. by a leap; but this leap also posits the quality, and since the quality is posited, the leap in that very moment is turned into the quality and is presupposed by the quality and the quality by the leap.34 Yet, given that Kierkegaard identi es the Fall with the leap, what, then, are we to make of his exposition of the concept of anxiety as the psychological precondition of original sin? In a logical system, he says, it is convenient to say that possibility passes over into actuality. However, in actuality it is not so convenient, and an intermediate term is required. The intermediate term is anxiety, but, he adds, it no more explains the qualitative leap than it can justify it ethically.35 Thus, throughout his analysis of the Fall as conditioned by anxiety, Kierkegaard is clear that, when thinking through the actuality of sin, psychology can intrude only through a misunderstanding.36 Psychology can, at best, elucidate the ambiguity in which anxiety is related to that which Kierkegaard describes as the nothingness that constitutes its object. Since the Fall, however, presupposes the qualitative leap, and since the qualitative leap as the commitment in freedom to freedom stands outside all ambiguity, it could never occur to the [psychological] explanation that it should explain the qualitative leap.37 Thus, even if we say that the nothing that is the object of anxiety becomes, as it were, more and more a something, we nevertheless do not say that it actually becomes a something or actually signi es something; we do not say, Kierkegaard insists, that instead of a nothing we shall now substitute sin or something else, for what holds of the innocence of the subsequent individual also holds true of Adam. All of this is only for freedom, and it is only as the single individual himself posits sin by the qualitative leap.38 In saying this, he claims, we have said what we again repeat, that sin presupposes itself, just as freedom presupposes itself, and sin cannot be explained by anything antecedent to it, anymore than can freedom, for freedom is in nite and arises out of nothing.39 In thus indicating that the Fall, the leap, freedom, and creation from nothing all share the same hermeneutical structure, Kierkegaard concludes that the sense in which creation sank into corruption through Adams sin, how freedom was posited by the fact that its misuse was posited , the sense in which this had to take place because man is a synthesis whose most extreme opposites were posited and whose one opposite, precisely on account of mans sin, became a far more extreme opposite than it was beforeall this has no place in a psychological deliberation 40 For Kierkegaard, original sinthe qualitative leap which expresses the very paradox of existencepresupposes, posits by its very misuse, not anxiety but

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freedom. Adams story, as our story, bespeaks the paradoxical leap of freedom, the paradoxical leap of faith. By a qualitative leap sin entered into the world, and, Kierkegaard reminds us, it continually enters into the world in that way.41 Yet, he adds, when sin is posited in the particular individual by the qualitative leap, the difference between good and evil is also posited.42 Their difference is, therefore, only for freedom and in freedom, and this difference is, he insists, never in abstracto but only in concreto.43 The free knowledge of good and evil is never possible, but it is always actual. Thus, Kierkegaard writes, although innocence can indeed speak, inasmuch as in language it possesses the expression for everything spiritual, nevertheless, from the fact that Adam was able to talk, it does not follow in a deeper sense that he was able to understand what was said. This applies above all to the difference between good and evil, which indeed can be expressed in language but nevertheless is only for freedom 44 The Fall, the interval of will, desire, and demand, is only for, exists only in, freedom. It can be spoken, it can be thought, it can be understood, only in freedom. Is it the case, then, that language, as Derridas rst account of the possibility of deconstruction appears to hold, will always already have been subject to its autodeconstruction? Is it language which, in light of the differential play of its constitutive elements, is the condition of possibility for the auto-deconstruction of meaning and concepts? Or is it not rather conceptsthe concept of good and evil, the concept of justicewhich, through the difference that exists only in, for, and as freedom, are the condition of possibility for meaning and deconstruction? Is, in other words, the condition of possibility for deconstruction that which, in Works of Love, Kierkegaard calls transferred language?45 But if the distinction between good and evil is not for innocenceif freedom, the leap, faith, sin, paradox, and contradiction are not for innocence to expresswhat, then, is innocence? The narrative in Genesis, Kierkegaard maintains, also gives, along with the only dialectically consistent view of origin, the correct explanation of innocence. Innocence is ignorance, that state in which sin is not yet presupposed.46 In light of the Genesis de nition of innocence, it is, in the course of The Concept of Anxiety, the Greek world with which Kierkegaard aligns ignorance. He comments that it is usually said of paganism that it lies in sin; but, he re ects, re-invoking the categories of psychology which, he nevertheless continues to insist, do not explain the qualitative leap, perhaps it might be more correct to say that it lies in anxiety.47 If we thus ask more particularly what the object of anxiety is, he continues, then the answer, here as elsewhere, must be that it is nothing. Anxiety and nothing always correspond to each other But what then, he asks, does the nothing of anxiety signify more particularly in paganism? This, he holds, is fate, the unity of unconscious necessity and the accidental.48 A necessity that is not conscious of itself, he explains, is eo ipso the accidental in relation to the next moment. Fate, then, is the nothing of anxiety.49 It is in fate that the anxiety of the pagan has its object, its nothing. He cannot come into a relation to fate, because in the one moment it is the necessary and in the next it is the accidental. And yet he stands related to it, and this relation is anxiety. Nearer to fate than this, that is, further than fate, the pagan cannot come.50 Because fate involves the ambiguity of standing in relationship to that which permits no relationship, whoever wants to explain fate, Kierkegaard notes, must be just as ambiguous as fate.

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And this, he says, the oracle was.51 Yet, since the oracular pronouncement of fate had, in order to maintain fates ambiguity, always to stand in self-oppositionto signify the exact opposite of what it saidthe pagans relation to the oracle, Kierkegaard comments, is again anxiety.52 It is in the relationship to fate as re ected by the oracle that Kierkegaard nds what he calls the profound and inexplicable tragicalness of paganism, which, however, does not lie in the ambiguity of the utterance of the oracle but in the pagans not daring to forbear taking counsel with it.53 Since oracular counsel is always ambiguous, even in the moment of consultation, [the pagan] stands in an ambiguous relation to it And at this point, Kierkegaard exclaims, he re ects on the oracles explanations!54 Greek thought, therefore, for which the knowledge of good and evil is not the presupposition, is the expression, the re ection, of fate, the unity of the ambiguous relationship of unconscious necessity and accident, to which thought could not (not) stand in relation. What, however, does Kierkegaard mean here by the unity of Greek thought as the re ection of fates ambiguity? What is the relationship of this notion of unity to his earlier conception of the contradictions wrought by the Fall as an historical task? For Kierkegaard, the Greek world expresses the very absence of spirit.55 If, therefore, he re-invokes the category of anxiety in order to describe the ignorance which constitutes the Greek world, it is to highlight once more that there can be no transition from the uni ed absence of spirit in the Greek world to contradictory spirit as the paradoxical task of history in the biblical world. The concepts of guilt and sin in their deepest sense, he reiterates, do not emerge in paganism. If they had emerged, paganism would have perished upon the contradiction that one became guilty by fate. Precisely this is the greatest contradiction, and out of this contradiction, he insists, Christianity breaks forth.56 In Christianity, he continues, the concepts of sin and guilt posit precisely the single individual as the single individual. There is no question about his relation to the whole world or to all the past. The point is only that he is guilty, and yet, Kierkegaard writes, as he goes on to express the full contradiction within which the Fall or leap is often thought, he is supposed to have become guilty by fate, consequently by all that of which there is no question, and thereby he is supposed to have become something that precisely cancels the concept of fate, and this he is supposed to have become by fate. A misunderstanding of this contradiction, he cautions, will result in a misunderstanding of the concept of hereditary sin; rightly understood, it gives the true concept, in the sense that every individual is both himself and the race, and the subsequent individual is not essentially different from the rst Anxiety at its most extreme point, he remarks, where it seems as if the individual has become guilty, is not as yet guilt. So sin, he concludes, comes neither as a necessity nor as an accident, and therefore providence corresponds to the concept of sin.57 The Greek world of fatal unity with oracular ambiguity foundered, for Kierkegaard, on the contradiction which it could not explicate as contradiction. For contradictionthe contradiction that one became guilty by fate (that is, by necessity or by accident)can be explicated only on the basis of paradoxthe paradox of freedom, the paradox of sin, which posits the single individual as the single individual in whom the contradiction that she is both herself and the race is, as a task, henceforth possible (that is, always already actual). It is thus out of this contradictionit is in having already overcome this contradictionthat the single individual as the single individual breaks

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forth in the Fall. The real self, for Kierkegaard, is thus posited only by the qualitative leap. In the prior state, he claims, that of the Greek world, there can be no question about it.58 Let me indicate, before proceeding, that, with regard to the distinction between the Greek and biblical worlds, I shall augment the reading of the Fall that Kierkegaard provides in The Concept of Anxiety by making reference to selected other works from his pseudonymous authorship. However we construe the relationships between the various pseudonymous works, those to be cited hereThe Sickness Unto Death, Fear and Trembling, Philosophical Fragments, and Concluding Unscienti c Postscript are consistent with The Concept of Anxiety regarding the distinction between Greek and biblical thought. The dramatic claim made by Kierkegaard that there is no self in the Greek world is consistent with, and can be elucidated in light of, his earlier claim that the self is a synthesis whose most extreme opposites were posited by the Fall. The self, for Kierkegaard, is a synthesis of the temporal and eternal, a synthesis of the psychical and the physical; however, he insists, a synthesis is unthinkable if the two are not united in a third. This third is spirit.59 Yet, if the positing of a synthesis is unthinkable outside spirit, what would a self be whose extreme opposites, whose contradictions, were not posited in spirit? Could a contradiction be historical, could it be a task, could it be the will, desire, and demand for freedom, if its opposites were not posited by a third to which they stand in absolute, rather than ambiguous, relation? The contradiction that is not posited by a third, the contradiction that cannot become the task of freedom, is what Kierkegaard calls, in The Sickness Unto Death, the negative unity of the self.60 If, then, the story of the Fall is understood, as Kierkegaard understands it, as that story which presupposes that humans are freely, not fatally, enmeshed in their contradictions, the question of how the story of the Fall is possible, the question of how it is possible to thinkto read, write, and deconstructthe Fall, is thus the question of how contradiction is possible. The question of how contradiction is possible is, in turn, the question of how knowledge of contradiction is possible. Knowledge of contradiction contradiction as historical taskis, for Kierkegaard, the paradox of spirit, the paradox posited by spirit. Spirit knows its contradictions as its own history. It is, Kierkegaard reminds us in The Concept of Anxiety, precisely the secret of spirit that it has a history, a history for which there is no(thing) outside.61 There is no(thing) outside paradox, no(thing) outside spirit, no(thing) outside history. What, then, if spirit knows its contradictions as its own, is the secret of this history which, as in nite, comes into existence from nothing? What impact would this secret have on the notion of auto-deconstruction which Derrida holds always already to have occurred in the text? The answer which we see in Kierkegaard is that auto-deconstruction always already presupposes the biblical world. For the biblical world, he shows us, in positing through the Fall the extreme (binary) opposites of human existence, already presupposes not their negative unity but (their) deconstruction as an historical task. Kierkegaard in fact develops, as distinctly biblical, two further formulations of origin which, in re-articulating and deepening the paradox of origin expressed by the Fall, together supplement the always already of auto-deconstruction. He explicates the rst of these paradoxes in Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscienti c Postscript and the second in Fear and Trembling.

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The question with which Kierkegaard initiates Philosophical Fragments is whether an historical point of departure can be given for an eternal consciousness in such a way that it constitutes, for that consciousness, more than an historicalthat is, more than a merely temporalinterest. How, in other words, are the eternal and the temporal to be preserved from their negative unity in the Socratic model of the teacher, a model in which the moment vanishes in eternal recollection? In the Socratic model, Kierkegaard writes, the temporal point of departure is a nothing, because in the same moment I discover that I have known the truth from eternity without knowing it, in the same instant that moment is hidden in the eternal, assimilated into it in such a way that I, so to speak, still cannot nd it even if I were to look for it, because there is no Here and no There, but only an everywhere and nowhere.62 The question, for Kierkegaard, is how the eternal and the temporal are to be thought as the absolute paradox of the biblical Teacher. Given this Teacher, eternity and temporality are united as what he calls the absolute fact, that to which all human beings, at all times, remain equally close in faith.63 When an historical point of departure is thus given to consciousness in such a way that, where once it was not eternal, it now becomes eternalor else, Kierkegaard constantly reminds us, we return to the Socraticconsciousness then embraces the very paradox, the very dialectic of the eternal, that as soon as it is it must have been 64 To the rst paradox expressing the biblical dialectic of originthat as soon as it is, it must have beenKierkegaard adds a supplement in Fear and Trembling, his meditation on the biblical story of Abrahams binding of Isaac. Whereas in Philosophical Fragments Kierkegaard unites the eternal and the temporal in the absolute paradox, thus preserving them from their negative unity in Socratic ignorance, in Fear and Trembling he appropriates the ethical and the esthetic on the basis of faith, that which he calls the absolute relation to the absolute. In the ethical, the individual gains her eternal consciousness by mediatingby annullingher singularity in the universal. The eternal is, in this light, just as it was in Philosophical Fragments, the invisible vanishing point for the individual: as immanent, it is everywhere; as the telos for everything which stands outside it, it is nowhere.65 In the esthetic, the individual asserts her singularity over the universal, thus remaining in the realm of individual self-immediacy and hiddenness. In ethical mediation, the individual is sacri ced to the universal; in esthetic immediacy, the universal is sacri ced to the individual. Yet, if existence were circumscribed by the opposition between the ethical and the esthetic, Kierkegaard writes, then Abrahams conduct, insofar as it involves concealing his undertaking from Sarah, Eliezer, and Isaac, cannot be defended, for he disregarded the intermediary ethical agents.66 In fact, Kierkegaard maintains, if there is in a person no residual incommensurability with the ethical in some way such that this incommensurability is not merely esthetic, and if, therefore, the ethical is the highest, then no categories are needed other than what Greek philosophy had or what can be deduced from them by consistent thought.67 The incommensurability of faith with the ethical, however, is not the rst [esthetic] immediacy, Kierkegaard writes, but a later immediacy. 68 The later immediacy to which Kierkegaard refers is not a second self-immediacy but the absolute relation to the absolute which, unlike the esthetic, is not the mere disrelation to the universal. In faith the single individual determines his relation to the universal by his relation to the absolute, not his relation to the absolute by his relation to the universal From this it does not follow, Kierkegaard holds, that the ethical should

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be invalidated; rather, the ethical receives a new expression, a paradoxical expression, in light of which it is transformed.69 Since faith, as the absolute relation to the absolute, establishes the category of singularity in light of which we are enabled to rethink the law of the ethical on the basis of an absolute relation to Godan in nite idea of justicefaith is the paradox that the single individual as the single individual is higher than the universal 70 Faith is the later immediacy which transforms (deconstructs) the ethical. Yet, if the just desire of the single individual does not continually bring faith into existence as if, ultimately, nothing of it had previously existedif faith is indistinguishable from the mere application of an ethical codeit is then the case, Kierkegaard writes, citing the second paradox which expresses the biblical dialectic of origin, that faith has never existed because it has always existed. 71 It is the paradoxical, what Derrida would call the undecidable, relationship of these two articulations of the biblical concept of originas soon as it is, it must have been; but if it always has been, it never has beenwhich constitutes the Fall as the impossible interval of will, desire, and demand. The hermeneutic underlying the Fallthat sin presupposes itselfis the hermeneutic underlying deconstruction: there is no(thing) outside sin, no(thing) outside history. As soon as the Fall is, it must always already have been. But if the Fall has always already been, then it never has been. In placing under erasure the concept of originin providing a concept of origin in light of which all human beings are originalthe hermeneutical structure of the Fall creates, as it deconstructs, the very structure of modern thought. For it is precisely in light of the Fall that the task of contradiction becomes not the contradiction of the task but the call for justice. As Derrida acknowledges, the call for justice is at work in history even before it is recognized as the deconstructive discourse on the undecidable, a discourse which is so easily reduced to a contradictory ism. This is how we must understand what Derrida means when he claims that we must constantly live in light of the ghostthe spiritof undecidability, which is not merely the oscillation or the tension, the negative unity, between two decisions but is rather that which, in preserving the very possibility of decision, deconstructs from within any assurance of presence 72 In requiring that we give ourselves, always already, over to the impossible decision, the deconstructionthe auto-deconstruction from withinof any assurance of presence thus presupposes will, desire, and demand. But in order to protect the always already which attaches to the auto-deconstruction of the textin order to preserve deconstruction from its ismswe must distinguish between two kinds of texts: those texts whose contradictions fatally re ect the negative unity of existence divided between the temporal and the eternal, the esthetic and the ethical, and those texts whose contradictions are preserved by the paradox of the Fall. To think the Fall is, therefore, as Kierkegaard shows us, to think deconstruction. Deconstruction is always already biblical. As soon as deconstruction is, it must have been. But if deconstruction always has been, then it never has been.

NOTES
1. Jacques Derrida, Positions (Translation: Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 19. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid., 1920.

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4. Ibid., 20. 5. Ibid., 26. 6. Jacques Derrida and John D. Caputo, The Villanova Roundtable: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida, in Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida, ed. John D. Caputo (New York: Fordham University Press, 1997), 16. 7. Ibid. 8. Jacques Derrida, The Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority, translation by Mary Quaintance in The Cardozo Law Review 11 (JulyAugust, 1990): 9435. 9. Ibid., 959. 10. Ibid., 945. 11. Ibid. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid., 959. 14. Ibid., 947. 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid., 957. 17. Ibid., 959. 18. Ibid., 961. 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid., 965. 21. When St. Augustine undertakes to examine the biblical concept of creation in his Confessions and The City of God, he nds himself beset by the following dilemma. God, as creator, must exceed creation. Yet it is impossible to say, without contradiction, that there is either any time prior to or any space outside creation in which God can rst have begun to create. For then God would not exist, in the beginning, as creator. The biblical conception of origin, Augustine thus nds, involves and expresses both a conception of history and a conception of interpretation which eschew a logic constituted by antithetical or binary relationships: rst/last, before/after and outside/inside. Creation presupposes itself: it is, in the beginning and always already, the re-iteration of its principle, the re-iteration of its history. While Augustine does not ultimately resolve the relationship between time all too human and eternity all too divine (he conceives the will of God to have existed before time in eternity), the very logic of the biblical concept of creation ex nihilo exerts a hermeneutical pressure upon his text which does not allow his antitheses to stand. Is it not this hermeneutical pressure, instituted by the biblical concept of creation, which Derrida calls deconstruction at work in history? 22. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Translation: Gayatri Spivak; Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), 283. 23. The most comprehensive and original analysis known to me of the relationship of Greek and biblical thought to modernity is provided by Brayton Polka in The Dialectic of Biblical Critique: Interpretation and Existence (New York: St. Martins Press, 1986). In engaging the tradition of biblical critique as developed not only by Kierkegaard but also by Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel, Polka argues that Greek logic, in basing itself on what he calls the doctrine of contradictory opposites, is unable to develop a conception of interpretation that does not contradict existence, or a conception of existence that does not contradict the possibility of interpretation. It is, he maintains, the hermeneutical demand expressed by the golden rule of biblical critiqueso interpret the existence of the other as you would have the other interpret your existencewhich provides the very basis of (impetus for) the continual re-appropriation of the dualisms which haunt modern philosophy, theology, literature, and art. See also his Truth and Interpretation: An Essay in Thinking (New York: St. Martins Press, 1990). 24. Sren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety (Translation: Reidar Thomte; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 22. 25. Ibid., 25. 26. Ibid.

318 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72.

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Ibid. Ibid., 28. Ibid., 33n. Ibid., 289. Ibid., 44. Ibid., 32. Ibid., 301. Ibid., 32. Ibid., 49. Ibid., 23. Ibid., 43. Ibid., 61. Ibid., 112. Ibid., 58. Ibid., 111. Ibid., 112. Ibid., 111n. Ibid., 456. Sren Kierkegaard, Works of Love (Translation: Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong; New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1962), 199. Ibid., 37. Ibid., 96. Ibid. Ibid., 97. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., 95. Ibid., 978. Ibid., 98. Ibid., 79. Ibid., 85, 43. Sren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death (Translation: Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong; Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1980), 13. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, 66. Sren Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments (Translation: Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong; Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1985), 13. Ibid., 100. Sren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscienti c Postscript (Translation: Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong; Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992), 573. Sren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling (Translation: Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong; Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1983), 68, 54. Ibid., 82. Ibid., 55. Ibid., 82. Ibid., 70. Ibid., 82. Ibid. Derrida, The Force of Law, 9635.