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THE YO UN G D E R R I D A AN D FRE N C H
PHILOSOPHY, 1 9 4 5– 1 9 6 8

In this powerful new study Edward Baring sheds fresh light on Jacques
Derrida, one of the most influential yet controversial intellectuals of
the twentieth century. Reading Derrida from a historical perspective
and drawing on new archival sources, The Young Derrida and French
Philosophy shows how Derrida’s thought arose in the closely contested
space of postwar French intellectual life, developing in response to
Sartrean existentialism, religious philosophy, and the structuralism
that found its base at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. In a history of
the philosophical movements and academic institutions of postwar
France, Baring paints a portrait of a community caught between
humanism and antihumanism, providing a radically new interpreta-
tion of the genesis of deconstruction and of one of the most vibrant
intellectual moments of modern times.

e d w a r d b a r i n g is Assistant Professor of Modern European Intel-
lectual and Cultural History at Drew University. Educated at the Uni-
versity of Cambridge and Harvard University, his work was awarded
the Harold K. Gross Prize by Harvard University in 2010. He has won
fellowships from the DAAD, ACLS, and Mellon Foundation.

id ea s i n con tex t 9 8

The Young Derrida and French Philosophy, 1945–1968

id ea s i n con t ex t

Edited by David Armitage, Jennifer Pitts, Quentin Skinner and James Tully

The books in this series will discuss the emergence of intellectual traditions and of
related new disciplines. The procedures, aims and vocabularies that were generated
will be set in the context of the alternatives available within the contemporary
frameworks of ideas and institutions. Through detailed studies of the evolution of
such traditions, and their modification by different audiences, it is hoped that a
new picture will form of the development of ideas in their concrete contexts. By
this means, artificial distinctions between the history of philosophy, of the various
sciences, of society and politics, and of literature may be seen to dissolve.
The series is published with the support of the Exxon Foundation.
A list of books in the series will be found at the end of the volume.

THE YOUNG DERRIDA AND
FRENCH PHILOSOPHY,
1945–1968

EDWARD BARING

cambridge. Delhi. Madrid. Edward. New York www.cambridge. Tokyo. – (Ideas in context) Includes bibliographical references and index. cambridge university press Cambridge.org Information on this title: www. French – 20th century. Cambridge cb2 8ru. Melbourne. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements. . Sao Paulo. isbn 978-1-107-00967-7 (hardback) 1. 1980– The young Derrida and French philosophy. b2430. Cape Town. I. Title. 2. 1945–1968 / Edward Baring. UK Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press. First published 2011 Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press. Cambridge A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data Baring. and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is. no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. Derrida. New York. p. Philosophy. accurate or appropriate. Jacques.org/9781107009677  C Cambridge University Press 2011 This publication is in copyright. cm. Singapore. or will remain.d484b377 2011 194 – dc23 2011027241 isbn 978-1-107-00967-7 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication. Mexico City Cambridge University Press The Edinburgh Building.

Contents Acknowledgments page viii Note on translations and reproductions xi Introduction 1 part i: derrida post-existentialist 15 1 Humanist pretensions: Catholics. communists. and Sartre’s struggle for existentialism in postwar France 21 2 Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 48 3 Normalization: the Ecole Normale Supérieure and Derrida’s turn to Husserl 82 4 Genesis as a problem: Derrida reading Husserl 113 5 The God of mathematics: Derrida and the Origin of Geometry 146 part ii: between phenomenology and structuralism 183 6 A history of différance 190 7 L’ambiguité du concours: the deconstruction of commentary and interpretation in Speech and Phenomena 221 8 The ends of Man: reading and writing at the ENS 259 Epilogue 295 Bibliography 306 Index 319 vii .

When I was not so lucky with timing. The team at IMEC. very kindly extended opening hours so that I could make the most of my time. Marguerite Derrida. who look after the Derrida archives there. cycling around the beautiful grounds. and Mikaël Schinazi. where I sweated out two summers. who rushed around Paris to obtain a high resolution scan of the photograph. and Françoise Dauphragne permitted me to rummage through the unsorted boxes that will become the Hyppolite archives at the ENS. do the bulk of my research in France. a picture of Derrida sporting a cravat and Converse trainers which graces the cover of this book. This book would not have been possible without the support of the Special Collections Staff at the University of California at Irvine. For perhaps my greatest archival find. I benefited from the generosity of archivists: Catherine Goldenstein allowed me access to letters at the Paul Ricoeur archives before they were ready. Richard Macksey. including the Derrida letters held at the IMEC archives. Michelle Light. especially José Ruiz-Funes. The extensive research and writing this book required was generously supported by grants viii . made me feel enormously welcome. Acknowledgments I have been very fortunate in the research and composition of this book. Archives opened up as if on cue during my research. and Pierre Nora were both generous with their time and knowledge and patient with a British historian who had much to learn. who guided me through the archival holdings at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. but in California. Both Jackie Dooley and her successor. One could not imagine a more pleasant introduction to archival research: pétanque on their lawns. Where written archives needed to be explained. I did not. and I am grateful to their team for making it happen in practice. Yves Chevrefils-Desbiolles. and Catherine Josset. however. and convivial conversation over what must be the best food served at an archive in the world. Maurice Caveing. and queries answered. My sole criterion for future research projects is that they must take me back to the Abbaye d’Ardenne. I would like to thank Marianne Cayette.

Kris Manjapra. Stefanos Geroulanos at NYU. and Hent de Vries from Johns Hopkins. I have benefited from meeting and talking with Martin Ruehl and Martin Crowley at the University of Cambridge. Her close reading drew ideas and subtleties out from my chapters that always made me feel smarter than I deserved. In particular. a beer. I would like to recognize the friendships of Angus Burgin and Daniel Shore. Judith Surkis too has been of immeasurable value to my project and development as a scholar. or coffee. Lucy Rhymer. Alan Schrift. a perfectly turned phrase. and David Watson. I would also like to thank both David Blackbourn and Sean Kelly for keeping me honest – though in different ways – as I worked through some of the most treacherous texts of modern intellectual history. One of the great advantages of an institution like Harvard is the vibrant graduate community. a Frank Sheldon Traveling Fellowship. and the editorial team. and Todd Shepard have been immensely generous with their time and criticisms in the later stages of my work. for helping turn my manuscript into a book. In other forums too. and I was truly fortunate to be able to work with Peter. I have been overwhelmed with good advice and comment from Phil Fileri. Macabe Keilher. Martin Hägglund. sending details of the agrégation concours that was the product of many days of original research to a graduate student he had never met. Sam Moyn provided some valuable advice at the beginning of my research and useful comments as it got going. the Mellon foundation. this book owes much to her insight and dedication. Jo Breeze. the ACLS. and words of encouragement. Though I have never met them in person. who were able to look beyond my anarchic approach to commas. His faith in my work made me feel that I could tackle such a large project and his engagement kept me excited when the road seemed long and difficult. This book was conceived. Advisers can make or break the graduate school experience. My writing has been aided by the unwavering support of my adviser. including Richard Fisher. and thought through in discussion groups dedicated to this purpose but also in the myriad conversations over dinner. Ian Hunter. while Alan Schrift showed me that academic good neighborliness is not dead. planned. I would also like to thank the two anonymous readers at Cambridge University Press for their invaluable insight and suggestions. Marc Crépon at the ENS. Yascha . to help me see what was good in my work and what was not. I have been very lucky in the help provided by academics in other universities. who is always a source of sage counsel. Acknowledgments ix from the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard. and a research grant from Drew University. Sam Goldman. Peter Gordon. Len Lawlor.

Knox Peden. I must thank my family in England. who have been a great help even though I didn’t let them know sufficiently at the time. who I hope would have liked the idea of a son who wrote history. She knows my frustrations and my joy and I feel privileged to be able to share them with her. whose comments and support. I feel very lucky to have found my place in the academic world amidst such interesting and intelligent people. my wife Katja Guenther. Anstice. which was for him an enduring passion. who read some of my work.x Acknowledgments Mounk. a healthy skepticism. Finally I would like to thank those close to me. Ward Penfold. even though she was sure that she would not understand a word. especially my mother. my father Michael. Kristin Poling. . First and foremost. the support and friendship of my colleagues at the Writing Program at Princeton and the history department at Drew University were important for the final stage of writing. and Juliet Wagner. amongst others. Later. Nick O’Donovan. Sarah Shortall. and good humor were invaluable during the long process of writing a first book. And finally.

Communists. I use and modify standard trans- lations for the major texts I discuss. A note on translations and reproductions Throughout the book and where possible. and Sartre’s Struggle for Existentialism in Postwar France.” which appears here in revised form. I hope that a broader group of scholars will be able to engage substantively with my argument. I would also like to thank the editors of Modern Intellectual History for permission to reproduce “Humanist Pretensions: Catholics. In doing so. xi . All other translations are my own.

.

the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. trans. the French intellectual community was a social set. is a peculiarly American construct that can only be understood as the product of the blinkered enthusiasm of Anglo-Saxon academics for a range of thought they have not properly understood. French Theory. The founder of Tel Quel. and published in the same journals. The search for philosophical ties is warranted by the 1 See for instance François Cusset. the Ecole Normale Supérieure. Michel Serres. the Collège de France. even the cafés where Sartre debated with Camus – sit within the same square mile on the left bank of the Seine. read the same books. say. his daughter married the Lacanian Jacques-Alain Miller. attended parties at each other’s homes. as well as numerous Jolys. Foucault. Philippe Sollers. went on holiday together. and Jacques Derrida were schoolfriends before they were philosophical interlocutors and then rivals. Most of the important academic institutions – the Sorbonne. married the philosopher Julia Kristeva. 2008). father and daughter. Pierre Bourdieu. Introduction The intellectual history of postwar France often resembles village life. Throughout their careers French intellectuals socialized with each other. But what seems philosophically unsophisticated can be historically plausible. It has been common to castigate the proponents of a unified field called “French Theory” for being philosophically naı̈ve. Names recur with surprising regularity: Bachelard. two Merleau-Pontys. This “village” was not only geographically limited. Everyone knew everyone else. Lautmans. 1 . Jeff Fort (Minneapolis: University of Min- nesota Press. Deleuze. “French Theory.1 The manifold theo- retical differences between. Before being a republic of letters. Pons and Michauds filling up the promotions at the elite centers for higher learning. Jacques Lacan married Georges Bataille’s widow. and Derrida are sufficient to scotch any idea that they shared a common program or had similar ideas. Bourdieu. corresponded.” it is argued.

and ethnology. When existentialism was the order of the day at the close of the Second World War. Then. Not only were “French theorists” part of the same community. one of the first major interdisciplinary movements in postwar French thought. 3 (November 1987). while challenging the primacy of philosophy. when he was a young teacher in the mid 1960s. participating in virtually every impor- tant philosophical movement in postwar France. beginning his philosophical education in the early 1950s. His readings of Husserl.2 Introduction thick and dense historical connections that recast the manifold debates not as fundamental differences but as the passionate confrontations of the philosophically and socially proximate. psycho- analysis. Jacques Derrida is a case in point. though it adopts a different methodology. the careful rereading of Husserl and Heidegger that marked a col- lective exorcizing of Sartre from the French academic scene. It was a vehicle that carried Derrida’s ideas to the broadest possible audience and allowed him to contribute to debates about Marxism.” their work a reflection of the social and cultural currents of 1968 and beyond. Derrida aligned himself – though as we shall see. brought him into close contact with the French tradition of epistemology. these intellectuals were formed in the philosophical crucible of the preceding quarter century. they also formed what might be called a single generation. while Gilles Deleuze was twenty. made philosophical readings valuable to scholars across the humanities and social sciences. They all emerged into philosophical consciousness at the height of the existentialist explosion in French philosophy and culture. made it relevant to a new and broader audience. in particular. no. Finally.” in The American Journal of Sociology. a philosophical movement unrivalled in its ability to appeal to young students and which initiated a “golden era” in French intellectual history as philosophers wrestled over its legacy. Though often classed as “postmodern. The majority of thinkers who have had a significant effect on English-speaking academia were born at approximately the same time. best represented by Jean Cavaillès and Gaston Bachelard. Jean Baudrillard was sixteen. vol. as Derrida began to publish his first essays and books. 93. not without some reserve – with Sartre. the baby-boomers were intent on reshaping contemporary society and looked to a new generation of scholars for theoretical resources.2 From 2 In this way this book covers similar ground to Michele Lamont’s article “How to become a Dominant French Philosopher: The Case of Jacques Derrida. As the final shots of the Second World War rang out. Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Derrida were fifteen. a new trend emerged that. Structuralism. he embraced the “scholasticism” of the period. when existentialism had run its course. Michel Foucault was eighteen. . Later.

how intellectual communities were formed. practices. At the Ecole. students and teachers attributed philosophical significance to broader social and polit- ical trends. Not only can Derrida’s itinerary give us a new perspective on the history of French philosophy. while Chris- tians looked to Kierkegaard and Gabriel Marcel and emphasized Man’s spirituality. . and found jobs in the most prestigious research and teaching institutions. In particular. institutionally and intellectually he occupied a central position in French intellectual life. passed the right exams. and the small community of philosophers there whose work was disproportionately influential. Like many of his generation. which structured their social and political lives. Writing and Difference) show that he was the product of the wider French intellec- tual community. which today seem abstract and socially irrelevant. Introduction 3 existentialism to post-structuralism. At the ENS it was hard to draw a line between the social and the philosophical. Derrida went to the best schools. Though recent studies have tended to regard him as an outsider. His closely documented life gives us the means to understand what it meant to be a philosopher in postwar France. but was nourished by several: he was engaged by existentialism. demanded the adoption of specific theoretical positions in academic work: communists read Marx and adhered to theories of social and economic determinism. and learned from the rigor of structuralism. Even those students and teachers who. Derrida was not the protégé of a particular school or movement. Derrida’s education and philosophical development up until his major publications of 1967 (Of Grammatology. Ideas. In particular. drew on the strengths of phenomenology. were invested then with great political and cultural meaning. until the end of the 1960s at least. Their work too could be classed as ideological or nihilist with all the attendant social consequences. it reminds us of the central position occupied by the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS). Derrida’s career tracked the devel- opment of French philosophy and can stand in metonymically for the intellectual history of the period. like Derrida. and how institutions and pedagogical structures impacted life and thought. it also brings attention to the academic institutions. had no direct affiliation to the Catholic circle or the communist cellule were not oblivious to the political and cultural valences attributed to philosophi- cal ideas. based upon his later fractious relationship with mainstream philosophy. while political disputes seeped into academic exchange. the communist and Christian affiliations of many Normaliens. philosophy was not only studied but lived. Speech and Phenomena. and social organizations that were central to French intellectual life.

This vagueness allowed them to reach across political and philosophical divides. p. and Lacanian psychoanalysis. or bring their students’ attention to the latest book by Christian philosophers such as Simone Weil or Jacques Maritain.4 Introduction communists and catholics debating man An analysis of Derrida’s work in the years preceding 1968 reveals the struc- tural importance of two axes in French intellectual life. In the 1960s. antihumanism allowed the rapprochement between structuralist Marxism. lycée professeurs could still discuss the ontological proof in class. “humanism” was a label claimed by Marxists like Henri Lefebvre. Philosophy classes acted as a haven for religious ideas refused their own disciplinary home. including. 74. throughout this period. to Louis Althusser’s criticism of the religious-leaning Marxist humanism of Roger Garaudy in his 1965 For Marx. Catholic personnalists like Emmanuel Mounier. cited in Jean-Philippe Mochon. As we shall see. as I will argue. “L’Ecole Normale et la politique. while ironically Christian philosophy benefited from the French secular school system. . philosophy was interwoven by the dual strands of communist and Christian thought. Indeed their value arose partly from the fact that nobody really knew exactly what they meant. These axes show why seemingly abstract philosophical work could have value for the most pressing of political questions and provide a framework for analyzing how philosophical quarrels could take on the forms of a political contest or negotiation. and for Derrida in particular. From Jean-Paul Sartre’s response to communist and Christian critics in the 1945 paper “Existentialism Is a Humanism. that between the communists and the Christians. The significance of these terms. There was no explicit agreement as to 3 The phrase “double messianism” comes from the historian Renée Béderida. the “double messianism” of Christian thought and Marxism defined much French philosophy and granted often abstract reasoning political and social value. First. was not their philosophical sophistication.” unpublished Maı̂trise d’Histoire. In 1945.3 Marxist thought gained from the prestige of the Communist Party in France. whatever the laws on the teaching of religion. which provide the structure for a wide-ranging contextualization of postwar French thought. and athe- istic existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre. and in part as a reaction to the success of Sartrean humanism. Christian Heideggerian- ism. for short periods. Lille III (1993). The second major axis in postwar French philosophy is that which led from humanism to antihumanism. Université Charles de Gaulle.” through the social divide between the Catholic “Talas” and the communist cellule at the ENS in the 1950s.

Introduction 5
what humanism and antihumanism entailed, and it was for this very reason
that they could be clarion calls to political and philosophical alliances.
Derrida too followed broader intellectual trends, shifting away from an
early – if critical – humanism to become one of the most vocal proponents
of the “end of Man.” But, as I will show, Derrida was never so unambigu-
ously antihumanist as has often been suggested, and traces of his earlier
humanism show up even in texts from the mid 1960s. Unlike the com-
munists, for whom the antagonism between humanists and antihumanists
caused an insuperable rift in Marxist theory, Derrida cleaved closer to the
Christians, for whom the humanist assertion of Man’s need for God and
the antihumanist rejection of the autonomous self were never so dramat-
ically opposed. While Althusser and his students urged the disavowal of
humanist ideology to open up the possibility of a Marxist science, Derrida
demanded a type of philosophical humility that Christian scholars thought
appropriate to our human limitations.

derrida and christian thought
One of the central claims of my study, which I discuss at length in the
first part of this book, is that Derrida’s thought can be understood within
the context of French Christian philosophy. The emphasis on religious
thought may not be entirely unexpected. Scholars have recognized for
over a decade that Derrida’s philosophy provides powerful resources for
considering religious questions.4 Responding to his later texts after the
so-called “religious turn” in the 1980s, John Caputo has described Derrida’s
“messianicity without messianism,” Richard Kearney has proposed an eth-
ical poetics of religion, while Hent de Vries has looked to the reciprocal
implications of philosophy and religion to develop a sophisticated decon-
structive theology.5 Through a close study of Derrida’s early unpublished
essays and courses, however, I show that these religious themes can be
traced back to Derrida’s first philosophical writings. Religious thought was
not a new interest for the middle-aged Derrida, but rather the milieu in
which deconstruction first developed.
4 Jacques Derrida, “Circumfession,” in Geoffrey Bennington, Jacques Derrida (Chicago: Chicago
University Press, 1993), p. 155.
5 John Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1997); Richard Kearney, The God Who May Be (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); Hent
de Vries, Philosophy and the Turn to Religion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999) and
his Religion and Violence (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). Caputo’s phrase comes
from Derrida’s “Faith and Knowledge,” in Gil Anidjar, ed., Acts of Religion (New York: Routledge,
2002) p. 56.

6 Introduction
What is more surprising is that deconstruction drew on Christian
sources. Traditional presentations of Derrida’s philosophy cast him as
a “Jewish” philosopher. The claim has been picked up in much of
the secondary literature, and developed often with great finesse and
sophistication.6 But, the desire to understand deconstruction through ref-
erence to a lost or effaced Jewish consciousness, whatever validity it may
have, ignores another better-documented genealogy. Derrida, by his own
admission, only read the Talmud late in life, but he did read Christian
philosophical texts while at school.7 Several of the themes and questions
in Derrida’s philosophy that have been attributed to a latent Judaism can
equally be found in the type of Catholic thought to which the young
Derrida turned, especially the works of Simone Weil, Gabriel Marcel, and
René le Senne. It is without a doubt significant that Weil converted from
Judaism and Marcel embraced the Catholic faith late in life. But the confu-
sion of labels should make us wary of claiming certain philosophical theses
as the exclusive property of particular religious groups. Though one can
distinguish “Christian” and “Jewish” philosophy, such modifiers do not
restrict the scope or influence of ideas to particular individuals or groups,
especially, as we shall see, for a tradition of theistic existentialism that
displayed a marked skepticism to all forms of determined and institution-
alized dogma; a Jewish Derrida would not necessarily consider all Christian
thought beyond the pale.
In highlighting Derrida’s engagement with Christian thought, there-
fore, I do not intend to substitute one religious identity for another. The
fact that Derrida drew on Christian philosophy does not make his phi-
losophy doctrinally “Christian,” and it in no way implies that Derrida

6 See for an analysis of Derrida’s relationship to Judaism and Jewishness, Jürgen Habermas, Philo-
sophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick Lauwrence (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990);
Gideon Ofrat, The Jewish Derrida, trans. Peretz Kidron (Syracuse University Press, 2001); Martin
Srajek, In the Margins of Deconstruction: Jewish Conceptions of Ethics in Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques
Derrida (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998); or Andrew König, Splitterflüsse (Stuttgart:
Merz & Solitude, 2006); and with greater sophistication Joseph Cohen, ed., Judéités: Questions pour
Jacques Derrida (Paris: Galilée, 2003); Hélène Cixous, Un Portrait de Jacques Derrida en jeune saint
juif (Paris: Galilée, 2001); Dana Hollander, Exemplarity and Chosenness (Stanford University Press,
2008). For a compact statement of Derrida’s own use of the terms “Jewish,” “Judaism,” and “the last
of the Jews,” see his interview in Elisabeth Weber, Questioning Judaism, trans. R. Bowlby (Stanford
University Press, 2004), pp. 40–58. Derrida’s use of this Jewish identity to destabilize traditional
identity politics has been a major theme in much of the secondary literature.
7 Jacques Derrida, Points: Interviews 1974–1994 trans. Peggy Kamus (Stanford University Press, 1995)
p. 80. Further, as Derrida has asserted on other occasions while adding important caveats that
are equally valid here, “deconstruction’s link with Christianity is more apparent, more literal than
with other religions.” Yvonne Sherwood, ed., Derrida and Religion: Other Testaments (New York:
Routledge, 2005), p. 33.

Introduction 7
accepted Christian doctrines personally; we should beware of mistaking
philosophical genealogy for religious identity. Rather, I want to show how
Derrida’s thought developed lines of argument that emerged at a particular
moment in French intellectual history, ones proffered predominantly by
self-confessed Christian thinkers, but which cannot be restricted to them.
Derrida turned to Christian thought, not because it was Christian, but
because, in France, it offered the most valuable resources for criticizing
Sartre’s atheistic existentialism.
Nevertheless, this Christian background provides new means for under-
standing the stakes of deconstruction. I show that what has been interpreted
as a “skeptical” element in Derrida’s philosophy was closely allied with a
Pascalian philosophical tradition that challenged the pretensions of human
thought. Just as Derrida would later confront texts with marginal moments
that conflicted with their most basic presuppositions, Christian existential-
ists confronted the categories of our understanding with existence in all
its complexity to show that no human philosophical system could fully
grasp the richness of experience. Both looked for “scandals” that discred-
ited human claims to philosophical authority.8 For these thinkers, we could
never have but the most obscure idea of God, who was only an aspiration or
a promise, accessed through the blindness of an uncertain and dangerous
faith rather than revealed through the light of knowledge. Consequently,
any dogmatic assertion of divine immediacy (or absence) was ultimately
hubristic and had to be refused.
Given the importance of religious themes in Derrida’s early thought,
the question is no longer what incited the emergence of these questions in
the “religious turn” of the 1980s, but rather what kept them out of sight
until then. The time period is suggestive. For the twenty years following
1964, when Derrida taught at the Ecole Normale Supérieure under the
watchful eye of Louis Althusser, explicitly religious themes were almost
entirely absent from his work.
In the second part of this book, I relate how Derrida, returning as a
teacher to the ENS, had to engage with Althusser and his newly politi-
cized students and make his work relevant for them. First and foremost,
this entailed an adoption of the terms and categories of structuralism.
The reformulation of Derrida’s ideas in structuralist language was ulti-
mately resistant to his earlier religious thought. Derrida no longer hoped
to disrupt idolatrous ontotheologies by asserting the “difference” between

8 See Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. A. Bass (University of Chicago Press, 1978)
p. 283; and Etienne Borne, Le Problème du mal (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1958), p. 10.

8 Introduction
the divine idea and its earthly manifestations. Instead this difference was
equated with the Saussurean difference between signifiers that produced
linguistic meaning. Recast as the play of signifiers, Derrida’s “différance”
in the late 1960s presented the “theological,” not as the cause, but as “a
determined moment in the total movement of the trace.”9 It is for this rea-
son that contemporary philosophers interested in the connection between
deconstruction and religion have tended to avoid Derrida’s work from this
period and have criticized the first reception of deconstruction in America
that it informed.10
The “turn” in Derrida’s thought makes sense of recent conflicting voices,
like that of Martin Hagglund, who has argued that not only was Derrida
an atheist in refusing God, but he was radically atheist – a term ironically
also used by Caputo11 – in his rejection of the desire for the infinite and
the “absolutely immune.”12 The desire for immortality, shared according
to Hägglund by believers and vulgar atheists alike, was the true target of
Derrida’s deconstruction. Hägglund argues that Derrida’s thought implies
a positive affirmation of our finitude and mortality, which is the condition
of any desire or affirmation at all.13
A history of Derrida’s thought, sensitive to both the traditions in which
he participated and the change of his thought over time, suggests that
Hägglund cannot be right about Derrida’s radical atheism. But in recog-
nizing the essential role of spacing and différance in the key texts from 1967,
Hägglund does draw attention to the reformulation of Derrida’s thought
that complicated his appeal to religion and makes the misreading of his
atheism understandable. Further, Hägglund’s work encourages us to be
careful in our analysis of Derrida’s use of religious thought. Though his
work was nourished by religious philosophy, the religious resources that
Derrida relied upon were used to destabilize the thought of Man, not to
construct a thought of the divine. For this reason, the religious geneal-
ogy of Derrida’s thought can never be the ground for a simple rejection –
or indeed embrace – of deconstruction. Even at his most religious, Der-
rida’s appeal to the resources of a Christian tradition always arose from an

9 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. G. Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1976), p. 47. Of course, the theological is not God, and, like the Christian Heideggerians, Derrida
was always resistant to their identification.
10 See de Vries, Philosophy and the Turn to Religion, pp. 23–8 and Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of
Jacques Derrida, p. 233.
11 Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, p. 62 citing Jacques Derrida, Sauf le Nom (Paris:
Galilée, 1993), p. 103.
12 Martin Hägglund, Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life (Stanford University Press, 2008).
13 Ibid., p. 34.

Introduction 9
internal critique of secular thought. Derrida probed first Sartre’s existen-
tialism, then a phenomenology of science, and finally Althusser’s Spinozist
Marxism, and for internal reasons found them all wanting. God was an
axiom Derrida could do without; his anti-foundationalism was consonant
with a religious tradition criticizing human arrogance, but he never pro-
posed substituting a final religious ground.

derrida and history
This book is the first detailed archival and contextual study of Derrida’s
philosophy, and many commentators might regard its very approach as a
betrayal of his ideas.14 For them, in its assumptions and methodology his-
tory is intrinsically biased against deconstruction. In the words of one critic,
“Derrida refused . . . to become part of history.”15 Further, put off by Der-
rida’s critical writings on archives, scholars have shied away from his own
carefully preserved papers.16 Indeed this assumed hostility between history
and deconstruction explains why, over a third of a century after the first
books appeared on Derrida’s work, there has been no sustained treatment of
Derrida’s archives, nor a rigorous attempt at historical contextualization.17
This opposition to history has expressed itself in two forms: the resis-
tance to the idea of historical change, and a reticence in reading Derrida’s
philosophy within the broader context of French intellectual history. Sev-
eral scholars have asserted that Derrida’s thought has been remarkably
constant over his career, and they refuse to subject his work to historicizing
narratives. Geoffrey Bennington suggests that there was no change between
the supposedly “philosophical” works of the 1960s and the “literary” work
14 Benoı̂t Peeters’s magisterial biography, Derrida (Paris: Flammarion, 2010), appeared as I was putting
the final touches to this book. His work draws on similar sources to mine but he reads them for
different purposes, emphasizing the personal and the private, and their impact on Derrida’s work.
As such my book and his provide different but, I hope, complementary accounts of Derrida’s
early years. This book also builds on the ground-breaking work of Allan Megill in his Prophets of
Extremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).
15 David Bates, “Crisis between the Wars: Derrida and the Origins of Undecidability,” Representations
(Spring 2005). See also Mark Bevir, Jill Hargis, and Sara Rushing, eds., Histories of Postmodernism
(New York: Routledge, 2007), Introduction, pp. 1–24; and more recently Warren Breckman, “Times
of Theory: On Writing the History of French Theory,” Journal of the History of Ideas (July 2010),
pp. 339–61.
16 See Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1996).
17 See also the antipathy from historians, amongst others, Carolyn Steedman, “Something She Called
a Fever: Derrida, Michelet and Dust,” The American Historical Review (October, 2001); or Richard
Evans, In Defence of History (London: Granta Books, 1997), pp. 81–2. For a sophisticated account
of the attempts to sideline deconstructively informed histories see Judith Surkis, “When Was the
Linguistic Turn? A Genealogy,” forthcoming in the American Historical Review.

10 Introduction
later on, that Derrida’s work cannot be divided into “styles or periods.”18
Where some attempt at periodization and a sensitivity to change has arisen
in the scholarship, it has often been confined by the limited and ironically
(as we shall see) Althusserian attempt to read a divide between the “late”
and the “early” Derrida, demarcated by “religious,” “ethical,” or “political”
turns.19 We have a Hobson’s choice between two stable forms, marked by a
break, or a consistency over forty years of writing and publishing. Neither
provides a useful account of historical change.
Similar hesitations can be seen with respect to contextualization.
Derrida often attested to his status as an outsider, rejected by the philo-
sophical establishment, a claim that many scholars have taken at face value.
The limited contextual accounts of Derrida’s thought have often concen-
trated on his Algerian or Jewish background, reiterating his own narrative
of exclusion from the French mainstream.20 In this way, the attempts to
contextualize Derrida have strangely served to decontextualize him. But, as
I will elaborate more fully later, with limited sources to appraise the impact
of Derrida’s Algerian past or Jewish heritage, such forms of contextual-
ization rely predominantly on a one-sided conceptualization of Sephardic
Jewish identity. Where they do appeal to Derrida’s own work, it is only to
his pronouncements in the 1980s and beyond, and we should treat such
autobiographical writings with caution, especially when they serve to bol-
ster the myth Derrida carefully constructed of his own relationship to the
French mainstream.
The resistance to contextualization also seeks legitimation in Derrida’s
deconstructive philosophy. As several commentators have noted, Derrida’s
concept of writing describes the process of decontextualization: unlike
speech, writing can do without the presence of the author and be readable
in another time and place. Since it is the defining property of writing that it
can forgo this presence, the desire to return to its “point of origin” smacks of
unhealthy nostalgia. To yearn for the lost fullness of a contextual moment
as the guarantor of sense is to remain beholden to the “metaphysics of
presence.”21

18 Bennington, Jacques Derrida, p. 13.
19 See Simon Critchley, The Ethics of Deconstruction (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1992); Peng Cheah
ed. Derrida and the Time of the Political (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2009). Though I
write on the “young Derrida,” I emphasize neither a profound opposition to the “old Derrida,” nor
an essential unity to his early writings.
20 See Robert Young, White Mythologies (New York: Routledge, 1990) and the two recent biographies
by Jason Powell and David Mikics.
21 See Peter Gordon’s remarks about Heidegger and Derrida at the end of his “Hammer without a
Master,” in Bevir, ed., Histories of Postmodernism, p. 125.

Introduction 11
But as I will argue, in sketch here, and more thoroughly throughout
this book, the strong tendency to deny historical change and to distance
Derrida’s thought from its context resides in what he would have considered
a metaphysical understanding of philosophy. Further, in rejecting such an
understanding, Derrida’s thought provides the intellectual historian with
valuable resources for thinking through the complex relationships between
philosophy, which aspires to transhistorical validity, and the particular
historical moment in which it arose.
In a traditional metaphysical schema, history is opposed to philosophy,
as the ephemeral to the eternal, the myopic blindness of particularity
to the clear-sightedness of universal truth.22 In this way the relationship
between philosophy and history mirrors that between speech and writing,
which furnished the occasion for Derrida’s most famous deconstruction.
According to Derrida, in the history of philosophy, speech was always the
locus of truth, whether for Aristotle, where the voice expressed the truth
of the soul, or in the Christian idea of the word of God. In comparison,
writing like history was considered as a fall from this immediate access to
logos; it was parasitically dependent upon the voice of which it was only
the inadequate sign.
But such a characterization relied on a utopian idea of philosophy and
the voice; utopian in a double sense, for utopias are always ripped from
history (they never change), but also by being ripped from history, by
being removed from the world in which we live, they are “no-where,”
inexistent. They are a myth or chimera. As I will discuss in chapter 8,
Derrida perceived a more fundamental writing at the heart of speech
(arché-writing) that simultaneously underwrote and undermined its claim
to absolute certainty. He argued that the properties traditionally attributed
to writing (a process of the deferral of meaning) provided the philosophical
resources for explaining those qualities traditionally attributed to speech
(the immediate presence of meaning). By a parallel logic, one could say that
subtending the opposition between history and philosophy we can pick
out a more foundational history that allows us to explain their relation
and shows that the ways through which philosophy has tried to achieve a
transcendent universality are themselves historically contingent.
The opposition to absolute notions of philosophy does not however
imply a banal relativism. It rather underscores the fact that history can

22 I take my lead here from Derrida’s 1964 course “Histoire et vérité,” given at the Sorbonne. MS-
C001, box 8, folders 9–10, Jacques Derrida Papers, Special Collections and Archives, University of
California, Irvine (hereafter: Irvine, box.folder).

consequences. 24 See. between an “origin” and what it produces.” in his Rethinking Intellectual History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Writing and Difference. . they are neither simple nor totalizing. 1988). relations. tying it to one moment in face of which all subsequent development would be inessential. and in my writing I have tried to avoid this error. we can begin to understand how it is possible to have something resembling historical truth at all. History challenges any claims to absolute originarity. that context did not exhaust his text’s meaning. “Rethinking Intellectual History and Reading Texts.12 Introduction produce ideas and truths that stand the test of time. especially LaCapra. because it shows that all origins themselves have a past. what might be called the “work- like” character of his texts. Much of Derrida’s early work was a criticism of such an appeal to origins. As Derrida himself has argued. One should not see biographical. on this question. p. and so cannot be regarded as an ultimate ground. If this book does in a loose sense look for origins. 291. though deconstructive critics are perhaps misguided in their broad attacks on “history. by deconstructing the metaphysical opposition between truth and history. or cultural background as an “origin” for philosophical ideas. there is always change and difference. As we shall see in numer- ous examples. which has often been defined negatively in opposition to it. the appeal to an origin is rather an attempt to tame history.23 In this sense. and Jay. even when Derrida’s work responded to the demands of a particular context. For this reason. Though many his- torians feel threatened by the supposed skepticism of deconstruction. of the argument that understanding where something comes from tells us what it is.” they are justified in attacking a mode of history that reduces philosophical texts to their contextual moment. the debate between Dominick LaCapra and Martin Jay. 23 See for example Derrida. “Confessions of a Synoptic Intellectual Historian. an historical account should not assume that the rela- tionship between Derrida’s thought and the broader intellectual history of which it was a part was harmonious. The historical background that I describe was itself intertwined with a set of causes. Rejecting the idea of Truth with a capital “T” rein- vigorates our concept of history. But it is only by reading Derrida within the context of twentieth-century French philosophy to see how his work grew out of it that we can understand why at times they were so mutually allergic.24 Contexts just like texts throw up scandals that cannot be reconciled fully with them. political. 1983). Often in his treatment of the problems posed by one particular tradition he was compelled to escape its self-defined limits – bringing to light its tensions and difficulties – and produce new ideas.” in his Fin de Siècle Socialism and Other Essays (New York: Routledge.

This book is not and could not be a full account of Derrida’s philosophy. and Roland Barthes to Kostas Axelos. Brahic (Edinburgh University Press. despite their contemporary significance. Genealogies. and the Arguments group play no or only a limited role in my story. which were crucial for his thought and after all have been treated so well elsewhere. 2006).25 If this book will encourage some to read or reread Derrida. the constraints of a book mean that it could never hope to be more than a restricted analysis of Derrida’s own work. For just as Derrida later suggested that no archive could fully contain Hélène Cixous’s genius. as a dual history of Jacques Derrida’s early thought and the intellectual history of postwar France. and. Gilles Deleuze. Similarly. trans. . I have also virtually ignored Derrida’s engagements with avant-garde literature. Geneses. Introduction 13 I recognize that. as I suggest in the Introduction to the first part. 25 See Jacques Derrida. I lack the evidence and inclination to write either a psychoanalytic account or an intellectual biography. Major intellectuals from Simone de Beauvoir. no book on Derrida could ever encapsulate his thought. As a first sustained reading of his archives and an exploratory attempt at contextualization. and in particular his private life. The sources I use are concerned almost exclusively with philosophy. For the same reason. missing key elements of his development. The benefit of following the developments of philosophy through the prism of one thinker is that it avoids abstract analysis and detached meta-narrative. commonly understood. Genres and Genius: The Secrets of the Archive. hoping to be revised and improved. B. Henri Lefebvre. even if it hopes to provide a model. and to return with fresh eyes to a period of intellectual history that continues to offer so much to scholars today. my analysis remains provisional. this book will be comprehen- sive in neither. A disadvantage is that it privileges one route over others. It thus will not provide a schema that can be simply and unprob- lematically applied to other philosophers of the same generation. then I hope its own flaws may be forgiven.

.

A recent biography begins thus: “Derrida’s thought cannot be understood apart from his life. 2009). declaring that he was “a sort of child on the margins of Europe. From the beginning. In texts like Monolingualism of the Other and Circumfession. he was an intellectual outsider. 15 . Who Was Jacques Derrida? An Intellectual Biography (New Haven: Yale University Press. very quickly confronts the question of Derrida’s personal history and in particular his family roots in Algeria: How can a Sephardic Jew from North Africa be an exemplary French philosopher? The question is rendered more pressing because Derrida’s Algerian heritage has played a far more prominent role in standard interpretations of his work than colonial history has for other French philosophers born in North Africa such as Louis Althusser and Alain Badiou. even to the point of suggesting a causal relation.”1 Derrida was born in Algeria. the philosopher of the margins was himself located at the margins of French society and culture. a child of the Mediterranean. Derrida came to foreground his abiding sense of alienation from French culture. heir to memories of exclusion and marginalization. scholars have been tempted to present the two as different facets of the same story. supposedly at the edge of the French Empire (though in Algiers. who was neither 1 David Mikics. The biographical impulse can be explained in part by the attractive parallels between Derrida’s early life and his philosophy of deconstruction. 11. part i Derrida post-existentialist My intention to read Derrida’s thought within the French philosophical tradition. Derrida’s personal history thus seems to reflect the very themes that would come to preoccupy him in his philosophical writings. indeed to use him as a privileged guiding thread for tracing the twists and turns of postwar intellectual history in France. a rebel. This reading of deconstruction as the philosophical expression of per- sonal outsidership has gained authority through its appeal to Derrida’s own “autobiographical” works from the 1990s. p. and he was a Jew. perhaps the least marginal part of France’s imperial holdings).

Derrida remained suspicious of the biographical approach to philosophical exegesis. Derrida’s childhood was available for deconstructive appropriation because the Sephardic Jews of North Africa were liminal figures.”3 caught between two heritages.”4 Nevertheless. nor simply African.” p. You will have to help me. 157–60. sitting uncomfortably between the colonizers and the colonized. p. Aside from the problems normally associated with autobiography. 6 See Derrida. In a 1983 interview. which mirrors historicism’s tendency to reduce thought to its historical moment. Monolingualism of the Other. None of these texts can be read simply as an account of his past. L’Islam et l’Occident (Paris. when Derrida was pressed on his childhood in Algeria. and the aporias of autonomy. 1998) pp. Many could 2 Quoted in Mustapha Chérif. . our relationship to language. to relate too closely a man and his thought. Of Grammatology. because Derrida drew on childhood memories in order to elaborate many of the themes that had become cen- tral to his philosophical project. ’ Is it really necessary? I can’t do it. p.6 Thus while Derrida’s writings on his childhood have been a particularly rich resource for his biographers. P. free from the complexities and interpretative tensions of texts. 4 Derrida. 2006).”5 Derrida wanted to avoid the biographical turn in the interview because it threatened to render his philosophical project a function of his heritage. pp. 5 Derrida. 58. 10–4. Mensah (Stanford University Press. the teleological fallacy is as understandable as it remains misleading. Points.”2 As a “Franco-Maghrebian. 3 See Jacques Derrida. This error. he immediately questioned his interlocutor: “Ah you want me to say things like ‘I-was-born-in-El Biar-on-the-outskirts-of- Algiers-in-a-petit-bourgeois-family-of-assimilated-Jews-but . one must be wary of taking these “auto- biographical” writings at face value. 56. it was a colonial imposition. The deconstructive coloring of his childhood memories is in part an artefact of Derrida’s self- conscious and deliberate mobilization of his past. . “Circumfession. 119. while ideologically posing biography as a stable ground. Derrida asserted that he never felt fully at home in the French language because it remained governed and disciplined by the correct usage in Paris. Derrida’s meditations on his childhood experience can be particularly treacherous for those hoping to find an “ori- gin” for deconstruction in his personal history. neglected the autonomy of philosophy and its ability to speak to others in other places and other times. . The desire to empha- size his distance from the colons explains the force of Derrida’s famous self-description as a child: a “black and very Arab Jew. trans. including the ambivalence of identity.16 Derrida post-existentialist simply French.

stateless. 2004). which left Derrida. For What Tomor- row. and the Jewish population was only belatedly integrated into colonist society in the second half of the nineteenth century. “L’Ecole a été un enfer pour moi. trans. and economic assimilation with the dominant French Algerian population. “Of the Anti-Semitism to Come. The Crémieux decree marked the beginning of a period that saw great linguistic. were “liberal. 121. historically.”8 The Algerian War made the difference between the two options even starker. made many Jews more protective of their status as French. however.” Cahiers pédagogiques 270 (January 1989). like the communist Henri Alleg. Derrida then was French. “the Vichy regime and the abrogation of the Crémieux decree led the Jews of Algeria to consider the assimilation promised by that famous decree as their most precious possession. ways. And. but according to many other Français d’Algérie not French enough. arguing that the revocation and the withdrawal of his French citizenship created “a desire for integration in the non-Jewish community. 106.”7 Der- rida himself concurred. Jeff Fort (Stanford University Press. 8 Derrida. Points. But the liminal position of Sephardic Jews within Algerian society could manifest itself in two conflicting. Many embraced the Algerian nationalist claims of the FLN and sought to redis- cover and revitalize an ethnic heritage that would highlight historic com- monalties with Arab and Berber populations. See also Jacques Derrida. 2006). Even afterwards this citizenship remained insecure. ironically. A small minority of French Algerian Jews. Trois Exiles (Paris: Editions Stock. when the famous Crémieux decree of 1870 granted all Jews in Algeria French citizenship. As the historian Benjamin Stora has said. or it could encourage them to embrace that culture more fervently.” pp. p. along with all the other Algerian Jews. . either it could promote in the Jewish population an abiding feeling of alienation from the dominant French culture. 109–12. the withdrawal of citizenship in 1940 by the Vichy régime. a sizable major- ity of especially urban and middle-class Sephardic Jews in Algeria took the second option. p. who fought against French colonial rule. supported the Algerian revolutionaries of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale). Indeed. cultural. though not mutually exclusive. A sizable proportion of the Jewish population and the majority of their leaders. a fact tes- tified to by the Vichy government’s revocation of the Crémieux decree in 1940. marginalized by a group who were themselves at the edge of French society and suffered under the condescending gaze of their metropolitan concitoyens. Derrida post-existentialist 17 trace their family histories in North Africa to well before the French con- quest of 1830. and Jacques Derrida and Elisabeth Roudinesco.” 7 Benjamin Stora. though attesting to the fragility of their posi- tion.

named for the General who had led the French conquest in 1830. For What Tomorrow. His essays treat French themes. 1992). Derrida traced his resistance to a Judaism of “external signs” back to the “insidious Christian contamination. but it was a fiction with considerable power and left its imprint upon Derrida as it did upon many others.9 This tendency to efface and downplay differences with the Europeans of Algeria. deal with up-to-the- minute French topics. mistrust with respect to literalness or to an objective action given to the mechanicity of the body. Indeed. texts from the Metropole. he simply submitted his file to the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. especially philosophical. p. after his Baccalaureate. though Derrida only set foot in mainland France for the first time when he had just turned nineteen. Thus. such as Jan Czarnecki.” can be seen elsewhere in Derrida’s biography and work. . When the time came for Derrida too to apply to study in France. “communion.18 Derrida post-existentialist in that they supported the French state. were trained in Paris and brought the ideas of the imperial capital to Algeria with them. the mind. 110–11.” 11 Jacques Derrida. “contaminated” with Christianity. 9 See Edward Baring. Derrida understood himself as a French Algerian liberal during this period. of Pharisaism.” which fostered in him “the respectful belief in inwardness. in his own words. Monolingualism of the Other. French Algeria may have been a colonial fiction. and only slowly came to recognize the need for Algerian independence. “Liberalism and the Algerian War: The Case of Jacques Derrida. educationally he was already installed within the French system. 10 See Derrida. and show a familiarity with. as I have shown elsewhere. even as they remained critical of what they saw as its “abuses. he studied in the Lycée Bugeaud d’Alger. 54. the heart. p.” and bar mitzvah. Derrida rebelled against what he called his “ossified” Jewish heritage. the preference for intention. a group that the young Derrida tellingly labeled “Catholic. Derrida and Roudinescu. What we have left of his archive from his school days in Algeria is not too different to what one might expect from a lycéen in Marseille or Lyon. pp. administratively his case was no different to that of any other student from France. Derrida’s teachers. so conventional.” Critical Inquiry (Winter 2010). in short.” especially the widespread use of torture during the Algerian War. in Derrida’s family circumcision was called “baptism. a denunciation.11 and in the late 1940s. 129. the most prestigious school in French North Africa. which had become merely a “ritualized comportment.” Furthermore. Points de suspension (Paris: Editions Galilée.”10 He refused to go to the Jewish Lycée Maimonides when he was excluded from the aryanized Lycée Ben Aknoun in 1942. The Jewish culture in which he was immersed was.

As Derrida wrote. “Out of ‘Huis Clos’: Sartre. pp. 2010). and an analysis of how the figure of the Jew with which it engaged emerged from within the French tradition. 1993).14 Derrida wrote: “I am a sort of marrane of French Catholic Culture. and highlight themes of marginalization and exclusion rather than integration. “I am one of those marranes who no longer say they are Jews even in the secret of their own hearts. 15 Bennington. and the Debate over Jewish Authenticity. to a large extent. the back history was not without its effects. and yet were suspected by the Inquisition of practicing their Jewish faith in secret.” as long as we are careful not to assume that this Jewish identity is in some way more authentic and originary than Derrida’s French one.12 And we might be able to locate the traces of this “repression” – or perhaps better “effacing” – in Derrida’s work. I like to remember that. it is worth noting that. remained an inaccessible secret even to Derrida himself – we can perhaps suggest. 14 This is also the sense of Derrida’s title Monolingualism of the Other. nor do I feel.” The Journal of Romance Studies 6 (2006). he continued. however.” p. Derrida appealed to the figure of the Marrano. I am without doubt a European intellectual. . Jacques Derrida.“I only have one language. Levinas. yet it is not mine. that it had an impact upon how he engaged with them. see Sarah Hammerschlag. of course. This helps us understand why. “I am European. For a slightly different use of the term “Marrano” see Jacques Derrida.13 The Marranos were Spanish Jews who converted to Christianity in the fifteenth century. inherited from SA [Saint Augustine] in a more or less twisted line. trans T. 155–68. 13 For a sophisticated discussion of this aspect of Derrida’s work. Derrida post-existentialist 19 Before leaving the realm of biography. 81. completely European. if one of the main claims of this book is that we cannot simply use Derrida’s Sephardic Jewish heritage to explain what philosophical movements he engaged with – that heritage. Derrida’s embrace of France might plausibly be called a repression of his “Jewish identity.”16 12 The question of Jewish authenticity is. 170–1. But I am not.”15 Thus. Gordon. For a subtle analysis. if Derrida’s personal history helps explain why in this period – as opposed to in his later writings – he foregrounded his belonging to the French com- munity and embraced French literature and philosophy. and I also have my Christian Body. 2. in later discussions of his relationship to Judaism.” But. Dutoit (Stanford University Press. which treats debates in this period. or that they were necessarily mutually exclusive. 1991). it is because this repression was never total that Derrida could later re-narrativize his biography. pp. Aporias. . p. After all. 74–8. . see Peter E. speculatively. like to remind myself of that . L’Autre Cap (Paris: Editions de Minuit. The Figural Jew: Politics and Identity in Postwar French Thought (Chicago University Press. The Marranos therefore disavowed their Jewishness. and yet were never fully accepted into the Christian fold. As he put it in the book. a particularly fraught one. pp. 81. 16 Jacques Derrida.

For. For these reasons.” I do not intend to dwell on the history of Sephardic Jews in North Africa. he resided in those curious margins at its heart. 1945. Catholics and communists. phenomenologists and structuralists. straddling divides between the religious and the secular. This mainstream with all its fractures and divisions will dominate my account.20 Derrida post-existentialist This “not completely” is an important caveat. Rather. The debates of the Metropole set the terms of Derrida’s first engagement with philosophy. a history that is both complex and. and no event was more significant for the future devel- opment of postwar French intellectual life. as yet poorly doc- umented and understood. But to think about this “not completely. or more influential for a young generation of aspiring philosophers. my story does not start in Algiers on July 15. this was his elective community. 1930. because. in Derrida’s case. though Derrida was not an outsider to French philosophy. than the lecture Jean-Paul Sartre gave at the Salle des Centreaux on 29 October. the place and date of Derrida’s birth. Rather the “not completely” will show itself in my analyses of Derrida’s engagement with the French mainstream. as I will suggest. I begin in a Parisian lecture hall fifteen years later and almost a thousand miles away from Derrida’s home. and we should bear it in mind throughout this book. if Derrida wasn’t born into the Parisian culture in which he would make his career. and his thought should be understood first and foremost as a response to the pressures of academic life in the French capital. .

communists. whose philosophical work from the 1930s had focused on rather technical points of phenomenology – even the social analyses of Being and Nothingness (1943) had outlined no explicit political agenda. Venturing into new territory. If Marxists can claim [se prétendre] to be humanists. Sartre regained the initiative and emerged in the political sphere as an active and determined participant.2 It was a new direction for Sartre. Sartre did not have the luxury of importing his own terms or recreating the debate. . 2 See for example Thomas Flynn.1 When Sartre declared that existentialism was a humanism in front of the tightly packed crowd at the Salle des Centraux. “existentialism” had become a pawn in a chess game whose stakes were national and political. Existentialism Is a Humanism broke new ground by bring- ing Sartre’s thought into direct communication with broader themes and questions of postwar political discourse. Sartre’s writings had been subject to numerous and sometimes conflicting criticisms from right and left. . Carol Macomber (New Haven: Yale University Press. everybody is a humanist . Derided as a decadent bourgeois philosophy or vilified as the modish immorality of secular youth. and many others – can also claim to be human- ists. Hindus. His intervention was strategic. But in the talk he gave that night. it was a brilliant tactical move. Sartre and Marxist Existentialism (University of Chicago Press. pp. and Sartre’s struggle for existentialism in postwar France Nowadays. Pierre Naville. c h a p t er 1 Humanist pretensions Catholics. 1 Jean-Paul Sartre. 21 . discussion in Existentialism Is a Humanism. trans. p. as do the existentialists in turn. he inscribed existentialism into a field with its own vocabulary. 2007). then followers of the various religions – Christians. set-piece arguments. Existentialism Is a Humanism. 62–3 (translation modified). In the year leading up to his lecture. 46. exploit- ing the hasty alliances and barely hidden antagonisms already at work in liberation politics. 1984). and rhetorical moves.

3 It was in this context that one of the by-words of the socialists came to be particularly useful. and the Socialist Party (SFIO) was trying to draw together the Catholic Social Democrats (MRP) and the Commu- nist Party (PCF) to form a government.22 Derrida post-existentialist Historians have been slow to consider the immediate political context. aligning it with the rising star of liberation politics. because the structure of his talk directly mirrored the contemporary machinations of high politics in France. casting off the uneasy discipline of humanism. communist phenomenologists turned to a new interpretation of Husserl to counter Sartre’s subjectivist reading. he was only making explicit the underlying framework of his text. Because Sartre had exploited a political situation where all major parties were willing to ignore their differences to achieve a humanist consensus. By 1947. Talk of a coalition had abounded. an alliance that would be called tripartisme. but for Sartre’s audience its relevance would have been clear. When Sartre. the decline of tripartisme was an ill omen for exis- tentialism. Freed of the need to profess humanism. defending existentialism against the criticisms of “communists” and “Catholics” by labeling it “humanist. Existentialism Is a Humanism was a political document drawing on the resources and pushing the limits of tripartisme. But when that star began to fade in the late 3 Tripartisme refers to the period from 1945 to 1947 when the three main parties.4 Such an immediate and conscious appeal to a particular political moment. Existentialism Is a Humanism. the tripar- tite alliance was falling apart. While Sartre was addressing the Club Main- tenant. Proclaiming existentialism a humanism and thus consonant with a particular moment in French history. The SFIO had decided that it could help unify the parties and discipline the most extreme wings of the MRP and the PCF by declaring itself to be “humanist. . Christian philosophers appealed to Hei- degger’s famous letter to Jean Beaufret for resources in the battle against Sartre’s atheism.” the three main political parties were picking over the result of the election held eight days previously. Sartre allowed both his immediate success and his philosophy’s later decline. Sartre’s gesture quickly dated. the French philosophical community began to outgrow a phi- losophy tailored to the fashions of 1945. MRP (Mouvement Républicain Populaire) and SFIO (Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière) shared power. 47. 4 Sartre. however. buffeted by the winds of an ever-harsher international climate. carries risks. Existentialism was successful in part because Sartre was able to present it as the one true humanist philosophy. PCF (Parti Com- muniste Français). stated that the contemporary moral choice was that between the MRP and the communists. and.” The structure and thesis of Sartre’s paper was then over-determined. As politics moved on. in his talk.

existentialism would be the first casualty. and the intervening week had been filled with questions of possible alliances. and why that mat- tered. the rise of humanism The political context for the humanism debate is crucial for understanding Sartre’s 1945 paper. And if they could show that his humanism was inadequate. even dangerous. it would not have so exercised communist or Catholic intellectuals. the Catholic MRP. Sufficiently broad and positive that few of the parties 5 Stefanos Geroulanos’s recent book. and for communists to attack a bourgeois humanism that they felt to be harmful to their position within the tripartite alliance. An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought (Stanford University Press. he was responding to direct assertions to the contrary.6 In this uneasy ménage à trois. then they could also apply that argument to the political stage where it really mattered. if the debate was not a debate within and about humanism. His sensitive analysis of the humanist quarrels before the War provides a valuable frame for understanding the reemergence of conflicting humanisms in the immediate postwar period. but rather what type of humanism it was. Previous commentators have assumed that when Sartre claimed existential- ism as a humanism.5 The ultimate stakes of the debate had been set eight days earlier on the national stage. As French philosophy entered the antihumanist age. Humanist pretensions 23 1940s and early 1950s. the per- fect opportunity for Catholics to discredit an atheistic humanism. Catholic and communist philosophers did not want to argue that Sartre was an antihumanist. and the socialists. it was the socialists who were the brokers. but with the PCF just leading in terms of votes cast. The election on 21 October 1945 had seen the vote relatively evenly divided between the Communist Party. 2010) gives the fullest and best account of philosophical debates within humanism and the development of early forms of antihumanism in France. But the central question in 1945 was not whether existentialism was a humanism. It shows the political stakes of the turn to “humanism” as well as the indeterminacy of the word that allowed it to be successfully deployed in the creation of an alliance. . in 1945. but rather that his form of humanism was corrupt. whether political or philosophical. Sartre’s existentialism became. 6 These three parties had gained approximately a quarter of the vote each. If existentialism was not already accepted as a humanism. It was a shrewd move by the SFIO to use “humanism” as a precipitation point for the alliance. rumors of the eventual form of the government. existentialism too lost much of its luster. attempting to form a coalition government with the implacably opposed PCF and MRP.

113–14. Socialisme humaniste: Vers une théorie de la Résistance. 1945). Le SFIO et l’exercice du pouvoir: 1944–1958 (Paris: Fayard. 1944). it was particularly adept at disciplining it. between cap- italist liberalism and total collectivism . Léon Blum. He wanted to open a “new path . it was the return to politics as usual in Paris. pp. cited in Roger Quilliot. but because it was “humanist” it avoided the subsumption of the individual into the collective that commentators identified in Russia. . “humanism” by 1945 was deployed against resistance allies. Because it was “socialism” it avoided the excessive individualism of the United States. is greater than the collectivity. between class warfare and the dictatorship of the proletariat.” he belonged “to a family of those who state principally that Man. André Hauriou popularized the term in his 1944 book. marxist humanism and the man of tomorrow Willing to be part of the “humanist” alliance. though he was “socialist. writing under his Resistance pseudonym Indomitus. Le Socialisme humaniste: vers une doctrine de la Résistance (Algiers: Fontaine. journalists and politicians – including the socialist 7 André Hauriou. as its main proponents made clear. Drawing its power from a common opposition to Nazi barbarity. adopted it – with its anti-communist resonances intact – in his speech to the Socialist National Congress in August 1945 and his book A l’échelle humaine of the same year. Nous sommes les rebelles (Paris: Entreprise de presse.24 Derrida post-existentialist would disown it. August 13. the term humanist was directed against the communists. the communists were not prepared to accept the socialists’ interpretation of the word. . 1945 at the Congrès Nationale Ordinaire. 41. returning in early 1945 from German captivity.”7 The term was seconded by another social- ist. 1945). .”8 Humanism’s place in Socialist Party rhetoric was assured when the grand old man of the SFIO. Léon Blum. A l’échelle humaine (Lausanne: Mermod. 1972). . . 9 Blum speech. it also provided a strong rhetorical ground to criticize what the SFIO saw as the more problematic elements of Catholic and communist agendas. In a debate played out in the pages of the Catholic personnalist journal Esprit in the early months of 1945. They saw “humanist socialism” as offering a middle way between American capitalism and Soviet communism.9 When the Socialists used the term “humanism” they did so to distinguish themselves from the PCF. p. Primarily. Philippe Viannay. 8 Indomitus. 106. taken as such. The idea of “humanism” did not merely help form an alliance. the human person.

socialism. 1984).13 10 Pierre Hervé.” changing to the even more moderate “Renaissance! Democracy! Unity!” in 1945. French. A substantial alliance with the SFIO seemed possible.” But for Hervé the SFIO project would reveal itself to be only a “pseudo-humanism. 13 See L’Humanité. In a book-length treatment of the same subject.12 The change was not skin-deep. The PCF’s turn to patriotic respectability paid off and helped double its membership over 1945 to 750. Humanist pretensions 25 Catholic Jean Lacroix and Viannay (Indomitus) himself – discussed the new watchword of the SFIO. even to the extent of L’Humanité publishing a draft charter of a unified party on 12 June 1945. pp. p. The PCF’s slo- gan from August 1944 was “unite – struggle – work. 1945.10 While unwilling to reject “humanism” in toto. 408–11. . 11 Pierre Hervé.” when compared to the great humanism at work in the USSR. 1945). The French Communist Party: A Critical History (1928–1984) (Manchester University Press. If the desire to play a major role in reconstruction made the communists unwilling to emphasize differences with other parties. On the communist side.” Esprit (February 1945). we are in our rights to wonder if its promoters. When that humanism becomes the badge of a political bloc. Hervé proclaimed that “the new socialism calls itself humanist. showed a clear distrust of the term “humanist socialism. Pierre Hervé. disbanding the various liberation committees in late 1944 so as not to challenge the authority of Charles de Gaulle. La Libération trahie (Paris: B.000. one has the distinct impression that there is an unstated polemic. June 12. pp. if it is understood that Marxism is a humanism and that the communist movement is in all respects a social and political manifestation of that great current that one calls humanism. the PCF wanted to present itself as a willing partner in the anti-fascist front. to imply that the other is not.” even as he was aware of its uses: You speak to us of humanist socialism. “Un Socialisme humaniste. and on several occasions the party went against its own interests to support the national cause. weary of the communist presence in the resistance. you have it in for communism. 12 Cited in Maxwell Adereth. Hervé recognized all too well its anti-communist connotations. the editor of the communist journal Action. the real possibility of power gave party officials yet another reason to be open to humanism. liberal etc. OK. In reality. Coming out of the cooperation in the National Council of the Resis- tance. don’t want to constitute an anti-communist coalition. just like the Soviet Union on the international level. But whenever you speak of humanist. Grasset. 126. 57 and 63.11 That Hervé was prepared to ally communism with humanism shows how seriously the PCF took national unity in the months following the libera- tion.

then. 1945).R. This renaissance was intimately connected to academic freedom.26 Derrida post-existentialist The plan came to nothing. The French translation of the official Histoire du parti communiste Bolchévik de l’U.”14 It was a subtle attack on the Catholics. but scientific history. Opposing “dogmatic education.. 5. But this momentary recognition had come to an abrupt end in 1939 only weeks after the publication of its standard-bearing text. it is not surprising that the PCF should toy with the term themselves. The debate over the term “humanism. Part of the strategy was to deploy the term against the third party. 62. As Garaudy described communist historians. was to reappropriate the word and rid it of its anti-communist overtones.” then. and the hope was enough to have a discernible effect on both parties’ policies. made the party more receptive to its homegrown movement. upholding the école laı̈que. “Marxism commands their actions. p. the Catholic MRP.S. the “renaissance of French culture” had become a central task for the PCF. The task. Les Intellectuels et la renaissance française (Paris: Editions du Parti communiste français. In response.” the communists presented themselves as defenders of academic freedom and implicitly invoked the MRP’s attempt to reinstitute religious education in schools. with the end of the War. When unity with the “humanist” socialists was realistic. they asserted that. many Marxists such as Georges Politzer dropped their commitment to humanism in favor of their allegiance to political communism. In an address given by party intellectuals Roger Garaudy and Georges Cogniot to the 10th Party Congress in June 1945.S. and hoped to make a bid for its own version.15 Similarly. 27 September 1945. Henri Lefebvre’s Le Matérialisme dialectique. but it is important to recognize that it was not completely implausible for the two resistance allies to come together in the postwar political field. which reasserted a narrow materialism.” 16 Hervé. . Marxist humanism had played an important role for the PCF during the Popular Front in the 1930s. By calling upon humanist ideas. and the news of the Nazi–Soviet pact shredded the PCF’s reputation with communist sym- pathizers. but not their thoughts” because they do not want to do “partisan. while others such as Georges Guterman and Henri Lefebvre remained more faithful to their ideas and consequently were pushed to the 14 Roger Garaudy and Georges Cogniot. La Libération trahie. 15 See especially L’Humanité. “L’Ecole de la liberté.”16 The party knew which elements of “humanism” it liked and which it didn’t. the Communist Party adopted a popular and very French stance. Hervé asserted that the true patron of humanism was Prometheus: religious humanism seemed to him “to be as contradictory as atheistic Catholicism.

19 See Lewis. ch. Humanist pretensions 27 edges of the communist movement. he could not get beyond the “narcissism of the pure intellectual. now Marxist humanists were a useful resource for a party trying to appropriate the word of the minute. such as Luc Sommerhausen. Emile Baas. of effort. Auguste Cornu. Rather. This theoretical background was clear from the start of Lefebvre’s article. Sartre asserted. Lefebvre’s attack drew on the humanist Marxism that he had been proposing since his 1939 book. 5 and especially pp. Louis Althusser. December 29. 21 Henri Lefebvre.” and the confrontation with Sartre offered him a perfect opportunity for debating the term in a field that was not so politically charged. 2005). or Pierre Bigo. advocates of Marxist humanism were either marginal figures in the PCF.”20 We have already seen how the edi- tor.21 For Lefebvre.” Action 8 (June 1945). Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism (Lanham. the current existing relations of production were the preeminent modern force for dehumanization. Sartre. of solidarity. “A propos de l’existentialisme: mise au point. 18 See the list of Marxist humanist texts in Mark Poster. and reclaim humanism. whom the 17 See William Lewis. just the sort of thing one would expect from a bourgeois. It was a proxy for the broader political debate. who were Catholics: only Roger Garaudy occupied a central position in the party.18 But the new political situation after the liberation gave the movement a new lease on life. or writing from outside. In December 1944. 1944. then. “‘Existentialisme’ et Marxisme: Réponse à une mise au point. and had. rejected by the mainstream party. was “a humanist philosophy of action. 4. MD: Lexington Books. and Dionys Mascolo. p.19 Where before they had been polit- ically dangerous. he accused Sartre of ignoring the alienation that reduced Man to his product. was particularly sensitive to the valence of “human- ism. projected freedom of the most abstract kind. Sartre had pub- lished a defence of existentialism in the communist paper Action. . 127–35. in passing.” Action. of combat. which relied heavily on Marx’s 1844 manuscripts and their theory of alienation. 50. 1975). Sartre had outlined a quietist philoso- phy.” and so gave no hope for a real and concrete liberation. The need to engage in the debate over the meaning of humanism explains the communist reaction to Sartre.17 In early 1945. 20 Jean-Paul Sartre. opposing the Stalinist orthodoxy. The modern division of labor did not allow the extreme freedom for which Sartre argued. such as Henri Lefebvre. from his class position in the educated elite. Hervé chose none other than the recently rehabilitated Lefebvre. ch. To respond to Sartre. Pierre Hervé. aligned his philosophy with the new fad of humanism: existentialism. Existential Marxism from Sartre to Althusser (Princeton University Press.

It challenged the SFIO’s authority on precisely the concept with which they were attacking the PCF. 5–51. . the result of the revolution. 229–33. declared the need to “redo the Renais- sance. He merely stated: “it is impossible to accept that Sartre should present his metaphysics as the only current humanism. Le SFIO. man turned towards god: catholic humanism A very similar set of concerns animated the Catholic response to Sartre. It was a complaint that could just as easily have been leveled against the socialists.23 Humanism was also central to the work of the Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain. he did not refuse Sartre the label. The conflict between Marxist and socialist “humanism” played an impor- tant role for the Communist Party. The PCF courted the idea of “humanism” because the term was still in play. half turned against Marxism. Principes d’une politique humaniste (Paris: P. Indeed. at the expense of the greater humanism after the revolution. especially on the question of secular education. it had taken. not its cause. p. who both before and during the War had advocated an “integral humanism. Emmanuel Mounier. October 1. 23 Esprit.” For Lefebvre. when Blum used humanist language at the SFIO August conference in 1945.28 Derrida post-existentialist division of labour required only to think and not to act. “A l’échelle humaine.22 Esprit had been at the heart of the Catholic turn to humanism in the 1930s. For a contemporary example. see Georges Jarlot. pp.” Etudes (November 1945). Hartmann.”24 Just as “humanism” provided important resources for the communists to attack the Catholics. But if Lefebvre posed his humanism as more authentic.” referring to the need to redirect humanism away from the secular and individualistic path that. Only real practical transformation could free Man. who hoped to instantiate “humanist” ideals in the present. it appealed to the Catholics for the critical edge it could provide against the communists. which is often nothing more 22 See Quilliot. when its founder. Sartre’s was the empty humanism of the intellectual classes who ignored the dehumanization of capitalism. Humanism exerted a strong attraction on the Christian left. pp. it could also be aligned with a communist political project. and made it easier for communists to take part in a “humanist” alliance. true humanism was the humanism of tomorrow. 24 Jacques Maritain. Catholic critics such as Jean Daniélou could see humanist Marxism as ill fitting with “a communism. historically. 1932. 1944). 41. it was felt by many to be a concession to the personnalist journal Esprit.

Existentialisme. see Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. 1944). For a Christian humanist response to the education question. Lubac left his readers with a sense of our limitation and the hope of eventual liberation. Le Drame de l’humanisme athée (Paris: Editions Spes. and Nietzsche could often turn into its opposite. had as one of its major goals an overturning of the secular edu- cation policies from the Third Republic. 179–92. by showing the absurdity of life. and La Vie intellectuelle all through 1945. Les Humanités et la personne (Neuchâtel: Delachaux & Niestlé. but also an undeniable danger to the souls of our children. As Michael . pp. we can conclude. It is not surprising that there were several attempts amongst Catholics to redefine “humanism. It was a powerful tool for opposing other parties. at the end of the day. in Louis Meylan.” and could suspect the communist review La Pensée of rejecting humanism. for it was difficult to ignore the possible atheistic reading of “humanism” that the communists promoted. Christianisme. pp. See also the attempt to reclaim “humanist teaching” for Christianity. published during the War. just the old secular humanism. who. given the support provided to Catholic schools under the Vichy regime and the expected reversal under the new government. 1945). Lubac compared Marx. “Chefs d’œuvre. but it also. Against the deifying efforts of the humanists. in the same edition.” Etudes (March 1945). For the Catholics. “what a shame that such a seductive little book should be not only an incontestable pedagogical and literary accomplishment. review.” a debate that had begun to rumble again even before the war was over. de la Croix-Laval’s review for the Catholic journal Etudes started. 26 See the abundant articles in Catholic journals such as Etudes. “Hérédité sociale et éducation. Père Henri de Lubac published the highly successful. Marx. 241–54. had pursued precisely this policy of secular education. which had chased religion out of the classroom. led by Georges Bidault. pp. or Les Temps nouveaux.” Etudes (September 1945).” just as there had been with the communists. The newly founded MRP.26 Indeed a book entitled Humanisme by Léon Emery. then. had an ambivalent rela- tionship to the term. 28 Henri de Lubac. Humanist pretensions 29 than political Machiavellianism. Lieven. and Nietzsche to Dostoyevsky. just like the communists. quashed any attempts to “found eternal life down here. 411. Feuerbach. which discussed the dangers of a humanism detached from God.”27 The Catholics. A. In 1945. “Le Communisme a-t-il changé?” pp. Comte.25 But the Christians too had an ambivalent relationship with the term. a humanism that in Comte. had the potential to backfire on some of their most cherished political projects.” Etudes (April 1945).” p.” and ended “what a shame. See also J. 27 Armand de la Croix-Laval. humanism had too often been tied to “laı̈cisation. especially 92. 422–4.28 As he suggested 25 Jean Daniélou. if interpreted a certain way. Drame de l’humanisme athée. that the humanism to which so much pedagogical science and so much literary value introduces us should be. Introduction à l’Humanisme. “La Vie intellectuelle en France: Communisme. 84–94.

. .”29 When the book was reviewed by Gabriel Marcel in the Catholic review La Vie Intellectuelle. of the type being advocated by the socialists and communists.” La Vie intellectuelle (December 1945). Man can in the end only organize him- self against Man. though de Lubac did not want to promote Christian humanism himself. “Le Ver dans le fruit. Man is vice. the type of humanism that could “be found amongst many of our contemporaries: existentialism. 32 Ibid. Sartre’s existentialism provided a particularly powerful example of the failure of secular humanism. The point wasn’t to deny him the title. Closed atheistic Nietzschean humanism exhibited “a certain disposition of the soul. pp. Just as the communists saw the debate with Sartre as an ideal and low-stakes forum for asserting their own definition of humanism. as with Lefebvre. where ressentiment plays a cen- tral role. the com- munists. 141–8. Rather they were engaged in a subtler and polit- ically more crucial debate over the meaning of “humanism. Marcel asserted.” and in the end. . but rather to show the failings of his particular version. a couple of months after Sartre’s talk. 30 Gabriel Marcel. 29 De Lubac.” This was. In both cases Kelly notes. 10. The Cultural and Intellectual Rebuilding of France after the Second World War (New York: Palgrave. if his very name was obscured? We have first extinguished our spirit . 31 Jeanne Mercier. the goal was not to refuse Sartre the label. Where better than [Sartre] to survey the degeneration of a humanity without God?”32 It was the same analysis that de Lubac had deployed against atheistic humanism. and Marcel had tied to Sartre. see Michael Kelly. a “Man minus humanity. p. pp.30 Derrida post-existentialist in his Avant-propos. atheistic humanism led to its own corrup- tion: one could be truly humanistic only if one recognized Man’s need for and openness to God. Therefore. his work was appropriated by Christian humanists in 1945. “fundamentally. he tied this concern directly to Sartrean existentialism. 240. pp. Sartre’s Catholic and communist critics were not bandying around the charge of antihumanism. but in the negative form in which it is presented by Sartre. In Jeanne Mercier’s important 1945 critique of Sartre.” for which Sartrean existentialism offered a suitably uncontroversial occasion. 238–40.”30 For the Catholics. “Le Drame de l’humanisme athée. “without God. she stated that for him.. 249. 149. but rather to show that his version of humanism was limited and unattractive. Exclusive humanism is inhumane humanism. for the Catholics it provided an opportunity for challenging humanism’s atheistic undertones. if the need for the true God could have been replaced by others. 2004). The Christians decried a humanism turned atheistic in Sartre’s work. “how can one be surprised . Le drame de l’humanisme athée. a humanism of the bourgeois.” Etudes (February 1945). .”31 Mercier continued. . not in itself. undeniably assumes it.

Humanist pretensions 31 it was a testing ground for a larger debate being played out at the political level. Like the socialists and the Catholics. a debate the result of which would have profound consequences for the causes they held closest. nothing else more than his life. his was a secular humanism. All I know is that I will do everything in my power to make it happen. say. against what he saw as the totalizing and enveloping whole offered by the communists.. whether in education or in the transformation of the social system. he asserted a humanism that affirmed individual autonomy today. But Sartre turned the criticism back against them. Quietism is the attitude of people who say: “Others can do what I cannot do. 36–7. . by itself: “Will collectivization ever be a reality?” I have no idea. pp. since it adds. 41. Like the socialists and the communists. unable to change anything. It ventures even further than that. since it declares that reality exists only in action.33 The Marxists asserted that only a bourgeois humanist could imagine the existence of absolute freedom in the modern capitalist world.” The doctrine that I am presenting to you is precisely the opposite of quietism. He attacked materialism for treat- ing “all men – including oneself – as objects – which is to say as a set of pre-determined reactions indistinguishable from the properties and phe- nomena that constitute. Sartre took communist political engagement and made it dependent upon a break with vulgar Marxist theory. a chair. Existentialism Is a Humanism. Sartre understood the cleavages in the debate and saw the fraught political and semantic situation as a perfect opportunity for furthering his own ends. 35 Ibid. it was the Trojan horse in which Sartre tried to smuggle subjectivism into Marxism. humanism meant 33 Sartre. a table. therefore he is nothing more than the sum of his actions. because history would accomplish itself. pp. or a stone.35 Only by allowing individual freedom was the revolution possible. as for the socialists. Beyond that. Before the revolution. Sartre’s use of “humanism” to argue against conventional Marxism mir- rored the arguments used by the socialists. For Sartre. I cannot count on anything. this freedom could only be abstract. p. 34 Ibid. 35–8. “Man is nothing other than his own project.”34 Sartre argued that if we believed in ironclad laws of history we would never act. agency today: sartre’s humanism It is only by understanding the controversy and stakes involved in the invocation of humanism that we can begin to read Sartre’s 1945 lecture.. He exists only to the extent that he realizes himself.

. or in failure. If Sartre was willing to use the semantic possibilities of socialist humanism. because it concerns all of mankind. . 37 Ibid. Our responsibility is thus much greater than we might have supposed. . 24. But.” This “condition” was not a human essence. When we say that man chooses himself. at our expense. but the “limitations. and. which a priori define Man’s fundamental situation in the universe . for them. and assert that the goal of 36 Ibid. on the other. Rather than an individu- alistic softening of the socialist ideal. he is choosing for all men. the mainstay of existentialism. restricted to the private sphere. the liberation promised by humanism was consonant with communism. to work in it. Despite the lack of a human essence.37 It was this common desire to change the world in which we live. deny. in creating the man each of us wills ourselves to be. or to come to terms with them”: good or bad faith. he did not want to embrace it fully. undermined the unity of the social whole. to submit to it. impeded the revolution. It is for this reason that Sartre was so concerned to rebuff the charge that existentialist freedom was purely individual: The word “subjectivism” has two possible interpretations and our opponents play with both of them. the necessity for him to be in the world. for Sartre. p.36 Existentialist choice was not the selfish and bourgeois freedom of an iso- lated individual. Sartre still could appeal to the universal form of all human projects. Subjectivism means. to die in it.. that was universal across the great variety of human existence. . to postpone. eventually. The fundamental meaning of existentialism resides in the latter. a direct reiteration of the socialist account would not make Sartre any friends in the communist camp.” Even if the specifics were always different.32 Derrida post-existentialist that communism had to relax its laws of history and accept individual human action and choice in the present. man’s inability to transcend human subjectivity. p. not only do we mean that each of us must choose himself. we could nonetheless understand how people attempted to “surpass such limitations. of course. Sartre went to considerable lengths to show that his version was not the one the communists rejected. and. 42. on the one hand. and strayed dangerously close to the individualism that they so despised in capitalism. Sartre argued that a common human project was possible because of a shared “condition. the freedom of the individual subject to choose what he will be. to live out his life in it amongst others. . there is not a single one of our actions that does not at the same time create an image of man as we think he ought to be . but also that in choosing himself. In fact. . Socialist humanism.

was also the desire to will it for all. . yet that freedom must always be exercised in a concrete manner . one might say. the communists’ goal too. or Flynn. even if Sartre was wary about defining any specific content. p. This was. The strategic demands of Sartre’s first foray into politics posed the problem of how one could socialize existentialist freedom. This return to Kantianism. 39 See T. exemplified by Mlle Mercier. to help the workers. both for the self and for others. 48–9. 148–50. 33.. . 38 Ibid. 2006). Storm Heter. Sartre’s attempt to render the more individualist freedom of Being and Nothingness social seems to renege on his previous refusal of a priori moral principles. Humanist pretensions 33 subjective freedom was to facilitate this surpassing. as soon as there is commitment. The Catholics were both inside and outside the movement. which would remain a focus for his ongoing thought up through his Critique of Dialectical Reason fifteen years later. Sartre had to distance himself from the socialist humanism claimed by the SFIO that was otherwise so central to his argument against Marxist materialism. or bad faith and the error of its dissimulation. the PCF or the MRP: “A man who joins a communist or revolutionary group wills certain concrete ends that imply the abstract will to freedom. And then later. they were presented as critics of existentialism. The complexity can be seen in a peculiarity of Sartre’s 1945 paper: Christian thinkers were invoked at two separate and apparently conflict- ing stages. predomi- nantly Catholic in Sartre’s eyes. to ensure the conditions for its occurrence in the world. Firstly. pp. I am obliged to will the freedom of others at the same time as I will my own. . Sartre insisted. christian existentialism With respect to the Christians the rhetorical situation was more compli- cated.”38 The desire to realize freedom concretely. has been much attacked in the secondary literature. was named as the second major category of existentialism. choose good faith and the truth of existentialist freedom. Sartre and Marxist Existentialism. pp. a universal form for morality. choose to oppose slavery or not. Sartre’s Ethics of Engagement: Authenticity and Civic Virtue (New York: Continuum. One could choose to support freedom or not.39 But the apparent weakness of Sartre’s argument highlights the political necessity to reach beyond the isolated subject and promote a universal project for human liberation. lose their chains. Christian existentialism.

41 In 1939 all his French examples were Christian. Jean Wahl’s Etudes Kierkegaardiennes. and the Protestant Karl Jaspers was hailed alongside the “atheist” Heidegger as a major influence. 43 Emmanuel Mounier. When looking back to the fathers of existentialism. Jeanne Mercier’s critique. publishing in the series Philosophie de l’Esprit. could be saved. it was to Pascal and St Augustine that one turned as well as to modern phenomenology. “Introduction aux existentialismes.40 Sartre’s presentation of Mercier and other Christian thinkers as outside of existentialism was part of a larger project of claiming existentialism for himself. 229–35. Alcan. and Gaston Berger’s book on Husserl.42 le Senne’s Obstacle et Valeur. and the thick boughs of its modern religious exponents. Thus when the editor of Esprit. wrote an article on “existentialisms” in April 1946. as Sartre had implied. . Gabriel Mar- cel. But his importance in introducing the thought of Kierkegaard and Jaspers into France places him in direct conversation with all the people we are talking about here. he drew a family tree to show both its predominantly Christian roots. 40 Mercier. 1939).” The title draws on Sartre’s own description of Nothingness as a worm in the heart of being.34 Derrida post-existentialist But it would be wrong to assume that Sartre was simply referring to two separate groups. “Le Ver dans le fruit. In fact. his first step was to show that it was humanist. Before the War. the fruit of existentialism.” sketched the classic Christian existentialist critique of atheistic existential- ism: it was not an attack on existentialism tout court. Introduction à la philosophie. 42 Jean Wahl’s relationship to the Christian existentialists is more problematic. and he preferred a secular Heidegger to a religious Kierkegaard. deformed by a Nietzschean outgrowth. and to do that. The Christian existentialists were also institutionally established in France. pp. “Le Ver dans le fruit. After all.” and it was in this second grouping that he placed his own philosophy. Mercier suggested that Sartre’s atheism was the worm in the apple. In le Senne’s second edition of the Introduction à la philosophie from 1939. including his own personnalism. existentialism had been dominated by Catholics. especially René le Senne. 2nd edn (Paris: F. Emmanuel Mounier. it was widely affirmed that the father of existentialism was the Danish Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. and Louis Lavelle. key works by Lavelle. 41 René Le Senne. The need to confront a Christian strand of existentialism must be under- stood through the history of existentialism. however. run by Lavelle and le Senne.” Esprit (April 1946). his discussion of modern philosophy was divided into two sections entitled “German” and “French Existentialism.43 Sartre’s Heideggerianism was part of a sparse and isolated branch. which counted amongst its titles most of Gabriel Marcel’s oeuvre. He wanted to make existentialism atheist.

p.44 44 Paul Foulquié. . 159. the Jesuit Paul Foulquié moved through atheistic existentialism. Humanist pretensions 35 Figure 1: The Existentialist Tree. 1947). 1947). before concluding with the Christian “essentialist existentialism” of Lavelle. In his Que sais-je book on existentialism published in 1946. to Christian existential- ism. L’Existentialisme (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. Even after the War. Christian existentialism maintained its position. Introduction aux existentialismes (Paris: Editions Denoël.  C Editions Denoël. Emmanuel Mounier. 1960.

46 Existentialism was supposed to confront the categories of our understanding with existence and show them to be wanting. M. But the Christian existentialists were not content simply to leave a space open for a belief in God. 960–3. nobility and joy . . Optimism 45 Emmanuel Mounier. note. to the point of rendering it unrecognizable. all the values of intelligence. Jean Wahl’s Petite histoire de l’existentialisme (1947) and his Les Philosophies de l’existence (1954). argued the Christian existentialists. or not. existentialism is more often synonymous with Christian philosophy.” p. of tenderness and of courage . and humanism. not knowledge. to be approached through faith. then a powerful moral argument for his existence could be derived from our experience of the world. as well as the essay collection Existentialisme chrétien from 1948. how could we make dogmatic claims about the existence. . Among others were Roger Troisfontaines’s Le Choix de Sartre (1946) and Existentialisme et pensée chrétienne (1948).36 Derrida post-existentialist Given this strong Christian tradition of existentialism it is not surprising that the most significant Christian response to Sartre was not to contest existentialism in toto. of God. Sartre has deliberately effaced. Christian existential- ists attempted to show that the rejection of God in Sartre’s system was not philosophically necessary. If God could not be proved. pp. an overwhelming burden of misery weighs on the world.”45 A number of books would appear in the postwar period to show that there was space within existentialism for the Christians. or at least for religious thought. than atheism and despair. but rather to argue for the validity of a Christian approach. God. and that sin ravages his life. .” If the two movements showed great divergence on metaphysical issues. an inexpressible anxiety embraces it. Just as Jeanne Mercier did in her 1945 critique. was a mystery. in Marcel’s words. As Mercier argued: It is true that Man carries the stigmata of the nothing. Jean Paumen’s Existentialisme spirituel (1949). Esprit (December 1945). . “Le Ver dans le fruit. of fidelity. The Christian existentialists were particularly concerned about Sartre’s “one-sided” description of existence. these would be debated as “comrades in the same battle. transcendence. But it is also true that human experience is not completely limited to this desolate landscape. they argued. which led to his supposed moral nihilism. 238. “historically. it was based upon Sartre’s own individual choice. 46 Hence Troisfontaine’s title “Le Choix de Sartre. . Sartre’s assertion of atheism ran against the very tenor of existentialism. As Mounier put it.” See also Mercier. If we could not even understand the world that was given to us. the pure smiles of children.

148. in a declaration that was more wishful than descriptive. If attention was turned to the positive experiences in life. .” and a “carmelite nun. Humanist pretensions 37 or pessimism? . . 48 Gabriel Marcel.”48 “Hell is other people. 47. “L’Existence et la liberté humaine. a more optimistic and moral philosophy could be built.”50 Whereas le Senne’s “French existentialists” from 1939 were all Christian. only when they are an infanticide. a professed Catholic. an adulterer. p. or the mad woman who thought she was talking to God) show that for him Christianity was always on the side of bad faith and resignation.” a “mother of an honest family. but Sartre showed great hostility towards them. and. 50 Ibid. that a message of hope and of salvation has been given to us.” in Les Grands Appels de l’homme contemporain (Paris: Editions du temps présent. 26. 1946). one that would point towards God. p. Existentialism Is a Humanism. 34.49 The acknowledgment of Chris- tian existentialism was grudging at best. as well as the French existentialists and myself. and a murderous postal worker. Gabriel Marcel raised the question in a lecture early in 1946 whether Sartre would have been able to write Huis clos if the characters had been a “glorious general.” it seems. “La Mission permanente et contemporaine du philosophe. pp. that Revelation has shone on the world. Sartre suggested that existentialism was simple to define. the atheistic existentialists. 49 See Sartre. It was this debate about and for existentialism that was most pressing in 1945. Sartre’s 1945 talk was the most audacious attempt yet to appropriate existentialism for the atheists. See also I. 248. existentialism is an atheism We can now understand why the Christians should occupy such an ambiva- lent place in Sartre’s talk. among whom we should place Heidegger. It would have been impossible to ignore the Christian existentialists. Lepp’s review of L’Etre et le néant in Les Etudes philosophiques (January 1946).47 It was a point reiterated by many others. 1–16. And it is a fact. an incontestable fact indeed. pp. . Sartre. or René le Senne.. the Christians. among whom I would include Karl Jaspers and Gabriel Marcel. p. on the other. when the new atheistic existentialism had not yet succeeded in fully excluding religious belief.. his presentation of Christian politics and choice of examples (the man whose failure in life led him to the priesthood. 20 (translation modified). but “what complicates the matter is that there are two kinds of existentialists: on the one hand.” Les Etudes philosophiques (January 1948). asserted in 1945 that 47 Ibid. One must enlarge the search to the scale of all the dimensions of existence. and the hearts of men are witnesses to grace.

Le Problème du mal. De l’Existentialisme à Heidegger (Paris: J. it is I who will choose to say that it is good. The Christian existentialists might not have disagreed. pp. “isn’t it legitimate . his atheistic premise could just as easily be replaced by their particular type of theology. 22. rather he was a “hidden God. reprinted in Jean Beaufret. . Sartre used the example of God to explain the thesis that “essence precedes existence. rather than bad. there is never any pure injunction from on high: If I hear voices. If a voice speaks to me. But how did Sartre hope to incite this conversion? The text gives very few philosophical reasons for atheism. what proof is there that they come from heaven and not from hell. never a conclusion. he did argue for the primacy of existential freedom that was its consequence.” Revue socialiste 2 (1946). . and Borne. Vrin. 1948). God wasn’t present in the world.52 Divine commands required human consent. 149–54. obvious to all. If humans weren’t free then faith would not be meaningful: for Sartre’s absurdity. Human freedom was just as important to them as a necessary condition of faith. p. required us to choose them as divine. “Vers une critique marxiste de l’existentialisme. 1986). later in the talk. 51 Ibid. to see in atheism itself. credo quia absurdum est. But when. it was not with the Christian variety that he made the unfortunate comparison. I will never find any proof at all. 54 Jean Beaufret.38 Derrida post-existentialist they were atheists. but rather with an atheism that persisted in believing in stable essences. or from my own subconscious. Existentialist freedom was always lurking at one degree removed. .” because a God who created Man would already have an idea of that Man before he existed. a cryptogram of the act of faith?”54 Sartre’s argument that atheism and existentialism were co-extensive would thus have had no purchase on the Christian existentialists. 52 Ibid. . nor any convincing sign of it. or some pathological condition? . the Christians substituted their own. As he elaborated in his example of the woman hearing the voice of God. La Pesanteur et la grâce (Paris: Plon.” and false idols had to be chased away by a “purifying atheism.. however little it confesses to a malaise. Sartre wanted French existentialism to undergo a crisis of faith.”53 As Jean Beaufret suggested in a 1946 article. Existentialism. 26. it is always I who must decide whether or not this is the voice of an angel. 53 For “Athéisme Purificateur” see Simone Weil. if I regard a certain course of action as good. While Sartre did not prove the nonexistence of God. Sartre declared that “atheistic existentialism” was more coherent. on the other hand. p.51 Atheism in Sartre’s text was always an axiom.. drew the philosophical consequences of the death of God. True. .

The Chris- tians’ submission to an almighty God was just an expression of their fear of human agency. in his inter- vention. 53–4. Recalling his own mockery of the humanist auto-didacte in Nausea. not Gods. True humanism. In this sense existentialism is optimistic. the existentialist. It was only by using this concept that Sartre was able to argue in favor of atheistic existentialism as opposed to its theistic alternative. Existentialism Is a Humanism. in the absence of the divine. accepted the dangers of human freedom. because Man is constantly in the making. 56 Ibid. Sartre stated that for him “the only universe that exists is the human one – the universe of human subjectivity. As we have seen. it is a doctrine of action. this refuge was worse than the anguish they fled. . human- ism was “a theory that takes Man as an end and as the supreme value. for salvation. pp.” Instead. Rather. Sartre suggested. value’s very source: he possessed a freedom to create value that only a communist society could let flourish.” For some. pp. saw anguish as the ground for optimism and for the adoption of a truly humanist philosophy. Sartre played certain meanings of humanism off others. By invoking humanism. assumed the mantle of responsibility. it was not a bland and undifferentiated adoption of a fashionable term. existentialist humanism proclaimed that “man is always outside of himself. If the Christians turned anguish into despair.”55 Sartre denied that yearning for the divine could be humanist. and turned to Men. one of the dominant tropes in the Christian existentialist critique of Sartre’s philosophy was that of choice. both in his choice of existential descriptions and in his pessimistic conclusions. that Man will realize himself as truly human. not even a valid proof of the existence of God. and it is in projecting and losing himself beyond himself that man is realized. Sartre suggested that it was the right choice. “the word ‘humanism’ has two very different meanings. At the end of his lecture. and it is only in bad faith – in confusing their own despair with ours – that Christians are able to assert that we are “without hope.. 51–2. Sartre declared.”56 Man was not the ultimate value. but. Sartre had chosen to be atheist. rather. When in 1945 Sartre declared his philosophy humanist.” But an existentialist could “never consider Man as an end. 55 Sartre. For Sartre.” Man was his own legislator and it was by “seeking a goal outside of himself in the form of liberation. and thereby denied their responsibility. Humanist pretensions 39 “Humanism” then was the key.” The closing lines were a direct attack on the Christian theistic model: What man needs is to rediscover himself and to comprehend that nothing can save him from himself. or of some special achievement.

the uneasy label was often discarded and new approaches taken on board. which followed tripartisme. and his philosophy was decried as bourgeois and decadent. For the Catholics. now became a liability. as Sartre declared. Existentialism was both philosophically atheistic and politically communist. not in an attempt to mark a belonging to the 57 See also Maurice Merleau-Ponty. made clear that intellectual life would be no exception. tripartisme started to fragment in early 1947. head of the newly formed COM- INFORM. the end of the humanist age i: husserl and the science of historical materialism If Sartre constructed his philosophy on the sure ground of “humanism. with the PCF kicked out of the government and the burgeoning Cold War dividing East from West. Without the political pressure to assert humanism. Communist attacks on Sartre that valorized humanism petered out by late 1947. and Andrei Zhdanov. At the limit some even started to question humanism directly. but whether humanism tout court should be supported. With the rising anti-communism of the MRP and a cooling inter- national climate. . the end of political cohabitation freed several intellectuals to make criticisms of the status quo through the humanist paradigm. Perhaps Sartre’s existentialism was a humanism. The debate would no longer concern what type of humanist Sartre was.” that foundation would become ever more shaky as the tectonic plates of the French political scene began to shift. the final split would have to wait until the failure in 1951 of the “troisième force” government. which was instituted to coordinate the Communist Parties in Western Europe. because. and therein lay the problem. Sartre reset the table by exploiting the fissures of a local and very political postwar debate. The rational- ist Marxist journal La Pensée began to invoke the humanist label for the first time at the end of 1947. What had previously raised his profile. 1947). it was a humanism.57 After this period the key political bat- tle was not within France but rather between capitalism and communism on a global scale.40 Derrida post-existentialist At a time when existentialism could just as easily be religious as not. and provided him with the resources to make his work acceptable to com- munists and wrench existentialism away from the Christians. Humanisme et terreur (Paris: Gallimard. with Sartre now right in the firing line. At first. the final communists being ejected by a Ramadier government careful to appease the Americans with their vital Marshall Plan Aid.

this movement was spearheaded by Jean-François Lyotard. “Vers un humanisme nouveau. 62 For this appraisal of Canguilhem. Roger Garaudy and Henri Lefebvre. notoriously. this new group would con- centrate on Husserl’s more “scientific writings. he asserted. under which label they placed Sartre. which fervently advocated the doctrine of the two sciences (proletariat and bourgeois) and. “a sort of philosophical actuality – precisely in detaching it from its current conditions. A42–02. Cornu. A. “Contribution à l’effort d’éclaircissement idéologique. “Y’a-t-il encore un humanisme bourgeois?” La Pensée (March 1948). 59 See Lewis. “M. 5. 60 Henri Lefebvre.” La Pensée (September 1947).”60 Garaudy was more direct in his appropriately entitled autocritique: “Zhdanov was here. see Louis Althusser.11. Merleau-Ponty lance la dernière mode de l’anti-communisme. bourgeois ideology. Bonnard. or A. H. at least in the first years of the journal. or François Châtelet. The possibility of refiguring Husserl.”62 Althusser noted this movement in 1954. In a regular section. it allowed prominent intellectuals to perform autocritique. Two of the first three were those who had been at the forefront of the humanist attack on Sartre. . however. was in large part due to the influence of a group of communist phenomenologists that would become enormously important in the late 1950s. Humanist pretensions 41 national community. the humanist tag became unconvincing to the communists. The new tactic became the assertion of objective science vs. p. communist philosophers tried new approaches to attack Sartre.59 Lefebvre’s autocri- tique strongly attacked socialist humanism: to confer upon humanism. The place of Merleau-Ponty is more equivocal. Unlike the “subjec- tivist” phenomenologists. but rather as a means to criticize its bourgeois form. ch.”63 Following in the tradition of Jean Cavaillès. and surprisingly Georges Canguilhem. of re-thinking his place in the contemporary philosophical world. 61 Roger Garaudy. “Humanisme et matérialisme dans la pensée de Karl Marx. “Merleau-Ponty et la decomposition de l’idéalisme.” Institut Mémoires de l’Edition Contemporaine. the PCF was retreating from its previous tolerance of the humanist stance.” La Nouvelle Critique (July 1955). Muhlestein. The new approach became institutionalized with the founding of the journal La Nouvelle Critique in 1948.” La Nouvelle Critique (June 1952). Louis Althusser.’ to his rationalist theses and to his theory of science. describing “the increasingly clear abandon of existen- tialism and the ‘return to Husserl.” La Nouvelle Critique (1949). Fonds Althusser. Raymond Aron. Denis. ALT2.58 In the long term. “L’Enseignement de la philosophie. 63 Louis Althusser. Jean-Toussaint Desanti and. from the present historical context – involves a serious danger.”61 No longer having to appear humanist. Lysenko biology. “Textes sur la lutte idéologique. Many looking back suggest that he was acceptable to party communists in the 1950s. “Jdanov est passé par là. Caen (hereafter IMEC). But see Jean Desanti.” La Pensée (May 1948). 52.” Esprit (June 1954).” La Nouvelle Critique (1949). 58 See H.

But to accomplish this. human and natural. the end of the humanist age ii: christians and the turn to heidegger While the shift away from the humanist paradigm allowed the commu- nists to reassess their relationship to Husserl. 1991) p. trans. the two faces of phenomenology: a strong faith in the sciences drives its program of solidly establishing their underpinnings. 33 (translation modified).” A rationalist bent leads Husserl to engage himself in the prerational [anté-rationnel]. Phenomenology. Phenomenology and Dialectical Materialism. B. one informed by dialectical materialism. For the communist phenomenologists. a parallel movement by the Catholics allowed a new appreciation of Heidegger. Hyppolite. it must leave even science behind. Blanchot. Back in the more comfortable territory of Marxist science and freed from the straitjacket of humanism. Beakley (Albany: State University of New York Press.42 Derrida post-existentialist most importantly. cut loose from its exis- tentialist interpretation. Husserlian phenomenology provided the ground for an understanding of the sciences. the anti- humanist and Catholic reading of Heidegger is an important and much understudied context for the reception of the German phenomenologist 64 See Tran Duc Thao “Existentialisme et Matérialisme Dialectique. but equally treason. 65 Jean-François Lyotard. Only by understanding the true meaning of phenomenology could one return to objective science. and phenomenology into a stronghold of irrationalism. . the Vietnamese philosopher writing in France. As Lyotard put it: We see. yet an imperceptible inflection can turn this prerationality into an irrationality [anti-rationnel]. trans. Tran Duc Thao. and plunge into matters “innocently. From Husserl to Heidegger there is certainly an inheritance.65 The existentialist emphasis on freedom and escape from positive science was figured as an unjustified misreading of the Husserlian project. Levinas.64 In figuring Husserl as a philosopher of science. the communists had opened up an important new direction in postwar French phenomenology. it explained the rise of the objective – exemplified by Marxism – not a return to free subjectivity. Though scholars have paid attention to the new readings of Heidegger by the Arguments group. Herman and D. Reidel. D. and of ultimately stabilizing their whole edifice and heading off a future crisis. these phe- nomenologists attempted to distance him from the existentialist reading. 1986). and the circle around Jean Beaufret. Morano (Boston: D. then.” Revue de métaphysique et de morale (July 1949). and Tran Duc Thao. as manifested in bourgeois (often “fascist”) ideology.

(Paris: Albin Michel. Heidegger en France. in the end he had merely presented an analytic of Dasein. Heidegger’s rejection of humanism must be understood within a broader field of ideas that connected it to technological thought. p. 2 vols. In the 1960 edition of the Revue internationale de philoso- phie dedicated to Heidegger.” which an emphasis on humanism would only obscure. saw promise in the German’s philosophy. 70 Anson Rabinbach.67 Oth- ers had a more nuanced view. 69 See Alphonse de Waelhens. it had ended up being merely “existentiel. 1942). There was another reason why the absorption of Heidegger’s ideas would be slow in France. it focused on Man and not Being.68 It was a common reading. 2001–2).” and she anxiously awaited the expected second volume. 67 See Lepp. review of L’Etre et le néant.70 But Heidegger’s understanding of the term “humanism” did not match that of the French philosophers to whom he wrote. In the 1940s. p. merely repeated his old unsubstantiated claims. So when Beaufret invited Heidegger to respond to Sartrean existentialism in 1945. La Philosophie de Martin Heidegger (Louvain: Editions de l’Institut supérieur de philosophie. pp. eliciting the famous Letter on Humanism. all the French writers were Christian. it did not have an imme- diate impact on the debate. some proclaimed his thought the atheistic source of Sartre’s existentialism. . 140–7. The most influential book in French on Heidegger during this period was Alphonse de Wael- hens’s La Philosophie de Martin Heidegger (1942). 62 (1994).” Though he had wanted to uncover the structures of Being. 302.66 Heidegger was not always popular amongst Catholics. Heidegger’s restatement of his case did not change the fact that his existentialism had not moved beyond the human. vol. Mercier suggested that in Being and Time “Heidegger arrived at a philosophy of despair that he has not yet overcome. nihilism. Sartre was right that existentialism was a humanism. 68 Mercier. As Anson Rabinbach has shown.” 232. which would go beyond this.”69 From de Wael- hens’s perspective. “Le Ver dans le fruit. or in the French translation “réalité-humaine. even though Heidegger had intended the opposite. who explicitly 66 See Dominique Janicaud. and ultimately Nazism: it was the meaning of humanism in the German context that led Heidegger to refuse it. and religiously minded writers produced a large proportion of all the Heideg- gerian literature in French in the 1950s and early 1960s. Humanist pretensions 43 into France.” New German Critique. De Waelhens argued that though Heidegger had intended to write an “existential” philosophy. “The Letter on Humanism as Text and Event. Heidegger. including Jeanne Mercier. I. by reasserting that his project was to understand “Being. for several. 75.

73 The development can be seen most clearly in Gabriel Marcel. the Florestan Dimension. which mocked Heidegger’s phi- losophy mercilessly. p.44 Derrida post-existentialist opposed humanism to Nazism. 30. . but the elements in the letter that were open to a Christian interpretation played a more important role in its reception across the Rhine.” Revue Thomiste (1953). For all the caveats.72 The MRP’s intellectual credentials were also weak- ened. but it was a response to the situation in Germany and could not expect a smooth reception on the other side of the Rhine. pp. 49. Though the Catholics were involved in govern- ment for much of the Fourth Republic. Rabin- bach makes much of the inexplicable Marxism in Heidegger’s letter. Joseph Rovan and the Jesuit Roger Munier.. Heidegger’s letter may have been addressed to Jean Beaufret. and it became central to the Christian reading of Heidegger. In both 1947 and 1953. It was then pub- lished in its expanded and definitive form in 1953. But when Marcel came to publish the play in book form in 1958 he regretted his mocking tone. It was only then that Heidegger’s letter attracted a wider readership. the letter was translated by Catholics. 73 See especially Roger Jolivet. It would not take long. 72 Between 1951 and 1958 the MRP got no more than 12 per cent of the vote. and Heidegger’s criticism of humanism became an attractive model. Albert Dondeyne. An abridged version of the letter was published in Fontaine in November 1947. The publi- cation history of the letter reflects this timeline. as well as the book it reviewed. p. a translation that was only widely available from 1957. 1951). as the always-fractious relationship with left-Christian journals such as Esprit and Témoignage Chrétienne became increasingly hostile. an ex-Nazi rejecting the term “humanist” for his philosophy in 1946 showed insensitivity to French political norms. Only when political Catholicism was breaking down did some writers look for new means to attack existentialism.71 When domestic developments allowed an antihumanist philosophy. After meeting Heidegger 71 Ibid. sliding in the polls due to the return to the political scene of the Gaullists. In one scene the main character is seen questioning the possibility that an “apple apples” or a “pear pears” to the profound admiration of his audience. published in the Christian existentialist Philosophie de l’Esprit collection over ten years after the letter was writ- ten. they had lost considerable support by the early 1950s. as opposed to a high of 28 per cent in 1948. In 1952 he wrote a play. Heidegger’s Letter found traction in the French Catholic philosophical community. Only when the political system undergirding the humanist moment broke down did Heidegger make inroads into French philosophy. Foi chrétienne et pensée contemporaine (Louvain: Publications universitaires de Louvain. 404–14. “Foi chrétienne et pensée contemporaine.

The analysis resonated with many Catholics.”74 Heidegger’s letter was attractive to Catholics because it attempted to shed the atheistic reading that had predominated in France.” Jeannière asserted that “the true path to Salvation is that which leads to the clearing of Being. 1958). pp. quoting Heideg- ger’s definition of his work in the Letter on Humanism as a “waiting for God. must deprive our existence of its horizon and all warmth and drive us towards that nihilism.”75 In addition. even its Christian form. 1993).”79 The most influential of this new generation of Christian Heidegger scholars was Henri Birault. 77 Ibid. “La Place de dieu dans l’ontologie de Martin Heidegger. which must have known great success in Hitler’s Germany. by a certain simplicity. a realm of Being that would only become apparent once metaphysical and humanistic suppositions were put aside. even a modesty. To achieve an understanding of Being we had to move beyond “humanism. 253. Marcel suggested that he was “struck.. which sketched out Heidegger’s philosophy before turning to the Letter on Humanism and asking about the place of God in his ontology. who thought Sartre’s pessimistic analyses of the réalité-humaine closed off the possibility of a connection to God. by the destruction of the Sacred. a conference chaired by Marcel and attended by a pre- dominantly Christian audience. 161. p. Heidegger’s letter introduced the concept of the “sacred” (das Heilige).”77 Corvez followed a similar line in a long study for the Revue Thomiste. For them. 76 Albert Jeannière. . 83. p. almost a naivety which made a great impression on all of us. 79 Ibid. 385–8. Basic Writings (San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco. “L’Itinéraire de Martin Heidegger.. Heidegger had written. 78 Olivier Corvez. which finds 74 Gabriel Marcel. 75 Martin Heidegger. Humanist pretensions 45 at Cérisy in 1955. the Letter served to replace the second volume of Being and Time that never came.” Revue Thomiste (1953).78 Corvez argued that Heidegger’s ontology was not incompatible with faith. p. From the mid 1950s. 65. Catholic philosophers became more open in their criticisms of humanism. like all those present. p. after all: “it is not only rash but also an error in procedure to maintain that the interpretation of the essence of Man from the relation of his essence to the truth of Being is atheism.” “the least ‘humane’ doctrine there is.”76 Rejecting “human- ism.” Etudes (January 1954). that which. a way to challenge Sartre’s humanist existentialism and move to a richer understanding of Being that would be open to religious thought. La Dimension Florestan (Paris: Plon. Abel Jeannière’s 1954 article for Etudes in 1954 even criticized Heidegger’s early work for its humanistic resonances: “From his doctrine developed a new humanism exalting heroism before death.

p. pp. drawn on by a generation of Catholic philosophers who rejected humanism and existentialism in the same philosophical gesture.” in De l’être. “La Différence ontologique chez M. 81 Ibid. for many Christians in France. du divin. 83 Ibid. that no being could dominate the meaning of Being in general.”83 The concern for the ontological difference became somewhat of a leitmotif for the Christian thinkers. It was negative theology for a new age. like the other Christian thinkers.. p. .81 Human- ism like other ontotheologies structured its understanding of Being by asserting the pre-eminence of one particular being. Dondeyne was particularly careful to separate the idolatrous God of metaphysics from that of religious faith. Heidegger. If God was to be understood analogically with Being.46 Derrida post-existentialist its most pathetic expression in Nietzsche’s cry ‘God is dead. 35–62 and 251–93. a guide for thinking about the relationship of men to the divine. according to Birault. in this case. “Existence et vérité d’après Heidegger. Moving through the arguments against ontotheology. Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism was a central document in the overcoming of Sartre’s existentialism. Though God and Being were rigorously dis- tinguished.82 It was the very thought of the ontological difference that brought philosophy beyond the dead-end of such metaphysics towards the “dimensions of the Sacred.’”80 The most valuable tool for achieving this task. according to Birault. they rejected the pretensions of Man. then the ontological difference was the only way to avoid idolatry. Sartre continued to be influential. 2005). The ontological difference implied. however. et des dieux (Paris: Cerf. From the mid 1950s.” and it was “only this sentiment of the Sacred” which could “open the essential space (Wesensraum) for a possible encounter with God. 162 and 181. the difference between Being and beings. The first major article on the “ontological difference” in French was written by le Chanoine Albert Dondeyne. pp. was Heidegger’s ontological difference. and thus to God. 82 Albert Dondeyne. Heidegger became a philosopher of the sacred. conclusion The turn against existentialism in the 1950s should not perhaps be over- rated. especially after his condemnation 80 Henri Birault.. Professor at the University of Louvain. 290. 189. Seeking to recover God. it was only by approaching Being through an understanding of Heidegger’s difference that we could be open to the Being of the divine. in 1958. Man.” Revue philosophique de Louvain (1958).

Sartre had bound his philosophy to a moment that was quickly slipping into the past. was pretending to be humanist. its passing freed up Husserl and Heidegger’s philosophies to be re-thought in new contexts. Humanist pretensions 47 of the Soviet Union in 1956 and due to his principled critique of colo- nialism. then Sartre’s lecture was too successful. . the pretense became reality. And yet it is the post-humanist and scientistic developments in French phenomenology during that decade that provided the necessary precondition for the reception of structuralism and post- structuralism in the 1960s. While the humanist age provided the conditions for the rise of existentialism. allowing it to mold phenomenology to its subjectivist and atheistic purposes. including Sartre.” a new consensus would declare the end of Man. French philosophy in the 1950s can be read as a careful sifting through the phenomenological debris of existentialism. If Naville was right to say in 1945 that everyone. His attempt to dictate his own reception only placed it further outside his control. But Sartre’s continued appeal should not blind us to develop- ments in academic philosophy in France. But instead of Sartre’s “death of God. often back-tracking from the humanist label itself. while his political philosophy became ever more sophisticated as he revised his claims from 1945. The 1950s have too often been lost in intellectual histories between the golden age of existentialism and the structuralist invasion.

much less a post-structuralist. and much later the Christian reading of Heidegger. historically. Derrida’s break with Sartre and his slow liberation from Sartrean readings of Husserl and Heidegger. in their communist and Christian guises. From his 1952 admission to the ENS as a student. however. in the 1950s. Rather it was to the inheritors of the phenomenological legacy. Existentialism found devotees amongst the young all over France. if negative. that Derrida was drawn. Derrida was what could be described as a “post-existentialist. corresponding to the broader ambitions of this book. and only had a minimal impact there. as we shall see. Second. Although Derrida very rarely mentioned Sartre in the 1950s. influence. instructive.” nav- igating the phenomenological wilderness after the decline of the dominant Sartrean interpretation. these early essays shed light on an aspect of existentialism that. the teenage Derrida was not alone in waiting for key existentialist texts to arrive on the shelves of a local librairie. and his early essays lack the nuance and sophistication of his later writings. were built upon an initial fascination. to be sure. a very young man. the existentialist’s philosophy still exerted a strong. Derrida was no structuralist. developed outside the tightly limited philosophical world to which Derrida aspired. For. As I will show later in this book. Structuralism. set it apart from other philosophical movements. attracted to philosophy by the charms of the quintessential intellectual. Derrida saw himself as an existentialist. His schoolwork remains. To explain the reception of 48 . ch a p ter 2 Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism It was in this broader history of postwar French intellectual life that Derrida was first introduced to philosophy and developed his ideas. In the late 1940s. The existentialist Derrida was. it provides a frame for thinking about the development of Derrida’s thought: the traces of his earliest interests can be picked out in his more mature philosophy and they inform my reading of it. before 1964. First. until he reentered it as a teacher in 1964. however. caught up in both the new communist reading of Husserl. commanding Derrida’s thoughts at one degree removed. as a schoolboy before 1952.

noted in a 1946 paper presented to the New School for Social Research that “in present-day France.2 The reach of contemporary philosophy into high schools was not out of the ordinary in France. This is. Whether for 1 See Derrida’s notes from Borne’s course “Recherche sur l’hellénisme” at his archive. 1. Etienne Borne. a quite unusual situation. at the Lycée Ben Aknoun or later the Lycée Bugeaud d’Alger. Points de suspension. p. and answered it in the affirmative.1 The course opened with the question as to whether there were moderns and classics in philosophy. . and Derrida. it set the terms of philosophical discussion. 2 See Bennington. his professor there.” in The Journal of the History of Ideas (July 1998). . the French academic system and especially the agrégation meant that there was always a vital connection between the secondary and higher education systems. p. we must first grapple with its extraordinary influence over a generation that entered adulthood in a newly liberated France. and by Derrida’s own admission it was a broadcast about Camus that set him on his path towards philosophy. 131.”4 Of course. 534. pp. derrida’s youthful existentialism The speed with which existentialism pervaded the cultural milieu in post- war France is truly remarkable. but with only existentialism overcoming the centuries-old prejudice for essence over existence. existentialism had its enemies at all levels. let us not forget that this was Camus’s Algeria. “Present Trends of French Philosophical Thought. This was certainly the case in Paris. but in the first few years after the War. As I will discuss later. for France. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 49 existentialism and to understand the stakes of debates over it. either before or since. Alexandre Koyré.” and this in a course on Hellenism. where Derrida studied seemingly far away from Paris. When in 1949 Derrida left Algeria for the first time to head for the prestigious Ecole Préparatoire the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. even if the highly qualified agrégés complained about what they saw as menial teaching duties in the lycées. 3 See chapter 7. considerably greater than that of any intellectual movement. p. 4 Alexandre Koyré. . Even in Algeria. the philosopher of science. even conflated “existentialism” with “modern philosophy. Not only professional philosophers – I mean professors and students of philosophy – but also the infinitely larger (and socially infinitely more important) literary circles .3 But with existentialism. 328. the reach and influence was of a different magni- tude.6. everybody everywhere is speaking about existentialism. the intel- lectual presence of existentialism was palpable. Jacques Derrida. 531–48. Irvine.

Nauwelaerts. which often had little to do with Sartre’s philosophy but was labeled as such by the press. 1. 1947). Georges Gurvitch. 2001). . Existentialisme et pensée chrétienne (Louvain: E. Existentialism was in the air in the late 1940s. For Sartre’s own unpublished considerations on the question. teachers would often repri- mand him for use of jargon.5 In the late 1940s. Looking at Derrida’s work from the period before 1952 and his entry into the Ecole Normale Supérieure. It was the focal point for numerous sup- porters and opponents.50 Derrida post-existentialist or against existentialism. those written when he was only sixteen. as we shall see. and throughout his school days. exis- tentialism was not a detached. sheet 1. 1948). For the Christian criticism of this morality see Roger Troisfontaines. Notebooks for an Ethics (Chicago University Press. it was a living pres- ence. his teacher urged him “not to imitate existentialist language too slavishly.”6 It was not a lone reaction. even the term “existentialism” itself. whether René le Senne. 1992). or Gabriel Marcel. 122–8. Derrida did not spare Sartre himself from criticism. the stamp of existentialism is clear. permeating down to all levels of philosophical study. see Jean-Paul Sartre. Enfants Terribles (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.” “angoisse. Derrida’s emphasis on morality was not a lone response to Sartre’s corpus. Existentialism was attractive to Derrida because it announced the pos- sibility of a moral philosophy. academic philosophy that students might encounter in the upper echelons of further education. and Derrida breathed it in.” and the difference between existence and essence. Le Problème morale et la pensée de Sartre (Paris: Editions du Myrte. From his earliest extant essays. pp. a crucial experience in their intellectual development. Although. Pour une morale de l’ambiguı̈té (Paris: Gallimard.7 At a time when many in France 5 For a discussion of “Existentialism” as a cultural phenomenon. and even when he used other thinkers against Sartre. Even those who later came to reject it often approached philosophy through the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre while teenagers. specialist existentialist and phenomenological vocabulary. 6 Jacques Derrida. the use of Sartre’s language was the most prominent feature in Derrida’s writing during this early period. and Simone de Beauvoir. Sartre’s existentialist project set the terms and the questions of Derrida’s philosophy. 7 See Francis Jeanson.” Irvine. nobody could ignore it. Such was his enthusiasm for the technical vocabulary that in an essay written during his first year at the Parisian Lycée Louis-le-Grand. “Fonction philosophique de l’humeur. Derrida showed an allegiance to existentialist philosophy. 1947). he read them from a Sartrean perspective. with an almost total reliance on Sartre’s vocabulary. Derrida constantly availed himself of the Sartrean language of the “pour-soi” and “en-soi. whether Francis Jeanson or Simone de Beauvoir’s attempts at the construction of an atheistic existentialist morality or the Christian criticism of that very possibility. see Susan Weiner.7.

Successful in reaching beyond the traditional limitations of academia because of its concentration on the real issues of everyday life. Unlike those things 8 André Darbon. In Existentialism Is a Humanism. debate. and so a will constrained to act in a particular way could not be regarded as moral. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 51 looked for new theories to cope with recent memories of war. 687. 12 Derrida. because the current dominant trend (Sartrean existentialism) determined Derrida’s reading of all the others (le Senne. whereas le Senne’s was a mere four years old. 1. He contrasted the deter- mined behavior of those beings whose “essence preceded their existence” (être-en-soi) with the freedom of Man (être-pour-soi). Even more so. unlike sciences such as biology. At a very young age. 1946). for it opened up a path beyond moral nihilism.” sheet 2. quoting le Senne. Derrida began by trying to separate science from morality. Sartre had given the notion of human freedom a philosophical basis. Darbon). morality included. psychology. for he continued. collaboration.”11 But Derrida was not content to remain with le Senne’s definition. Explicitly it was an analysis of André Darbon’s Une philosophie de l’expérience. Sartre’s and Darbon’s books had appeared that year. 10 Jacques Derrida. Traité de morale générale. its object of study was ill defined. The problem with morality was that. sheet 2. “L’Expérience morale.9 The first thing to recognize is how recently these books were published. on “Moral Experience. according to Derrida. especially his Existentialism Is a Humanism. Une Philosophie de l’expérience (Paris: Presses universitaires de France.10 Rather than studying what exists in the world.’”12 Sartre’s mantra was of great value to Derrida. p. 9 René le Senne. Derrida. Moral nihilism arose primarily.” was written in 1946 and drew on three books. suggested that morality “studies what must be. Traité de morale générale (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. Le Senne and Darbon did not mention Sartre and yet Derrida formulated the essay in his language. and controversy. “and this thought inevitably reminds us of the existentialist slogan: ‘Man’s existence precedes his essence. Derrida focused his attention on what appeared to be the cutting edge of philosophy.1. but all were read through the optic of Sartre’s thought. and maybe will never be. Derrida’s earliest surviving school essay. isn’t yet. existentialism seemed to provide valuable tools for under- standing the contemporary predicament. “L’Expérience morale. . 1942). with the denial of freedom: morality required the ability to make free choices. it was precisely with respect to those questions that existentialism inspired the greatest interest.8 Derrida’s understanding of Darbon was supplemented by René le Senne’s book on moral philosophy. and resistance. or physics.” Irvine. 11 Le Senne.

52 Derrida post-existentialist
studied by science, Man’s behavior was not governed by a priori laws. The
existentialist distinction between the en-soi and the pour-soi thus allowed
Derrida to conceptualize the opposition between the realm of fact and
that of value, and thus to build up morality as an autonomous field of
study. Derrida stated that whether the existentialists realized it or not, only
existentialism provided the necessary tools for the research into morality.13
It was for this reason that Derrida rejected a “Kantian” approach to the
question of morality. He argued that if a firm metaphysical principle could
be found for the pour-soi, either based in nature or in philosophy, it would
destroy human liberty. As Derrida asserted, metaphysics “studies existing
reality,” and so cannot expound a morality, which describes what “isn’t
yet.”14 Referring explicitly to Spinoza’s ethics, Derrida argued,
To look for ethics [morale] in metaphysics is to deny Man’s liberty. Because, to say
that man is an integral part of nature is to take his originality away from him. What
is his originality, what distinguishes him from nature, if not the ability he has to
choose between two possible actions, that is to say his ethics [morale]? His existence
precedes his essence, that is his originality. To look for ethics in metaphysics, then,
is paradoxically to deny that man can have an ethics, that through that ethics
man can determine his essence, that is, determine who he will be. That is again
to affirm that he is not just a part of a universal nature which is invariable and of
which the essence precedes the existence.15
Because freedom was so central to morality, a moral code modeled on the
laws of nature was a contradiction in terms.
But if a Kantian approach failed, if no absolute principle of morality
could be elaborated once and for all, that did not mean that one should
give up hope of outlining a moral system, as Derrida thought Sartre had
done. Indeed though he was attracted to existentialism because it promised
new answers to moral questions, Derrida, like many others at the time,
found Sartre’s solutions deeply unsatisfying. According to the sixteen-year-
old, Sartre had unjustifiably moved from the impossibility of laying out
definitive metaphysical principles for morality to the denial of transcendent
value.
In Existentialism Is a Humanism Sartre had suggested that the freedom
of the pour-soi was so absolute that there was no reason to choose one
moral system over another. For Derrida, this radicalization of the pour-soi’s
freedom, just as much as its denial, prevented the production of a moral
philosophy.16 Morality demands that some actions are to be favored above

13 Ibid. 14 Ibid., sheet 4.
15 Ibid., sheet 5. See also le Senne, Traité de morale générale, pp. 685–734. 16 See also ibid., p. 20.

Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 53
others, that some choices are better, more worthy. If the pour-soi expressed
its freedom by releasing itself from all exteriorly imposed moral codes,
then there could be no way to privilege one way of life over another. The
difficulty of morality was that it had to find some mid-way between total
determinism and total freedom, both of which stymied the moral choice.
To overcome the limitations of Sartre’s approach, Derrida turned to
Darbon. Darbon had elaborated such a third way between Kantianism
and a renunciation of all moral codes. If Kantian morality conceived the
pour-soi as mathematics did the en-soi, submitting it to certain rules and
axioms to found a determined science, Darbon proposed a moral the-
ory parallel to physics. Physics never has the apodicity of mathematics,
given its empirical basis, but nevertheless maintains what Derrida called
“an undeniable consistency.”17 Physics, then, provided a model for moral-
ity in navigating between metaphysical determination and unconnected
experience. As it was described by the editors of Darbon’s book, the result
was a “third way between Kant and Rauh. The Master from Königsberg
constructs a priori, as a mathematician. The syndicalist thinker tries to
paint faithfully . . . André Darbon works as a physicist: confronted with
experience, he looks to draw out the ideas that clarify and explain it. His
powerful and comprehensive thought applies to reality without subsuming
it under the category of necessity.”18
By describing actual moral acts we could slowly develop a science that
could determine what was moral. In le Senne’s terms, we would be able to
uncover a determined ethics (morale), an empirical set of laws for moral
behavior, which – based on real experience – would have the additional
benefit of being inherently practical. It was by remaining in the realm of
existentiel analyses, the direct description of moral phenomena, that we
could slowly outline a model for our actions. And, just as in physics, it was
an approach that offered the possibility of real progress.
The physics approach did not breach the existentialist code, because
it refused to set up insuperable absolutes; each ethics (morale) would be
provisional. Just as a new experimental result could cause a reevaluation of
the laws of physics, so too the analysis of a new moral experience could
undermine our faith in the validity of any determined morale. In the face
of what le Senne called a general and indeterminable “morality” (moralité),

17 Derrida, “L’Expérience morale,” sheet 6.
18 Darbon, Une Philosophie de l’expérience, p. 147. Frédéric Rauh was a French moralist at the beginning
of the twentieth century who focused on an analysis of the moral experience, rather than trying
to determine any a priori laws of morality. He was also le Senne’s teacher, and is figured by some,
including le Senne, as the father of French existentialism.

54 Derrida post-existentialist
each individual morale would reveal its insufficiency.19 No particular or
determined ethics, then, had absolute authority; in particular we would
have no right to impose any such system on others.20 The physics approach
preserved the existentialist concern for human autonomy, but in contradis-
tinction to Sartre, it maintained a belief in some transcendent value. As
humans, we are caught between the insufficiency of any determined moral
system (morale), its changeability and its historicity, all the while desiring
a higher Good, the Absolute, whose existence was hinted at by the analysis
of experience. As Derrida suggested, “there is yet another example, a proof
of what Pascal called the ‘disproportion of man.’”21
Darbon’s approach better suited existentialism than Sartre’s moral pes-
simism. According to Derrida, in a 1948 essay, Sartre’s failure to ground a
moral philosophy derived not from his phenomenological descriptions of
existence, Sartre’s existentiel analyses, but rather from his attempt to outline
an ontology, the existential elements of his theory.22 The existentiel side
of Sartre’s theory, best exemplified in his early works of phenomenologi-
cal psychology (L’Imagination (1936), the Esquisse d’une théorie des emotions
(1939), and L’Imaginaire (1940)) was, according to Derrida, “unattackable,”
because it was based on immediate psychological givens that were “very
fresh, very original . . . It is only when, in Being and Nothingness, Sartre
wants to shift to the ontological and announce a metaphysics that his
theses risk insolidity.”23
For Derrida, Sartre erred when he went beyond the sure ground of
phenomenological description and started to infer a deductive conceptual
system, positing the ontological opposition between Being and Nothing-
ness. By deducing that the pour-soi was constituted by its relationship to
Nothingness, and that the en-soi participated in brute Being, Sartre had
unjustifiably and metaphysically systematized his existentiel analyses. Exis-
tentialism, for Derrida, arose from the recognition that human knowledge
was limited; existentiel description was intended to challenge any given
ontology, not inform one.
19 Morale for le Senne was the set of determined moral laws that exist at any particular point and time.
Moralité was the attitude by which that morale was adjusted in light of a higher undetermined good
in changing situations.
20 Derrida, “L’Expérience morale,” sheet 8.
21 Ibid., sheet 9. See also a similar remark by le Senne, Traité de morale générale, pp. 28–9.
22 In this chapter we will continue to use the distinction, described in the last chapter, between
existentiel and existential. The first refers to the study of existence, the second to the study of Being.
Derrida himself, however, was not consistent in his use of these terms, and where the distinction
was not at issue often used existential to describe ontic analysis. For clarity, I have continued to use
the distinction throughout this chapter.
23 Jacques Derrida, “Sartre: Psychologie – Phénoménologie,” Irvine, 1.3, sheet 1.

Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 55
The criticism was directly pertinent to the possibility of instituting an
existentialist morality, for when Sartre claimed that the pour-soi could
not authentically appeal to any transcendent value because it resisted all
positivity, he did so on the basis of his false phenomenological ontology,
which tied the pour-soi to Nothingness, and not on the basis of his existentiel
descriptions. The denial of absolute moral principles – just as much as their
assertion – was a metaphysical gesture.
The appeal to René le Senne, the focus on questions of morality, and the
concern that Sartre had broken existentialism’s own rules by developing
an ontology all place Derrida in line with a tradition of French thought,
one defining and reconstituting itself in opposition to Sartre’s thought. It
would have to wait for Derrida’s move to France in 1949, to the Lycée
Louis-le-Grand, for this connection to become explicit, but already his
future direction was clear: Derrida, the marrano, was becoming a Christian
existentialist.24

the lycée louis-le-grand
The Lycée Louis-le-Grand was one of the elite Parisian Ecoles Préparatoires.
Normally, upon completing the Baccalaureate, a high school student would
either leave school or go straight to a local university. However, for the most
academically successful students there was the hope of entering one of
several elite institutions called Grandes Ecoles. These colleges, specializing
in science and engineering like the Ecole Polytechnique, public policy like
the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, or on the purely academic as in
the Ecole Normale Supérieure had their own special concours for entry. A
normal lycée education would not be sufficient to prepare for these exams,
so there existed a special set of state-supported schools especially dedicated
to that end. Of these so-called Ecoles Préparatoires, the Lycée Louis-le-
Grand, just across the street from the main campus of the Sorbonne and
next door to the Collège de France, was the most successful. In the late 1940s
and early 1950s, it dominated the entrance exams to many of the Grandes
Ecoles, especially the ENS, and typically sent twice as many students there
as its nearest rival, the Lycée Henri IV, which in the highly centralized
French academic world was but a few minutes’ walk away.
The standard two years of preparation were called Hypokhâgne and
Khâgne, though the high level of competition at the ENS concours meant

24 I would like to reiterate that this should be understood as an historical contextual claim, and not a
doctrinal one.

56 Derrida post-existentialist
that many repeated the final year.25 Derrida had already done one year of
Hypokhâgne in the Lycée Bugeaud d’Alger in Algiers, but at the time, 1949,
not one member of that school had ever made it to the ENS. So, in 1949,
after his file had been accepted by the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Derrida left
Algeria for the first time.26 It was the first and perhaps the most important
move in his life. French academia was Paris, and it was only there that he
could realistically expect to fulfill his hope to be a writer.27
On arriving in Paris, Derrida went straight into the Khâgne year. He
was reasonably successful there, in all but physical education where he was
ranked bottom of the class, but in the early summer he failed the ENS
concours for the first time.28 In the second year, due to personal problems
including depression, he had to drop out temporarily, moving out of the
school dormitories into a bedsit in the 18th Arrondissement. The move
clearly was not as beneficial as was hoped, and Derrida missed all his
school exams and failed the entrance concours for the ENS a second time.
He was absent for all papers apart from history, and there he gained 0 out
of 20. The third year, however, was far more successful, with very positive
comments from the teachers, and Derrida finally gained entrance to the
ENS, placed 16th out of 30.
Derrida spent three years at the “Baz Grand,” as it was known to students,
all in the Khâgne year, effectively repeating it twice. His philosophy teacher
for the first and third years – the only two where Derrida was present for
any length of time – was Etienne Borne.29 Borne had a very high opinion
of Derrida, describing him as “excellent in all regards.” In his final term,
Derrida was ranked first in Borne’s class, with an impressive grade of 16
out of 20.30 Borne was one of the founding members of the MRP and
a constant defender of Christianity against atheism, and given Derrida’s
burgeoning interests he was a good match for the young philosopher. If
implicit references to a certain form of Christian existentialism are visible
in Derrida’s earliest work, this became more and more obvious during his
time at the Parisian Ecole Préparatoire.
25 Khâgneux: a student in Khâgne was a pseudo-Greek transliteration of câgneux, meaning “knock-
kneed.” Hypokhâgne came to mean “the year below Khâgne.” The course was highly stressful and
despite the success of the Lycée Louis-le-Grand only about one in six would be successful in gaining
entrance to the ENS.
26 There were no formal exams and certainly no interview. Entry was based purely on a report sent
from the student’s school and previous results.
27 See Derrida, Points de Suspension, p. 253.
28 Archives Louis-le-Grand, Derrida report card 1949–50.
29 For an idea of life in the Louis-le-Grand Khâgne see “Khâgne 1950,” Le Débat 3 (1980), written
anonymously by the editor and Derrida’s classmate Pierre Nora.
30 Archives Louis-le-Grand, report cards 1951–2.

Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 57
Like Derrida, while Borne was critical of atheistic existentialism, he
did not find fault with existentialism as a whole. In addition to privileging
existentialism in his courses at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Borne’s own work
can be read as existentialist.31 His most successful book, Le Problème du mal,
published in 1957, also used the practice of existentiel analyses and appealed
to the experience of anguish, which he presented as the confrontation with
evil. Borne thought that it lay in the very nature of evil that it resisted
intellectual understanding; if evil made sense and could be integrated into
a higher, perhaps redemptive logic (e.g. that evil tests our faith) it would no
longer be evil. Because of the existence of evil, then, the world would never
be fully comprehensible: Borne gave existentialist absurdity a distinctly
religious flavor. It was for this reason that, like Derrida and most other
Christian existentialists, Borne refused to follow Sartre in his movement
from these existentiel analyses to ontological assertions. Borne argued that
existentiel analyses should lead us not to the “secondary abstractions” of
“Being” and “Nothingness,” but rather to an analysis of sense and non-
sense, the true domain of philosophy.32 By adopting Sartre’s existentiel
method while rejecting his ontological conclusions, Borne occupied a very
similar philosophical position to his new student.
Borne’s criticisms reflected those of many Christian existentialists, who
felt that Sartre had been unfaithful to his original project.33 The study of
existence was not the foundation for, but utterly opposed to, any attempt to
conceptualize and define the world as we experience it, even in the contra-
dictory categories of “Being” and “Nothingness.” Rather than founding a
new phenomenological ontology, existentiel analyses revealed the limits of
our conceptual understanding. They marked a confrontation with human
finitude.
The key representative of this “Christian existentialist” tradition was
Gabriel Marcel.34 Marcel, credited with coining the term “existentialism”

31 It was Borne who assimilated modern philosophy and existentialism in his course on hellenic
philosophy.
32 Borne, Le Problème du mal, p. 10.
33 I use the term “Christian existentialist” for convenience. As we shall see, the term had considerable
currency in the first few years after the War, during which time the division between atheistic and
Christian existentialism was standard in all presentations of the movement. The success of Sartre’s
particular brand of existentialism, however, led several philosophers to distance themselves from it,
often preferring related terms like philosophie existentielle, spiritualisme existentiel, or philosophy of
existence. I will elaborate the difficulties for Weil, le Senne, and Marcel.
34 The problems with naming Marcel as a Christian existentialist should be noted. Marcel adopted the
term himself, and a 1947 analysis of his work edited by Jean Delhomme chose the title Existentialisme
chrétien. The term was applied to him freely by Foulquié, le Senne, Wahl, Hyppolite, and Borne.
However, by 1948 Marcel tried to distance himself from the moniker, feeling that it related him too

58 Derrida post-existentialist
itself in his Journal Métaphysique, had converted to Christianity in the late
1920s. The conversion was the end result of a long struggle with ideal-
ist metaphysics in the French university, especially its hubristic faith in
human reason. In both its style and content Marcel’s journal hoped to
counter this systematizing tendency, writing in the short and personalized
diary format, without any attempt to unify his thinking. Rather than to
speculative questions and to sophistic reasoning, Marcel applied himself to
real and concrete confrontations with existence, confrontations that chal-
lenged rather than reinforced our faith in reason to explain and dissect. In
particular, existentiel analysis would reveal what Marcel called the mystery,
that which exceeded our limited faculties. Where Sartre saw the absurdity
of the world, Marcel saw an experience that questioned our very ability to
make such definitive judgments.35
Sartre’s ontology, moving away from his enlightening existentiel analy-
ses, was an attempt to define what was beyond our ability to grasp; and in
his treatment of Sartre it was precisely this ontology that Marcel attempted
to disrupt.36 According to Marcel, Sartre’s ontology was justified more by
his pessimistic worldview than his existentiel descriptions, and it prema-
turely excluded more optimistic conclusions. For this reason Marcel labeled
Sartre’s thought a “philosophy of failure.”37 Of particular concern was
Sartre’s perceived rejection of meaningful intersubjective relationships, and
Marcel strongly criticized Sartre’s description of love in Being and Nothing-
ness, which, he thought could not “but finish with a statement of failure.”38
According to Marcel, Sartre deliberately and ideologically denied the “we-
subject,” regardless of any evidence that existentiel analyses might provide.
Existentialism did not, according to Marcel, have to lead to such a dreary
end.39 Sartre had chosen pessimism, a choice rooted in his atheistic world-
view and expressed in his selection of existentiel descriptions.40 Marcel
concluded that

closely to Sartre, and preferred the term “Christian Socratic” instead. See Herbert Spiegelberg, The
Phenomenological Movement: A Historical Introduction, 4th edn (Boston: Kluwer, 1982), p. 458. The
first major repudiation came in the 1951 French publication of Gabriel Marcel, Le Mystère de l’Etre
(Paris: Aubier, 1951).
35 We will further elaborate Marcel’s understanding of the mystery in chapter 4.
36 See Gabriel Marcel, L’Existence et la liberté humaine chez Sartre (Paris: J. Vrin, 1981) (text from 1946),
p. 53.
37 See also Foulquié, L’Existentialisme, p. 97.
38 Marcel, L’Existence et la liberté humaine chez Sartre, p. 70.
39 See also Marcel’s 1943 reaction to Sartre published in Homo Viator (Paris: Aubier, Editions Mon-
taigne, 1945), pp. 233–56.
40 See also Ignace Lepp’s review of Being and Nothingness for Les Etudes Philosophiques (January–
March 1946), p. 78.

and La Pesanteur et la grâce. Introduction à la philosophie. and she succumbed to tuberculosis in 1943. it denies itself purely and simply when it runs into a non-dialectical materialism. Christian existentialism.41 Remaining aware of our human limitations. Her religious beliefs motivated her involvement in the labor movement in France and. For the Christian existentialists the ontological proof. a knowledge that is a gift of grace. authorized. it was a knowledge “but a knowledge which excludes all presumptions. All of Derrida’s citations from Weil come from this last book. 391–400. her papers were collected together by friends and pub- lished in the late 1940s and early 1950s. 1949). finding immediate popular success. this side of death. authenti- cally and durably. aged just thirty-four. she was among the first women to study philosophy at the ENS Sèvres pour jeunes filles. in the final analysis. not perhaps upon. or rather it tends to a self-transcendence. But by the early 1930s she turned away from her previous beliefs and came to embrace a strong and sometimes anti-Jewish mystical Christianity. or indeed choose for herself the suitability of the title “Christian existentialist. Attente de Dieu (Paris: La Colombe. on the other hand. it could only be asserted by the “we [nous]”. this hope could never be proven. 1950). then. did not attempt to justify the existence of God against atheism. 42 See also le Senne. L’Existence et la liberté humaine chez Sartre. p. . L’Enracinement (Paris: Gallimard. Writing on social issues and politics (L’Enracinement) and a spiritual biog- raphy (L’Attente de Dieu). pp. but towards a supra-human experience that probably cannot become ours. it transcends itself. her entrance into the Resistance. it was her meditations on philosophical and mystical questions (La Pesanteur et la grâce) that particularly entranced the teenage Derrida. 87.43 Weil was the daughter of a secularized French Jewish family.42 Simone Weil echoed Marcel’s description of human rational limitation in the face of theological questions.” It was the truth of a community rather than the egotistical and imperialistic certainty of deductive reasoning. where it opens.” 44 Simone Weil. Weil described a confrontation with 41 Marcel. but of which the reality is attested to by the mystics. constrained to deny or to transcend itself. 43 Simone Weil died in 1943 and so could not respond to Sartre’s work. and in no way a conquest. The sister of the mathematician André Weil. just as much as the denial of God. at the outbreak of war. a knowledge granted. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 59 existentialism appears to me today to be at a crossroads: it is. and the possibility is guaranteed by a reflection that refuses to be prisoner of the postulate of absolute immanence. profaned the divine. After her death.44 Like Marcel. beating Simone de Beauvoir to first place in the entrance examination of 1929. But the hardships of factory life and resistance operations were too much for the weak and sickly Weil.

60 Derrida post-existentialist
an experience exceeding our understanding, which marked the first stage
of our spiritual development. In life, she asserted, we are constantly con-
fronted by contradictions, experiences that do not fit neatly into our con-
ceptual categories. Due to our human limitations, our inability to move
beyond the “gravity [pesanteur]” that marks normal human life, it was only
through the gift of grace from God that we could be rescued. For Weil, we
were powerless to save ourselves. All we could do was to empty our lives
of human needs and desires, including the desire for salvation, and give
ourselves entirely to God.
Like Marcel and Weil, Derrida dedicated much of his early work to
challenging the pretensions of philosophy. Writing on “nihilism” in 1949,
Derrida defined it as the “act or affirmation of total immanence.”45 For
Derrida it was clear that the traditional idealist and materialist philosophies
were nihilist when they sought to reduce either the physical or the mental
world to the other. Materialism was nihilistic because, according to Derrida,
it denied the existence of value:
The essence of materialism consists in this: there is nothing essential or valuable
“in-itself” outside of matter. Matter moves itself according to necessity, mechanical
or dialectical determinism. The transcendence of value, if it appears, is inessential.

In a materialist world system, because Man was determined fully, he was
just a “stone.” Ethical values, if they existed, had no effect on human action,
which was governed solely by biological or chemical processes. It was not
possible to affirm or deny anything freely.
Idealism, on the other hand, was insufficient, because although every-
thing was a mental act, value was entirely immanent to the Mind (Esprit),
the “supreme end.” Choice was so absolute that nothing outside of it could
have any intrinsic value. As the adolescent Derrida concluded, there was
just as much “negative power in the total determination of only matter,
as in the total indetermination of mind by itself.”46 Whereas materialism
was a “nihilism of fullness,” refusing humans free space to act, idealism was
a “nihilism of emptiness,” where that freedom was so total and without
direction to be meaningless.
Existentialism seemed to offer an escape. By asserting both the fac-
tual world and its transcendence by the réalité-humaine, matter and spirit,
it accounted both for human freedom and an object upon which that
freedom could be exercised. But, as we have seen, according to Derrida,

45 Jacques Derrida, “Nihilisme et volonté de néant,” Irvine, 1.9, sheet 1. 46 Ibid., sheet 2.

Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 61
Sartre’s philosophy too was mired in nihilism. For the atheistic existen-
tialist, “human liberty was the only source of value.” Either the atheistic
existentialist determined the subject’s liberty negatively – what Sartre called
“authenticity,” allowing only arbitrary freedom – and he succumbed to the
same problems as the idealist. Or, despairing of finding any positive value,
Man would inauthentically alienate his faculties “either in a materialism,
or a vitalism, or an exaggerated and atheistic individualism, which is itself,
like materialism and vitalism, a type of determination, of total negation,
thus of nihilism.”47 Essentially, without any possible guide for the use of
his transcendent freedom, Man was condemned either to revel in endless
and empty freedom, or to submit himself to one particular moral code. It
was, in 1949, a repetition of Derrida’s earlier argument about the aporias
of moral experience.
But in this early essay, Derrida had moved a step further. By assimilating
atheistic existentialism to the critique of idealism and materialism, Der-
rida tied all philosophy together. Sartre’s failure to found a non-nihilistic
philosophy brought to light the failure of philosophy tout court. Either phi-
losophy over-determined value, reducing freedom, or it under-determined
it, allowing freedom but giving it no direction, making it into a parody of
itself: decisionistic and essentially random choice. Human philosophy, by
itself, could never escape nihilism.
But there was hope. When condemning atheistic existentialism, Derrida
was careful to distinguish it from the “impure” Christian variety. Christian
existentialism was “impure” because it recognized the need to look beyond
its own solipsistic calculations in order to avoid the pitfalls of nihilism.48
It demonstrated the necessary and positive contamination of an insuffi-
cient and nihilistic philosophy with something else. As Derrida suggested
“at the moment when the existentialist recognizes the existence of God,
through, for example, the sentiment of value that he feels in himself,” he
would be able to suppress the sense of his own primacy. Philosophy, rather
than producing a closed system, should instead act as a “propadeutic.”49
According to Derrida, reflective thought by showing the necessary limi-
tations of human knowledge should lead us to recognize what exceeds it:
belief.
Invoking the Christian existentialists and following the arguments of
writers like Marcel and Weil, Derrida suggested that a way was needed
beyond philosophy, which would not be a rejection “but a surpassing that
47 Ibid., sheet 2.
48 See Jacques Derrida, “Phénoménologie et métaphysique du Secret,” Irvine, 1.8, sheet 1.
49 Derrida, “Nihilisme,” sheet 3.

62 Derrida post-existentialist
would also be a return to an existence enriched and purified by reflection.”50
Faith did not have to stand alone, but was bolstered and justified by a careful
study of the world. This supplement was crucial, because one possible con-
clusion to be drawn from the failure of philosophy to escape nihilism was
that such nihilism was simply inescapable. Derrida rather hoped to show
that even if nihilism was philosophically unavoidable, practically it was
impossible. Nihilism, though constantly asserted by human philosophy,
would show itself to be existentially false.
Derrida turned his attention to what might appear the most nihilistic
of all acts: suicide. If this ultimate act of despair could be shown to avoid
nihilism, then it no longer mattered whether all philosophies asserted its
inevitability. As Derrida understood it, in the act of suicide, I assume abso-
lute value for my self, giving myself the divine power to choose over life and
death. Precisely when in suicide a person seemed to assert the valuelessness
of human life, he awarded himself ultimate power and jurisdiction. Suicide
could not be nihilistic.51
The discussion of suicide was only one nihilistic example that unrav-
eled itself. Derrida felt that even a cursory look at existence would reveal
numerous instances that would be placed in the balance on the side of hope,
rather than despair. Derrida’s two favorite examples were love and artis-
tic creation. Indeed the reference to love and artistic creation as pointing
towards the possibility of authentic communion with the other, and at the
limit God, was constant during this period of Derrida’s life. We will return
to these particular examples later in the chapter. For now it is sufficient to
note that, for Derrida, existentiel analyses, in exceeding philosophy, rather
than guiding it to Sartre’s “pessimistic” conclusions, led towards a hopeful
understanding of the world and intersubjectivity. In particular it opened
up the possibility of the divine, that, though philosophically unreachable,
forever guided human actions. Existentialism should, for Derrida, lead us
towards God.
In two essays, Derrida discussed God directly. The first, in December
1949, was written under the title “God and the Gods: Do Gods Exist?
Is the existence of God a problem?”52 Derrida’s approach was to take an
idealized history of religion, what he saw as a “dialectic” between our
essential “insufficiency” – an “existentiel need” that led us to posit God –
and an “arrogance” that motivated us to reject the idea of an all-powerful
being, to kill God. Derrida traced theology from pagan beliefs, through

50 Ibid., sheet 3. 51 Ibid., sheet 3.
52 Jacques Derrida, “Les Dieux et Dieu: les Dieux existent-ils?” Irvine, 1.12.

Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 63
Judaism, Christianity, and eventually to modern atheism, when arrogant
philosophers, wanting to systematize and rationalize God, ended by deny-
ing his existence. The death of God was a delayed result of the ontological
proof.
The dialectic may have ended with a denial of his existence, but Derrida
asserted that it was nonetheless “necessary to believe in God, because that
is the only solution that respects the authenticity of my own existence.”53
The move from atheism to a renewed faith was driven by a tension at
the heart of non-belief. Just as philosophy was unable to maintain its
absolute nihilism, it was equally unable to sustain atheism. Rather than
killing God outright, Comte, Marx, Nietzsche, and Sartre, according to
Derrida, merely displaced his divinity into society, history, or the human
subject.54 As Derrida suggested in his other essay on God, “Atheism is aris-
tocratic,” the divine was existentially impossible to escape.55 Aristocracies
like atheism asserted autarchy, an autarchy modeled on the infinity of the
divine.56
The internal failings of atheism did not, however, render it useless. As
Derrida suggested, “to find God and religion again, Simone Weil talks of
a purifying atheism [athéisme purificateur]; one must lose God . . . to find
him again.”57 As he suggested in his essay on the existence of God, this
new belief arising out of atheism would no longer be naı̈ve, it would rather
be a free choice.58 One did not prove [prouver] the existence of God, but
rather felt [éprouver] it. Paraphrasing Marcel, Derrida wrote, “God is the
mysterious, the meta-problematic par excellence. He is the object of love,
and thus uncharacterizable” by human rational powers. And because he
could not be grasped rationally, Derrida asserted that “I believe because it
is absurd . . . which is to say that my belief is not naı̈ve and spontaneous;
neither is it detached from reason; it is a voluntary and courageous act.”59
Derrida had absorbed Sartre’s language of authentic choice and turned it
against him. There could be no certainty about God, one had to make
a resolute decision to believe. But because that belief responded to the
existentiel structure of human life, our constant awareness of insufficiency,
the choice was the only authentic one. Derrida, parodying Sartre, asserted
that Man was “condemned to be an optimist.”60

53 Ibid., sheet 1. 54 Ibid., sheet 3. 55 The title comes from a 1793 speech by Robespierre.
56 Jacques Derrida, “L’Athéisme est aristocratique,” Irvine, 1.19. sheet 1.
57 Derrida, “L’Athéisme est aristocratique,” sheet 5. 58 Derrida, “Les Dieux et Dieu,” sheet 4.
59 Ibid., sheet 4. 60 Derrida, “Nihilisme,” sheet 3.

64 Derrida post-existentialist

problematizing the mystery
From the outside to the inside – every precious movement of the
human spirit consists in a conversion by which something which
at first appeared to it to be extrinsic, which presented itself to it as
other, is assimilated to the point at which the human spirit becomes
capable, from its own intimacy and by its operation, not only to
engender this something, but to transform it at will, in transcending
it. At the beginning of this conversion the spirit felt estranged and
inferior to what it apprehended; that thing excluded it; when the
spiritual appropriation has been accomplished, the spirit becomes
familiar with it and understands it; it has become its own.61
René le Senne
In Derrida’s essays from the period 1949–52, he followed the Christian
existentialists in their rejection of human reason’s absolute validity, in
the necessary return to experience, and – through an analysis of this experi-
ence – the opening up of the possibility or even a moral necessity of faith in
God. At one point in his discussion, at least, he explicitly aligned himself
with a particular form of Christian existentialism. This form, however,
would draw Derrida away from Gabriel Marcel and Simone Weil, and
closer to René le Senne and his own teacher, Etienne Borne.
Etienne Borne had little time for Marcel’s passive acceptance of the
mystery. He attacked Marcel’s analysis for not being sufficiently philo-
sophic: “the problem of evil is perhaps insoluble and it is this possibility
that engenders anguish, but it cannot be taken to task in its capacity as
a problem.” The problem of evil, God, or Being may never allow a full
and definitive answer, but that does not liberate us from the imperative
to continue questioning it: “it would remain to dig further, to deepen, to
exasperate our anguish, to trust in the thought that it carries and the light
which it is not incapable of casting on Man, the world, and God.”62
In Derrida’s essays he too was unwilling to leave the mystery alone. Like
Borne, while accepting that Being would always escape thought, Derrida
felt that this should not stop us striving to understand it. Derrida elaborated
this in a 1949 essay on the “secret.” He argued that in addition to a secret
that we might have (secret because we decided not to reveal it) there was
also a secret of who we were (what we could not communicate) that he
came to equate with the Sartrean pour-soi.63 This secret, falling to the side
of mystery, should, in the Marcellian model, resist human thought. But
Derrida refused to accept its absolute indetermination.
61 René le Senne, opening lines of his Traité de morale générale.
62 See Borne, Le Problème du mal, pp. 39–41.
63 Derrida, “Phénoménologie et métaphysique du Secret,” sheet 1. Marcel in his discussions of the
secret had restricted it to the side of Avoir.

Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 65
Quite how he hoped to achieve this was not very clear. In his essay
he appealed to two positive experiences that could “conserve the rela-
tionship without suppressing interiority,” that is they could establish a
connection to the secret without unveiling and so denaturing it. First,
Derrida appealed to an experience of communion, which he distinguished
from communication.64 As the immediate unity of two beings, commu-
nion in love allowed the relationship between two pour-sois, without, as
Sartre had argued, one alienating the other. Second, in artistic creation,
we were able to grant value to our work without destroying its essential
mystery: “in art . . . I lose and recover myself simultaneously in the created
object – the work of art expresses the secret of things without alienating
them.”65
The argument is hard to follow, and Etienne Borne, too, upon reading it
was unhappy, labeling Derrida’s claims “assertions” and writing a skeptical
“how?” prominently in the margin. But the language Derrida used provides
two clues as to his line of thinking. First, in describing artistic creation,
Derrida suggested that it “restitutes the secret in attributing it a sense.
It spiritualizes it.”66 Second, at one crucial moment Derrida referred to
his philosophy as a “spiritualisme existentiel.”67 For Derrida, existentiel
spiritualism marked a third way between an idealism and materialism
that aimed to determine the secret or the pour-soi fully, and Sartrean
existentialism, which merely accepted its indeterminacy.
“Existentiel spiritualism” was the title used by the Christian philosopher
Jean Paumen for a 1949 book dedicated to the work of René le Senne, whose
work on morality had provided one of the cornerstones of Derrida’s first
essay. Paumen argued that le Senne’s work represented the culmination of
“existentiel philosophy.” In particular, it marked a significant improvement
on Marcel’s faith in an absolute and unknowable God, which was “only
intelligible as a mystery.”68 For Marcel, the gap separating us from God
could only be crossed with a leap of faith, not the forward movement of
thought. Instead, le Senne’s experimental spiritualism provided the pos-
sibility of respecting God or the mystery while not completely excluding
them from human understanding. What was beyond philosophy could
with work be assimilated to it.
According to le Senne the history of philosophy had shown constant
movement towards idealism.69 As history progressed humanity became
64 See the same distinction in Troisfontaines, Existentialisme et pensée chrétienne.
65 Derrida, “Phénoménologie et métaphysique du Secret,” sheet 4.
66 Ibid., sheet 3–4. See Gabriel Marcel, Etre et Avoir (Paris: Editions Universitaire, 1991), p. 107.
67 Derrida, “Phénoménologie et métaphysique du Secret,” sheet 3.
68 Marcel, Etre et avoir, p. 22. 69 See le Senne, Introduction à la philosophie, première partie.

66 Derrida post-existentialist
more and more aware of the fact that the exterior world was not composed
of brute matter, but rather conformed to the laws of the mind as expressed
in mathematics and physics. As an ordered world, it could only be the
expression of spirit. But this did not mean that each individual human spirit
was infinite and could comprehend the world in its totality. Rather the finite
manifestation of spirit in the individual placed a limit on its understanding,
when faced with the world its mental faculties would constantly show
themselves to be inadequate: “The Spirit is elastic, possibly eristic, it can
subdivide itself, without tearing itself in two, into finite consciousness,
between which antagonisms must appear.”70 Human finitude entailed that
our mental faculties alone were incapable of understanding the world and
we were condemned to disagreement and conflict. The only way out lay in
a humble return to the school of experience, from which, according to le
Senne, all philosophy had to begin.
Because of our human limitations, experience would sooner or later
throw up something that would not fit into the inadequate categories
of our understanding, something that would appear as a scandal for us.
This “scandal” or “obstacle” was not, however, an insuperable Marcelian
mystery. True, we could figure the obstacle as a permanent barrier, give
up our hopes of overcoming it, and either fall into mysticism or submit
to the idea of the absurdity of a world without meaning. But we could
also, asserting the insufficiency of all our thought, choose to place our faith
in a supreme and ungraspable “Value,” to see beyond the heterogeneous
multiplicity of experience the possibility of higher unity. This desire for an
ultimate “Value” would motivate us to “spiritualize” the obstacle. It would
be an impetus not just to recognize our own limitations but to seek to go
beyond them, to educate ourselves further about the world and experience,
and in the end, to forge a new understanding, a new philosophy: Spirit
would expand to understand itself further.
This new philosophy could never be complete, it too would show its
limits, its insufficiency: for if a definitive method or philosophy were pos-
sible, it would place all finite spirits within a determined whole, where
“necessity reigns without contest” and “pantheism takes the place of spir-
itualism.” The finitude of each individual spirit was necessary for human
freedom.71 But at the same time, it was practically impossible to deny
the ultimate unity of spirit or assert the absurdity of the world, because
that would reduce us to solipsism without “conversation, nor society, nor
science, nor love.” Philosophy should rather operate by transgressing the

70 Ibid., p. 247. 71 René le Senne, Obstacle et valeur (Paris: F. Aubier, 1934), p. 259.

what Derrida would call the relation and the secret’s interiority. It would legitimate the “spiritualization” of the secret without ever fully betraying its indetermi- nacy. is not the unity of abstract terms. p. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 67 border between determined theories and the real affective existence that seemed to escape it. some continuity between être and avoir. Derrida admits the importance of Sartre in his first readings of Heidegger. In brief. even if it were never total. the unity of continuity and discontinuity. sheet 3. Le Spiritualisme existentiel de René le Senne (Paris: Presses universitaires de France). 23–4. detached from any guiding star. As Jean Paumen put it: The relationship that M. 74 In an interview with Dominique Janicaud. Le Senne allowed Derrida. there must be a difference between the world and us. without asserting that one had grasped it once and for all. in Marcelian terms. pp. The Problem of Genesis in Husserl’s Philosophy. as he would put it as late as 1955. we can say that Derrida was a phenomenologist because Sartre was a phenomenologist.73 To escape nihilism and to allow the possibility of Value. which would motivate the overcoming of all finite determinations. to envisage a dialectic of the “problematic and the mysterious. The spiritualist philosopher had to decide freely to search for a transcendent Value. 89. Janicaud. a “courageous choice” to seek out a hidden God. Derrida had turned to Husserl and Heidegger because of their importance in Sartre’s work. But such an assertion of difference should not leave the pour-soi to the pitfalls of decisionism. Philosophy required. “La Notion du problème. and it is no coincidence that both built their thought on the same two German philosophers. and not halt. trans. humanist phenomenology These broader philosophical and religious commitments were manifested in Derrida’s reading of Husserl and Heidegger.48. as Derrida remarked. 1. M. Le Senne recognized thus in the principle of experience.” to move beyond the negative theology that he saw in Marcel or Weil. Emotional existence and abstract argumentation then reunite [s’épousent]. 2003).” Irvine. II. which would encourage him to overcome contradictions. . disheartened before the very first obstacle. but the unity of the intellectual relation with infinite existence. the unity of impurely ideal and imperfectly existential terms. This is what authorizes the simultaneous usage of intellectual dialectics and affective moments. to convince. The formulation recalls Derrida’s mémoire. Hobson (University of Chicago Press. 73 Jacques Derrida. Heidegger en France vol.72 This ideal unity of Value would allow.74 Not only was Derrida’s choice 72 Jean Paumen. It was the desire for a Value that was always out of reach.

also reaffirmed his commitment to them within those limits. with an emphasis on presenting their work. By moving beyond an overly restrictive theoretical phenomenology. Sartre wanted to reject the abstract. Interestingly he was also one of the signatories of Sartre’s “Manifeste des 121” in 1961. and in recognizing the limitations of Heidegger’s ontology. moving away from the dominant Brunschvicgian Neo- Kantianism. rather than any serious critical engagement. pp. Derrida’s reading of Husserl and Heidegger is clearest in two essays prepared for an after-school philosophy group called the Cogito Club at the Lycée Bugeaud d’Alger run by Derrida’s teacher Jan Czarnecki in 1948. Husserl’s method should be used to describe the structures of human-reality and not a transcendental consciousness. In particular. Like many of his generation.” Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme Français 150 (October–December 2004). and in the words of Jean Wahl’s contemporaneous essay. while marking the limits of Derrida’s espousal of their ideas. Derrida argued that both Husserl and Heidegger’s thought should be recast as humanist. 1932). the value of his work would be revealed to be his existentiel analytic of Dasein. “Remarques sur la Revue Christianisme Social face à la guerre d’Algérie. For his involvement in the Algerian War. see Guy Pervillé. was mainly a discussion of William James. But in addition. Derrida would find occasion to reiterate his religious critique of Sartrean existentialism. Vrin. That Derrida’s two surviving essays are presentations of Sartre and Heidegger confirms their importance in his other surviving student work. but it framed these analyses with a discussion of Heidegger.68 Derrida post-existentialist of reading material strongly influenced by his reading of Sartre. the presentations were never wholesale endorsements. The admitted enthusiasm for both Sartre and Heidegger was tempered by moments of criticism and inter- pretation. who had just returned from a year studying in Germany. In 1932 Sartre discovered Husserl through his friend Raymond Aron. 76 Wahl’s book. 683–701. which. and his Sartrean reading of the two German phe- nomenologists. In Derrida’s case the essays are almost entirely made up of summaries and at times only barely modified citations from pri- mary and secondary works. The essays are informative nonetheless.76 With 75 Jan Czarnecki passed the agrégation in 1933 and gained the same rank as Jean Beaufret: both were placed sixth. they represent Derrida’s particular interests. Whitehead. it was also interpreted through Sartre’s writings.75 The club came together to discuss major contemporary philoso- phers. But as we shall see in the development of this humanistic reading of phenomenology. . Vers le concrète (Paris: Librarie philosophique J. move towards the concrete. Firstly. and Gabriel Marcel. In this sense they allow us an important perspective on one particular moment in Derrida’s development.

there is discord as to whether the drink was an apricot cocktail. 80 See Jean-Paul Sartre. 141–2. p. as suggested by Simone de Beauvoir. See Simone de Beauvoir. refusing to infer the external existence of 77 There is no great consensus on this incident. This starting point prejudiced any research from the beginning. The phenomenologist. 79 Ibid. 5. entail an uncritical embrace of empiricism that naı̈vely accepted the existence of objects in the world.” and “states of consciousness. p.”79 With respect to these most pressing questions.77 But the flight from the abstract and the speculative should not. 81 See ibid. the contingent to the necessary. 1936). Sartre continued. 8. considered as antecedent. For all their discussion of exact phenomenological description. 1960). La Force de l’âge (Paris: Gallimard. . Husserl’s phenomenology concerned itself with the rich base of human experience. “if I am the partisan of an intellectualist theory. like traditional psychology. but it did not. 6–7. After correlating the various facets of an emotion. It was its avoidance of these twin perils – a priori rationalism and empiricism – that made phenomenology so attractive for Sartre and his contemporaries. psychology as a positive science dealt with facts.” “behaviors. If. pp. and psychological troubles considered as its consequences. the beer that Sartre and he were drinking during the conversation. according to Sartre. or a beer. for example. essentially. Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions (Paris: Hermann. its “bodily reactions. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 69 phenomenology. including. with the partisans of the theories of the periphery: ‘A mother is sad because she is crying. to set a framework for its researches. positive psychology could only resort to speculation. so the story goes. disorder to order. L’Imagination (Paris: F. was able to escape this con- fusion because he realized that experience could also give us immediate access to essences..80 The key was the phenomenological reduction. 78 Jean-Paul Sartre. Alcan. psychology must already have some idea of what it is looking for. to be able to enter into an empirical study of them.. 1939). In the case of the imagination or the emotion.81 By placing the world in brackets. 140. The need to reach beyond a purely empirical account could be shown by a close analysis of traditional psychology.”78 But in order to delimit its field.’ I would confine myself. p. one could philosophize about any- thing. on the contrary. it must already know what the imagination or emotion is. according to Sartre.” the scientist had to resort to his initial understanding of what emotion was to develop an over-arching theory. pp. according to Aron. treat that experience as purely contingent. to invert the order of factors. which meant it preferred “the accidental to the essential. as the two men in the party concur. I think. I would establish a constant and irreversible relay between the interior state. As Sartre stated in the Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions.

in the French. They can imagine. and yet all of these “noetic” acts refer to a transcendent object. perceived.” sheet 3. these analyses would reach their apogee in Sartre’s discussion of the image. hate. however. and yet the image is still clearly of her. that which is imag- ined. himself. Intuition was a Wesensschau that provided us with certain knowledge of essences. 83 See Jean-Paul Sartre. Situations I (Paris: Gallimard. its irrealizing function. far from clos- ing us off from the world. for Sartre. its relations with the real. . then even the image that had previously been regarded as an internal impression. “Sartre. of what the imagination or emotion really was. perceive. but I cannot deny the appearance of that object in consciousness. enclosed spaces. etc. I may doubt the existence of an object that I see. should be considered as an image of something. its intentional aspect being constitutive of it as image. something unheard of in the positive sciences. but it is lived immediately as fear of heights. The different acts of consciousness can “aim at” the object in different ways. of something in the world. outside of the mind. 1947): “Une Idée fondamentale de la phénoménologie de Husserl: Intentionalité. love. The investigation of the immediate givens of consciousness revealed that they were all consciousness of something. translating Sartre’s work on the imagination into the 82 See ibid. Fear is not merely a state of mind. took a step further. loved. What then was the difference between the perceived object and the image? For Sartre it lay in the particular type of intentionality involved. the nothingness of which it is constitutive.”84 If all consciousness was intentional. we are not fooled into thinking that she is there. for one posited the object as existing whereas the other did not.. 84 Derrida. and a careful analysis of that object would reveal its constitutive laws. 29. p.” pp.70 Derrida post-existentialist objects from the content of our immediate intuition. 31–5. Derrida. The intentionality of the image showed that it was not mere appearances. its intentionality.83 For Derrida in his essay. it showed us to be completely and irrevocably embedded in it. Husserl’s fundamental concept of intentionality. When looking at a photograph of a friend. was that. the phenomenologist was also able to bracket the contingency and singularity that were char- acteristics of the world. whether in the mind or in the world: a photograph or painting. a residue of a perceptive act. or hated: this was. The irony of the reduction for Sartre. “aims at” (viser) an object that is presented as beyond the illusion.82 Even an illusion refers to or. The phenomenological description of the image expressed “the most essential structure of consciousness.

In the development of his argument Sartre had criticized Husserl in two con- nected ways. for they were precisely what had been reduced. p. the non-presence of the intended object in the image.” Husserl. really the “origin of the world. actively intending objects that really exist. demonstrated the negating power of consciousness. As Sartre said. using Eugen Fink’s famous phrase. In Sartre’s reformulation. 23. he was just as attentive to Sartre’s criticism. 86 Jean-Paul Sartre.” brute existence and positivity.” Like the “natural attitude. 1956). the “natural attitude” and the “transcendental sphere” were refigured as “perception” and “imagination. In contrast. it became clear that the theses of the natural attitude were constructed out of the transcendental sphere. its ability to transcend what was there. But. trans. seemed to make intentionality a purely subjective construction of transcendent objects. Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library. H.”85 The image is the object “for-itself. 85 Derrida. But as we have seen. After the reduction to the transcendental sphere. relying on the immediate givens of consciousness. Once the reduction had been achieved.” and the perceived object was “in-itself. The irreality of the imagined object. Being and Nothingness. For Husserl the world of the natural attitude before the reduc- tion was subordinated to the transcendental after the reduction. It was this that freed the subject from idealism or skepticism. It is at least questionable whether the distinction between imagination and perception corresponds completely with that between the pour-soi and the en-soi. intentionality could no longer be conscious- ness of transcendent objects. The whole point of intentionality was that it broke down the limits of solipsism. rather than seeing the reduction to the transcendental sphere as the placing of intentional references out of play.” perception posits its objects as existent. the “moment [Husserl] makes of the noema [the object as intended] an unreal.” sheet 3.”86 For Sartre this understanding seemed to mutilate the concept of intentionality that was so central to him. They are also thereby dubitable. but it is only by Being and Nothingness that they achieve a central place in Sartre’s system. a correlate of the noesis [the subjective intending act]. The transcen- dental sphere was. . Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 71 language of his later philosophy in Being and Nothingness: “What is the guiding idea of this critique? Well! It’s the distinction between the pour-soi and the en-soi. “Sartre. Derrida’s discussion shows that he had followed Sartre in his appro- priation of Husserl. consciousness was consciousness of something. a noema whose esse is percipi. especially in Ideas I. the image is certain. The terms pour-soi and en-soi appear briefly in L’Imagination. he is totally unfaithful to his principle.

p. comprises the ground of perception and the world.89 And though Derrida was clearly uneasy with the rooting of the distinction in the categories of Being and Nothingness. 59–60. as Heidegger has shown. but all of the réalité- humaine. Sartre. 91 See the last section of the Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions. cf. . 88 Jean-Paul Sartre.”90 Sartre’s second criticism was related.”88 The movement to the “transcendental sphere” was not Husserl’s reduction. especially the crucial existentialist state of anguish. 51–2. the pour-soi and en-soi were parallel ontological regions. it was a different positing of the object. Thus the descrip- tion of every human phenomenon will put in place not only the essential structures of consciousness. But after the transcendental reduction to what is given immediately such a distinction between inside and outside – itself a worldly distinction – no longer makes sense. especially pp. 90 Derrida. Following Levinas’s influential critique in La Théorie de l’intuition dans la philosophie de Husserl (1931). because they exist beyond the immanent sphere of direct intuition. L’Imaginaire (Paris: Gallimard.” sheet 3. pp. For Sartre. “for Husserl.” sheet 3. 10. he agreed that it was the opposition between pour-soi and en-soi that constituted “the radical ontological difference separating image and thing. because they are in consciousness. 234–6. Sartre suggested that Husserl’s conception of phenomenology was too limited. He wrote. Rather this sphere is transcendental because it is no longer worldly and. 232. Images in this sense are immanent. the real world being a construction out of the transcendental sphere. rather than one being rooted in the other.72 Derrida post-existentialist Sartre now saw it as a transformation of them. If intentionality really got con- sciousness out into the world. but describe affect and emotion. to exist for the réalité-humaine is to assume one’s own Being in the existential mode of comprehension. to exist for consciousness is to appear. Being and Nothingness.”92 A full phenomenological analysis would not just read the givens of theoretical consciousness. conclusions. analogically to Kant’s transcendental. As Sartre suggested in the Esquisse. Real objects in the world are transcendent. 89 Cf. “Sartre. Sartre. “Sartre. 1940).91 In Derrida’s presentation. Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions. For Heidegger.87 The difference between the image and perception was that between two types of intentionality: “We can now grasp the essential condition for a consciousness to be able to imagine: it must have the ability to pose a thesis of irreality. p. then it was no longer possible to consider phenomenology as an entirely theoretical philosophy. this time as absent. pp. so too it was for Derrida in much of his early work. 92 Derrida. Or L’Imaginaire. The line is almost a direct citation from Sartre. but Derrida reverses the order of the presentation and edits much of the citation to mark a development from Husserl to Heidegger that was still ambiguous for Sartre in 1939. the broadening of phenomenology through Heidegger allowed 87 Husserl’s use of “transcendent” and “transcendental” can lead to confusion. as Husserl would have it. Husserl already had the status of a surpassed philosopher.

” Overburdened with a “crowd of neologisms of which a good part are superfluous. As Derrida suggested in an interview with Dominique Janicaud. Heidegger was a constant presence.”94 Before he arrived at the ENS. “Martin Heidegger. 93 Cf. 96 It is perhaps significant to note that Derrida was aware at the time of Heidegger’s Nazi past. Heidegger en France. centered on his translation of “What is Metaphysics?” The book also con- tained a few short passages from Heidegger’s key work.96 Most of the time. and his work even merited an individual treatment: the second 1948 essay from the Cogito Club.98 Firstly. and Corbin. p. p. 2. and in giving the most everyday.” Irvine. 94 Janicaud. across the French authors who have presented the substance of his philosophy in a very clear. there exists a set of notes from Henry Corbin’s Heidegger anthology of 1938. pretentious and heavy dialectic. as if for fun. one begins to make individual contact with Heidegger. II. as with all the German philosophers. Indeed much of this early essay comprises of unattributed citations from Gurvitch. this reverse preciosity. 97 Derrida. manner. Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions. and Derrida. 12. apparently from his reading for this essay. the older phenomenologist was relatively absent from Derrida’s work before 1952. and that Derrida was sent into the arms of his French interpreters. .93 Derrida wanted to humanize Husserl’s phenomenology. Derrida consulted a considerable quantity of secondary literature for his Cogito Club presentation on Heidegger.97 Derrida read Heidegger through French eyes. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 73 the inception of a philosophical anthropology and existentialism. “Martin Heidegger. the simplest thoughts an appearance of profundity.”95 Such criticisms. consists in leadening and com- plicating his language. Heidegger. Sartre.” sheet 3. the philosophy of Martin Heidegger better fit his youthful temperament than the “cold Husserlian discipline. very French. A majority of his remaining early notes held at his archives at Irvine are from translations of. meant that Heidegger was particularly difficult to approach in the original. Being and Time. vol. ironi- cally the same as those that would one day be aimed at Derrida himself.” sheet 1. Because Husserl had been surpassed by Heidegger in Sartre’s eyes. 90. sheet 1. and yet accords this fact very little weight. and essays on. 98 The notes from Algeria are distinguished from later ones by the fact that they are written on blank menus sent out from Mumm Champagne to restaurants.40. “Sartre. Wahl. 95 Jacques Derrida. Derrida began his 1948 essay with a complaint of Heidegger’s “noisy.” which was “disappointing and even some- times grating.

Heidegger en France. “certainly.74 Derrida post-existentialist “Being-for-Death” and “temporality and historicity. 101 Janicaud. see Ethan Kleinberg. 102 Sartre. Jean Wahl’s seminal essay “Heideg- ger and Kierkegaard” as well as his small but influential A Short History of Existentialism. Generation Existential (Ithaca: Cornell University Press.5. Corbin had notoriously translated Dasein as “réalité-humaine.980 copies. 47. I. pp. Martin Heidegger. The collection of essays was particularly influential in the French recep- tion of Heidegger. 100 It was published in 1938. who had a powerful effect on his introduction into France: Derrida read the last chapter of Georges Gurvitch’s book on Les Tendances actuelles dans la philosophie allemande. Carnets de Guerre. cited in Janicaud. used the word “Dasein” in order to divest the concept of any of the connotations and philosophical baggage tied to anthropology. Derrida was at pains to assert. It would have to wait till the 1980s for Heidegger’s masterwork to be translated in full. Derrida took Sartre’s side against Heidegger. Heidegger en France. Macquarrie (London: SCM Press. An index of the debate. vol. I would not have undertaken a reading of Being and Time. I. Sartre himself stated. pp. A.104 But Derrida also drew on two other Heideg- ger scholars. 279–312 and 424–456 respectively. going through many new editions and selling in total 12. p. See Janicaud. 104 This does not mean that Henry Corbin himself agreed with Sartre on his interpretation. 105 Jacques Derrida.” In 1968.” from division II. despite Heidegger’s protestations.” that. vol. it is not perhaps surpris- ing that Derrida’s interpretation of Heidegger did not deviate far from the standard Sartrean version.101 But the success was not just financial.99 It was the only widely available translation of Heidegger into French at the time. by using the term réalité-humaine 99 In the English translation. 49–154. Heidegger en France. 1982). As Dominique Janicaud notes. 115. trans.”102 Both in the choice of texts and in the translation used. 103 For an analysis of this first reception of Heidegger into France. was the translation of Dasein. Margins of Philosophy. the Heidegger scholars Jean-Pierre Faye and Edgar Morin discovered Heidegger through it. And if I hadn’t read it. Corbin. 41. p.100 and was enormously successful. 2005). his philosophy was still anthropological. In the debate over whether existentialism was a humanism. if Corbin hadn’t published his translation of ‘What is Metaphysics?’ I would never have read it. 1962) the chapters in question are II. Bass (University of Chicago Press. J. as he would twenty years later in his essay “The Ends of Man. Being and Time.103 Given the influence of Corbin’s book on Sartre. it is argued. Corbin’s collection reflected and projected a very particular and peculiarly French reading of Heidegger’s philosophy. p.”105 Heidegger. trans. 225.1 and II. . and one that would come to be important for Derrida himself later. Derrida referred to it as a “monstrous translation. Following these authors. p. last Easter [1939].

“Martin Heidegger. but not to translate Dasein. 91.” It is in this sense that “existance” marked an improvement. ones that in later interpretations would render the term so unsuitable. but is simply a direct translation of Dasein. “it is very vague. vague enough to ask for precisions. p. p. which Corbin translated as Existant. He unquestioningly adopted Corbin’s.” Derrida does admit that it was supposed to be a neutral and indeterminate term. Though Derrida read Dasein as the réalité-humaine. The réalité-humaine. . II. The dis- cussion of the translation of Dasein constitutes one of the main sections of Derrida’s essay. he was aware that Heidegger was resistant to humanist interpretations of his philosophy as a whole. 108 It is intriguing that Derrida considers the possibility of “existance (avec a). Derrida had not even considered that the anthropological reading of Dasein could be controversial.”108 But “réalité-humaine” was superior. rather it is Corbin’s translation for Existenz. Derrida departed from Corbin’s translation for Seiende. and by implication Sartre’s. Existance is suggested. “existance (avec a)” and “réalité-humaine. He suggested three possible options: “être-là” [Being-there]. it is a surpassing towards a world. and had subordinated the understanding of Being to the empirical science of the study of Man. except for être-là. 109 In the “Ends of Man.”107 The first was rejected as insuf- ficiently active. “because it clearly brings the idea of surpassing. Dasein is not an immobile. at this stage. 115. See chapter 6. The options come from Corbin’s Introduction. In his reminiscences on the period. which is never discussed. the transcendence of Dasein was at first the ground of différance (with a). and stunned Being-there. and which Derrida preferred to translate as Etant. Derrida wrote. the “être de l’humanité.” nonetheless. it is the dynamic project of a world.” p. but challenges this reading. of a surging.”106 Nevertheless. 107 Derrida. “there the verb ‘to be’ is transitive. Margins of Philosophy. In doing so he follows the translation of Alphonse de Waelhens and Walter Biemel in their version of De l’essence de la vérité (Paris 1948). the evidence in his 1948 essay suggests otherwise. Heidegger en France.109 That Derrida at eighteen and thirty-eight should offer such apparently contradictory readings of the value of “réalité-humaine” as a translation of Dasein can only be understood if we realize that. Derrida. interpretation.” As we shall later see.” Derrida denied that “réalité-humaine” had burdensome connotations. vol. had a central position in Heidegger’s philosophy. Derrida was at pains to note that he recognized the problems of the Sartrean exposition of Heidegger: “réalité- humaine – I already knew that it was a disastrous translation for Dasein. because of a crucial principle in his thought: the ontological 106 Janicaud. passive. because in addition to this sense of activity. He recognized that the goal of Heidegger’s work was to understand Being and not the structures of the réalité-humaine. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 75 had ignored the deep philosophical motive of Heidegger’s project. 6.

111 Cf.”112 Man was thrown into a history. to infer falsely the properties of Being from that of a particular being.” “a movement. As Derrida wrote. trans. p. “in effect. confronting “the abyss of indetermination which surrounds thrown [délaissée] human- ity on all sides. Being and Nothingness. A Short History of Existentialism. This openness to the future was charac- terized by souci or care. 113 Ibid. the constant possibility of surpassing his determined state. 112 Derrida.” We demonstrate this openness to Being every time we use a hammer. F. 4. It was réalité-humaine’s openness to Being that made it a privileged starting-point for philosophy.” This movement was first and foremost reflected in the primor- dial temporality of the réalité-humaine: “time which temporalizes itself in its exstases: exstases of the past. brings us nothing very new except an existentiel synthesis that he made of the diverse experiences that one finds in Pascal. 51. p.” p.. 11. 25. in all that concerns his phenomenology of existence. But the réalité-humaine was different. the being (Seiendes) .” that is. this affords a privileged access to Being. as attested by the debate over the translation. a description of the existence of the réalité-humaine.”113 The analytic of Dasein in Heidegger was for Derrida a mere reiteration of existentialist themes: “Well! Very generally we can say that the existentiel stage. he is able to transcend his determination. and the future. Williams (New York: Philosophical Library. of how it interacts with beings in the world. .”114 110 Derrida. the possibility of a project or morality. or authentically in anguish. So what. therefore. and the Being of the being (Sein). 1949). according to Derrida.” “an irruption. This could be manifested either by a fear of the world in inauthentic existence. it would thus be the first step towards an ontology. The réalité-humaine was “dynamic.” p. 8. we are “open to the apérité of Being. p. . Sartre. do we learn from an existentiel analytic of the réalité-humaine? The picture again follows the existentialist template. See also Jean Wahl. . was that of action. An existentiel anthropology.”110 To ask the question of Being (Sein) by an analysis of one particular type of being (Seiendes) would be to prejudice the investigation.76 Derrida post-existentialist difference. would reveal their modes of Being. in the existentialist interpretation. “Martin Heidegger. and Nietzsche. 114 Ibid.111 The most important aspect. which is manifest in our relationship to the world. the present. or sit on a chair. Kierkegaard. Heidegger distinguishes. and was open to the future. “Martin Heidegger. something we would never be able to do if we didn’t have some primordial understanding of what a hammer or a chair is. Because Man “ek-sists. We already have an implicit understanding of Being.

in meditating on the Heideggerian Nichts that Sartre came to develop his own opposition between Being and Nothingness. so too it was the “completion” of Heidegger’s project in this 1929 essay that endured the bulk of Derrida’s criticism.” But if Der- rida endorsed Heidegger’s existentiel analyses.. . it was because Heidegger’s project ultimately concerned Being and not the réalité-humaine. strongly anthropocentric. and thus for the movement and liberty of the réalité-humaine. it could never become the object of thought. a contradiction in terms. “Martin Heidegger. Man) was a necessary first step in elaborating his ontology. the necessary condition for ontology. Being and Nothingness. Heidegger argued that the Nichts was what resisted being transformed into a being. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 77 Like many others in France. This Nothing was central to Heidegger’s thought for it was the ground of the exstases described in primordial temporality. in his opinion. after all. Derrida thought that Heidegger’s “philosophy is. Because the “phenomenological inter- pretation of existence” (viz. 117 Derrida. despite itself. p. 4. p. with its focus on the “Nothing. As Derrida noted. he doubted Heidegger’s success in moving beyond them.” p. Derrida emphasized that Being and Time was incomplete. 50. Its existentiel analytic of Dasein was only meant to be a precursor to the elaboration of Heidegger’s ontology. 115 Ibid. But just as Derrida was suspicious of this part of Sartre’s thought. neither Kierkegaard nor Nietzsche had considered the question of Being itself.”116 It was.”117 Rather it was only in the pre-rational and affective experience of “anguish” (Angst/Angoisse) that one could attest to the Nothing. Dasein was temporal because it is thrown out into the Nothing. The Nothing was the condition for Dasein’s ek-sistence and transcendence. 3. and it could exceed its ontic ground only by negating it. “What Is Metaphysics?” was crucial to Sartre’s understanding of Heidegger. For Derrida this movement was far more original. it was what allowed Dasein to come into contact with Being. Derrida argued that Heidegger would never be able to fully divest his philosophy of its humanistic tendencies: he would only be able to describe what a chair or a hammer is for us. In his 1929 essay. Whatever the advan- tages of the study of the réalité-humaine for the understanding of Being. such would be a “counter-sense. 116 See Sartre. that he rejected the label “humanist.”115 This second stage of Heidegger’s thought was only developed in “What Is Metaphysics?” As we have seen.

A Short History of Existentialism. How can one found an ontology.119 Instead of these flawed ontologies. Derrida criticized the ontological foundations of Sartre’s humanism. For both it was the attempt to expound an ontology based on existentiel analyses that marked the greatest failing. He appealed to a certain form of humanism to criticize Heidegger’s move to a defini- tive ontology. p. especially his assertion of Man’s constitutive relationship with Nothingness. The valuable part of Heidegger’s philosophy was his existentiel anthropology. when one thinks. . But for the same reasons. render- ing it passive before Being. as we saw in the first chapter. mirrored his concerns with Sartre’s philosophy. Just as in his contemporary essays.78 Derrida post-existentialist Derrida doubted Heidegger’s success in developing an ontology: One can address Heidegger with the same reproach with which we addressed Sartre. the problem rather than the mystery.118 Heidegger’s very analyses of the réalité-humaine and its movement of transcendence upset the project of a definitive ontology. what was valuable in both Sartre’s and Heidegger’s work was the existentiel analysis on which they were based. 7. who wanted to found a phenomenological ontology . . Sartre’s ontologiza- tion of the pour-soi’s free activity. It was. Derrida’s criticisms of Heidegger. without ever defining them fully. a common interpretation of Heidegger in France. Heidegger himself says that curiosity is an inauthentic form of existence. just as much as Heidegger’s submission of that freedom to a passivity in the face of Being. then. Derrida hoped to use phenomenology to leave open the possibility of transcendent values. as do Kierkegaard and Heidegger. for a similar comparison between Sartre and Heidegger. It was Heidegger’s analysis of the réalité-humaine that was most valuable and not his misguided attempt to go beyond human limi- tations and found a theory of Being: the lycéen Derrida was an existentiel and not an existential philosopher.. blocked the rise of a moral philosophy. 119 See also Wahl. 118 Ibid. . The parallel failures reiterated Derrida’s argument about morality. So Derrida placed himself between two types of humanism. his attempt to move beyond this was a failure. that existence is alienated in objectivity? For a universal and objective ontology depends on the domain of curiosity and not of anxiety [inquiétude]. Heidegger erred in effacing the essential movement of the réalité-humaine. Sartre erred by making it absolute.

121 Ibid. . he would never have had the idea to measure Being and non-Being. 122 Ibid. . the arrogance that suggested Man had “an absolute and infinite right to be the measure of everything. Derrida believed.” The arrogant Man. We are left caught between the dual immanence and transcendence of the measure. 19. which it purported to respect.14. A critical analysis of the human situation would. according to Derrida. from the beginning. we are never certain of the legitimacy of any particular value. according to Derrida. is he the measure of all things?. that however contradictory they should be. that is. If man were not this contradiction. Derrida suggested: We will try to see how neither insufficiency nor arrogance should and can be alienated to the profit of the other in a philosophy of measure. assert the former: we are always governed by base needs. Arrogance drew hope from this transcendence that Man could freely set his own values.122 The very acknowledgement of our insufficiency. As Derrida argued.”120 This recognition debased all values. undercutting human judgment. 2. which. “a supremely acute and lucid consciousness cannot but be conscious of its determinations. Man mired in heteronomy could not be the measure of all things. 19. they appear in a quasi-indissoluble experience . To move beyond this opposition.. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 79 This curious tension can be seen in Derrida’s first direct treatment of the subject as a lycée pupil in 1951. our finitude. Asked to write an essay with the title. p. p. to the most inane form of relativism. Opposed to insufficiency was the “arrogance” of Man. “Man.. Derrida presented the two familiar errors: insufficiency and arrogance. recognizing his ability to transcend all particular determinations declared his own will to be infinite and the source of the Good. “L’Homme est-il la mésure de toute chose?” Irvine. marked the possibility of our surpassing it: “the impossibility of the measure when it appears is only the sketch and the dream of the power to measure. 1. . of its servility.”121 Rooting value in subjective human choice would lead. But Derrida rejected this source of value too: “it is a humiliated humanism.” Derrida argued for a version of humanism that twinned freedom with an openness to a transcendent Value. aesthetic tastes are mere epiphenomena of biology. made Protagoras say that Man is the measure of everything. insufficiency understood that this transcendence was never total. but in our constant 120 Jacques Derrida. love is always just an illusion masking sexual desire.” Without the possibility of transcendence we could never recognize any particular measure as insufficient. p.

ones that pointed to a transcendent Value. such as in the absurd faith of Kierkegaard. Derrida hoped to move beyond simple atheism and simple theology. and – in the teleology imposed by that reading – up to him: both were presented or recast as humanist exis- tentialists. gave a sign of the Absolute: “it is not possible that this vertigo should be absurd and without an opening towards the Good. Derrida sought to counter Sartre by appealing to a vibrant Christian existentialist tradition. placing it forever out of reach.. even if we could never make out the source. p. His critique tried to temper the idealism and complete freedom of the pour-soi by submitting it to its own existen- tiel analyses. rather. or. 125 Ibid. 12. The movement to Value was always one of “risk and of faith. Both Heideg- ger and Husserl were read through Sartre. but that should not lead us to deny.” conclusion Derrida’s thought in the years leading up to his acceptance into the Ecole Normale Supérieure was heavily indebted to Existentialism. 124 Ibid. 25. 123 Ibid. in a parallel move.124 The transcendence of all earthly values. It was this tension between an immanence that could never fully entrap us and transcendence that we could never fully achieve that constituted Derrida’s “existentiel spiritualism. p. In declaring a new form of humanism.. .. which depended upon human freedom to choose freely to seek a transcendent Value that it could never fully grasp. p.”125 It was the ultimate Value that shed light and cast away shadows. 7. The movement and progress of philosophy required both the recognition of our own limitations and the faint glimmer of an Absolute that would constantly incite us to cast off our earthly shack- les and seek a deeper relationship with the divine. From the beginning.80 Derrida post-existentialist desire to overcome our limitations. indeed his point was that we could never directly assert an absolute. and ultimately to God. despair of ever under- standing him. we continually reach for something better. God may be beyond human understanding.”123 But Derrida also distanced his ideas from those of a certain type of theism that posited the “definitive and irreducible transcendence” of value. Derrida’s argument made no claim as to what the ultimate Value would be. But Derrida never simply assumed the Sartrean system.

however. last. and especially in that holy of holies the Ecole Normale Supérieure. And this would have a profound effect on Derrida when in 1952. Already powerful currents within the French philosophical community. were moving against the Sartrean phe- nomenon and against existentialism more generally. . on the third attempt. Derrida’s “Christian” existentialism 81 The explicit predominance of existentialism and Christian thought in Derrida’s work would not. he finally gained entry to that prestigious institution.

even more precisely. 82 . Weil.” Irvine. Sartre was still mentioned in passing in essays from Derrida’s first year at the ENS. with its peculiar combination of political dogmatism enforced through social pressure. 2 Heidegger would return after Derrida’s Mémoire. for obvious disciplinary reasons. and the life-world. Rather it was encouraged by con- siderations that only make sense in the context of the ENS. complained that Derrida was too dominated by his “master..49. Derrida turned to the more technical language of phenomenology and especially to a philosopher who before he had only discussed in passing. who had been mainstays of his thought. The attempt to link a philosophical doctrine to 1 Derrida interview in Michael Sprinker.2 In their place. while references to Sartre and Heidegger greatly declined. Husserl became so central in Derrida’s work that already by 1954 Louis Althusser. 185. makes the move to politics very readily. then his teacher. Derrida’s adoption of Husserl’s phenomenology as an object of study was not simply a philosophical decision. dropped out completely. as I will show in the next chapter. and Marcel. ed. 1. though seemingly abstract and detached from the messy questions that dominate political life. Der- rida’s discussion of the reduction. Jacques Derrida1 In 1952. when Derrida entered the ENS. intentionality. 1993). Intellectual history. The Althusserian Legacy (New York: Verso.”3 Over the next decade. c h a p ter 3 Normalization The Ecole Normale Supérieure and Derrida’s turn to Husserl All of this should be resituated in the strange history of this strange institution and the no less strange “community” that it housed – or. p. the names of the modern exis- tentialists disappeared almost entirely from his work: le Senne. A work yet to be undertaken: it would clarify a certain number of things about life and about intellectual fashions in this country over several decades. in the genealogy of the Rue d’Ulm philosophers. “L’Inconscient. were invested at the Ecole with political meaning. the discussion of Husserlian phe- nomenology would be Derrida’s major philosophical preoccupation. 3 Jacques Derrida.

the social conditions for the political contextualization of philosophy. After all. Normalization 83 a political one. But the move from philosophy to politics is often a fraught one. we will have to understand how in the absence of official 4 Pierre Greco. claims that the Ecole pro- vided anything but a free space for academic endeavor would seem absurd. To many Old Normaliens. The political situation of academic work often presents two heterogeneous elements that resist easy identification. . The accounts and memories of the period are often strikingly divergent. 5 Michel Serres and Bruno Latour. “La Vie philosophique a l’Ecole Normale Supérieure. also grants the work present value. In the early 1950s. should not disregard them. 1995). Intellectual freedom formed one of the principal pillars of the school’s self-identity.”4 Nevertheless a significant minority of students had a very different experience. trans. assert the significance of modern scholarship. Michel Serres. Conversations on Science. pp. 21–6. 5. some academics do live in ivory towers. R. the small elite institute for higher education provided a space where social pressure took on political form. and Time. and we. while making an intellectual historian’s work relevant to his or her colleagues.” calling the ENS “one of the most terroristic societies ever created by the French intelligentsia. and the translation complex.” Les Etudes philosophiques (January-March 1947). “I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that at the Ecole there is no set philosophical line. Culture. But though. demanded intellectual loyalty. Derrida’s exact contemporary. wrote in 1947. It demonstrates in an extreme form the translation of the academic into the everyday. It is a heterogeneity that historical actors are often at pains to assert. p. Lapidus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.” Pierre Greco.”5 To explain these con- flicting accounts. and the majority of the students remember it as such. more often than not. the ENS was not the home of pragmatic politicians interested in the minutiae of policy detail – far from it – ideological politics seeped into all parts of everyday life. and thus supposedly not susceptible to the pitfalls of “group-think. of the role of the university or of the intellectual in the wider world. and political loyalty. The study of the relationship between past academic work and politics can. a philosophy student. the ecole normale superieure In analyzing the Ecole Normale Supérieure in the 1950s one immediately faces a major problem. as we shall see. the Normaliens were the elite. recalled his constant fear of being accosted and accused of some “intellectual crime. by proxy. as historians.

It was an area of Paris that Derrida hardly left during his academic career. that Temple of Reason dedicated to the great men of the Republic. the Bulletin de la Société des Amis de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure (hereafter. Algeria. A small but not insignificant number of Normaliens went on to study at the ENA in the Fourth and Fifth Republics. though sad to be losing him (“to Babylon. both by choosing its members and by guiding their intellectual formation.11 Though the school continued to grow throughout the 6 Until it moved from the center of Paris in 1976. and Georges Pompidou amongst others.9 The ENS constituted the elite. Old Normaliens. regularly cite lists of Normaliens in the Assemblée Nationale. In the early 1950s enrollment stood at around 200 men. the Collège de France. 10 Its impact was predominantly in the world of academia. and the Lycée Henri IV). or “archicubes” as they called themselves. Though we should note the irony in Nicolet’s account. Like most of France’s important intellectual institutions. with ENS Sèvres and Jourdan training women. who entered the letters stream in 1950. The sense of being special pervades discussions of the ENS. but in the number of students. as well as in academic fields. said. ed.”8 For many. my child. 11 Until 1985 the sexes were divided in the ENS system. and visiting professorships during the later years. p. of all places”).. would. especially in the period before 1968. “L’Ecole existe-t-elle encore?” in Alain Peyrefitte.7 But though geographically part of this larger conglomeration of edu- cational institutions. Léon Blum. and Le Mans from 1956 to 1959.6 the Ecole Normale Supérieure Rue d’Ulm. 9 The periodical for the alumni of the Ecole. in the administration. the Ecole Normale Supérieure was different. Rue d’Ulm (Paris: Fayard.10 The first thing that one would notice on entering the Ecole was its size. studying at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand and the ENS. and the Sorbonne. during this period. reported of stoic parents crying with pride at the news of admission. As Claude Nicolet. 1994). Within a five-minute walk from each other lay the most successful Ecole Préparatoires (the Lycée Louis-le-Grand.” and his parents. in the Diplomatic Service. focused as it was around a single courtyard. It was the alma Mater of Jean Jaurès. but before the creation of the ENA in 1945. an impor- tant step in guaranteeing a place in the French establishment. not only physically. the ENS was situated in the Quartier Latin on the Rive Gauche of the Seine. leaving aside his time in Harvard. swelled with pride: “You’re going to be a Normalien. whether in academia or politics. Bulletin). . “the school was still one of the great things of this world. 309. it also had a notable effect on political life. 8 Claude Nicolet. all clustered around the Pantheon.84 Derrida post-existentialist authority figures the largest social groups gained disproportionate power in the formation of political and intellectual norms. 7 It would thus be his principal workplace from 1949 until 1984. entry into the Ecole was a sign of having made it. the Ecole Polytechnique for the sciences and engineering. to which he returned to teach after serving as an assistant at the Sorbonne.

In part a result of the success of existentialism. pp. 14 Revue de Paris (March 1953). philosophy both officially and in spirit ruled the ENS. as Pierre Bourdieu is keen to suggest. they accounted for a third of all the philosophers accepted that year. The success of the students is remarkable. in 1950. Then with Louis Althusser as school secretary and the logician Roger Martin as librarian. one classmate was Michel Serres. when other educational institutions were undergoing a large rise in student numbers. who affect a clear sentiment of superiority. According to Pierre Bandet. ALT2. the career of each philosophy student. See also Jean d’Ormesson.” March 24. 102–3. Raymond Aron. set apart from their peers when they were barely out of their teenage years. and we can follow. 12 “Réunion Petit Conseil de l’ENS. current or recently graduated philosophers included Pierre Bourdieu (1951). yearly intake in the Lettres section rose to the lower forties. this was the alma mater of Jean-Paul Sartre. E1–01. his collaborator Jean-Claude Passeron (1950). but its self-image was determined more by its relationship to democracy than by class division. IMEC. 1976). seek to reflect already existing social hierarchies in French society. It may. Normalization 85 1950s and 1960s. . The sense of elitism was particularly strong amongst the philosophers. in 1953. the ENS remained small and intimate. E3– 02. It is not surprising that many felt upon entry that they had already arrived. When Derrida matriculated in 1952. 76.” IMEC. and Michel Foucault (1946). and Henri Bergson. in outline at least.12 There were around thirty students studying philosophy at any one time. the dean of French Hegel studies. After all. this was a school first founded in 1794 by the Convention and supposedly embodying the principles of the French Revolution. 1955.01. After all. however. Derrida’s contemporary at the Ecole. “Liste des philosophes sortis de l’ENS depuis la guerre. Au revoir et merci (Paris: Gallimard. By the later 1960s. but with an intake ranging from two. Looking more broadly. The elitism of the school did not. “the non-philosopher always has an obscure inferiority complex with respect to his philosopher friends. became the school Directeur in 1954. a philosopher of science and later an “Immortal” at the Académie Française. philosophy in the 1950s was the queen of all disciplines. yearly admission was limited by the space available to house the students and hovered around forty in sciences and thirty-five in letters. to nine. attracting the best and the brightest students.”14 This dominance was secured when Jean Hyppolite. 13 See Louis Althusser. Nevertheless during this period.13 The ENS was so small that a mere statistical analysis often makes little sense. Together. especially given the young age at which they had been selected. have in fact reproduced the existing system of privilege.07. p. ALT2.

Only about 30 percent. for many the intellectual elitism of the Ecole was the necessary correlate of French democracy. in its self-presentation. In fact. only about 3–4 percent of all students came from agricultural backgrounds. 1994). pp. Anyone.”18 Education. Enquête sur les Etudiants de 1962–3 inscrits au Certificat d’Etudes Litteraires Generales (Paris. L’Ecole Normale Supérieure: Le livre du bicentennaire (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. with a similar number coming from workers’ families. were the sons of upper management and liberal professions such as lawyers or doctors. 21. and control. 327. ed. . so the ideology went. and the son of a postmaster from the Pyrenees could eventually become a professor at the Collège de France. with its reputation for left-wing politics. the Rue d’Ulm acted as a conduit for social mobility: Laurent Fabius. 18 Peyrefitte. p. although hardly representative.86 Derrida post-existentialist Indeed Bourdieu’s sociological project was made possible in part by the vast swathes of statistics and surveys collected by the French state to keep a check on. On average. 16 See Jean François Sirinelli. if they were bright enough.”19 15 See Pierre Bourdieu. in the twentieth century. 19 Bulletin (1946).. could get into the Ecole.15 These statistics show that the Ecole did predominantly favor the children of the middle classes. as Eris Mension- Rigau has shown. 1984). the Ecole did not draw predominantly from the social elite. suggested in a speech from 1946. 1964). the social origins of its students. True equality does not consist in fitting all men to the same mold. “as a democracy becomes more democratic. In the 1950s about 10 percent were children of artisans. it needs to pay more attention to the recruitment of its elites. M. where the equality of opportunity was real. the old aristocracy generally kept their distance from the Revolutionary institution. Indeed its social breakdown was virtually identical to that of the Sorbonne. in 1965. see La Premiere Année de Faculté de Lettres. a Lettres (Humanities) student from the 1960s. that of a social mobility built upon knowledge and work and not on money. 170–9.16 The majority of its alumni became schoolteachers. Rue d’Ulm. 1965). p. was according to the French ideal the best possibility of social advancement. Les Héritiers (Paris: Editions de Minuit. As the President of the Société des amis de l’Ecole. Francois-Poncet. 17 For the Sorbonne. In addition. The figures show that. and it recruited heavily from the families of this social grouping. suggested “the Ecole was like the laboratory of an idea: that of a socially fluid society. but in offering all the same chances to distinguish themselves according to their own merits.17 Further. compared with whose students the Normaliens felt themselves vastly superior. and Homo Academicus (Paris: editions de Minuit. however. which since 1927 had been free for all.

It meant a practical joke.”22 This same sense of exclusivity was extended to political rights. E1–01. in particular the entrance exam to the ENS.01. the caiman was the director of studies. . Such rules were not just silent and little-used regulations. Similarly. A43–02. but also the name given to special dinners. thurne. The ENS granted complete freedom of assembly. who settled on “Tao” even later in published works. For a full list see Peyrefitte. or that non-Normaliens had attended 20 “Conditions et perspectives d’une action à l’Ecole.” October 7. Indeed this was the distinction that was reasserted most strongly by Normaliens in their contact with the rest of the world. The idiosyncrasy of the Ecole extended to people’s names.”20 The Ecole was not a haven for the already privileged. except when non-Normaliens were involved. pot.” IMEC. the fact that a friend had dined at the refectory. archicube. bassins des ernests. The word canular was successful outside of the narrow confines of the Ecole. the thurne was the study. in article 5 of the Réglement Intérieure. The school argot was used continually. the ernests were the fish in the pond at the center of the Ecole. On several occasions Normaliens were called to the Conseil to explain the presence of an extra mattress in their room. the Ecole represented “caste rather than class. an archicube was an alumnus. Derrida was “Jackie” in internal school documents until 1967. the ENS shut them out. social distinction. and Michel Foucault was called by his first given name. It served as the cement that brought Normaliens together while excluding all others. the pot was the dining hall. was that it was “formally forbidden to invite any outsider [toute personne étrangère] into the canteen or to lodge them in school buildings.” Pierre Bourdieu was simply known as Félix. IMEC. One of the few explicit school rules. As even the ENS communists of the 1960s admitted. caı̈man. the main social division was that between inside and outside. ALT2.21 The discussion of the slang used at the Ecole was also one of the favorite topics of the Bulletin de la Société des Amis de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure. then. 1954. 22 “Réunion Petit Conseil de l’ENS. at least. Article 5 was the single most enforced rule within the Conseil de discipline in the period 1950–60. As far as the Normaliens were concerned. it created its own privilege: producing. Paul. Normaliens. The elitism of the school was marked less by a reproduction of outside class divisions than by the sharp line drawn between it and the rest of the world. Normalization 87 Rather than attempting to reproduce the social hierarchies of society at large.02 sheet 1. even outside of the Ecole. ignored the transliteration that the Vietnamese Normalien Tran Duc Thao preferred for his own publications. ALT2. Rue d’Ulm. 21 The cacique was the student who came top of an exam. or referred to as “Fouks. not reproducing. where diligent editors added footnotes to the work of Normaliens to explain to the average reader the meanings of the words cacique.

as they called it. 25 Cf. The boundaries between Normaliens and the rest of the world were constantly being marked out and reinforced. The Normaliens were particularly famous for their practical jokes or the canular. The Ecole Normale Supérieure was founded in 1794 for the apparently 23 See papers of the Disciplinary Council. that appeared before the Conseil de discipline did not involve non-Normaliens: two cases involving damage to Ecole property by its students. and the Bulletin de la Société des Amis de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure would regularly dedicate articles to famous canulars of the past. or even leave.25 This lack of institutionalized control extended to academic work: stu- dents had no set program of study. Only two of the cases between 1950 and 1957. p. for truly “internal” matters. 9. 1953. Rue d’Ulm. In addition their status allowed them paid holidays. especially the réunions of July 8. nor any determined canon set by their teachers. Existence at the Ecole seemed carefree. he could be asked to take a year off.”24 The lack of internal discipline meant that the students had a great level of freedom in their everyday routine. and union representation. they earned a considerable wage above the free accommodation with which they were provided. In the case where a student was not deemed to have satisfied these requirements. This intellectual freedom was a product of the School’s history. Also Peyrefitte. the Conseil de discipline played a very limited role. sick leave. Officially employees of the state since 1948. Old students would often reminisce about their own. p.88 Derrida post-existentialist political events at the Ecole. 24 Quoted in Bulletin (November 1957). IMEC. Bulletin (November 1957). . or pretending to be an ignorant Swiss preparing for the baccalaureate. one French review suggested in October 1957 that “the ENS is probably the only academic institution in the world without internal rules. ALT2. in order to mock the earnest tutoring efforts of a student in the nearby ENS Sèvres pour jeunes filles. 1952 and March 11. 500. p. impersonating a telephone technician to get the school director to sing the “Marseillaise” to test the line. for which records exist. Only slightly exaggerating.02–12. whether transporting a car into the bassins des ernests (the central pond). The only regulation that took up more of the Conseil’s time was that concerning the maintenance of a minimum academic standard. Life was also significantly easier because of the salaries earned by the students as stagiaires fonctionnaires. 7.23 the freedom of the elite Though strict about imposing the division between the inside and outside. E2–01.

p.26 Nevertheless. with the Livre de Bicentennaire explaining the decree by the jealousy and prejudices of the Sorbonne faculties. Following article 10 of this decree. the ENS at St. which.30 It is probably this meeting to which Derrida refers when he suggests that he met Althusser on his first day at the Ecole. 461. p. Generation Existential. In his memoirs. then. p. . Gabriel Monod. its centrality meant that during the nineteenth century the ENS Rue d’Ulm became an important and powerful institution. 31 Sprinker. The Althusserian Legacy. 28 Sirinelli. for instance. 1992).28 The reform meant that the only permanent teaching staff was a small group of agrégé-répétiteurs. Althusser. however. The embarrassment caused to the government at the time led to a reformation of the ENS in the decree of November 10. Grasset. pp. were few and mostly only a little older than the students they taught.31 Students would not. the Ecole adopted a hitherto unknown politicization. 29 See “Dossier Althusser. Even in 1994 there remained ill feeling. all ENS teaching positions were abolished. 30 Yann Moulier Boutang. He was very careful not to affect their own development and would avoid writing comments in the margins 26 Indeed this is what distinguished the Rue d’Ulm from its brother school. 53–4. 930595/31. Althusser was clear that he did not aim to impress his way of thinking on his students at the ENS. 1903 where it was “reunited” with the Univer- sity of Paris. made a public declaration in favor of Dreyfus. Even they had little contact with the majority of the student body.29 The figures of authority. viii. Livre du bicentenaire. earning a prestige far beyond that originally imagined. First in a small group around the school librarian Lucien Herr. when the Ecole aligned itself with the Dreyfusards. preface by René Rémond.” Centre des Archives Contemporaines (hereafter CAC). Cloud. two or three years later. Normalization 89 mundane task of training lycée professeurs.27 It was a change that continued to elicit bitter responses a century later. 27 Kleinberg. Althusser would bring together all new students at the beginning of each academic year and ask those that wanted to take philosophy to send him a piece of work by which he would judge their suitability for the subject. Its power and influence was felt particularly strongly during the Dreyfus affair in the closing years of the nineteenth century. ex-students normally recruited just after leaving the Ecole. take a course with him until the year of preparation for the agrégation. was hired in 1948 immediately after passing the agrégation. trained teachers for the collèges (schools that did not prepare students for the Baccalaureate). and then more generally when the head of the ENS. and faculty members were given posts at the Sorbonne and at the Collège de France. at least traditionally. Louis Althusser: une biographie (Paris: B. 183.

however. 34 “Guide sur l’ENS. As no real teaching was undertaken at the Ecole. Indeed Althusser took pride in the fact that he “never told anyone to adopt a line of thought which was not his own and to have done otherwise would have been folly. The Future Lasts a Long Time and the Facts. from the existentialist to the Christian and Marxist.90 Derrida post-existentialist of essays. See Louis Althusser. Passeron. The reform thus unintentionally opened to the students a far greater diversity of educational possibilities than had previously been the case. . Given no particular preference for the Sorbonne. the ENS has no final rankings. Normaliens also looked to other philosophical centers for instruction. E4–03. Both the Collège de France and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. Numerous Normalien philosophers became important in other fields – with Ducrot. French schoolchildren were trained to leave most of the first page blank in any composition.” IMEC.02. beyond the agrégation seminars run by invited professeurs délégués. a fact that helps explain the enormous diversity of philosophical and extra-philosophical interests of its students. it was intellectu- ally open. because each student personally orients himself towards one of the agrégations. Bourdieu. or his own research. traditionally peripheral to ter- tiary education in France. “Agrégatifs. teach- ers.03. In a letter of 1975 to the minister of Education the Director of the Ecole noted that “unlike the other Grandes Ecoles.”33 We have evidence of him giving good marks to and approving a wide variety of philosophical styles. Veasey (London: Chatto & Windus. 1993).32 Even this aimed mostly at the presentation of the argument rather than the content. R. became important sources of new ideas for Normaliens forced to look outside their narrow cloisters for their educa- tion. And though socially the Ecole was relatively closed. E6–02. opted instead to write his comments on a separate sheet that could be discarded at will. and advisors outside of the Rue d’Ulm opened up students to all the resources of academic Paris. Pariente. free for students to choose their own educational path. p. This was to allow the professeur to write his or her comments on the front of the work. Indeed far from imposing the homogeneity of an elite. Althusser. and Foucault being only the most famous examples.”34 Institutionally. The need to search for training. 33 Louis Althusser. On first glance the structure of philosophical education at the ENS seemed to work against the formation of philosophical schools or orthodoxies. 163. trans. Jacques Derrida. ALT2. the Ecole 32 Derrida’s later practice mimicked Althusser’s.” IMEC. the students were forced to seek classes elsewhere. feeling such a process unnecessarily invasive. ALT2. the Ecole was an open book.

364–5. 36 See Jean-Francois Revel. p. p. Le Roy Ladurie was the head of the communist cellule at the Ecole at the beginning of the 1950s.” in Peyrefitte. pp. 1982). under a Monarchy. a few for whom the ENS did not resemble such an idyll. “Une pension de famille autour d’une bibliothèque. individual ideas and personal interests could be given free reign. 42 Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. democracy. Cf. 1987). the pleasure of regulated controversies. . Moret complained of being called a collabo or a fasciste. how- ever. pp. 320–2. 77. In this sense it is just to consider the ENS itself as an ideological “vacuum. “Une cellule royaliste. The Althusserian Legacy.-P. a free space where the best and the brightest of France had the freedom to develop their thinking. Paris-Montpellier: P. felt the over-bearing pressure of a dominant communism. and Derrida himself later recalled that “Stalinism dominated . Some like Philippe Moret. as secretary of the cellule. the historian Le Roy Ladurie described it as a “spiritual Gulag.” in Peyrefitte. of civilized political passions.40 who were on the right. 2006.41 Indeed. and Bour- dieu who were on the non-conformist left. social constraints This picture of a space where students of many different social and meta- physical stripes coexisted in a spirit of intellectual camaraderie was shared by many.” 39 See Alan Peyrefitte. 38 See Philippe Moret (Lettres 1956).42 The communists could impose themselves on a certain portion of the student population. p. pp. 41 See Pierre Bourdieu. Rue d’Ulm. Normalization 91 merely provided a secure and comfortable base from which myriad educa- tional opportunities were accessible. 13.38 Alain Peyrefitte. 37 Sprinker.” in Peyrefitte. I learnt in Oxford. p. it was plausible to regard the ENS as merely a dor- mitory with a library. It fits both the officially sanctioned presentation of the Ecole as well as the memories of the majority of its students.39 and Jean Charbonnel. 373–8. on looking back at his time at the Ecole in the early 1950s. “L’Ecole des Forts en anathées. November 21. it seemed as if the Ecole was the ideal seat of learning. . also Moulier-Boutang.”37 This view was shared by many of those entering the ENS at this time.” for which. Michel Serres complained about the “terrorism” of the communist cellule. “La Tentation stalinienne. As we saw. Louis Althusser: Une biographie. 187. Rue d’Ulm. He concluded: “the following year. There were.”35 In the early 1950s.U 1945–1963 (Paris: Gallimard. 341–5. . because of his monarchist views.C. he felt personally responsible. but others like Derrida. 450. Rue d’Ulm. Choses dites (Paris: Editions de Minuit. 40 See Jean Charbonnel. because in the absence of explicit regulation social 35 Interview Maurice Caveing. in a very tyrannical manner.” in Peyrefitte. of tolerated eccentricities – well.36 Especially with an agrégé-répétiteur in philosophy who was often sick and away. Rue d’Ulm.S. pp. Revel’s title comes from a saying of Albert Thibaudet.

Monolingualism of the Other. 47 Jacques Derrida and François Ewald. who never fitted neatly into a pre-made fac- tion. The greatest categorical line fell between those who came from Paris and the “provincials. and Time. where the first-years’ beds were separated in the dormitory by curtains. See Sirinelli. As Macey.46 For Derrida. recalling his time at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. and. in his case the scientific and the humanities communities. where the “provincials” were boarders. The Lives of Michel Foucault (London: Hutchinson. Life at the ENS was a constant confrontation of social barriers. 44 During this period only 20 percent of students came from Paris proper. “A Certain ‘Madness’ Must Watch over Thinking.47 43 David Macey. while the Parisians went home every night. mimicking his peers despite his marked antipathy to Parisian social dominance. 276.” Educational Theory (Summer 1995). an ordering both distinguishing them from other groupings and imposing a certain level of uniformity within. 11–13. p. “meals were taken communally at tables of eight in the dining room and it was the cus- tom to remain at the same table for the full three years.45 Beyond this fissure. Very few of Der- rida’s contemporaries at the Ecole referred to him in their reminiscences. referred espe- cially to his embarrassment over his accent. Michel Serres has described the loneliness that resulted from falling between two large groupings. Livre du bicentenaire. Social groups were strongly delineated. there existed others that cut through the ENS: such as that between the years and between the Lettres and the Science communities. 5. in his biography of Foucault. but 70 percent had undertaken Ecole Préparatoire there. 1993). p. 26. For Derrida’s own worries about his non-metropolitan accent see Derrida.92 Derrida post-existentialist groupings assumed an unavoidable importance. pp. 45 Michael Grenfell. Conversations on Science. What is surprising about many of the accounts of the ENS is that relations with other students seem to have been very limited. describes. This was despite the size of the school and the closeness of the living conditions. it was only on the basis of his later philosophy (often negatively). the social pressure could be felt even more strongly. 2004).”43 It was possible to spend three or four years without knowing all others in your own class: this in an institution where the annual Lettres intake was barely larger than the standard secondary-school class. Culture. 46 Serres and Latour. pp. p. Agent Provocateur (New York: Continuum. Bourdieu. Pierre Bourdieu. which he attempted to dis- guise. and the studies were shared.”44 This division carried through from the lycées. Even into the 1990s he still feared entering the ENS and encountered “physical symptoms (I’m talking about my chest and stomach)” at the doorway. but that he also experienced a “school sickness” akin to homesickness when away. 273–91. . if they did.

p. Au revoir et merci.-P. It was the communist cellule and the Catholic “Talas” who made their presence felt most keenly during the 1950s. . around 1947. catholics and communists In a school that presented itself as a free space.U. two years delayed because of the war. p. 446. often simultaneously. the largest groupings gained dispropor- tionate influence. and Mochon.” Though the etymology is disputed. is said to derive from a shortening of “ils von[t à la] messe. 52 See also d’Ormesson. 9. 53 Le Roy Ladurie. the students’ union. 49 Moulier-Boutang. Louis Althusser: Une biographie. existentialists.”49 But then Althusser had a ready-made social community in the communist cellule. 50 See d’Ormesson. Au Revoir et merci. p. immediately after the war. 1945–1963. Those who did not belong to such groups often felt threatened and miserable. to describe Catholic students. was dominated by the Christian left and according to Le Roy Ladurie this dominance was overturned by the communists only by 1950.53 Aside from this site where the two groups 48 Althusser. 78. a true love. Normalization 93 In an institution where social networks were small and divisions con- stantly confronted. p. Louis Althusser described the school as a “womblike” place “where [he] felt warm and at home and was protected from the outside world. Paris-Montpellier: P.”48 As Moulier- Boutang stated in his biography. and communists are but the labels that one wears. 44. which both provided community and a larger purpose to the otherwise inward-looking life of the Normalien. In a talk by Guyard to mark the 150th anniversary of the Ecole in 1946. It is important to realize that this was written after the event once Le Roy Ladurie had left the party and was increasingly skeptical of his earlier communist commitments. there was no absolute dividing line between them at the ENS.”51 In the late 1940s the Christians and communists were not exclusive groupings. The Future Lasts a Long Time. Indeed. In many ways they fed off each other and fought with each other for political predominance and members. revolved around politics and religion. the name Tala. “L’Ecole Normale et la politique.52 At the beginning of this period. The two most important types of groupings. p. the experience of social pressure was very uneven. 78. he described “that fraternity where Catholics.S. a division and opposition that shows up constantly in all the literature on the school during this period and most of the autobiographies that deal with it. “in short Althusser was crazy about the school [fou de l’Ecole]. which was part of the larger French syndicalist movement.” 51 Bulletin (November 1946). but in reality offered a fractured and divided social scene.50 There was no a priori reason why these groups should have been mutually exclusive. and several students belonged to both camps.C. p. 163.

March and April 1946). but it appears that Althusser often brought his own earlier student work to such sessions and inserted them there in his files. Verley. perhaps in part due to their competition over the allegiances of the young. Le Roy Ladurie himself was originally part of Catholic groups around 1945 when he was at the Lycée Henri IV. See Mochon. 71. Ricci.. The notes come as part of exposés on the same theme from 1954. For problems concerning metaphysical questions and burgeoning points of dissonance. and he described it as a religious experience. Louis Althusser: une biographie. and a significant number of their year professed allegiance to both groups in the early years after World War II. And Peyrefitte. where the students of the Mouvement de la Paix are described as “Jesuits of communism. Althusser wrote on the back of two pieces of paper. February 1945. “L’Ecole Normale et la politique.54 His “conversion” to communism only came at the beginning of 1949. 57 Le Roy Ladurie and Althusser were not alone. Rue d’Ulm. In 1949 by Papal decree all members of the Communist Party were excommunicated. and many preferred at least a political alliance with the communists. E4–02.” IMEC. 409. a comparison which at the time was mainly deployed by critics of communism.94 Derrida post-existentialist interacted and competed. and the Church authorities looked mistrustfully on the radical political programs of several of its young 54 Ibid. 58 Moulier Boutang. the other being the current cellule news sheet. p. there was also a significant number of crossovers between the two. 237. ALT2. his “road to Damascus. p. however. But soon the national split came to manifest itself at the local level.56 Althusser also made the transition from devout “Tala. Other notable Catholics-become- communists were Sève. . one being a circular letter from the Jeunesse de l’Eglise.60 Towards the end of the 1940s. 60 See Mochon. around when he finally cut ties with the Jeunesse de l’Eglise.”57 As Moulier Boutang’s biography has shown. p. 59 See “Agrégation exposés. see the survey by Esprit: “Le Communisme et les étudiants. p. E5–02. despite Althusser’s later account of the period in his autobiographical writings. ALT2. 56 See IMEC. “L’Ecole Normale et la poli- tique.” in a letter to Esprit.59 Throughout this period most Talas were socialist.. while writing notes for a presentation on “Religion and Philosophy” in 1948. 26. he was both a Tala and a member of the Communist Party in the period from 1948 until 1952. 71. relations between the Church and Party were always tense.58 In what must have been a joke. the comfortable cohabitation of the Christians and the communists became troubled: the Cold War had come to the Ecole.” p. Caveing. 374.01.”55 Indeed this comparison of communism to Christianity is constant in his autobiography.” Or the complaint by the editor of the communist journal Action of “those sensitive souls that complain that communism is a Church. 35.” Esprit (February. Verret. The MRP had only brief support at the ENS at the end of the War. 55 Ibid. p.” to engaged “Stal. As we have seen.” p.

through China’s revolution in 1949.” La Nouvelle Critique (January 1950). when the communists aimed to promote ideological purity and no longer turned a blind eye to doctrinal deviance. accused the personnalist journal Esprit in 1949 and 1950 of Titoism.000 fusillés. p.” fallen comrades of the French Resistance. . 63 See Moulier Boutang.” La Jeunesse de l’Eglise 24 (October 1953). In this general context. to the wars in Indo-China and Korea. It also grew out of the strengthening position of the cellule that was becoming more unwilling to accept the religious idiosyn- crasies of some of its members. 65 See Sirinelli. See also La Jeunesse d’Eglise (November 1953).65 The popularity of the communists was not only limited to intellectuals.63 Much of the antipathy was directed specifically towards the Catholics.62 The resistance to the previous peaceful coexistence did not only come from the Catholics. The left-leaning Jeunesse de l’Eglise – “faithful to the Church while resisting” – which acted as a significant cross-over journal in this period for young French Catholics.61 The crisis caused by the split led to a decline in the Talas. and the rising voice of the Stalinist left. Normalization 95 adherents. It was natural that the cellule was the first organization in the ENS to have explicit links to a national political party. “L’Ecole Normale et la politique. the communists were for most of this period unrivalled.” chapter 1. 33–4. Louis Althusser: une biographie. Livre du bicentenaire. p. 202.” p. It also occupied a central place in the political imagination of the time. Around this time about 5 million or about 25 percent of the electorate regularly voted for the Communist Party. 64 See Jean Kanapa: “Gendarmes et sirènes. enjoyed a considerable allure and mystique during the “années d’épuration” in a country coming to terms with its Vichy and collaborationist past. 62 See Mochon. 61 “Communiqué: Supplement au Bulletin de Liaison. 1950). La Nouvelle Critique. with the gloves coming off in “‘Esprit’ jette le masque.64 Politically. And Mochon. The party of “75. and it was they who made the deepest impression on the generation of Normaliens who entered the school in the decade between 1946 and 1956. pp. a crisis that was not fully overcome until the mid 1950s. On a more local level many of the Ecole’s own resistance heroes had strong links to communism. from the start of the Cold War around 1947. 74. This prestige and unimpeachable moral standing was essential to the party as the Cold War came to dominate the political horizons. “L’Ecole Normale et la politique. This was the last issue. where members had to choose between the political and the spiritual. This was the time of the Tito rebellion and the Lysenko affair. 312. was censored by the Church and forced to close in 1953. and the McCarthy witchhunts in the United States. its level of support in the student body was hardly exceptional.” La Nouvelle Critique (April 15.

96 Derrida post-existentialist
On the other side, despite being the largest group at the ENS and
the apparent organization under the “Prince Tala,” by the early 1950s the
Catholics had been severely weakened by the clashes with the communists.
They settled back into political neutrality that allowed old wounds to
heal, and maintained an uneasy unity of students from across a political
spectrum ranging from monarchists to communist fellow travelers. Never
presenting a unified front, the influence of the Catholics was never felt so
forcefully outside their circle as that of the communist cellule.66
But if the Catholics were not doctrinally evangelical like the communists,
they did at least provide an intellectual safe haven. Both due to its support
amongst the students, its political neutrality, and the peculiar religious his-
tory of many of the communist cellule members, Christianity was accepted
as a legitimate doctrinal choice. The Catholics provided respite and space
free from the dominant communists. Roger Faroux, who entered the Ecole
in 1947, suggested that, when faced with harassment from the “Vychinsky en
herbe,” one always had the possibility to “proclaim oneself a Tala, and thus
untouchable.”67 For this reason, even at the peak of the cellule’s impor-
tance and success, it was never hegemonic. It is clear from the panoply of
religious and political groupings at the ENS that even in the early 1950s
the communist cellule did not enforce its belief on the majority of the stu-
dent population. It was possible to be a Catholic (many were), and indeed
there were even a few Gaullists in the ENS. When the changing situation
dictated that one could no longer be both a communist and a Christian,
several chose to drop their political, rather than religious, affiliation.
Nevertheless, while in the late 1940s communists and Catholics grudg-
ingly attempted to work together, and in the ENS ideas swapped easily
and quickly, as students changed their alignment, with the cooling of rela-
tions at the beginning of the Cold War, positions hardened, and opposing
orthodoxies became unavoidable. Those who found themselves outside of
any of the standard social and political groups would become the targets
of a newly intensified communist evangelism.

philosophical politics and politicized philosophy
When Derrida entered the Ecole, the two main social groupings mapped
directly onto the twin poles of French philosophy, indicated by Sartre’s
66 Jean-François Sirinelli, “Les Normaliens de la Rue d’Ulm après 1945: une génération communiste?”
Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine (October–December 1986), p. 573.
67 Peyrefitte, Rue d’Ulm, p. 326. Andrei Vyshinsky was the public prosecutor in the Stalinist show
trials.

Normalization 97
Existentialism Is a Humanism. It was no coincidence. As we have seen,
Christian and communist parties benefited the most in the elections after
the War. When Normaliens too turned to the two great ideologies of the
age in 1945, they followed broader trends in French society. But the impact
of Catholicism and communism was felt more strongly at the Ecole, whose
curious social situation provided a mechanism whereby these social groups
amassed considerable influence, not only over their own members, but
also – in the case of the communist cellule – over other students.
Understanding the influence they wielded is important for our study
of Derrida, because the Catholic Talas and the communist cellule had a
profound impact on the type of philosophy studied at the Ecole. Indeed, the
success of communism and Catholicism after the War can be attributed
in part to an inherent intellectual element, what Bédarida has called a
double messianism.68 Both offered an explanation of the sufferings of
the War and the trials of the occupation, and both inscribed them into
a larger picture that gave them meaning. Further, they both adhered to
metaphysical systems that claimed authority in all areas of academic study,
not just religion or politics. With Marxism as much an intellectual stance
as a political outlook, philosophers dominated not just the membership
but also the leadership of the cellule.69
So the social divisions served to reinforce a philosophical divide. This
was exacerbated by the peculiarities of the political moment. For the com-
munists, after 1947 and the beginning of the Cold War, politics played
out at the international level. The defining issues were external, distant,
and focused on foreign affairs. It was a time of world-historical struggle
but not immediate local political action. Le Roy Ladurie referred to it
as a “sterile time,” lacking the passion of the Resistance, or the strength
of feeling surrounding the Algerian War or the events of May 1968.70
The era was characterized predominantly by a strong but generalized anti-
Americanism – the communists demonstrating against visits of American
generals and presidents – coupled with marked anti-German feeling.71
The journal of the ENS cellule at this period almost never discussed
issues pertaining to the institution itself, except for an article on strikes at

68 See Mochon, “L’Ecole Normale et la politique,” p. 74. 69 Ibid., p. 59.
70 See also Derrida’s judgment in “The Time of a Thesis,” in Alan Montefiore, ed., Philosophy in
France Today (Cambridge University Press, 1983).
71 One of the favourite slogans was “Ridgeway-le-Peste,” referring to Matthew Bunker Ridgeway, a
leading American general in the Korean War, come to Europe as the Commander of the Allied
Forces. The slogan referred to allegations that he was responsible for the use of biological warfare
in Korea.

98 Derrida post-existentialist
the school in December 1953.72 It rather focused on international questions,
such as German rearmament, the war in Indo-China, the CED (Commu-
nauté Européenne de Défense), and the death of Stalin: “Stalin has gone,
his work remains.”73 In comparison to the 1960s, when the majority of
strikes at the Ecole militated for improved living conditions, wages, and
safety, in the early 1950s it was nuclear armament and the school’s role in
weapons development that sold communist pamphlets and got students
onto the streets.
With the attention focused at the international level, politics seemed a
battle of ideas, and the struggle more abstract than real and concrete. As
Gabriel Robin (Lettres 1949) declared,
the sounds of a world in tumult (Korea, Indo-China) broke through the walls
of our cloister all the more as we were persuaded to recognize there the echo of
another battle, the true one, our own, that which tore in two the Republic of
Letters, and had at stake, not the derisory movement of some frontier, but the
meaning of history and the future of the Spirit . . . That was what gave to the
séances at the Salle des Actes the allure of a revolutionary tribunal, before which,
from Tito’s rebellion to the trial of Mindszenty, the events of the day were cited
to be compared and to justify themselves.74
The obverse side of this intellectualization of politics was a politiciza-
tion of intellectual life. Perspectives on science in the very early 1950s
provide a case study for this phenomenon.75 With Pavlov in psychology
and Lysenko in biology, the Soviet Union hoped to promote a “prole-
tarian science” that would challenge Western “bourgeois” dominance.76
This challenge was particularly fraught over the question of biology, where
Lysenko’s adaptation-based “neo-Lamarckianism” fit communist ideology
better than the competition-driven Darwinian explanation, which seemed
to naturalize capitalist ideology.77 Thus before 1952, in numerous student
presentations on biology, a Lysenko approach was taken as a necessary

72 Up until the school year 1948–9, the majority of the newssheet touched on issues directly pertaining
to the school. From mid 1948, however, and later as the Cold War developed, the journal turned its
sights on national and international projects that only concerned the ENS indirectly, if at all.
73 March 1953 edition of ENS, the cellule journal, p. 6, in IMEC, ALT2, A43–03.02.
74 Peyrefitte, Rue d’Ulm, p. 302. Mindszenty was a Hungarian cardinal, arrested in December 1948
and tried in 1949. In February he was found guilty of conspiring against the Hungarian government
and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The main charge was his resistance to the secularization
of Hungary’s schools.
75 Science was a particularly important part of the Zhdanov project, and the journal Le Nouvelle
Critique in the period 1948–52 published articles supporting Lysenko in virtually every edition.
76 For a more detailed account of the affair see Dominique Lecourt, Lysenko (Paris: F. Maspero, 1976).
77 In fact Lysenko’s major opponent was Mendel, and his work is not incompatible with a Darwinian
model.

Normalization 99
critique of simplistic Darwinism. As a student (François Ricci) stated in
1949, setting up an opposition between Darwin’s purely efficient causes
and Kant’s finalism, “causality [Darwin] doesn’t explain enough, final-
ism [Kant] explains too much.”78 It was only the adaptive approach that
Lysenko supported, which offered a happy balance. Further, taking into
account the work and praxis of the individual, Lysenko’s biology sat bet-
ter with Marxist epistemology. Even such moderate Marxists as Foucault
subscribed to the view.79
In philosophy, adherence to Soviet Marxist orthodoxy and Lysenkoism
was perhaps easier than in the hard sciences, where such movement away
from Western scientific norms caused severe professional difficulties. For
Claude Engelmann, a biologist who entered the ENS in 1945 and like
many of his generation joined the Communist Party, the tension between
his political views and scientific practice proved too much. According to
Moulier Boutang, his suicide in 1949 is in part attributable to the conflict.80
The Lysenko affair had a powerful effect on the communists at the
Ecole, and from this perspective the portrayal of the cellule in the 1950s as
a tame Soviet lapdog is perhaps excessive. For it was precisely in reaction to
the affair that the Ecole cellule asserted itself against the French party. At
the conference of the PCF section de la Vème Arrondissement in May 1954,
Althusser addressed his comrades.81 The move followed hot on the heels
on the exclusion of Auguste Lecoeur in March of that year. Lecoeur, one
of the rising stars of the PCF, had enforced the commitment to Lysenko’s
biology in France, but had fallen out of favor with the death of Stalin and
a changed political landscape.
Althusser, representing the ENS cellule, expressed dismay that Lecoeur’s
“heterodoxy” had taken so long to be unearthed and, in what must have
been a bold intervention, blamed it on the excessive centralization of the
party in France, which quashed any criticism. Althusser offered the ENS
cellule as an appropriate site of critique, the intellectual elite of France who
should also be the intellectual elite of the Party. Even as Althusser presented
the ENS as the critical heart of the PCF, he declared it responsible for the
intellectual health of the nation as well. The goal was
78 François Ricci, “Explication en biologie,” 1949, in IMEC, ALT2, E5–01.
79 Fiszer, “Biologie, évolution,” February 6, 1951; Jean Laplanche “Finalité,” March 27, 1950; Michel
Foucault, “Que-ce que un fait σ ?” February 23, 1951; all in IMEC, ALT2, E5–01.
80 See Moulier Boutang, Louis Althusser: une biographie, p. 415.
81 The report was from Althusser and written for the ENS Langevin cellule for personnel, but
given the fonctionnaire stagiaire status of the students and the fact that this name was often used
interchangeably with that of the Elèves Communistes de l’ENS on the Communist newsletter, it
can be assumed that they were one and the same thing.

100 Derrida post-existentialist
to defend and further our ideological principles, those of Marxism-Leninism,
amongst the intellectuals, to make known the works of Soviet science and culture,
to develop our own scientific and artistic works inspired by the principles of
dialectical materialism and socialist realism: as many examples as will provide the
concrete demonstration of the justice and the richness of our principles, and will
lead more and more honest intellectuals to adopt our own ideological positions,
upon which French culture will tomorrow be built.82
The reaction to the Lecoeur exclusion was not to weaken the link between
the political and the academic, to reject the inter-mixing of politics and
science. On the contrary, Althusser wanted to strengthen it. If the ENS
cellule had an aspiration to be the guardian of orthodoxy in the PCF, this
boded even less well for those on the fringes of the cellule at the Ecole. The
effort towards a pure Marxism began at home.
The cellule saw its role in the promotion of Marxist-Leninism in the
party and beyond, at the most abstract and philosophical level. When
Althusser sought signs of bourgeois decadence, he found them not in
general culture, but in the university:
I think that in all fairness we must go much further and say that the ideological
concept of science represents at the current hour the most advanced form, a
characteristic form, of Imperialist bourgeois ideology. In an entire current of
bourgeois ideology, in effect, whether it is in the philosophy of history, from
Dilthey, Weber, up until Raymond Aron; or in social psychology and cultural
anthropology with the current American school, or whether in the history of
science with, to take but one example, the work of Canguilhem, or whether in
philosophy properly speaking with Heidegger and his epigones, we are witnesses
of the radical reduction of science to ideology, of which Heidegger’s philosophy
(and it is no coincidence) in an abstract form, provides the final philosophical
justification.83
The political oppositions of the time were translated for the students at the
Ecole into the academic realm. Indeed, the cellule saw intellectual work
and especially philosophy as the most pressing area of concern. It is for
this reason that they founded the Politzer Circle in 1948. Named after the
Marxist psychologist and resistance hero Georges Politzer, it intended to
inform both communists and non-communists alike of “the possibilities of
Marxist criticism.” Diagnosing the intellectual state of many students, the
group suggested that “Normaliens, whatever their intellectual orientation,
on the one hand prove each day, in their work and their activity, that the
universe of traditional culture is breaking up and is becoming more and
82 “Report of ENS cellule 1954,” IMEC, ALT2, A42–02.07.
83 Louis Althusser, “Sur la lutte idéologique,” IMEC, ALT2 A42–02.11, sheets 11–12.

Normalization 101
more distant from the real world, and on the other hand, imperiously feel
the need to bring back their disciplines and their activities to the world in
which they live.”84 The Politzer Circle organized seminars in all academic
subjects, from history and philosophy to mathematics and biology, to
remedy intellectual ills with the salve of Marxist-Leninist ideas. The focus
was thus predominantly on theoretical questions, where philosophy was
seen as the cornerstone discipline. For the Marxists at the Ecole the primary
struggle was academic, and the battleground was the classroom.
At its peak, this un- or hyper-critical Stalinism – to the other students
it amounted to much the same thing – firmly imprinted itself on life at
the ENS. Its influence was felt within the party; wobbly comrades were
sent to the caı̈man of philosophy to have their faith affirmed, or in the
terminology of the school, “se faire Althusser [to Althusser oneself].”85 But
more importantly it made itself felt outside of the party. By seeing its
mission in the grandest of historical terms, the cellule may have blinded
itself to immediate political demands, but it did remain acutely aware of
the political valence of intellectual life. As Mochon described, “the zealous
militantism which was demanded of the Normaliens, doubled up as a strict
intellectual discipline.”86
The Christians too presented a certain orthodoxy. After all, philosophical
study gave the opportunity to question materialist perspectives and open
up the possibility – through judicious references to Pascal, Kierkegaard, or
Marcel – of religious belief; religious commitments also manifested them-
selves in philosophical work.87 But, at a time when it was the communists
84 Marxist theory at the Ecole placed emphasis both on the students’ intellectual formation and on
the more material aspect of their lives, which was supposed to inform it. Jacques Juillard perhaps
best sums up this atmosphere governed by grand political dreams which had no immediate outlet
save in the academic sphere or the laughably banal: “[the communists] inundated us with petitions
in favor of political prisoners from around the entire world, except of course from the communist
world, and they assured us that the rearmament of Germany would certainly provoke a Third
World War. And, good materialists, they looked, in the struggle for the amelioration of our living
condition, for the spark that would make us ‘understand’; thus they were particularly active in the
Pot commission which regularly discussed with the Intendent the quality of the Friday fish.” Jacques
Julliard, “Rentrée dans les basses couches de l’atmosphère,” in Peyrefitte, Rue d’Ulm, pp. 120–2.
Derrida at the time was on the pot commission with Jacques Juillard. See “ENS: Vie associative et
sportive,” CAC, 930595/108. According to Marguerite Derrida, his culinary activism arose from his
food allergies.
85 François Dufay, Les Normaliens (Paris: JC Lattès, 1993), p. 200. According to Peeters, Derrida, “se
faire Althusser” referred also to academic support.
86 Mochon, “L’Ecole Normale et la politique,” p. 126.
87 The Marxist students included Lucien Sève, Arthur Krebs, and André Vergez. Among the Christians
were Jean Reynaud, Jacques Fauve, Olivier Bloch, Jean Beaulieu, and Hubert Grenier. In an
interesting move the communist Verret demonstrated a reverse development from traditionally
Marxist solutions to increasing mystical ones in the early 1950s. See “Agrégation exposés,” ALT2,
E5–01, 02, and 03.

102 Derrida post-existentialist
who were the most vibrant social grouping and the most evangelical, it was
they and not the Christians who were able to project their political and
philosophical influence outside the bounds of the party.

saving husserl and heidegger from sartre
The Ecole Normale Supérieure provided a space where the largest social
and political groups could exercise considerable philosophical influence
over the students. Philosophical positions were not isolated from general
social life, but had direct and powerful meanings there. Non-communists
felt considerable pressure to conform to party ideology, and, unable to
appeal to the relative sanctuary of the “Cave Tala,” non-aligned students
such as Michel Serres and Jacques Derrida were especially vulnerable. It
is consequently of vital import to understand the precise political valence
of certain philosophical positions, in order to understand how they might
have impacted upon Derrida’s development. For our purpose here, the
philosophical manifestations of social and political differences is most
important with respect to Sartre, Heidegger, and Husserl.
In an article that Althusser wrote under the pseudonym Pierre Découd
in 1949 discussing the agrégation exam in philosophy, he declared that
idealism as a philosophy was dead:88
After Munich, World War II, treason, resistance, in the face of the great strikes,
the threat of war, and the struggle for peace, you don’t need to be a psychologist
or a sociologist, it is enough to be a man to believe in history and in man, in the
science of human facts and Marxist rationalism, and to throw over the roofs the
carcass of the Kantian subject or the envelope of the Hegelian Spirit.89

Althusser interpreted the number of questions about history on the
agrégation exam as the self-recognition of a crisis within petit-bourgeois
philosophy. His criticism was aimed against the new interpretations of
Hegel, especially those of Kojève and Hyppolite, which focused too much
on the anthropological and subjective side of Hegel. This “revisionnisme
sorbonnard” was, according to Althusser, “fascist.”90 He, on the other hand,
emphasized the objective elements of Hegel’s thought, something that he
had promoted since his Mémoire thesis on the concept of content in

88 Louis Althusser, “Sujets d’agrégation,” IMEC, ALT2, A1–01.08. 89 Ibid.
90 “Le Retour à Hegel, dernier mot du revisionnisme universitaire,” IMEC, ALT2, A34–04, published
in La Nouvelle Critique 20 (1950), pp. 42–53, signed “La Commission de critique du cercle des
philosophes communistes.”

a Protestant with communist leanings. For some Sartre acted as a mediating figure. comparable to a Master’s thesis) and the practice agrégation exposés (oral presentations) of the period. Claude Papin (1948).” Sartre’s philosophy could be employed for almost any theme. “Connaissance d’autrui. Michel Gourinat (1949). including “Others” (autrui). ALT2.” “nothingness. 93 “L’enseignement de la philosophie. “Notes. what is most apparent about the first part of this period. and references to Hegel were predominantly negative. a card-carrying communist. It was a group that is surprising for its heterogeneity: Aubenque. “Présent.” November 20. and Claude Papin. far worse was “existentialo- fascist” philosophy. ALT2.” April 7. at this time. 1952.” “sentiment. or Gérard Granel (1949). the names of Kojève and other important Hegel commentators are not found in the ENS exposés. ALT2. even if he was no master thinker. 92 Louis Althusser.” and “psychoanalysis. Michel Foucault. took Sartre seriously. he was the last moment of their dissertation before a final critical but 91 Though Hegel had been an important interlocuteur in the first years after the War. or Michel Foucault. Pierre Aubenque (1947). From the beginning of this period up until 1953 or 1954 there were even a few figures who one might even call “existentialist” in a broad sense: students such as Jean-Jacques Rinieri (1944 promotion). “Néant. IMEC. 1950. At the ENS. E5–01. 1950. 1950. in IMEC.” Esprit (June 1954).91 But if the new Hegel interpretation was bad. is that Sartre was a constant reference for a large number of Normaliens on a wide range of subjects. E5–01. Heidegger and his “existentialist epigones. . up to the first two years of the 1950s. Pierre Aubenque.” “sig- nification. “time. who were central figures in the Tala community. all in IMEC. A49–01. which Althusser collected and preserved. leading Jacques Fauve. for all the stated Normalien dis- regard for the populist philosopher.05.” IMEC. “Sentiment. 95 Gérard Granel. A34–02. But apart from this noteworthy but small group of students. 94 Scheler and Husserl respectively see Jacques Fauve. was a standard reference for much of this period.” July 7.95 For many others.” that was presented as the greatest danger to historical materialism. and François Jodelet to phenomenology. The students. the move against Sartre can be seen in the DESs (Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures or Mémoire. ALT2.02. Normalization 103 Hegel.93 The indiscriminate raising of individual expe- rience to the realm of philosophical validity through the process of phe- nomenological description privileged subjective experience above objective science.94 or Gérard Granel towards Bergson.” February 13. Sartre. Gourinat and Granel. The battle lines were drawn between objective science and individ- ual experience.92 Indeed it was idealist phenomenology.” “emotion.

all in IMEC. “Le phénomène. a change precipitating around the presence at the Ecole of Jean Beaufret himself. IMEC. and Arnaud who continued doing so up until 1954. who was most often invoked.104 Derrida post-existentialist personal conclusion.” [undated. Sartre was unavoidable and respected. [unnamed]. followed Sartre through his attempt to suppress tradi- tional dualities but then criticized the reestablishment of such dualities in the system pour-soi/en-soi.96 Though rarely more than just a reference. and it was only Christians like Granel. in IMEC. “ et Metaϕ. ALT2.” 1950. never enjoyed the same popularity and certainly not the same breadth of appeal. “Néant. For instance Jean-Paul Milou. Very few of those referring to Heidegger after 1952 referred to Sartre at the same time. “Problème. an example of a pessimistic approach to intersubjectivity. Heidegger was read almost exclusively through the Corbin translation and discussed only in relation to Sartre. giving a modern twist to Kierkegaardian themes. first the communists and then later the Christians stopped referring to Sartre. Claude Papin. René Faucon-Lamboi. 99 See ENS Archives. E5–03. using Heidegger to justify openness to the divine. 97 See Claude Papin. Heidegger had been disaggregated from the existentialist mélange.98 After 1954 it is only on exposés about “autrui” that he was mentioned.100 And this was an interpretation that had cut its ties with Sartre. it was the Heidegger of What Is Metaphysics?. Also Michel Foucault. By the time Derrida arrived at the Ecole. to be sure. his consistent pres- ence in so many of these papers shows that. mapping Derrida’s time at the ENS. the only people who refer to Heidegger were those interested in mystical thought. Heidegger too suffered a decline in fortunes. “L’Homme mesure.99 But in the ENS. Rather he was just another existentialist approached through Sartre. From being a thinker of reference. Jean-Jacques Rinieri. probably 1951–2]. E5–01. . probably 1951–2]. Mémoire 1948/8. The existentialist age at the Ecole had come to an end. E5–01. or Pierre Greco. just as outside of the Ecole. 100 See Michel Gourinat. ALT2. ALT2. Philippe d’Harcourt. which Milou hoped to overcome in a Hegelian dialectic. “Temps. “Néant. and the existential analysis of Dasein. Now philosophers 96 Jean-Paul Milou.” [undated.” [undated.” 1955. When mentioned. he had become a useful example on a single subject. ALT2.” [undated. the Catholics were beginning to take seriously a new analysis of Heidegger. He had. probably 1950–1].97 But as the 1950s progressed. and then in passing along with a large number of other philosophers. IMEC. in a discussion of the néant (nothingness). E5–01. Indeed in the DESs that we have from the time. Faucon-Lamboi. probably 1949–50]. Mémoire 1946/3. 98 The communists really stopped referring to Sartre at the end of 1952.” 1954. and the place of the sacred. Gourinat. Between 1953 and 1957.” [undated. “Néant. probably 1952–3]. while he was not always endorsed. Sartre had lost his centrality.

104 However. Faucon-Lamboi. E5–03. IMEC. Husserl was presented almost always through the existentialists. one that would found a science.102 On the other side of the aisle.”106 The argument is clearly reminiscent of Thao’s and Lyotard’s. while Aubenque emphasized negative intentionality in an exposé on existence. which I discussed briefly in chapter 1. except for a few students like Pierre Aubenque or Michel Foucault. The existentialists. IMEC. Dussort. Husserl and Heidegger’s work was intimately connected with Sartre’s. ALT2. so did Husserl. “Notes. 102 Janicaud. 101 Cf. As we have seen. translated into Christian language.” which draws on the Corbin Heidegger and the existentialist Husserl. after the existentialist age. 105 Aubenque also wrote his DES on intentionality in Husserl.105 As Sartre began to lose his status in the early 1950s. True. Althusser. who in his 1949 article had attacked Sartre and Heidegger. 93. “Esquisse d’une esthètique phénoménologique. Grenier and Faucon-Lamboi studied Heidegger. did not blanketly condemn Husserl too. Alain Pons. probably 1955–6]. and Jodelet focused on Being. Heidegger en France. Pons and André Tubeuf wrote for the Catholic journal Cahiers Tala. “Négation chez Husserl et Hegel. and at least at this stage maintained a Sartrean interpretation. who had approached Husserl through Sartre. A58–04. particularly the return to the concrete. Granel. . Morin’s exposés often have a religious theme: see especially “Autrui. vol. exposé. and early Mémoires such as that by Jean-Jacques Rinieri. ENS Archive Mémoire 1946–3. 106 Louis Althusser. ALT2. Normalization 105 such as Gourinat. Faucon-Lamboi is later mentioned in the Annuaire of the Ecole as working at the Ecole Chrétienne à distance. not one invoked Husserl in their exposés. describing the “occult atmosphere” in which Gourinat. E5–01. Husserl’s project was like Kant’s.101 In his reminiscences. As Althusser suggested. II. 103 See Althusser.” [undated. “Hitler’s philosopher” (as Althusser named him in 1949) had no support among communists. ALT2.” which demands a mystical aspect for all interhuman relations. Derrida himself remarked upon the religious and spiritualist interpretation of Heidegger at the Ecole. probably 1949–50]. this was not true of Sartre’s other German source: Husserl.103 But if the communists were resistant to Sartre and Heidegger during Derrida’s stay at the ENS. Of those joining the Ecole in 1948. drawing on existential themes. at this stage Husserl remained but a passing reference. “Sujets d’agrégation. by the beginning of the 1950s a new Husserl inter- pretation was gaining currency outside of the ENS and it would soon find adherents within it.” 104 See Foucault.04.” IMEC. privileging the Sartrean reading. a transcendental philosophy. in the first part of this period. p. [undated. Many in the late 1940s cited his perspectivism. or the immanence of sense. on borrowing ideas from Husserl and Kant’s philosophy. “betray the still valid inspiration of those masters to whom they expressly adhere.

108 Thao had argued that Husserl’s thought had been tending ever further towards materialism. ALT2. 108 Tran Duc Thao. See Jacques Fauve.106 Derrida post-existentialist From 1950 this non-Sartrean interpretation of Husserl was beginning to show through in the Normalien exposés. “Le Problème de la peine. Phenomenology and Dialectical Materialism. according to Thao.” 1953.” January 23. Reidel. D.110 But. E5–02.107 For these students. 1953. readers who were still considering Husserl through the lens of Sartre. Thao’s influence was felt almost entirely by the communists. E5–01. IMEC. Husserl’s work provided a phenomenological justification for Marxist dialectical materialism. such as Foucault. trans. E5–01 and 03. it provided the foundation for science.” March 13. who by 1951 had left his Sartrean reading of phenomenology behind. we can see considerable development in the understanding of phenomenology in the ENS from 1950 to 1955. ALT2. by 1954 we see non-aligned students starting to absorb the Thao line – students like Pontevia. ALT2. “Méthode. Existence was no longer “absurd”. writer of the Crisis of the European Sciences and the Formal and Transcendental Logic. 1986). writing at the time when such a combination was possible. and Thao’s interpretation dominated. IMEC. sug- gested that the material substratum must be understood dialectically. probably 1949–50]. IMEC. and Bloch. 110 See Michel Gourinat. Reading student work.” [undated. Arnaud. But the real impetus to the new reading was the publication of Tran Duc Thao’s book in 1951. unlike Catholic ideas. Around half of the exposés that mention Husserl in that year make a direct reference to Thao. Now. which never found a receptive audience outside the group of Tala philosophers. Foucault “ϕ et σ . Indeed it was Foucault who recommended Tran Duc Thao’s book to Derrida. The process of genesis from this sphere. In the academic year 1952–3 Husserl came back with a vengeance. E5–01. ALT2. it spread to others.” the students focused on Husserl’s anal- ysis of the genesis of knowledge from the antepredicative sphere. or Dussort. . 1950. analyzing passive synthesis and genesis – that started to influence everyone by 1955. “L’Association des idées”. Herman and D. Starting with Jacques Fauve (pro- motion 1947). 109 See two unnamed exposés: “Objectivity. Other older Christian Husserlians like Gourinat writing at the same time do not seem to have absorbed the new interpretation. nor do Catholic students like Oswald Ducrot. something otherwise unheard of for the author of a secondary work. Read carefully. Husserl was a philosopher of science. Morano (Boston: D. moreover. where an openness to the pre-predicative sphere could explain the rise of science. rather than the author who returned to “the things themselves. IMEC. At the 107 Fauve was a communist whose work shows considerable mystical and religious leanings.109 At first.

. then those in between. By the mid 1950s and reflecting broader trends in French philosophy. . with many stu- dents regarding Sartre as a serious philosophical interlocutor.111 one will meditate on the work of Lenin.112 In addition to their different reading habits. derrida’s place Where. the other will prefer Bernanos or Léon Bloy. where Sartre’s critics hoped to salvage the existentialists’ main philosophical resources. it’s a student selling l’Humanité. It was only later. it was always and only through the existentialist interpretation. his philosophy teacher. But as the communist distrust of Sartre peaked in the 1950s. a knock on the door. that these thinkers returned to the Nor- malien canon. and finally the Christians dropped Sartre. Husserl and Heidegger. The ENS had entered into the post-existentialist world. 95 and 103. the two groups also adopted opposing stances on Husserl and Heidegger. At the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. or Témoignage Chrétien. can one locate Derrida? He cannot be placed unproblematically in either the com- munist or the Christian camp. who had only recently closed their mutual border. Normalization 107 beginning. pp. between the Catholic Etienne Borne. One person will spend the year reading Aragon’s The Communists or the new Soviet novelists. now disaggregated from each other. If Heidegger or Husserl was invoked. one would be inclined to group him with the Catholics. supported by the communists and the Christians respectively. in this highly fraught and politically charged institution. From his philosophical history. first the communists. even if for the majority he was an opponent. let us not forget the influence exerted by political and religious prefer- ences. 112 La Revue de Paris (March 1953). In a survey of the reading habits of Normaliens in 1953 written by Pierre Bandet. this division took on a structural dimension: Above all. Both looked to one or other of Sartre’s German influences for grounds to criticize existentialism. with the rise of new interpretations of Husserl and Heidegger. existentialism found a broad base of support. Normaliens had come to regard Husserl as a resource for Marxist scientific thought and Heidegger as a quasi-Christian thinker. the other the Bible or the Church Fathers . and along with him. Looking at the period when Derrida was at the Ecole. . and the 111 Georges Bernanos and Léon Bloy were mid-twentieth-century French Catholic writers. the greatest intellectual divide was that between the Christians and the communists.

115 Aziz Chouaki.”115 Combining support for the political and social development of the non-European Algerian population. See my “Liberalism and the Algerian War: the case of Jacques Derrida. Borne praised his student as “a candidate of the absolutely first order. who taught him history. “when I was in Hypokhâgne in Algiers.116 Comparing French colonialism unfavorably to the standards of French republicanism. pp.3 (1986). 116 Indeed it was only in the late 1950s that Derrida’s perspective on colonialism came to change. Paris Rouge 1944–1964 (Seyssel: Champ Vallon. We fought for a decolonization by the transformation of the special statutes for Algerians.” Archives nationals (hereafter AN). a Catholic anti-colonial activist. May 26. Jean Pariente and Louis Bianco formed the anti-Stalinist Committee for the Defence of Freedom. In a 1998 interview. I began to belong to leftist Algerian groups. Culture. Derrida’s political stance resembled that of liberals like Albert Camus. which would attract the ire of Algerian nationalists and French communists in the later 1950s and early 1960s.” whereas Tersen remarked simply that he had “a very solid and serious year. 1991). 1952. L’Etoile d’Alger (Alger: Marsa. Derrida leaned towards Borne. he with Derrida. that one day Derrida would join the cellule. as Marguerite Derrida has recalled. Thus. p.”113 Further. 76–7. but suggests a significant divergence on matters of ideology. AJ 61. . 35. 173. in ’47. and there seems precious little other evidence for its existence. I belonged to groups that took a stance. ’8 and ’9 and I was 17 years old.” 117 Interview Marguerite Derrida. See Jean-Pierre Bernard. this “liberal” position. “The Struggle for Symbolic Order: An Interview with Pierre Bourdieu. 118 According to Bourdieu.117 According to Derrida’s own account it was to dissident left-wing groups that he belonged. Without being for Algerian independence. along with his friends Lucien Bianco and Pierre Bourdieu:118 “when I was a student at the Ecole Normale (we have to speak 113 “ENS: Concours d’entrée. may have made Derrida sympathetic to many of the communists’ social aims. with a resistance to calls for Algerian independence. we were against the harsh politics of France.108 Derrida post-existentialist Marxist Emile Tersen. and Society 3. and his identification with the French of Algeria would last far longer. (Pierre Bourdieu.” Theory. Axel Honneth. we can understand why he never did. 130. I was politically aware. 114 André Mandouze. 2007. Hermann Kocyba and Bernd Schwibs. p. The feeling was mutual. Mandouze114 was around at that time.) But we must remember that Bourdieu made his claim after Pierre Juquin had identified him as a member of the cellule in Le Monde. and in a report card sent to the ENS for entry in 1952. though by the time Derrida arrived at the Ecole Le Roy Ladurie might have been convinced. Derrida stated. we can plausibly trace Derrida’s suspicion of the Communist Party to his Algerian background. 1998).

In this position. and political forces at the Ecole would have placed considerable pressure on Derrida’s philosoph- ical ideas. he could never join them. If Derrida was close to the Talas philosophically and even personally. They were comprised of people who went to Mass and joined together for prayer and religious service. Derrida would marry in Boston during his year at Harvard from 1956 to 1957. 119 Sprinker.”119 If the complexities of Derrida’s Jewish Algerian background were obsta- cles to his wholehearted acceptance of communism. a marxist husserl? The realignment of Derrida’s philosophical position was never total. The Talas were pre- dominantly a social group. they must have made his relationship to the Talas even more difficult. the Tala journal.120 But for all this personal closeness. Rather Derrida found himself on the outskirts of the cellule. p. whose sister. 199. Marguerite. he main- tained earlier interests. the school’s communist group was truly hegemonic – Stalinist and hegemonic. The Althusserian Legacy.” Derrida presented his work as a meditation on the phenomenological reductions. it is clear that Derrida was never a Tala. 120 Aucouturier and Abirached both wrote for Vin Nouveau. . In his first two essays written at the Ecole. one on the “idea of simplicity” and the other on the “unconscious. including Robert Abirached and Michel Aucouturier. Derrida turned to the only one of his early sources regarded by the communists as ideologically acceptable: Husserl. ideological. He was thus particularly susceptible to the social influ- ence of the communists. Though he was close philosophically with the Talas. As Derrida conformed to the philosophical norms of ENS Marxism. The particular conjuncture of social. It was very difficult not to join the Party. Normalization 109 about this they aren’t anecdotes). And it was extremely difficult for someone on the Left (need I remind people that I’ve always been on the Left?) to be thought of only as a crypto-communist or a fellow traveler. who were at the peak of their power. it was no longer possible for him to make explicit reference to Christian existentialism. he was never one of them. attracted perhaps to their political project. Derrida’s friends at this time included many Catholics. but resistant to their philosophical ideas. and able to impose their ideas with an unrivalled ease on a certain section of the student body.

Rather than the privileged moment of immediacy.” Irvine. which does not have to justify itself with respect to any general value or category”: it was the simplicity of the pour-soi. The “aesthetic reduction” was.” sheet 5. “L’Inconscient. See also Derrida.29.”123 Recognizing the absence of any compelling reasons for com- mitting to one particular path. in the ethical reduction.110 Derrida post-existentialist But his were not the familiar épochè. as Derrida saw in Freud’s sexual reductionism.122 The second reduction attempted to provide an ethic. free from any determination. appear to my knowledge nowhere else in the phenomenological canon. the reduction down to the pure immediacy of a moment without relation: absolute discontinuity. one had to struggle through complication to find the simple elements that controlled it. sheet 3. for Derrida. one can define the aesthetic attitude as the cult of the pure individual. or a system 121 It corresponds to what Derrida had.” The first two. of the singularity irreducible to the concept and the relation. It was related to Jung’s collective unconscious that supplied moral imperatives. it was the conquered whole that had precedence. as reductions.” 122 Jacques Derrida. one had to clear away complexity to find the simple elements out of which it was composed. at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. the ethical was described by Derrida as “the moment when the philosopher attempts to give a concept. “L’Idée de simplicité. 123 Ibid. “with Kierkegaard. “the simplicity of the immediate. . to integrate all elements into a totality.” the “ethical. called the “secret. to the instant as an absolute beginning. In the “The Seducer’s Diary” from Either/Or the seducer immerses himself in the sensuous and explicitly avoids taking responsibility for his acts. hoping to remain forever at the moment of the choice. a category.” and the “transcendental. 1. Derrida had translated Christian existentialism into phe- nomenology. As these descriptions make clear. a hidden order governing the mass of conscious acts. Rather Derrida organized his work around three reductions that he labeled the “aesthetic. As Derrida elaborated. without an integrated place in a larger whole. The aesthetic moment for Kierkegaard was the moment of pure indeterminacy. The “aesthetic reduction” was the appeal to the pre-reflexive. eidetic and transcendental reduc- tions of the German phenomenologist. On the other hand.121 In the unconscious it was the realm of immediate emotion. Derrida reductions were a rewriting in Husserl’s language of the first two stages described in Kierkegaard’s Either/Or. both Derrida’s and Kierkegaard’s aesthetic responds to a denial of the concept. While in the aesthetic reduction.

Derrida’s social position drew him away from his previous philosophical stance. But like Kierkegaard’s aesthetic and ethical realms. It subordinated phenomenology to the religious questions that had motivated Derrida’s earlier thought. he was closer to the communists. immobilizes itself in the sphere defined by Kierkegaard as that of the general. of duty. whereas the ethi- cal made that choice on unfirm ground. moving (if never completely) from one to the other side of the opposition that marked the post-Sartrean philosophical world. Derrida’s third option. As such. the transcendental encompassed both reductions. It comprised spirit and matter. unwilling to make a choice or to engage.125 It com- bined the variability of the aesthetic and the moral striving of the ethical. in the ENS socially. Normalization 111 to the unconscious substance. the ethical recognized the necessity of making a binding life-choice that would determine action in all situations. and for political reasons. Though not presented as such. Derrida’s reduc- tions were ultimately inadequate. . He was under enor- mous pressure to tone down any references to mystical thinking. one might suggest that this transcendental was not open to human knowledge. come what may. etc.” might compare with the religious stage in Either/Or. conscious- ness and the unconscious. best represented by marriage. And though Derrida’s work at the Lycée Louis-le- Grand would seem to place him philosophically close to the Christians. uncovering the intentionality of human reality that could never be contained within one determined system. The aesthetic remained too detached from reality. but could only be grasped through faith. a “transcendental reduction. of formalism. 125 Derrida. of repetition. The ethical consists in an absolute commitment.” sheet 12. This precarious position manifested itself in his work. and to reframe his ideas in a manner that would be acceptable to the communists at the Ecole. when the aesthetic attitude. and subsume human freedom. As Derrida described it. 124 Ibid. “L’Idée de simplicité. From the indeterminacy of the aesthetic. Kierkegaard contrasted the aesthetic to the ethical stage. conclusion The mapping of philosophical positions onto social groupings at the ENS was not a simple one-to-one translation.”124 In Either/Or. reflecting upon itself.

.112 Derrida post-existentialist When Derrida dressed Kierkegaard up as Husserl. That he succumbed fully to neither would leave its mark on his future philosophy. he did it in response to a very particular social and philosophical situation. It was his response to a disparity between his social and philosophical positions. a compromise that marked his distance at once from both the communists and the Catholics. Given the situation at the Ecole. we can imagine that Derrida felt both a communist and a Christian temptation. restyling them for a changed environment. The translation allowed him to render old ideas acceptable.

with the support of Père Van Breda. The Problem of Genesis in Husserl’s Philosophy. and his notes from the visit are relatively slim. had been allowed to visit and consult the Husserl archives at Louvain. a visit to the Husserl archives at Louvain became an important qualifica- tion for up-coming students of Husserl’s works. It showed Derrida to be a serious student of Husserl and not an existentialist hoping for a validation of his or her own theories.1 the 1990 publication of his student thesis (his Mémoire). Speech and Phenomena from 1967. about two weeks according to his wife. 2 Interview with Marguerite Derrida. His visit was short. Following the example of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.2 Rather than providing any actual mate- rial that he may have gleaned from the thousands of pages of Husserl’s stenographed notes. 2007. After the controversy caused by his most famous text on the German phenomenologist. c h a p t er 4 Genesis as a problem Derrida reading Husserl Derrida’s 1954 dissertation is often presented as proof of his mastery of Husserl. both the translated and untranslated works. May 26. Derrida studied not only published books and articles but. the visit was significant in that it legitimized Derrida as a phenomenologist. seemed to demonstrate a much more conventional reading of Husserl. 1991). Claude Evans. 113 . The visit to the archives at Louvain was perhaps more significant for what it indicated about Derrida’s interest in Husserl than for what he learnt there. We might then be tempted 1 See J. for the close reading of a paragraph over the all-encompassing theory of a life’s work. Strategies of Deconstruction (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. The drive to completeness and the comprehensive scope of Derrida’s Mémoire perhaps seems at odds with Derrida’s later concern for the marginal over the totalizing. one that was more readily assimilated by the phe- nomenological community. He dealt with Husserl’s entire oeuvre from his earliest publica- tions to his last essays. Derrida’s credentials in this earlier study were impeccable. playing only a small role in his analysis for the Mémoire.

5 See “ENS Rapport d’activité 1953–4. Derrida noted a “mysterious” element that disrupted Husserl’s attempt at a solution. these acted as a pretext for other. but by introducing the term “problem” into the title of his Mémoire. often with a reference to Husserl. not only do the old themes remain. I would like to suggest that the true significance of the Mémoire thesis lies outside of phenomenology narrowly defined. merely superficial. the Problem of Genesis does play with the marginal. Derrida wanted to understand this constant necessity to restart. This downplaying of the mystical was.” As I will go on to argue. declaring to his sister that phenomenology must begin again. themes. 178. and Joshua Kates. 930595/62. For “problem” was one pole of Gabriel Marcel’s central opposition. be overly hasty. Only a recognition and acceptance of the mystery 3 See Derrida. the mundane counterpoint to the incalculable “mystery. He had registered his Mémoire at the beginning of the year as “Studies on the Notion of Genesis in Husserl. however. 2005). indeed the last paragraph of Derrida’s dissertation cited Husserl on his deathbed. Essential History (Evanston: Northwestern University Press.”5 but when he came to write it the title had changed to “The Problem of Genesis in Husserl’s Philosophy. p. though the question of the Mémoire was clearly Normalien and the language phenomenological. even if we cannot discount its role.” The change may seem insignificant. Genesis and Trace (Stanford University Press. The Problem of Genesis. 2005) amongst others. Derrida and Husserl (Bloomington: Indiana University Press.4 As I have explained. however. within the Ecole. For as we shall see.3 In his thesis. the instability and movement of Husserl’s philosophy as it was described in Derrida’s book arose from Husserl’s continued attempt to pose “genesis” as a problem. Derrida signaled the importance of a thinker he had ceased to invoke explicitly since his arrival at the ENS. Despite much important work that has been done in recent years proving the centrality of Husserl for the early Derrida. but they are right at the heart of Derrida’s project. and Derrida continued to discuss earlier themes in phenomenological garb. 2003). In the 1954 Problem of Genesis in Husserl’s Philosophy. Such a move would. Derrida’s preoccupation with existentialist and mystical philosophy was sidelined in favor of a sustained study of the conditions and possibility of science and objectivity. 4 See the very important and valuable work by Leonard Lawlor. . At each stage of Husserl’s philosophy. older. Der- rida did not try to close off phenomenology. that is a question susceptible to a definitive answer. Firstly. but in a different way. Paola Marrati. His guiding thesis was the impossibility of a rigorous and stable definition of phenomenology.” CAC. Secondly.114 Derrida post-existentialist to draw a line between this early student work and the later “mature” philosophy.

one can say that the mysterious was both the condition of the possibility and the condition of the impossibility of science. the question of the history of science. 1953. and the section of Psychology and the Object. 1965). But the difference between the two as it is considered today is misleading. of the genesis of objectivity. p.8 In the 1950s in France. The mystical Marcel was invoked to remedy the scientistic Tran Duc Thao’s ills. he hoped to explain the validity of the categories whose genesis he studied. One seemed to study the transcendental conditions of science in general.” January 16. in Jean Piaget and Maurice de Gandillac. the choice of subject could be explained by the simultaneously his- torical and normalien conjuncture. “Objectivité. and in his concept of “genetic epistemology” Piaget saw his work as being more than just a description of empirical development. In his later language.”6 It was these twin contexts. in his Mémoire. undertook a deconstruction of the thought of objectivity. Jean Beaulieu. both that of the ENS and that of the wider philosophical community. that set the initial terms for Derrida’s Mémoire.. II. Having read Tran Duc Thao and a little Husserl. Entretiens sur les notions de genèse et de structure (Paris: Mouton. And thus. As we shall see. he was “upping the ante” on Thao. 94.7 The rapprochement of the two authors strikes us today as odd: on the one hand the phenomenologist who had rejected psychologism. while the other applied the methods of a particular science to understand human development. vol. What did the question of objectivity mean at the ENS in the early 1950s? In the various exposés on the problem two names occur more than any others. but also profoundly rejecting him. 8 See the debate between Derrida and Piaget in the 1959 conference. 6 Janicaud. . 1953. in some way. and for both the question of objectivity was intimately connected to that of “genesis”: Husserl and Piaget. Genesis as a problem 115 that escaped all rational thought could allow one to comprehend the aporias of objectivity. 7 See especially the bundle on “Objectivité. Heidegger in France. ALT2. E5–02. IMEC. Derrida said that he “had been able to pre-identify. the development of phenomenology in France made it progressively more open to the contributions of the positive sciences. for which the study of Husserl was merely the occasion. Derrida. and on the other a scientist who hoped to make sense of the empirical developmental stages of the categories of a child’s understanding. genesis at the ens Derrida described the circumstances surrounding his Mémoire in an inter- view with Dominique Janicaud. As Derrida suggested in his 1990 Introduction. eds. January 16.” 1952–3.

10 The word “genesis.” the central preoccupation of Derrida’s Mémoire. IMEC. One of Piaget’s most famous experiments tracked the genesis of our idea of objectivity.. La Psychologie de l’intelligence. the child will start to look behind the screen to retrieve the lost toy. Colin. the category of permanence had arisen genetically from the child’s interaction with the world. Beaulieu. “Psychologie et notion de l’objet. 1952. 1953.12 This did not mean that Piaget was accepted uncritically. It was Piaget who brought the term “genesis” to the center of French philosophical vocabulary. Piaget even had exposés devoted solely to his thought throughout the time Derrida was at the ENS.” February 29. ALT2. Derrida “Psychologie et objet”. 11 IMEC. Individual treatments in 1950–1. E5–02. E5–02. While Tran Duc Thao resorted to a Piaget-inspired analysis of human development to resolve problems he encountered at the heart of Husserl’s project. Pierre Artemko. 12 See Michel Verret. a rare privilege. and even ethics. “Notion de réalité. a toy placed behind a screen will cease to be of interest. correlated to the age of the child. pp. who explained Husserl’s turn to genetic philosophy. 1952. 1952). object. He traced the movement from the child’s first reaction to the world to the mature concepts of number. Piaget and Husserl were figured as philosophical opponents arguing over the same questions. the term genesis was only used in discussions of Piaget. 02.” [undated. . The result was a set of stages. in the ENS exposés. Arthur Krebs.” January 16.9 Jean Piaget was a child psychologist based in Geneva. “L’Idéalisme. which defined normal development.116 Derrida post-existentialist Piaget and Husserl looked more compatible than at any time before or since. E5–01. 10 See Jean Piaget. This is the example that Derrida used in his exposé “Psychologie et objet. and it is not surprising that Tran Duc Thao. probably 1953–4]. p. According to Piaget’s interpretation. found its greatest resource and support in Piaget’s writings at the time. should follow his analysis with a discussion of Piaget’s own genetic epistemology. observations and experiments on his own children suggested to Piaget a developmental model of human intelligence. Opposing innate ideas of intelligence. 1956–7. 130–3.” February 21. 49. all IMEC. 03.11 He was an unavoidable philosophical presence. for often the empirical nature of his work and its psychologism – the rooting of rational 9 See also ibid. ALT2. ALT2. A newborn child at first only pays attention to objects in its field of vision. other phenomenologists would see in the German master the only way to secure the objective validity of Piaget’s system. Outside of Derrida’s own work and those referring to Thao. “Objectivité”. 3rd edn (Paris: A. But as experience of the world leads the child to recognize that objects persist even when they can no longer be seen.

trans. For instance. Insofar as Husserl’s transcendental constitution was temporal. In the final section. 1956). 14 As we shall see. presence. Piaget’s theories gained their legitimacy. The retention of a previous and already constituted moment was crucial because it suggested that the transcendental was not a simple origin but was already contaminated with the world: “philosophy of discovery [découvrement] and recovery [recouvre- ment]. probably from the year 1954–5.14 The insufficiencies of Piaget’s psychologism led Derrida. Derrida dedicated one of three sections to a presentation of Piaget’s theories. 2003). D. it appeared to be the unveiling of a pre-existent teleology. Willard (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers. if critically. 15 See Beaulieu.” . it seems. Genesis as a problem 117 structures in empirical psychology – sat badly with the philosophers at the Ecole. “Objectivité. and the genesis he described was often regarded as false because the development of the child always followed the same fixed path. The recovery essential to discovery. and future. it had a tripartite structure: retention.” He felt that empirical psychological facts were insufficient to ground the category of the object. But it is significant that the section on Husserl did not represent the final section of the exposé. Rather than the upsurge of the truly new. opposed Piaget’s “psychologism. Derrida concluded by reasserting. Piaget’s work was distinguished from philosophy due to its methodology. like most of the others at the Ecole. especially the Psychologie de l’intelligence and Le Jugement morale chez l’enfant (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. this is the same analysis that Derrida will give of Husserl’s own early psychologistic work. The Philosophy of Arithmetic. “Psychologie et objet. Der- rida. correspond- ing essentially to the past. Derrida too cited Piaget extensively. according to Derrida. by appealing to a pre-existing and unac- knowledged logic. and protention.”16 Temporality united the con- stituting (philosophy/discovery) and the constituted (psychology/recovery) and so the psychological and empirical analysis of the rise of the categories 13 We also have notes taken by Derrida on Piaget. and I will discuss them later in this chapter.” 16 Derrida. present. the genesis of the idea of the object through the action of the child merely revealed an unacknowledged prior synthesis of the object existing in the world. to find surer ground in transcendental phenomenology. No quantity of empirical and messy data of the actual functioning of the brain could ever provide us with the accuracy and clarity of logical laws.15 His arguments drew on the analyses in his Mémoire.13 In an exposé on psychol- ogy and the notion of the object. they could not explain the “abrupt jump [saut brusque]” from the empirical to the logical. like at least one of his ENS contemporaries. the rights of psy- chology.

18 Exposés from 1952–3.17 Following Thao. which drew heavily on Tran Duc Thao’s account. Husserl was also referenced in exposés on “evidence. and for textual support they turned to his later “genetic” writings.118 Derrida post-existentialist of experience in Piaget was pertinent to understanding the purely tran- scendental genesis described by Husserl. one student concentrated exclusively on the attempts of both static and genetic phenomenology to deal with the problem of objectivity. where a renewed interest in Husserl’s works served as a means to delegitimize Sartre’s existentialism. not its impossibility. a careful phenomenological analysis would explain the existence of scientific meaning latent in the world of experience. symptomatic of a new approach to the phenomenologist. The appeal to Husserl to answer questions of objectivity and the validity of science was. ones that. when Derrida entered the Ecole. as I suggested in the last chapter. references by other students to Husserl had come to focus almost entirely on his logical work. When Derrida chose to study the problem of genesis in Husserl’s philosophy the project fit perfectly into the philosophical and political mores of his context. The shift is most visible in the difference between two books entitled Phénoménologie that appeared in 1951 and 1954. he asserted. Trying to move away from Sartre’s supposed “idealist” reading of Husserl. E5–02. E5–02. Sartre’s stu- dent and advocate. the students at the Ecole saw him rather as trying to ground science. saw his mentor’s work as the ultimate expression of the 17 IMEC. could only be understood through the appeal to a materialist dialectic. Sense was not the free act of the subject but was based on an intentional connection to the object. towards a materialist phenomenology The changing approach to Husserl in the ENS reflected broader trends in French philosophy. ALT 2. ALT 2. In his 1951 introduction to phenomenology. then existence could no longer simply be regarded as “absurd.” Rather. the student drew attention to aporias at the heart of phenomenology. Francis Jeanson.18 At the Ecole the study of Husserl meant the possibility of founding objective truth on immediate experience. The concern for scientificity at the Ecole linked Husserl’s transcendental and Piaget’s empirical account of the genesis of objectivity. By 1952. IMEC. .” with his concentration on the ante-predicative sphere from which objects can be constituted. In an exposé from 1952–3. If a passive genesis (recovery) played an important role in the production of scientific knowledge.

to a grounding of that constitution in a passive synthesis in the life-world (Lebenswelt) (1930s). For this strand of phenomenology Jeanson pointed to the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Phenomenology. highlighting the role of “a more radical zone of subjectivity. 1951). and Ideas: General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology. Lyotard gave pride of place to Merleau-Ponty and Tran Duc Thao. understood the importance of passive synthesis. . 1970). 8. For a representative work from the 1930s see Edmund Husserl. trans. 23 See Jean-François Lyotard. he suggested. 2nd edn (Paris: Téqui. according to Jeanson. 22 Edmund Husserl. When Husserl seemed to suggest that this too was the result of the constituting power of consciousness – and hence verged on idealism – Jeanson explicitly rejected the idea. emphasized the respon- sibility of the subject for the “sense” of the world. pp. W.” this did not. 74–81 and 95–6. Jeanson acknowledged the existence of the inert en-soi that was independent of the acts of consciousness. Findlay (New York: Humanities Press. 68–70. But if Jeanson asserted the freedom of consciousness in the attribution of “sense. La phénoménologie. Three years later. J. 70. The Crisis of the European Sciences.21 In addition to the phenomenology of human subjectivity. see also pp.22 Sartre. Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press. through the constitution of those essences by a transcendental ego in Ideas (1913). 2000). Boyce Gibson (New York: Macmillan.” in Maurice Merleau-Ponty. and thus reasserted the existing world as the ground of that synthesis. Logical Investigations. in Lyotard’s analysis.”19 Concentrating on a phenomenological description of emotions. he undertook of history of Husserl’s thought.. 19 Francis Jeanson. 20 Jeanson. Jean-François Lyotard published another overview of phenomenology. p. For. Both.”20 Once this authorship was recognized. the discovery of the final stage of Husserl’s thought. La Phénoménologie.23 Instead of Sartre’s existentialism. Parcours deux 1951–1961 (Lagrasse: Verdier. lead to idealism. then one could take responsibility for the free acts of consciousness. “Les Sciences de l’homme et la phénoménologie. trans. pp. 1952). which saw the subject as author of the world. In this final stage the essence was “given” in intuition. which investigated the phenomena that were independent of the subject. there was another realm of phenomenology. he thought. See also Maurice Merleau-Ponty. 122. 1970). trans. He traced the movement from the eidetic analyses of the Logical Investigations (1900–1) that privileged stable essences. 21 Ibid. Jeanson asserted that phenomenology concerned itself with those acts of which “consciousness is the author. Genesis as a problem 119 movement. In the first part of his book. 66 and 71. like Sartre. La Phénoménologie (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. p. 1954). the subject’s role was limited only to their understanding. drew entirely from the second stage. p. D.

by the early 1950s it became increasingly common to trace Sartre’s philosophical genealogy back to Husserl. it became the central preoccupa- tion in French phenomenology.25 The criticism then seems to be in bad faith. Before 1950 most French phenomenologists had ignored any change in Husserl’s thought. Pierre Thévenaz’s 1952 overview of the phenomenological movement. Thus while Beaufret’s seminal “A propos de l’existentialisme” from 1945 hardly mentioned the founder of phe- nomenology. though drawing parallels between Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger. The ability to relate Sartre and Husserl arose from a rising interest in Husserl’s development. a similar charge of idealism was leveled at the Husserl of Ideas. The Imagination. Simultaneously. Sartre’s philosophy turned out to be the opposite of existentialism. 1941). Virtually every article or book written on Husserl presented itself first and foremost as a history of his thought. Such an access to essences was achieved not by privileging existence. suggested that Sartre really took 24 Lyotard. La Phénoménologie. or had relegated it to a footnote. 5. Editions Montaigne. 25 Even Jeanson saw Sartre as at the “essentialist” end of existentialism: La Phénoménologie. however. a “simplistic subjectivism.24 He tied Sartre to Husserl.120 Derrida post-existentialist So Lyotard argued that Sartrean existentialism and indeed Jeanson’s book offered the very type of idealism.” that Jeanson had tried to reject. 123. In part the change can be read as the transference of interest. or at least ironic. of the Wesensschau that gave us a privileged access to “essences. p. The majority of philosophers in the 1950s strongly criticized what they saw as the excesses of Sartre’s conception of freedom. and the assim- ilation of Husserl into the canon: a move from live theory to the history of philosophy. say. 26 An exception would be Gaston Berger’s Le Cogito dans la philosophie de Husserl (Paris: Aubier. But this too hopes to understand the connection with existential philosophy. How was the identification of Sartre’s system with Husserlian idealism effected? The answer will take us through the history of phenomenology and its fraught relationship to existentialism.26 For the first half of the 1950s. But such an explanation misses the intellectual stakes of a historical reading of Husserl’s thought. the philosopher of eidetic analyses. but rather by bracketing it in the phenomenological reduction.” which governed all existence. repeating the claims of Husserl’s first students such as Edith Stein. This view was drawn more from the broad analyses of Existentialism Is a Humanism than the sophisticated phenomenological analyses of Being and Nothingness or. Ideas was the main Husserlian text that Sartre had used for his own philosophy. p. . Even better.

1947). for attempts to follow the path from “phenomenology to existentialism. moving from idealism to empiricism. Was the constituting ego primary in that it could freely attribute sense to the content of intuition. It was for these reasons that Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Le Choix–le monde–l’existence (Grenoble: B. with Sartre everything was effaced. 1949). Tran Duc Thao. This was the motive behind most historical studies of Husserl’s thought in the early 1950s.. is actually found in the work of an American phenomenologist. But the concentration on the later Husserl did provide resources for a criticism of Sartre’s version. Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl (Cambridge. An analysis of Derrida’s other sources provides some interesting insights into his work.29 The difference between the early and later Husserl was cast as his chang- ing understanding of the relationship between the constituting ego and intuition. Genesis as a problem 121 his lead from Husserl. Farber used “logocentric” to refer to the forgetting of origins diagnosed by Husserl in the Crisis of the European Sciences. 296.: published for the University of Buffalo by the Harvard University Press. After all.” Alphonse de Wael- hens. Marvin Farber: see his “The Idea of a Presuppositionless Philosophy. as some passages from Ideas seemed to suggest? Or rather did what was given 27 See. the later Husserl seemed to privilege existence over essence: he might turn out to be more existentialist than Sartre. “Qu’est-ce que la phénoménologie?”.. For instance. or Merleau-Ponty. ed.” often seen as Derrida’s neologism. Sartre. with his emphasis on the pre-predicative life-world as the ground for the constitu- tion of science and reason. It did not. 28 See Thévenaz. mean a criticism of existentialism in general. 1940). 53. saw Husserl as surpassed. While Husserl had reduced the empirical world and factual claims of existence to arrive at the transcen- dental sphere of the phenomenological subject. the term “logocentric.28 If Sartre’s thought could be equated with a radicalization of Husserl’s project as expressed in his Ideas.27 Sartre was a phenomenologist in the Husserlian tradition because his definition of the pour-soi resulted from a radicaliza- tion of the phenomenological reduction. 29 I draw my references predominantly from Derrida’s bibliography and have concentrated purely on post-1950 French phenomenology. ed. This term was borrowed from a 1926 review of the second edition of Russell’s Principia Mathematica in the journal Isis to refer to the problems of the self-foundation of logic. Vrin. and Jean Wahl should place so much value on Husserl’s final “genetic” phenomenology. Logocentrism is a fault twinned with egocentrism. both assuming that rational thought can ground itself. Pierre Thévenaz. equating the transcendental subject with the nothingness of the pour-soi. Mass. and Emmanuel Levinas’s “avant-propos” to En découvrant l’existence avec Husserl et Heidegger (Paris: Librairie philosophique J. Arthaud. “Qu’est-ce que la phénoménologie?” Revue de théologie et de philosophie (1952). p. “De la Phénoménologie à l’existentialisme. necessarily.” in Jean Wahl.” in Marvin Farber. p. and only of interest to those trying to understand Heidegger. then an analysis of Husserl’s develop- ment after Ideas – how he had moved beyond idealism – would work as a surrogate critique of Sartrean existentialism. .

In the phenomenological model. 1952).122 Derrida post-existentialist in intuition determine the way in which it was constituted. its ability to constitute the world as it saw fit. often material.’ oscillates between the instauration of sense and creation. the answer was intentionality. processes. . from different angles. In America. we may come across different perspec- tives of what later we come to call a chair. – and because of this 30 Berger. which unifies the differing sense impressions. but Husserl never really developed this theme: “with Husserl the sense of ‘transcendental constitution. For Husserl. and the problem had not been formulated in this way.. the constituted guiding the process of constitution. Our sensory input is in constant flux. Many of these analyses relied on an immediate appeal to the concept of intentionality that aimed to tie the constituting subject to the constituted world. p. Considered intentionally. Communists saw the subjectivist “idealist” reading as yet another form of bourgeois ideology. and to square the circle of an immediate givenness to consciousness and the constitution of intentional objects. From each of these perspectives the sensory input is different. . even if the transcendental subject still constituted alone. As Eugen Fink suggested. the discussion concentrated on Husserl’s con- cept of intentionality. because it emphasized the freedom of the subject. the perception of the object. below. The question arises how we experience these changing aspects or Abschattungen as those of a unified object. to preserve it “in its character of being at once intuitive and creative. p.”30 and yet he did not really explain how this could be possible. 79. 31 Herman van Breda. We see it from above. for they posed thought and philosophy as superstructures to more originary. On a more technical level. Those emphasizing a prior constitution that the subject passively received were easier to accept into the Marxist fold. . Problèmes actuels de phénoménologie (Brussels: Desclée de Brouwer. each Abschattung is one particular perspective on a unified object – perspective of .”31 But with the Cold War. 94. for many like Marvin Farber the suspension involved in the reduction allowed what was bracketed to be used as a fil conducteur. the question of the role of the ego and its relationship to the world became of pressing importance. it was intentionality that allowed the subject to grasp the unity of an object. Gaston Berger in 1940 had tried to avoid the language of activity and passivity in constitution. the constituting and constituted are brought together by intentionality. For instance. prefiguring and guiding the action of the ego? Traditionally in phenomenology the line had been blurred. Le Cogito dans la philosophie de Husserl. ed.

p. En découvrant l’existence.34 The move was repeated in Levinas’s reading of Husserl.”35 Though Levinas resisted the idea of the free construction of objects. conversely. where “man is already submerged in existence” (p.” but these found their ground in a transcendental sphere. . 25). at the end of the day. Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl.33 Inauthenticity is the false belief that we are determined from the outside.. reducible in principle to a sense. and thus – before even being a subjugation of mind [Esprit] to beings – it is liberty and origin. and the idealist viewpoint drawing on Ideas emphasized this. this intentional object “constituted” by consciousness was called the “noema.. 37 Berger. who tied the acceptance of the “ego actif” to Heideggerian authenticity: it is authentic to recognize the role of the transcendental ego in the constitution of the world. It was this view that was imputed to Sartre and espoused by a few others such as Père Van Breda. the ego is able to “constitute” its object through the various Abschattungen. p. consciousness could not itself be constituted (what would constitute it?) and thus was radically free. p. 8. 39. phenomenology finally 32 See Aron Gurwitsch. 7. It is liberty. This was. “On the Intentionality of Consciousness. It is in this sense that Levinas saw Husserl’s work as distinct from Heidegger’s. In modern phenomenology the noema is no longer considered to be the intentional object but rather those conditions that the object must fulfill to be recognized as such. Every engagement is. p. As it was understood in the 1950s in France.”37 This group of scholars placed particular emphasis on the famous Fink essay “Phänomenologie und die gegenwärtige Kritik. assumes self-responsibility and.”36 Levinas admitted that we returned to the “things themselves.” which contested the neo- Kantians’ assertion that phenomenology was a failed critical philosophy: setting out to discover the conditions for appearance. its liberty. Genesis as a problem 123 intentional relation. In addition. 74–7. but “creative. 35 Levinas. and thus establish a certain science. 36 Ibid. Le Cogito dans la philosophie de Husserl. For Levinas. 34 Henri Birault. Colin. ed.”32 It is clear that the “noema” could not be “real” and existing in the world. since consciousness constituted the object in an original intuition that it gave itself. 1953). intellection – is not an engagement like any other. the fact of thinking and of giving a sense. in the phenomenological reduction the “mind [esprit] becomes conscious of itself (Selbstbesinnung). 100. it is because Husserl’s conception of phenomenology was too theoretical. 33 See Tran Duc Thao.” Revue de métaphysique et de morale (1949). “Existentialisme et materialisme dialectique. according to the neo-Kantians. the nature of Husserlian intentionality meant that we could never be surprised: “Sinngebung. intuition was not receptive. Phénoménologie-existence (Paris: A.” in Farber. Levinas’s central point of criticism. which was itself part of consciousness. In the terms of an earlier French interpreter of Husserl. however. pp. for the implications of Sartre’s espousal of this idea. If we can never be surprised in consciousness.

We constitute a noema of the chair not because we arbitrarily decide to divide up reality in that way to give it sense. Pos put emphasis on the descriptive side of phenomenology. 1950) suggests that this emphasis on intuition moderates. But rather than seeing this intuition as part of transcendental consciousness. he thought. leads to a realist position. Rather than seeking the conditions that had to be fulfilled for anything to appear to us. a synthesis we absorb passively. p. Ricoeur (Paris: Gallimard. Problèmes actuels. See also Thévenaz. P. passive syntheses had particular importance for the study of the transcendental ego. For the human sciences. they argued. even in Ideas. inscribed in the flux. as it were. they argued that the later Husserl had come ever closer to identifying it with the exterior world. Fink suggested. If the ego was fully transcendent 38 Ricoeur’s analysis in the Introduction to his translation of Husserl’s Idées directrices pour une phenomenology. it is not surprising that the perceiver of the chair should objectify and detach it from its surrounding context. “Qu’est ce que la phénoménologie?”. at least with respect to the natural sciences (see especially p. That is. Husserl had restricted the constituting power of the transcendental subject.41 The question of active vs. whose work Wahl cited approvingly. but because it is already given to us as unified. 39 Van Breda. pp. 105. however. 85. p. Problèmes actuels.124 Derrida post-existentialist devolved into irrationalist intuitionism. because the limits of the object are already. . See Thao’s critique of Fink: Tran Duc Thao. trans. 48). Husserl had moved from a constructive idealism to an “ante-predicative realism. Phénoménologie et matérialisme dialectique (Paris: Editions Minh-Tân. Thao thinks that this idealist version of Husserl’s thought breaks down with the question of others who cannot be simply intentional objects. the idealist element of Husserl’s thought.”38 It was in response to this radical subject centeredness that.”40 It was the same position that had been proposed by Tran Duc Thao. relied on a false interpretation of phenomenology’s goals. the advocates of Husserl’s later philosophy countered the idealist interpretation. 41 See also Pos in ibid. Pos felt that the constitutive ideal of phenomenology had a greater value. he sought the very “origin of the world. Moving beyond the absolute idealism of Ideas. 40 Van Breda. p. Wahl noted in Husserl’s later work an “underlying passivity [passivité sous-jacente]” that preceded and determined predicative judgments. in the early 1950s. 1951). 85–7. The power of constitution found its mirror or parallel in initial sense impressions and the “flux vécu. But such a critique. This was the approach taken by Jean Wahl in his analysis of Husserl’s later work Experience and Judgment. 30. Husserl’s project was far more radical: examining the transcendental sphere. our constituting consciousness merely repeats in our mind an already existing reality: a synthesis in the world precedes the mind’s own. which.39 According to Wahl.” These realists reemphasized the intuitive element of phenomenology: the passive synthesis that they argued was the ground for all constitution.

” p. did this relationship work? With the increased emphasis on the Lebenswelt. Problèmes actuels.” Existence and experience were prior to essences that arose from them. our understanding of the world and essences arose from direct contact with experience. linguistics. The human subject already finds himself in a world with a pre-existing language and society. 94. . 50. 94–6. Merleau-Ponty had upset the hierarchy of the transcendental over the mundane. The reflection on language consists now in rediscovering the speaking subject. 55.” he asserted that Husserl’s later development opened up a place for the positive sciences.42 It was for this reason that Merleau-Ponty had such an important place in the analyses of so many of these thinkers. Sociology. in the later Husserl. psychology.” Cahiers internationales de sociologie (1951). According to Merleau-Ponty. 43 Maurice Merleau-Ponty. he described a “phe- nomenology of genesis. if the ego was no longer absolutely and de jure prior to the world.” p.” who Thao thought betrayed this return to the real by “refusing to stain their notions with any mundane predicate. as Husserl had originally thought. 94. But if. . Against the “existentialists. even dialectical materialism could be deployed to study the constituting power of consciousness. in a certain sense. arguing that “all forms of thought show. and so settled rather for the notion of “parallelism”: “Sciences de l’homme et la phénoménologie. as it was in the old text the Logical Investigations . Genesis as a problem 125 and the “origin of the world” then it could not be studied empirically. 320. and his “Sciences de l’homme et la phénoménologie. “Le Philosophe et la sociologie. positing instead a “reciprocal envelopment. or sociologist would show itself to have a coherent meaning from the position of the “talking subject”: It is no longer a question. we could never fully transcend our time and place.” p. pp. “Le Philosophe et la sociologie. Husserl never fully acknowledged the homogeneity between psychology and phenomenology. Merleau-Ponty seemed to have legitimated the marrying of phenomenological and empirical analyses. See also “Sur la phénoménologie du langage. however. See also “Sur la phénoménologie du langage.” p. solidarity with each other. then mundane science could be marshaled to understand it. the reduction had broken down. . What seemed contingent and random to the eye of the historian. not a transcendental subject 42 Thao. according to Merleau-Ponty. linguist.” in van Breda.”43 While Husserl still maintained a sharp distinction between the two. where he talks about the “dialectic” between the two.” 44 Merleau-Ponty.”44 But how. “Existentialisme et matérialisme dialectique. p. But this enrooting in a particular moment did not imply historical relativism. Because essences were generated from pre-predicative experience. of making us leap out of language and attain a universe of thought under which language would be understood as a particular sector.

But there existed too a grave problem with the “realist” route. But it would give us the sense of that experience.” Citing Husserl. if the transcendental subject itself is constituted. one as positive fact. 59.” pp.. 122. societies. because of the essential intersubjective nature of phe- nomenology. and this is why he needs dialogue. or entered into an eternal regress. the surest way for him to breach his own limits is to enter into communication with other situations. But if constitution was the act of a tran- scendental subject. 46 And the sociologist.” p. . “Sciences de l’homme et la phénoménologie.46 Science and philosophy studied the same thing from different perspectives.” p.”48 The vast majority of phenomenologists in 1950s France rejected the “idealist” model. 48 Ibid. 62. 45 Merleau-Ponty. who is doing the constituting? These are questions that Derrida would face in the composition of his thesis. he is always individualized. “Le Philosophe et la sociologie. but a speaking subject who aims at truth and reaches a presumptively universal thought only by way of a certain linguistic situation and by the exercise of language. according to Merleau-Ponty. Because the philosopher “is always situated. according to Merleau-Ponty. If all constitution referred back to a ready-constituted substra- tum. sociology. but rather to find a logos in reality. Merleau-Ponty. and followed Merleau-Ponty in the revalorization of exis- tence. See also “Sur la phénoménologie du langage.45 By taking the view of the speaking subject we could give sense to what the historian/linguist/sociologist saw as merely contingent.” p. 108. or linguist. 47 Merleau-Ponty. 104–9. p. which was already constituted: a world of objects. Merleau-Ponty affirmed that “transcendental subjectivity is intersubjectivity. “Sciences de l’homme et la phénoménologie. And our constant confrontation with the diverse findings of the human sciences would test and reevaluate our sense of what is universal. had to “place himself at the school of facts. and ethnology was possible. can only understand other societies or languages based on the model of his own. the philosopher.126 Derrida post-existentialist disengaged of all linguistic situations in which he can find himself. For the “materialist” complication of the idealist picture referred back to a pre- existing and independent reality. Similarly. we appear to have placed the cart before the horse.”47 This constant confrontation of phenomenological analysis with the results of history. then it begged the question as to who had constituted this reality. cultures. minds. each could contribute to the other. not of experience in general. the other as sense. The goal was no longer to find a universal logos behind all reality.

Derrida came to present his Mémoire to the third and fourth year Normaliens preparing for the agrégation. Derrida’s treatment of Husserl took the form of a history of his thought.” 51 Derrida’s analysis of the Philosophy of Arithmetic follows closely that of Marvin Farber. 4. 1943). Mass. See also Derrida. The four sections may have outlined a developmental history of Husserl’s thought. a certain guiding structure becomes clear. “Problèmes de la genèse chez Husserl. studying the Philosophy of Arithmetic. The Foun- dation of Phenomenology (Cambridge.50 Appropriately. genetic phenomenology. Derrida’s analyses focused on the differend between activity and passivity implicit in the notion of genesis. he only discussed the first section. The pre-phenomenological period of Husserl’s work. this first section dealt with what Derrida felt to be the pre-phenomenological stage of Husserl’s work. static phenomenology. and there was no need to present the whole work. Because at each stage the same difficulties arose. Third. as was the norm. which was an extended chrono- logical analysis of Husserl’s philosophy. 3. as we shall see. which spanned Husserl’s work from the second volume of the Logical Investigations (1901) up until Ideas (1913). The analysis of the problem of genesis did not have to pass through phenomenology. He adopted the terms that a predominantly communist phenomenological school had developed to criticize Sartrean existentialism. “Objectivité. when. Genesis as a problem 127 derrida’s problem of genesis Derrida’s 1954 Mémoire thesis was a product of its times. as we shall see. 50 Jacques Derrida.49 Second. in Experience and Judgment (1927) and the Cartesian Meditations (1930). First. IMEC. 2. before the main part of the work. probably 1954].” [undated. Derrida’s Problem of Genesis began with an Avant-propos and an Intro- duction.: Harvard University Press. Significantly it had no conclusion. Derrida started earlier in Husserl’s work than almost any other scholar. All the essential elements of his argument could be found there. Heidegger was not quite as absent as it would at first appear. The final “historical” phenomenology of Husserl’s Crisis (1936). ALT2. including the Philosophy of Arithmetic (1896) and the first volume of the Logical Investigations (the Prolegomena to a Pure Logic) (1900). Within the body of the work.51 The 49 Although. Derrida analyzed Husserl on his own terms. and not those of the existentialists. but a close look shows that each was structured around a single aporia. which was written in 1896. mirroring the central debate in French phenomenology. The historical part was divided into four sections: 1. . who bundled him together with Heidegger. E5–03.

p. however. p. As Derrida said. which would follow if the concept of plurality could be successfully grounded. because. for Derrida.” first published in the Greek journal Epokhe and in French in Alter: Revue de Phénoménologie (2000). Husserl appealed to Brentano’s concept of intentionality. “the discontinuity between logic or objective knowledge and psychology is thus one of essence. 15. 43–51. pp. as the beginning of phenomenology. Husserl asserted that this was the only presupposition needed for arithmetic. Following Weierstrass. Derrida would make a distinction between the first four investigations and the later ones.128 Derrida post-existentialist choice seems perverse.”53 In order to assure the objectivity of such operations. or rather that of plurality on which it was based. p. discount the Philosophy of Arithmetic as psychologistic. and then a second volume divided into two which contained the actual investigations. including Thao’s. especially the fifth and sixth investigation. his argument that phenomenology was only breached after the first volume. as many commentators had argued.” Derrida. There must be a synthesis that exists from the first – an a priori 52 It is not entirely clear what Derrida meant by the first volume. Rather.” but it is not cited. Phénoménologie et materialisme dialectique. see his 1966 article “La Phénoménologie et la clôture de la métaphysique. there would be no way to ascertain its validity. and many histories. 76. According to Husserl. But apart from this particular unity between the two texts. For Der- rida was unwilling to regard one or the other as simply psychologistic or simply logicist. Later. to be able to abstract from a situation. The pairing makes sense. there was another line of continuity that ran through Derrida’s analysis. preceding the discovery of the phenomenological reduction. We can abstract from several objects in order to find the category of an “object in general” and so eventually “number. follows that by Thao. 10. the first volume of the Logi- cal Investigations was pre-phenomenological too. Derrida paired it with the first volume of the Logical Investigations. Traditional accounts of Husserl’s development. that situation must already be given in a synthetic unity. the Prolegomena to a Pure Logic. But if logic were purely the result of psycho- logical laws. simply ignored it. Husserl’s logical investigations were divided up into three parts: a first volume. which draws the reader only to the second part of the second volume. plurality arose from the process of abstraction. 69–84. See Thao. there is no reason why our minds could not be incorrectly wired. 53 Derrida..52 Both operated at the level of the mundane and constituted. He asserted that the second volume achieved the “properly phenomenological level. which he thought could give him immediate consciousness of a logical object.54 Husserl set out to ground the concept of number. which marked a turn to subjectivity. including his own self-analysis. pp. The Philosophy of Arithmetic attempted to understand the psychological processes that undergirded mathematics. The Problem of Genesis. 54 Ibid. . thought that. Derrida only cites the Prolegomena in his chapter on the first volume.

what is its status?”56 To shore up his logicism. invoking a closed. J. If.55 Derrida’s analysis suggested that even as Husserl tried to found logic on the concrete acts of the subject he was forced to recognize the importance of a prior synthesis for which it was not responsible. The Problem of Genesis. than.” Gottlob Frege. 1950). But the infinite possibility. So the “contre-pied” of the Logical Investigations. p. . the psychological act had to be founded upon a unity that was already given. 56 Derrida. What Husserl had implied but never fully elaborated in the Philosophy of Arithmetic became the center of discussion in the Logical Investigations: a logical synthesis. an outline of the pre- given structures of logic. was not a change in direction at all. logic is a pure possibility. But if the direct apperception of a theoretical logic had to be entirely purified of empirical content. Husserl only sketched a solution. The process of abstraction must then be secondary to an originary synthesis that made it possible. trans. Husserl refused any absolute determination of logic. How could the theory or logic thus accessed be a theory or logic of something? The trick was to find a logical synthesis that was not simply formalism: it had to be concrete. His psychology of arithmetic was saved from solipsistic relativism by the covert assumption of a non-subjective and passively accepted logical principle. calling it rather an infinite possibility. it seemed to offer a type of platonic idealism with all the concomitant problems. As Derrida said: “if in a scholastic or Kantian perspective. it would be impossible to cleave experience along the lines of the essential and inessential. The Foundations of Arithmetic. the North Sea is. Derrida thought that Husserl had surreptitiously relied on a return to genesis that could only be empirical. it seems. 34. Genesis as a problem 129 synthesis – from which to abstract. then a concrete becoming of logic has. If not. Because this becoming is not empirical. on the contrary. Austin (New York: Philosophical Library. but rather the thematization of the pre-given logical synthesis that the Philosophy of Arithmetic had shown to be essential. but coherent. 55 This was Frege’s point in his famous criticism of Husserl: “the number is no whit more an object of psychology or of mental processes. this remains contestable in principle. to subtract just the right elements of experience to arrive at the purity of objecthood. To avoid the charge of a hypostatized formalism. constituted for eternity. open to the infinite. the putting in brackets of every historical genesis is authorized. pp. rigorous formal system. 46–7. let us say. then it was hard to understand how it could be related to reality. sat uncomfortably with the static and essentialist claims of the Logical Investigations. which suggested an eternal becoming of logic. to be granted existence and credit.

”57 That is. But.” Derrida summed up the difficulty: “It is not possible to choose between a genesis of sense or a sense of genesis.” Like in the Philosophy of Arithmetic. Either his philosophy was a psychologism. oscillated between two contradictory and yet mutually implicating stances. and is governed by a prior logical synthesis. the structure and organization of Derrida’s essay suggested that the problem would not go away even in the final stages of Husserl’s work. one may object that the French phenomenologists in the 1950s were discussing Husserl’s phenomenological works and predominantly those of the final period. But insofar as genesis has a sense. Husserl appealed to a logicism where “the real genesis presupposed pure a priori logical forms.130 Derrida post-existentialist Husserl. Of course. where “pure concepts were created by a real genesis. insofar as logical laws are the result of an empirical genesis. 48. implicitly in the Philosophy of Arithmetic and explicitly in the first volume of the Logical Investigations. we cannot give them universal validity. according to Derrida. then it becomes difficult to understand how that prior synthesis is valid and active in the world – the sense has no genesis. and both sides had been found wanting. In Derrida’s account. Thus though in the Lessons on Internal Time Consciousness Husserl discussed “noematic” temporality. but the same chiasmic aporia would reappear at the next level. created by the acts of concrete subjectivity. . the texts of the first half of each stage tried to emphasize genesis. there are no laws to determine their rise. the genesis has no guiding sense. The “idealists” and the “realists” both provided inadequate understandings. in order to be understood and to be organized in objective experience. p. The flip in the first section of the book mirrored the central debate in French philosophy. a stance explicit in the Philosophy of Arithmetic and implicit in the Logical Investigations. Working on the level of the constituted sciences of logic and psychology denied Husserl any middle way. Husserl’s turn to phenomenology in the second volume of the Logical Investigations ushered in a new stage of his thought. but Derrida saw in each a more fundamental synthesis preceding it. The opposition between the two must be overcome: enter phenomenology. as we shall see. the process 57 Ibid. Neither a purely active constituting subject nor a passively receptive ego could comprehend the emergence and validity of logic.” Or. Even though Husserl deepened his analyses throughout his life.. according to Derrida. he could never move beyond the essential ambivalence at the heart of “genesis.

had to appeal to a founding synthesis.”58 At the next stage. out of idealism.. 5. according to Der- rida. ..”65 Even his last attempt was unable to solve the paradox at the heart of the problem of genesis. 60... 177–8. 121. though dealing with the questions and themes of communist and scientistic phe- nomenologists like Tran Duc Thao. . 64 Ibid. 148–9.”64 This is why.60 The Cartesian Meditations. The inauthenticity of a supposed intuition of the indefinite in the face of the noncompletion of the present.”63 Derrida’s thought did not then resolve onto any one of the two poles that structured French phenomenology in the 1950s. and the indetermination of the future is exceeded in ‘anguish’ faced with the absolutely indeterminate. 172–6. to guarantee its objectivity. In particular. 178. 60 See especially ibid. Ideas repeated the move of the first volume of the Logical Investigations. Husserl was forced to reinject temporality through the role of the constituting subject. pp. had to be undergirded by logic. p. 108. in the final stage of Husserl’s life.” On the other side of the zig-zag. 63 Ibid. his turn to a historical philosophy was tamed by a preconstituted teleology. Rather than settling on one side. 58 Ibid. 203. 148–9 and pp. even at the end of his life. “instead of unveiling the absolute consciousness of an essential finitude. like the Crisis after it. Derrida suggested that at each stage one had to choose between a genesis that. 59 Ibid. to be guaranteed. was contradictory. . 62 Ibid. and a logical foundation that itself required a genesis. Genesis as a problem 131 of change was referred to a pre-given synthesis: “it is the meaning of time that is static and that authorizes the whole of Husserl’s analysis. Husserl had insisted to his sister that “we must start again from the beginning.62 As Derrida suggested. Shunning a ready-constituted goal. 65 Cited in ibid. p. the necessity of appealing to a real genesis to explain the contact between the formal and the real. See also p. he gives a concrete content to an indefinite . Husserl expressed this temporality as a movement guided by an “infinite idea. pp. and pp. 61 Ibid. As Derrida suggested.” and the development would be experienced as “indefinite. p. “it is because the unities of the substrates are already constituted that it is going to be possible to retrace a ‘second’ genesis of categoric judgment.. At each stage genesis.. In order to understand the provenance of the static synthesis. pp. a “sense of genesis. he did not adopt their reading of Husserl..61 But the appeal to the infinite by the finite human. “we always run up against one and the same irreducible paradox. relied on an infinite idea too. p. p.” open to the future. genetic phenomenology.”59 Again. note. 97–8..

On the other hand the mathematical philosopher Jean Cavaillès. xv–xvi. a dialectic of the concept. Thus the return to the life-world in the final period was really a return to the concrete and the mundane. In his 1990 preface to the student Mémoire. The second part of Thao’s book took the step that Husserl refused. pp. Derrida suggested that his use of the word “dialectic” was “a kind of road sign about the philosophical and political map according to which a student of philosophy tried to find his bearings in 1950s France.132 Derrida post-existentialist the many uses of the dialectic Derrida’s unwillingness to privilege either side of the duality – the consti- tuted vs. 67 See Alexandre Kojève. .67 Thao had used the dialectic to guide his own version of phenomenology. which allowed his theory to escape from the pitfalls of formalism or psychologism. Nichols (New York: Basic Books 1969). We must remember the Hegelian atmosphere in which Husserl’s philosophy was first read in France. it was a reworking of phenomenology based upon dialectical materialism. the internal exigencies of Husserl’s work pushed him ever further away from his early idealism. According to Thao. the constituting – led him to assert a dialectic across it. Introduction to the Reading of Hegel. Like Merleau-Ponty and Wahl.. For Thao. J. he hoped to show that Husserl had in the later part of his life moved to privilege the empirical and the historical. The interpretation of phenomenology as a dialectical philosophy had a long history. 1961). 68 We will discuss Cavaillès’s analysis of Husserl in the next chapter. which was merely a superstructure. trans. and the analyses of time found with Alexandre Kojève and Alexandre Koyré in the 1930s. had seen a formal dialectic as the necessary solution to the problems of phenomenology. and Alexandre Koyré. though writing almost a decade before. Colin. and this explained the genesis of consciousness.”66 But if the word “dialectic” was a signpost.” in his Etudes d’histoire de la pensée philosophique (Paris: A. Derrida rejected both one-sided versions. rather than of the world. The oft-cited parallelism between Hegel’s and Husserl’s phenomenology. suggesting that a Marxist understanding of matter would explain and justify Husserl’s phenomenological analyses. it is not entirely clear where it was pointing. it was the dialectic that prevented his materialism from becoming mere historicism and relativism. “Hegel à Jena. a tendency towards materialism that was only limited by the blinkers imposed by Husserl’s socio-economic position. primed later readers of Husserl to see his thought as compatible with dialectic. Though his language at the 66 Ibid. matter was dialectic.68 But in appealing to a dialectic between the constituting and the consti- tuted.

p. they are built on unsure ground. Following Levinas’s criticism of Husserl. There was a tension in Husserl’s work. Ricoeur. the transcendental subject and reality. The first movement. in contrast. because each time we perform the reduction it is a “reprise that must give meaning to what we have lived and thought. If we have to start from what is really only secondary. Indeed. Ricoeur suggested that the essential problems of Husserl’s thought derived from his confinement to the theoretical sphere. Ricoeur’s understanding of Husserl drew in part from his own philosophical project: a philosophy of the will. he thought. One important figure was the Protestant philosopher Pierre Thévenaz in his 1951 contribution to the Actes de colloque international de phénoménologie. subjectivity and objectivity. it is difficult to see how we can rely on our results. as in Thao’s case. Problèmes actuels. the process ever further elucidating what is given and thus providing firmer ground for another épochè. The world may be constructed from a constituting ego that has logical precedence.” in van Breda. which united the constituted (the retention of a previous present) with the constituting (the present). one of the key sites of the dialectic for Derrida was time. It was those phenomenologists who used the dialectic to bridge the sup- posed rupture at the heart of phenomenology – of the originary givenness of intuition and the power of the constituting ego – whose work most closely resembles Derrida’s. 22. the reduction. Rather than being restricted to matter that was passively grasped by consciousness. which would be more than just the superstructure to dialectical materialism that it had become in Thao’s system. But the most developed attempt to move beyond the privileging of either the constituting ego or the givenness of intuition was the early work of Paul Ricoeur. never a complete beginning. “La Question du point de depart radical chez Descartes et Husserl. but we find ourselves first in the natural attitude. between its logical ground and temporal starting point. philosophy and history. must be a jump out of the empirical and mundane.”69 Thévenaz saw Husserl’s method as a circle rather than a straight line. wanted to develop a phenomenology of the voluntary 69 Pierre Thévenaz. but we can never arrive at the transcendental. There was never a pure transcendental sphere. Genesis as a problem 133 time might seem to have allied him with the communists – the necessity of turning to a dialectic to understand the aporias in Husserl’s philosophy – a closer look at his analysis shows this not to be the case. Derrida’s dialectic was the meeting and mutual implication of activity and passivity. Derrida felt the need to reassert the role of a constituting subjectivity. . and the examples are predominantly Christian.

the voluntary was constitutive of and qualified the involuntary. the unconscious. and in undoing the 70 See especially his doctoral thesis. with respect to action rather than thought – phenomenology could. make singular progress. For instance. in particular. (Paris: Aubier. but rather “the living relationship between the voluntary and the involuntary.”75 Ricoeur’s own project was reflected in his analyses of Husserl’s philosophy and his interventions in the debates occurring at the time.134 Derrida post-existentialist and involuntary that would tackle the question of the passivity or activity of consciousness head on. emotion and desire sense. 73 Ricoeur. Ricoeur thought. 133. neither the freedom of the constituting will nor the resistance of the involuntary. p.. Ricoeur also hoped to counter any premature attempt to move to the Husserl of the Crisis. In this way. 72 By posing the question at this level. Philosophie de la volonté. For by studying the involuntary intentionally. Problèmes actuels. “the bipolarity of its condition appears irreducible. 119. which has a unity and permanence before the mind [esprit]. 113. p. 74 Ibid.71 This move would. 2 vols.” in van Breda.70 By extending a noetico-noematic analysis to the “affective and practical sector of consciousness.72 The difficulty about the involuntary. and to conduct his analyses in the terms set by Husserl’s Ideas. to place it into a larger context. in his reading of the second volume of Ideas. 1949). say. Thus Ricoeur limited himself to understanding not the involuntary itself. 71 Paul Ricoeur. p. 126.”73 The “will [vouloir]” was able to give the involuntary a meaning. 75 Ibid. Paul Ricoeur. was that it could not be understood as such. and the very process of that description denatured it by rendering it conscious. Ricoeur was very keen to separate intentional analyses from idealism: “[intentional analyses] consist in departing from an already elaborated ‘sense’ in an object. Insofar as it remained unconscious it was not susceptible to phenomenological description. Rather there existed a “dialectic of the voluntary and the involuntary. “Méthodes et tâches d’une phénoménologie de la volonté. serve to complicate the idea of the “‘constituting’ power of consciousness” and thus move beyond Husserl’s transcendental idealism. .” p.” describing the correlation between intentions and intentional objects – how something is approached and what it is.”74 Neither side could be reduced. The idea of the will gave a privileged access to questions of constitution.. “Méthodes et tâches d’une phénoménologie de la volonté. But because the will gave meaning to the preexisting involuntary it was no longer creative. to give. one could limit the pretentions of the subject to set itself up as primitive reality. Ricoeur’s phenomenology of the will was thus a direct attempt to confront the central issue of French phenomenology in the period.

trans. “Husserl et le sens de l’histoire. he suggested. on the other. related in Ricoeur’s eyes to a similar paradoxical relationship between an ego and the other egos it constituted as described in the fifth Cartesian Meditation.81 For Ricoeur the dialectic was not a solution to the tensions at the heart of phenomenology. Rather the dialectic was merely 76 Ricoeur. phenomenology seemed to veer towards empirical realism. Ricoeur tried to understand the relationship between the constituted and the constituting.’”76 It was certainly not a question of creation. akin to Kant’s transcendental idealism and empirical realism. Vrin. who.. Cairns (The Hague: M. 78 Ibid. 1986). 1997). Genesis as a problem 135 multiple intentions which interlace in that ‘sense. Phénoménologie-existence. between the ego and the history. 79 See François Dosse.. Cartesian Meditations. 80 Paul Ricoeur. 1960). p.”78 Ricoeur tied this understanding directly to his work on the voluntary and the involuntary. 81 Ibid. . but only approached through a dialectical understanding. p. 32. Rather. p. Ricoeur was very much influenced by Merleau-Ponty but felt he erred on the side of immanence: p. Nijhoff. 56–7. under a green light. etc. 60.” in Birault. engaged in description.79 It was the same problematic that Ricoeur faced in the most famous of his early essays. the meaning that history develops engulfs the phenomenological Man who operates that consciousness? It appears that here a difficult dialectic of engulfing-engulfed [englobant-englobé] between the transcendental ego and the meaning that unified history announces itself. 130. even though Husserl himself made this mistake. We can still approach the concrete pole through the empirical sciences. D. 77 Ibid. attempted to dissociate existence and objectivity. 24. pp. presented an aporia that for Ricoeur could not be surpassed. Paul Ricoeur: les sens d’une vie (Paris: La Découverte. p. even if we must preserve the possibility of a transcendental freedom.” Here. according to Ricoeur. Ricoeur explicitly contrasted this aspect of Husserl’s work to that of the “existentialist” phenomenologists.”80 The relationship between history and the ego. at night. “Analyses dans Ideen II. As Ricoeur asked. Edmund Husserl. A l’école de la phénoménologie (Paris: J. as a transcenden- tal Ego at the extreme of subjectivity. by understand- ing the person in his influences and motivation. Husserl’s analysis set up two poles. as it had been for Thao. Consciousness aimed at stability even across different sense impressions: red was still red even in different circumstances.. When concentrating on the noema. 26.77 On the other hand the ego for Husserl was also a free subject: “I am at two extremities: as a man at the extreme of objectification. in which – according to the later Husserl – it was embroiled. “how are we to understand that on the one hand historical Man is constituted in an absolute consciousness and that.

he erased that line. 87 For Ricoeur’s debt to Marcel. Derrida had translated Christian existentialism into phenomenology by a reworking of Kierkegaard’s aesthetic and ethical stages into different reductions.83 What was driving the dialectic was to be found at the transcendental level. The Problem of Genesis. So perhaps we shall meet up with philosophy. at other places he was clear that “the word ‘dialectic’ has only an analogical sense. IMEC. the dialectic was not a solution to the aporias of genesis. also pp.”85 The last line of the original draft of Derrida’s Mémoire was: “the absolute ‘motif’ of every history of philosophy and every philosophy of history is a dialectical motif. does not “efface the dilemma.” Ibid.. Dialectic.. xx. Cf.136 Derrida post-existentialist the recognition of their incomprehensibility. an effacing of the dialectic that is fitting given its place in the thesis. xlii. For this reason. 133. see Dosse. be it materialist or idealist.”84 in fact “to say that the meaning of genesis is dialectic .01. ALT2.. p. p. One can read each section of his Mémoire as showing by turns the limits of an aesthetic and an ethical reduction of genesis. p. he wrote. many of the arguments seem similar.”86 But. the aporia ‘understands itself’ as a ‘real’ aporia. 84 Ibid. p. oscillating from one to another constituted pole. when Derrida came to submit his thesis. p. but at a more fundamental level it could well be a mystery. The same is true for Derrida. Despite his constant avowal of the dialectic. where the opposition between the ideal and the material as yet made no sense. christian existentialism? The analogical nature of the dialectic and the closeness to Ricoeur suggests another subterranean influence in Derrida’s Mémoire.87 As I suggested in the last chapter. in his first few semesters at the ENS. 82 Derrida.”82 It was a dialectic only at the formal level. . The similarities between Derrida’s early Kierkegaardian essays and his Mémoire suggest that the Christian existentialism that had informed his earlier work could well be at work in the Mémoire itself: the problem of genesis may reveal itself formally to be a dialectic. it is simply to affirm that in a dialectic known as such. is not to propose a ‘solution’ to the problem. 86 See Althusser’s copy. and indeed to publish it forty years later. In fact the very structure of Derrida’s Mémoire draws heavily on his earlier work. xxii. In reading the more sophisticated phenomenology from the latter part of Derrida’s career at the Ecole. F3–03. . . Paul Ricoeur: les sens d’une vie. 83 Derrida is very keen to point out that the dialectic cannot be regional and therefore cannot be determined “in a metaphysical sense. 85 Ibid. 132. xxvii–xxviii.

for intellec- tual categories were both the subject and the object of its study. how can we be sure that our faculties telling us so are not faulty too? For this reason. but not understand. it is in the nature of a mystery “not to be completely before me.. Husserl’s constant appeal to a more fundamental level to give sense to each genesis. its own faculties brought into question. The solution of a problem followed paths that were already laid out. In Marcel’s understanding of the “problem. it had simply to be “recognized. an assertion of the limits of human thought. The locus classicus of Marcel’s mystery is theodicy. “enveloped by it.” the framework in which a problem was posed was not called into question by the process of attempting to answer it.”88 The thinking subject was itself embroiled in the mystery. Marcel’s most developed discussion of the mystery can be found in his book Etre et Avoir. The genesis of objectivity too seems to qualify as a mystery. As Marcel described it. On the other hand. 89 Ibid.”89 We cannot make claims about Being without these immediately coming to revise the very basis for our assertions. p. One attempt to understand the existence of evil is to consider the universe as a defective machine. 71. It is as if in that zone. a continuation of his Journal Métaphysique from the 1920s. the mystery was impenetrable to rational thought. then. There were specific and important reasons for its irreducibility. an aporia that we had to accept and recognize. 81. like Derrida’s aporia. p. It could not be further explicated. the problem of Evil was unthinkable. The use of mystery clearly extended to ontology. Genesis as a problem 137 A presentation of Marcel’s notion of mystery makes clear its pertinence to the issues discussed in the Mémoire. as the name suggests. But the very assumption that one has a sufficiently clear view of the universe to make such an assertion excludes oneself from the very defect that was posited as universal. rather. If the universe is defective and we are part of it. it too had to be explained.” But the notion of mystery was not merely theological dogma. to find some under- lying and stable ground for its examination. which it was precisely the aim of “genesis” to comprehend. the problem of evil in the world. With a “problem” we are endowed with the resources necessary to solve it. it revealed itself to be a mystery. according to Marcel. for knowledge lies within Being. the distinction between the in me and the outside loses its meaning. But we saw that the appeal to a primordial synthesis did not satisfy Husserl. Problems required an acceptance of the laws that governed the particu- lar region. . Etre et Avoir. was an attempt to turn genesis into a problem. 88 Marcel. The mystery was opposed to the problem.

to govern it. In the Logical Investigations. pp. According to Thao. 136.138 Derrida post-existentialist Because we wanted to understand and justify the concepts of our under- standing. Thao. the assertion of the infinite task of philosophy arrives “mysteriously. into consciousness.. p. “mysterious. 31. Compare ibid.”91 The word “mysterious” occurs almost entirely in the second part of each of Husserl’s stages in Derrida’s account. pp.”90 He did not realize that the movement from thing to thought was. in the second half he rediscovered its mysterious elements. to Thao’s analysis of the dialectic. following Marcel. Derrida attacked Thao for making a problem out of a mystery. that is called “mysterious. Both Husserl and Marcel’s theologian. Husserl treated genesis as a problem. p. overstepped the bounds 90 Derrida. The Problem of Genesis. 159. pp. xli–xlii. 155. by reducing the role of subjectivity and active genesis. “falls back into the difficulties posed by a ‘worldly’ genesis and a materialist dialectic. 211 note. In the dialectical materialism for which Thao opted. 93 Ibid. by itself. . 97. according to Derrida. To all intents and purposes. 160.”92 In the Cartesian Meditations. it was always by the appeal to an “infinite” that Husserl hoped. Cf. a similar mystery p. Cf. 154. rather than simply use them..” to “put off and to get over an aporia. in hoping respectively to understand genesis or Evil. or in the Crisis it is the appearance of the infinite idea into history. Thao situated the dialectic on what Marcel would call the realm of “avoir” (what we have before us) and forgot its necessary intertwining with “être” (what we are). If in the first half of each section. according to Derrida. that which escaped constitution. xxxvii. genesis could never simply be a problem. 208 and 211 notes. The mystery was always the appeal to the indeterminate. p. It was materiality that brought itself. Thao was not unaware of these problems and tried to develop a theory of materiality that did not fall into them. 91 Ibid. 46. it is the “possession” of the infinite idea. As we saw. 92 Ibid..” It was always the invocation of the infinite that was mysterious for Derrida. also p.. in his Mémoire. as Derrida asserted. by reducing it to the effect of a predetermined schema. consciousness became a super-structural supplement to matter. But by completely exteriorizing the dialectic. to justify the applicability of his a priori synthesis. it was what entered into history to make apodictic knowledge possible. Derrida’s criticism of Thao. was then a reassertion of the rights of subjectivity against a materialist dialectic.93 And it was always after confronting the mysterious that Husserl would elaborate a new stage of phenomenology. we can study this material without bringing the validity of our own concepts into question.

historic naturality. 96 Ibid. can never be genesis (discovery): “to say that man only poses problems that he can resolve is not to start from a positive definition of man. needed to work without presupposi- tions. but his ideas were clearly still active in Derrida’s thought at that time. of the preset laws of a determined region. 95 Ibid. As examples. whether in Plato. mundane conditioning and enrooting. could not rely on such a preconstituted eidetic. sheet 1. Using mathematics as his main example of the problem. finitude. We might. “La Notion du problème. Derrida took the following dualities: 94 Derrida. To accept these laws without question would be to abdicate the very task of philosophy. Their solutions existed before they were uncovered.”95 Problems were only found within well-defined eidetic regions.” sheet 1. As Derrida suggested in his lycée essays. sheet 2.” from 1954–5. the former could act as a guiding thread for understanding the latter. we could not completely reject the guidance of the constituted. or even in Husserl when he reduced genesis. Marcel may have been missing in name from the Mémoire.. . always being pure verification (recovery). for which there was no determined region and. it did not constitute the truth. in translating this into the terms of the Mémoire. Derrida interpreted the history of philosophy as a constant transformation of mysteries into problems. Derrida suggested. but rather “reconstituted” it following a set pattern. Genesis as a problem 139 of their human finitude in appealing to an infinite idea to which they did not have complete access. whose laws preset the answers to given questions. For Derrida. Descartes.. human thought is limited. which did not allow real or noumenal change. And yet. the year after the Mémoire.”94 Mathematics was then reliant on Kantian ideal temporality. suggest that the problem. at least in Husserl’s case. In the notes for an essay on “La Notion du Problème.96 The question then arose as to how we could approach the mystery. Mathematics was not creative activity. Philosophy. “mathematics is the ‘already known’ and the problems that develop in its region are only the explications of already constituted truths. it is to hold oneself to the strict definition of the concept of the problem. The solution to what they saw as a “problem” required them to be more than they really were. Kant. Derrida discussed the Marcelian distinction. Derrida argued that because both the problem and the mystery were mutually implicating. and the answers to the great questions of philosophy always lie just beyond our grasp.

Being and Having [être et avoir]. We can only get to the ontological through the ontic. But at the same time. Derrida. to the transcendental through the natural attitude: The foundation [that is. Derrida’s appeal to a dialectic of the mysterious and the problematic makes sense of his choice of thesis adviser. our only access to the mysterious was through those constituted realms that were founded upon it. 1952). When Derrida appealed to the dialectic.140 Derrida post-existentialist Anguish and Fear. De Gandillac was remarkably eclectic in his interests. for as we have seen the foundational synthesis that constituted the realm of the problem must itself be accounted for. Being] only appears to us (originary finitude of the Heideggerian “anthropos”) in what is founded. the originary nothing from which the second take their meaning. . 136. 98 Derrida. and fear = the transcendental guides . Logical negation. The first suppose the mysterious indetermination of Being.97 Derrida argued that problems could only exist on the foundation of the mystery. Analogical and dialectical unity of the problematic and the mysterious. . Thus the problem has its foundation of possibility in the mystery. curiosity. . 1941). “La Notion du problème.” sheet 2.99 philosophy and the rise of history A corollary of the repetition of Derrida’s argument in each successive section of his Mémoire was the constant openness of Husserl’s phenomenology 97 Cf. and 274 sq. Derrida wrote his Mémoire under the supervision of Maurice Patronnier de Gandillac. and his La Sagesse de Plotin (Paris: Hachette. of the meta-problematic. Indeed he was an early translator of Nietzsche and was also interested in contemporary German philosophy. 231 sq. which de Gandillac too hoped to understand through a dialectic. La Philosophie de Nicholas de Cues (Paris: Philosophie de l’Esprit. he was orienting himself with respect to the communists in name only. anxiety. anguish. Anxiety [inquiétude] and curiosity. in the text of which one can read analogically the truth of the foundation (originary Nothing.98 The dialectic of the mysterious and the problematic was thus also the dialectic of the constituting and the constituted. we must understand how eidetic regions arise. But his main work focused on medieval mystics like Nicholas de Cusa and ancient mystics like Plotinus. studying their strange mixture of irrational- ism and rationalism. The dialectic really expressed the constant movement of the mystery working beneath it. anxiety. The Problem of Genesis. p. and anguish). pp. 99 See Maurice de Gandillac.

Derrida suggested that: 100 Derrida. sheet 1. 2. While tending ever more to confuse the movement of originary intentionality with the movement of time . xxxix. instantiated in the very chiasmus that made up each stage of Husserl’s philosophical development. the Genesis of Intentionality in Husserl’s Phenomenology. one can see another crucial element of his thought. a dialectical understanding could not only inform the content of Derrida’s Mémoire but also its structure.100 This concentration on the movement of Husserl’s thought can be clearly seen in comments Derrida made on Quentin Lauer’s contem- poraneous doctoral dissertation. Derrida. 102 Jacques Derrida. according to Derrida. .” Irvine. in 1954 on taking over the reins of the ENS. Genesis as a problem 141 to the dialectic. there does seem to be a progression. and later to genetic phenomenology. 35. “La Notion du problème. . pp. The historical development of Husserl’s philosophy was dialectic.” sheet 2. who. Finishing his first section. and then to history.. an American Jesuit priest. 101 Quentin Lauer. For all the similarity between the four stages of the Mémoire. Cf. for Derrida it was always lurking behind the scene. 1955). Phénoménologie de Husserl: essai sur la genèse de l’intentionnalité (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. the dialectic was the never-reached telos of Husserl’s philosophical itinerary. after the aporias of psychologism and logicism. however. 103 Ibid. It seemed a natural move given the similarities between the two philosophers’ projects.31. these aporias did not occur at the same level. precisely what drove the future development of his work. “Reading notes on Husserl.”103 The crucial problem for Husserl was then. so the progress of his thought provided a model for understanding its essential aporia and solution. had asked Derrida for his opinion on the recently completed work. the ‘genesis’ of the theme of intentionality. . Derrida. Husserl always finished by disassociating them. The central problem was. Whereas for Thao.101 Lauer. sheet 11. The Problem of Genesis. had studied under Jean Hyppolite. Though each stage repeated the aporia of the last.”102 As Derrida defined the unity of this problematic: “it is always by a reduction of effective tem- porality that Husserl assures the unity of the theme of intentionality and of ideal objectivity. His written response was a general critique followed by a page-by-page analysis. was not at all generous in his responses. With Derrida’s dialectic driving the history and development of Husserl’s philosophy. For this reason. Husserl was impelled to move towards phenomenology. however. Right from the start Derrida always alerted the reader to the importance of the next stage: how. all too obvious: “the essential inadequacy of the work: it did not try to bring out the unity of a problematic motivating the very becom- ing.

looking ahead. Husserl up until his last works had made great strides in that direction. and through a teleological idea. The movement from the pre-phenomenological to the phenomenological. 105 Ibid. 100. Now that insight was recast in dialectical terms. if never fully grasp it.” Rather than hoping to undertake a historical analysis of philosophy. we can understand why he chose..104 At the end of the second: The empirical and the transcendental seem to resist any rigorous dissociation. [Husserl] plans to bring to light a domain of constitution that is neutral and absolutely originary. as his first major project. must there not be an attempt to re-conquer it by enlarging the transcendental to the dimensions of history in general. 49. and then from its static to its genetic and finally historical versions could all be understood as a “spiritualization” of the previous aporia. Derrida drew on le Senne to suggest that an ever-expanding idealism could comprehend the Marcelian mystery. Each one uncovered a new and larger sense of the transcendental.142 Derrida post-existentialist By assimilating and assuming the most legitimate.. 106 Ibid. the most well-founded discourse of psychologism and logicism. the translation and commentary of Husserl’s final essay. This is the price to be paid for philosophy. give back to passive genesis itself an intentional sense that the ego alone could not confer on it?106 Though never arriving at a solution. Le Senne validated the forward-moving zig-zag between the passive and the active and stopped it from being merely an oscillation. Then. 148. resolve their opposition. forcing us into an infinite regression. p. p. . Husserl did move beyond the par- ticular paradoxes of each individual stage. seems unable to be assim- ilated to an egological activity. The first section of Derrida’s avant-propos was entitled “History of phi- losophy and philosophy of history. where logic and psychology. far away and in depth. And. It is thus appropriate that Derrida’s framing of his Mémoire in the Avant- propos should have drawn most heavily on the final stage of Husserl’s thought. that he should have privileged Husserl’s later meditations on history over his early discussions of psychology. The Origin of Geometry (1936). A new phenomenological effort must try to find this again. here Derrida proposed a philosophical 104 Derrida. The Problem of Genesis. p. This progressive aspect of the dialectic recalls Derrida’s complication of Marcel’s existentialism that we discussed in chapter 2. both engendered and founded. Though the mystery of genesis could never fully be understood.105 At the end of the third section: If passive genesis.

” an unmistakable reference to Heidegger’s magnum opus.111 We can also see 107 Ibid. of applying the laws of a history of philosophy consti- tuted as a science. 198–9 note. 4. 156 on the necessity of an “existentiel analytic” of the “réalité humaine” in the “Heideggerian sense” (translation modified).”110 Indeed at the end of his Introduction. vol. it would be impossible to know how it arose and how it could have been recognized in a particular time and place. but if it fully transcended it.108 But from all the other explicit references. then. II. 111 Derrida. pp. He is only cited once positively. 94–122. sometimes explicit.’ the possi- bility of an absolute purity of ‘anguish’ suspends the dialectic of originary temporality. 111–13. This repeats Yvonne Picard’s criticism of Heidegger. 110 Janicaud. of following through to its conclusions a problem that will have been discussed elsewhere: this problem will be our problem. sometimes implicit. . The Problem of Genesis. 211 note.”109 Like Derrida’s earlier existentialist reading. because for him Being was fundamentally temporal. it was the freez- ing of the dialectic or the “ek-sistence” of Dasein in a definitive ontology that marked Heidegger’s great error. By assuming the possibility of “a definitively authen- tic existence. pp. seemed to be an improvement. xx. heidegger returns Heidegger played little explicit role in Derrida’s Mémoire. Derrida suggests that his dialectic is “Being and time.” and that the project “would not have been possible without reference to Heidegger. And yet. “it is not a question here for us of obeying a fatality. Heidegger. See also p. was both constituted and constituting. As Derrida said. “Le Temps chez Husserl et Chez Heidegger. see Picard. in Derrida’s discussion of Husserl’s notion of time. Because Husserl’s time was purely noematic it could not provide an ontological grounding for his transcendental idealism.. Heidegger en France.. 109 Ibid. The central aporia at the heart of Derrida’s analysis of Husserl was presented in the avant-propos as a question of methodology in the history of philosophy. Genesis as a problem 143 analysis of history. In the Janicaud interview that we have cited during this chap- ter Derrida declared that the Mémoire was “widely marked by references. p. If it were fully anchored it would not have universal validity. it is clear that Heidegger betrayed his great development. pp. 108 Ibid. to Heidegger and to a certain questioning of Husserl by him.” Deucalion 1 (1946).”107 The aim was to show how philosophy both was anchored to its time and transcended it. assuming ‘being for death’ in a ‘resolute decision. 92. despite this relatively negative presentation of Heidegger’s ideas. p. p. p. there are signs that his work was more important to Derrida than he cared to admit..

But given the great antipathy towards Heidegger and the existentialists in the ENS. Derrida too broke down Husserl’s reduction. so his Sartrean Heidegger would find itself reappraised in light of the developing Christian reading. the structure of Derrida’s Mémoire. In that book. Reasserting the existentiel. Heidegger would again become a recognized and major source for Derrida’s work only after he left the Ecole in 1956. a fascination which can only be deduced from certain clues: the phenomenological context. had only recently been translated into French: Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. and his use of the dialectic. he would come to reevaluate his existentialist interpretation. Derrida’s Christian existentialist heritage provided him with the 112 It is also significant that Derrida’s whole essay mirrored a work by Heidegger that. and. Derrida returned to his earlier fascination with the mystical. Derrida presented himself with a new object of enquiry.112 It was a reassertion of the traditional existentialist reading of Heidegger that Derrida had first undertaken six years previously. passive and active synthesis. when their traditional setting and language were no longer accepted. a move that parallels Sartre and Derrida’s reading of him from his earlier essays. and then the existentialist interpreta- tion would be left behind. . More work needs to be done on this particular connection. from the Finkian perspective. The valid application of the categories of the understanding to the objects of empirical intuition was grounded in their common root. Husserl became the vehicle for discussing older themes and questions. In the Ecole. one necessitated by man’s essential finitude. a study of the conditions of possibility for scientific objectivity. Over time. One of the most important developments in Derrida’s thought over the next eight years occurred in his understanding of Heidegger. And crucially this imagination was temporal. By framing the discussion in Husserlian language. when Derrida wrote his essay. in the transcendental faculty of the imagination. Heidegger tried to reinterpret Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason by revealing the common root of intuition and the understanding. By an emphasis on the constituted. expressed predominantly through the necessary retention in time. just as his Sartrean Husserl had been recast in the communist mold. But in elaborating this project. Heidegger was rarely mentioned in Derrida’s work. Derrida moved focus from Fink’s “origin of the world” to Hei- degger’s “being-in-the-world” – where Dasein transcends each particular constituted moment – as a necessary correlate to the Husserlian tran- scendental.144 Derrida post-existentialist a turn to Heidegger. conclusion Derrida’s Mémoire began as a classic Normalien (and communist) project. We should not thereby discount Husserl.

was the path Husserl had taken. Or. it was through his continued contact with Husserl that he decided to recast that question in historical terms. science and history. That. With each successive “spiritualization” of the central dilemma of genesis. Genesis as a problem 145 tools to read Husserl. but it also taught him to take Husserl seriously. If Derrida started out investigating the links between scientific objectivity and psychology. in French: épistémologie. Husserl deepened his understanding. . Derrida’s central problematic was now the articulation of truth and time. after all.

It was not just the name of the award. p. brief biographical paragraphs and the like. Admittedly things had changed in the ten years since Derrida had written his Mémoire: the early enthusiasm for Husserl amongst Marxist philosophers had mostly waned. it was not necessarily so at the time. and Suzanne Bachelard all grace the lists of laureates for works on rationality in physics. The current society also expresses disbelief at their most famous laureate.2 If the conferral of the Prix Cavaillès seems strange to us today. Derrida’s engagement with a more scien- tific branch of French phenomenology in The Problem of Genesis gives a clue why his first publication might have been welcomed by the epistemo- logical community. Jacques Bouveresse. Jacques Derrida received the “Prix Cavaillès for Modern Epistemology” in recognition of his translation of. 20. another. 2 Awarded in 2001. but it is never remarked how incongruous the award seems. In his address to the assembled members of the Société des Amis de Jean Cavaillès. trained in mathematics. addition to Derrida’s CV. After all. communist thinkers instead looked outside of phenomenology for resources to ground scientific and objective thought. in the Salle des Actes at the ENS.”1 The Prix Cavaillès is often listed in short summaries of Derrida’s work. given by the Société two or three times a decade. Jean-Toussaint Desanti. 1964. Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry. This was no Adorno prize. later. 146 . but also its recipients who seem so out of place. and commentary on. Jacques Lautman suggested in email correspondence that he did not know how Derrida could ever have been awarded the prize. But the initial 1 Bulletin de la Société des Amis de l’ENS (December 1964). whose work seems almost totally at odds with conventional presentations of Derrida’s thought. As we shall see in the following chapters. Cavaillès was a philosopher of logic. or mathematical idealities. Raymond Aron proudly asserted that with the work of Derrida and Roger Martin (the other laureate) “Jean Cavaillès’s work will continue [aura les continuateurs]. symbolic logic. ch a p ter 5 The God of mathematics Derrida and the Origin of Geometry On May 29.

. 8. C. and Georges Canguilhem were the key representatives of the “philoso- phy of the concept. The God of mathematics 147 Marxist reading had left its mark. Derrida was good company for the likes of Suzanne Bachelard. Most of its main proponents. In 1962. Introduction to the English translation of Georges Canguilhem. Reidel. As surprising as this may sound to today’s readers. As I will show in the first part of this chapter. 1978). according to Cavaillès it was drawn from Kant’s own descriptions of the understanding.” a movement essentially heterogeneous to Sartre’s and Merleau-Ponty’s “philosophy of the subject. Cavaillès. the great philosophe-résistant shot by the Nazis after he had finished his magnum opus in a prison camp. Foucault identified what he saw as the central cleavage in postwar French philosophy. phenomenology had only a fractious relationship with mainstream epistemology in France. Jean Cavaillès. and so succumbed to psychologism. whose political and philosophical work each added glory to the other. he was their most celebrated son. the late 1950s saw an attempt to integrate Husserl’s work into the broader French epistemo- logical tradition. p. treated phenomenology with distrust. Derrida had already read Cavaillès’s Logic while at the ENS. On the Normal and the Pathological. and Jean Piaget. held for many reasons enormous prestige in the postwar French academic world. Fawcett (Boston: D. But until the late 1950s. Gaston Bachelard. but it is worth running through its claims here to understand its significance during this period. Reburied in the Sorbonne with rooms named after him at the ENS and at the University of Paris. at least.”3 For Foucault the “philosophy of the concept” and the “philosophy of the subject” were both interpreta- tions of Husserl’s phenomenology.4 3 Michel Foucault. and the interpretation of phenomenol- ogy as a philosophy of science had become mainstream. Jacques Bouveresse. The first is an analy- sis and critique of the Kantian idea of the understanding. trans. logic was grounded in the structure of empirical consciousness. Derrida’s Introduction to Husserl’s Origin of Geometry participated in this form of scientific or logical phenomenology. epistemology in france In his famous Introduction to the English translation of Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological. Cavaillès’s Logic is divided up into three parts. 4 This is the same critique that Derrida leveled against formalism in his Mémoire. including Jean Cavaillès. Derrida’s first book was a project in the philosophy of mathematics. and Jean-Toussaint Desanti. Gaston Bachelard. The essential problem with the Kantian understanding is that while it claimed a priori status.

Husserl seemed to offer the opportunity of mediating between a philosophy of conscious- ness like Kant’s that was not necessary. p. pp. à la Carnap. 1947). 5 Jean Cavaillès. Cavaillès investigated an opposed danger. it could not be contained within a syntactical system. the book whose later translation and commentary would mark a turning in the French under- standing of Husserl. Because semantics was essentially descriptive. All knowledge. Husserl showed that the formal logic of judgments. 52–4. formalism was just one small step away from being itself a descriptive ontology. 56. in Cavaillès’s view.6 The formal relations of syntax had to have a “necessary affinity” with the described characteristics of the existing object. We needed to know how to connect a formal system to the reality it purported to explain in order to move from the rules that exist between elements in a system to the rules that tie that system to the world..”5 “Protocol statements” in Carnap’s language. was knowledge of something. Carnap’s syntactical construction of the world neglected a full analysis of semantics. presupposed a possible translation into the formal sphere.. was rooted in general ontology. He turned his attention to the logical positivists.148 Derrida post-existentialist In the second section. p. the formal could not be abstract because of its intentional relation to the world. In this view. 62. Husserl’s sense of intentionality. 9. or apophansis. Mathematics could only be applied as a syntactical system to physics. Sur la logique et théorie de la science (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. offered the possibility of moving beyond the impasse. p. this ontology was in turn founded on the certainty of transcendental consciousness. and a formalism that surreptitiously appealed to an empirical foundation.9 In Cavaillès’s reading of Husserl. This constituted its syntax. But. 54. and yet it was the very characteristics of “protocol statements” that grounded syntax: “what [syntax] takes for an absolute beginning is only the surrepti- tious evocation of anterior acts and sequences. p.7 It was in this situation that Cavaillès turned to Husserl. 9 Ibid. each system was governed by formal rules. 8 Ibid. who prioritized the demon- strable aspect of science. even mathematics.8 If Kant had failed in his attempt to establish a secure science by basing it on empirical descriptions of the mind. And it was to Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic that he appealed. . if nature could already be trans- lated into mathematics. which showed a way to unite mind and world. 7 Ibid.. and Carnap had failed by stealthily grounding his system on empirical descriptions of the world. those positive descriptions of the world. 6 Ibid. the laws that organized the interaction of elements.. As Cavaillès suggested. as Gaston Bachelard’s 1960 preface to Cavaillès’s book suggested.

they could only be “decided” as true or false by placing the system “within a more powerful theory. Gödel’s theory. One could not do both: “if transcendental logic truly founds logic. however. 13 Ibid. was a body blow to Husserl’s approach..” occurring as it were downstream from the transcendental.. After Kurt Gödel.. p.”10 For Cavaillès. 69.”11 Undo- ing this unjustified elision. which in Husserl’s theory was supposed to constitute and 10 Ibid. Godel’s 1931 theory had provided a method by which undecidable propositions could be generated for any particu- lar mathematical system of a certain “power. . 85. If there is an absolute logic.. p.13 Further. for the very role of logic was to govern the thought processes of that transcendental subject. if it is truly what [consciousness] affirms in full certainty of itself.”12 A second problem with Husserl’s transcendental logic suggested itself. Insofar as the ontological foundation of logic was constituted by a transcendental subject. No system in itself could ever be complete. Though the transcen- dental sphere was more expansive than Kant’s. forever demanding to be surpassed. 12 Ibid.” Because such propositions exceeded the powers of a given system. p. 77–8.e. it was no longer possible to declare a formal system that contained arithmetic to be saturated. is only because [consciousness] affirms it. Formal logic generated higher instances from within itself. for Cavaillès. pp. from Cavaillès’s perspective. this appeal to a transcendental consciousness raised the same problems that Kant encountered. 11 Ibid. it could not be certain. i. it can only draw its authority from itself. Logic cannot govern the conditions of its own constitution: “it is perhaps to abuse the singularity of the absolute to reserve for it the coincidence between the constituting moment and the constituted moment. it too relapsed into psy- chologism. Godel’s theory showed that the problems of formal logic could not be solved by an appeal to the transcendental sphere. It directly undermined the central principle of the “excluded third” – that is the assumption that propositions could only be true or false – that was essential to Husserl’s formal logic. The God of mathematics 149 which “is the totality of Being: what [transcendental consciousness] affirms. it is not transcendental. 78. then there is no absolute logic (that is to say one that governs absolute subjective activity).” Gödel’s theory could generate undecidable propositions for this theory too. all its possible propositions able to be declared true or false. The “necessity” was “internal. Cavaillès was left with an exclusive choice: either trace the genesis of logic back into the transcendental sphere or assert its absolute authority.

which was “not that of an activity.” It is thus that Cavaillès was led to suggest what he called a philosophy of the concept. but a dialectic. Physics determines. Indeed it was this work that had made him famous and was crucial for Althusser in the 1960s with its concept of the coupure épistémologique that explained the genesis of science from ideology. as an eminent 14 Ibid. 64–7. like many of his generation.150 Derrida post-existentialist inform formal logic. 86. Cavaillès ended by describing the “generating” necessity. however. 90. in part because he survived the war. where logic drew its authority from itself. explicitly rejected the Kantian solution.14 If the drive for change and development was internal to formal logic. then it could no longer be said that it was dependent upon the transcendental.. pp. such as Le Matérialisme rationnel and L’Activité rationaliste dans la physique contempo- raine.16 In the 1950s. It was what Gaston Bachelard had been writing since the war that captured the imagination of young philosophers. 16 See chapter 8. the earlier works were less central. orthogonal to the experiences that they ordered. But. Bachelard. For Kant. Quite what a “philosophy of the concept” is is left ambiguous. For Bachelard. p. p. Along with Bachelard’s other texts from the period. While Husserl’s phenomenology only allowed a “consciousness of progress. Bachelard refused the clean separation of the formal and the material that the Kantian model suggested.” the ability to evaluate the development of formal logic from the sure and unchanging ground of the transcendental. a “progress of consciousness.”15 Cavaillès had a powerful influence on many in the next generation. It is a field of thought that specifies itself into mathematics and into experiments and which animates itself maximally in the conjunc- ture of mathematics and experiments. Le Rationalisme appliqué attempted to understand the relationship between matter and the precise mathematical equations that seemed to govern it.. The meaning of the last pages of Cavaillès’s book is particularly cryptic. . “physics has two philo- sophical poles. where the transcendental aesthetic that presented the world to us in Euclidean form was a necessary condition of experience. scientific categories were stable. especially his book Le Rationalisme appliqué (1949). both in reaction to Gödel and through an appreciation of the history of science. 15 Ibid. however. Lawlor gives a convincing reconstruction in his Derrida and Husserl. and thus incapable of being changed by them. Cavaillès wanted to understand. Bachelard now is best remembered for his work on Le Nouvel esprit scientifique (1934). and developed over time. it was Gaston Bachelard who dominated the field in the 1950s.

2–3. guaranteed by a transcendental subject. 21 For an account of the relationship between the two men that asserts a strong continuity underneath apparent critique. there was no pure experiential given. providing the conditions in which they arose. 1949). His notion of a “genetic epistemol- ogy. an abstract-concrete mentality. rather than being a mere description. he was a major figure in the epistemology of the second half. rather. So against Kant. which in turn demanded a shifting of the claims of rationality. matter was already engaged in and instructed by reason. 19 Ibid. and just as he served as an unavoidable reference for the Normaliens in the first half of the 1950s.”19 While downplaying the role of experience on theory. 43. each new experience brought into ques- tion and tested previous rationalizations: “one must renew the mind in contact with a new experiment. The God of mathematics 151 synthesis. experience.21 For Bachelard. .. 1951). p. 20 See also Gaston Bachelard. which detached it from experience. phenomenology threatened to descend into blind formalism through the reduction. Bachelard was resistant to what he saw as the claims of phenomenology. In addition to Cavaillès and Bachelard.” which described the unstable development of the formal structures 17 Gaston Bachelard. Indeed by determining how new phenomena might be tested. science was a “phenomeno-technique. 1. p. regardless of what a scientific experiment might uncover. 4. see Bernard Barsotti. phenomenology also neglected the role of theory in shaping experience. a third key figure of the older generation was Jean Piaget. both an “applied rationalism” and an “educated materialism. phenomenology forgot the active role of tech- nique in making phenomena appear. formal rules also shaped the world in which we live. According to Bachelard. between the experimenter and the theoretician.. and theories themselves would guide experiments towards new phenomena. Bachelard critique de Husserl (Paris: L’Harmattan. not merely recording.20 Thinking that it merely “received” the givens of consciousness. 2002). For him. in contrast. New theory crafted new experiences. 18 Ibid. We encountered Piaget in the discussion of Derrida’s Mémoire.”17 New facts from experiments would come to change theories. pp.” producing. Bachelard described a symbiotic relation between ratio- nality and reality. A priori essences.”18 Because of this con- ception of science. In Bachelard’s conception of science. were universally valid and atempo- ral. p. Le Rationalisme appliqué (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. it was preoccupied with only one of the poles of science. L’Activité rationaliste de la physique contemporaine (Paris: Presses univer- sitaires de France.

Entretiens. 61. It made a valuable contribution by outlining a new role for intuition that previously had been reduced to an expository appendix. La Psychologie de l’intelligence. a symbolic manifestation of formal mathematics. 1962). and the debate with Derrida. pp. 478. and psychologistic. The philosopher of mathematics and Derrida’s fellow laureate.152 Derrida post-existentialist of our understanding. which in his eyes operated through introspection. 22 For a good summary of Piaget’s genetic epistemology.” in Piaget and de Gandillac. According to Vuillemin. La Philosophie de l’algèbre (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. the newly elected Professor at the Collège de France. Etudes d’épistémologie génétique XVI (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. phenomenology best fit the type of formalized mathematics that arose in the nineteenth century. especially Suzanne Bachelard and Gilles Gaston Granger. Piaget and de Gandillac. 23 See Piaget.. 499. p.24 But though phenomenology declared intuition the absolute ground of formal systems. pp. 25 Ibid. Phe- nomenology was purely descriptive – in this sense Vuillemin followed Cavaillès’s critique of Husserl – and so it could not explain the movement of mathematics. Phenomenol- ogy’s model for the genesis of scientific laws seemed too static to explain the tortuous history of modern science. p. 21. where Piaget explicitly takes on the criticisms from phenomenologists. and provided static. Conclusion. turned to Husserl’s analysis in the Formal and Transcendental Logic. Entretiens. the purely internal limitations of the former could not affect the latter. 1962). Piaget too opposed his “genetic epistemology” to phenomenology. this made phenomenology dogmatic. the next generation For many this mistrust of phenomenology was maintained into the late 1950s and early 1960s. see his paper on “Genèse et structure en psychologie. In Vuillemin’s eyes. and Piaget were all concerned that phenomenol- ogy would immobilize the fluid rational and formal structures that they described.23 Bachelard. 24 Jules Vuillemin. especially that made necessary by Gödel’s theorem. Jules Vuillemin. . At the end of his 1962 La Philosophie de l’algèbre. Cavaillès.22 Because of his dynamic notion of reason. p. See also Jean Piaget. and the fixed transcendental would thus be a constant brake on the necessary development of the formal. moving from one equilibrium to the next. ed. mir- rored the mobile rationalisms of Bachelard and Cavaillès. 39.25 If for- mal systems were dependent on their rooting in the transcendental sphere.. Insofar as they appealed beyond these structures it was in a dialectical relationship between theory and reality that refused the sup- posed priority of Husserl’s detached transcendental sphere. 49–50. according to Vuillemin. accounts of mental structures. it was an external one.

we can classify a set of symbols and a set of axiomatized rules to represent them. The God of mathematics 153 Roger Martin. the philosophical interest lay in the process. 190. He suggested. 56. the move from the concrete to the formal. Formalization is the process by which aspects of consciousness and experience are expressed in a well-defined language that allows the manipulation of those objects.”28 Though formalized systems had an autonomy of their own. and if this stage was final. As Roger Martin in his 1964 book Logique contemporaine et formalisation described. 188.. however. “all knowledge is knowledge of some- thing. langage. contact with 26 Roger Martin. they aimed to understand the movement from the naı̈ve to the formal and the formal to the naı̈ve. Thus like many in their generation. 8. p.27 This was also Gilles Gaston Granger’s goal. as long as the laws of combination fit.” in Georges Bouligand. p. a strictly formal description of knowledge can only be an artifice. the question of formalization was one of their central preoc- cupations. Cf. also p. See also the Introduction to Gilles Gaston Granger. Both recognized the need to understand why such systems would be applicable to the real world. If formalization explained the success of modern mathematical science. It was this formalization that had permitted such astonishing progress in the exact sciences. “Logique. though now detached from their original ground. . Logique contemporaine et formalisation (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. 27 Ibid. Rather than considering individual objects as concrete realities. 24. groups. communication. 1960). Even if certain epistemologists refused the turn to phenomenology’s transcendental sphere. 1957). p. When systems were sufficiently formalized they could run automatically following their internal rules – the scientists could then take over – but the problem was to understand how one arrived at this stage. 1964).. Mathematics provides one of the most successful examples of for- malization. they still recognized the need to embed formal systems in a broader field of human thought. made a similar criticism two years later. paying attention to the semantic aspects of formal theories as well as to their syntactical laws. 28 See Gilles Gaston Granger. In algebra it makes no difference if the symbols refer to physical objects. or chemical compounds. ed. p. which we can manipulate at will. criticizing the rarified and syntactical systems of both Lud- wig Wittgenstein and Rudolf Carnap and emphasizing the need to return to real languages.26 Phenomenology returned to an absolute origin. Pensée formelle et sciences de l’homme (Paris: Aubier. Vuillemin and Martin. did not think that formal systems on their own sufficed. and so was not flexible enough to account for the history of mathematics. Hom- mage à Gaston Bachelard (Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

31 Suzanne Bachelard. “it is not void of meaning. 33 Gilles Gaston Granger. 30 Jean-Toussaint Desanti. p. 133. to understand modern mathematics we had to return to a “domain of apprenticeship” in which mathematical theories were worked over. p. Take the example of Gilles Gaston Granger.33 It was a system that in Cavaillès’s terms allowed both a “consciousness of progress” as formal systems adapted better to a transcendental origin. 1955). “we think that the ‘objective’ examina- tion of mathematics can redouble itself in a ‘subjective’ examination. they would be able to make room for Husserl at the epistemological table. langage.”29 So too for Jean-Toussaint Desanti. p. a necessary support [appui]. La Conscience de rationalité (Paris: Presses universitaires de France.” where concepts detached from their original productive ground would be integrated into a new phenomenological system. Méthologie économique (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. . 32 Granger. in her study of the Conscience de rationalité.” Revue des Questions Scientifiques (October 1955). “Logique.30 As Suzanne Bachelard suggested. 6. a beginning .”31 The broader concern for formalization opened the possibility of reeval- uating the place of Husserl. even if at the final stage they disagreed with him. and that the latter can be a starting point for a study of the consciousness of rationality. If a new generation of phenomenologists could show that Husserl’s thought did not lead to static systems. in Piaget and de Gandillac. if they could describe a historical phenomenology. He too agreed that a cer- tain form of phenomenology froze the development of mathematics. p. 55. p. The term “conscience de rationalité” comes from Gaston Bachelard in Le Rationalisme appliqué. See also his Pensée formelle. as the Belgian philosopher of science Jean Ladrière asserted. “the starting point. .” p. 150. he saw the benefits of phenomenology and hoped to readjust it to prevent this hypostatization. we believe. Granger argued for what he called a “dehiscence of phenomenologies. the objects of a formal ontology in the transcendental sphere were “hyposta- tized as the focus of evidence [foyers d’evidence]” and Granger thought it dangerous to “objectivize in this simple manner all the acts of demon- strative reason. “Mathematiques et formalisme. 10. Indeed both Vuillemin and Martin had rec- ognized the value of phenomenology for grounding of formal systems.”32 But nonetheless. 1958). . In the words of Suzanne Bachelard.154 Derrida post-existentialist experience was. 554. communication. or “remis en chantier” to use his favorite expression. 14. and a “progress of consciousness” where that origin would be mobilized too. p. still to speak of phenomenology when however it is no longer a question of 29 Jean Ladrière. Entretiens.

”38 Because they foregrounded a reciprocal relationship between the for- mal and the transcendental. Vuillemin suggested that the internal “order of reasons” in Husserl’s work had led him to a temporal foundation. all progress of thought is. 350–64. which outlined the “auto-destruction” of phenomenology “as a first philosophy.” Les Temps modernes 531–3 (1990).35 In this new understanding. p. p. V–VIII. . p. in reality. . 1954) when.”37 Analyzing the fifth Cartesian Meditation.. it must reveal itself following the lines of rationality. these phenomenologists no longer under- stood the transcendental as an absolute origin. 9–10. however.”40 This was a transcendental history. remarking that Husserl was tending towards a “dialectical” understanding of phenomenology that saved it from Cavaillès’s criticisms. pp. . a collection of origins. . Phénoménologie et praxis. . it was never contingent human elements that piqued their interest. pp. 1968). 228 note 3. 34 Bachelard.”34 Indeed. after having criticized Husserl’s static phenomenology. Nauwelaerts. 222. be an ordinary history. an “internal life. La Logique formelle (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. See Jean- Toussaint Desanti’s reflections on his own turn to Husserl in “Sartre et Husserl. 1962). A Study of Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic.”41 Though they appealed beyond the formal systems of mathematics to explain them. 1963). there would be a reciprocal relationship between “reason and its structural form. 290. A Study of Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic. 1957). Ibid. and respond to new theoretical situations. Desanti hoped to show that phenomenology in its considerations of time and the other was forced to recognize its own limitations and move beyond an “egology. 8. 1968). and 233ff. ou les trois culs-de-sac de la phénoménologie transcendantale. Phénoménologie et praxis (Paris: Editions Sociales. 220–3. 40 Bachelard. ironically taking the lead from Jules Vuillemin. p. pp. it could change over time. They understood the transcendental as essentially historical. which had a motive drive of its own. La Conscience de rationalité. It was not dependent on the chaotic chain of events often described by historians: “the history of science is in the end a history where contin- gency is eliminated . Les Limitations internes des formalismes (Louvain: E. 41 Jean Ladrière. p. 35 Suzanne Bachelard. We can see a similar argument in Desanti’s later Les Idéalités mathematiques (Paris: Éditions du Seuil. pp.39 The history of mathematics could not. 36 Bachelard. Bachelard saw this development in Husserl’s thought itself. 407. trans L. Pensée formelle. see also Granger. La Conscience de rationalité. 2. and thus sidestepped the criticisms that had previously led epistemologists to reject phenomenology. Embree (Evanston: Northwestern University Press. 37 Jean-Toussaint Desanti. p. 16. For them. Bachelard was referring to a footnote in Jules Vuillemin L’Héritage kantien (Paris: Presses universitaires de France.”36 This is what Jean-Toussaint Desanti meant in his book Phénoménologie et praxis. The God of mathematics 155 researches that climb back to an absolute origin . pp. 119–20. 39 See also Antoinette Virieux-Reymond. and taking note of the necessity of well ordered thoughts [pensées bien enchainées]. 38 Desanti.

. Gödel’s theorem. A Study of Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic. Both Cavaillès and Vuillemin had discounted the primacy of the transcendental sphere because the motor of change as analyzed by Gödel seemed to be inherent to the formal. It was this gap that demanded the constant reevaluation of the formal in the intuitive and initiated what Ladrière called a dialectic. pp. as we will note later. the completely formal could only exist as a telos or goal. Bachelard. An exterior grounding would not be able to take into account the dynamism that Gödel’s theory required. Derrida. p. 183.. . “total knowledge has a meaning for the activity of 42 Ibid. It acted for all as an ideal not a reality: an idea in the Kantian sense. He argued that the formal could never attain the richness of the intuitive.”44 In science. commentating on its philosophical significance in the last chapter.42 Suzanne Bachelard. merely showed the insufficiency of each particular system.43 Husserl’s transcendental provided a ground that survived any particular revolution in mathematics. ”: “origin and teleology are the terms of a duality that has a phenomenological unity.156 Derrida post-existentialist The idea of multiple origins and transcendental historicity may have allowed the mathematical phenomenologists to overcome certain objec- tions. As Bachelard suggested. and. This view was in fact close to that of Gödel himself. La Conscience de rationalité.” For Ladrière. Jean Ladrière devoted his 1957 thesis to an extended treatment of Gödel’s theorem. drew the lesson from Gödel that the mathematician had to return to the transcendental sphere.” and the intentionality of consciousness meant that an origin was always an “origin of . and later Derrida in his courses. had made the turn to the German phenomenologist even more necessary. Teleologies were. Logique contemporaine et formalisation. the very nature of its deductive power meant that “all rational science has an evident teleological power. It was this insufficiency that demanded a reference to the tran- scendental sphere: the transcendental supplemented a formal that Gödel had shown to be incomplete. 403. p. but Gödel’s shadow loomed large. as we shall see. 3. In response. the mathematical phenomenologists gave a different inter- pretation of Gödel’s thesis. . too. therefore. 44 Bachelard. 43 Bachelard. there would always remain an irreducible gap between the two. 53–5. This was the sense of Bachelard’s “consciousness of rationality. who had great confidence in the power of the human mind to resolve questions left open by any delimited mathematical system. Because of Gödel. It is also an inadequation that would be asserted by Martin. rather than undermining Husserl. by generating unde- cidable propositions. A formal system did not produce a new system of a higher power out of itself. p. Gödel’s theory. a necessary part of formalization. Rather.

”51 This was a pro- cess that ensured that “it is not given to us to have access to a pure presence .” in Bouligand. Indeed the value of an open telos was that. which explained the interaction of the formalized elements of mathematics and the intuition on which they were based.”45 This concurred perfectly with Ladrière’s language. p. insofar as it is a limit-concept in the Husserlian sense of the term. p. 410. p. the unpredictability in a formal system that undermined its “linear” nature. 443. the other key term used was “horizon. 190. Les Limitations internes des formalismes. 52 Ibid. this horizon was linked to a tripartite understanding of time. 50 Ladrière. insofar as it is an asymptotic ideal. moreover. 46 Ladrière. p.. Ladrière saw that it was only in a tripartite temporality that the precise relation- ship of constituting and constituted could be maintained:50 “there is thus here. in the uninterrupted doubling of self with self that characterizes the movement of temporalization (and that characterizes at the same time the movement of reflection). 7. 51 Ibid.. because its development comprises something unforeseeable for a lucid consciousness. 1954).”52 45 Ibid. It did not provide an explicit and fleshed-out end. see also pp. 48 Cf. given the limitations expressed by Gödel.”49 For Ladrière and Bachelard. Les Limitations internes des formalismes.”47 The concept of the horizon explained the unpredictability of the future. p.46 The teleology could not be substantive.” that is an implicit sphere of possibilities not yet actualized. . and Nicholas Bourbaki. Roger Martin. Pensée formelle. . As Granger said “total formalization appears only ever as a horizon of scientific thought. 4. presence is always mixed with absence and positivity with negativity. p. 49 Bachelard.. 440–4. For both. 438. legitimately speak of an ‘experience’ of the rational that always brings something ‘new’ that was not implied in the elementary. It was thus that in discussing the teleology. Eléments de pure mathematique (Paris: Hermann et compagnie Editeurs. p. The God of mathematics 157 mathematical physics. the source of that always open possibility of an after which characterizes constructive operations. a process that opened up the future in anticipation. 437. La Conscience de rationalité. it allowed the functional norm of a closed system without itself succumbing to undecidability. one can. . Hommage à Gaston Bachelard. 47 Granger. 44. “Epistémologie et philosophie. it was the process of retention that allowed formalized mathematics to impact on the process of formalization and constitution in the present. p. we believe.48 Bachelard explained that in science knowing the premises did not neces- sarily give an immediate knowledge of the conclusions of an argument: “even within the rational.

416–17. leaving the elements of the discourse to themselves. “Les Limitations des formalismes et leur signification philosophique. 36. Writing was valuable for two reasons. 57 Ladrière. pp.” pp. but language. it can no longer be considered but as the trace of an act which has been thematized. Of Grammatology. 31–2. p. and Bachelard. p. and in Pensée formelle.”58 Rigorous truth drew more from the desubjectifying and formalizing process of writing than the bound intuitive sense of speech. in a dispersion which permits us to consider them on their own account and to submit them to the operations of counting [dénombrement]. 323 note. language was important to detach science from perception: “the form of the scientific object does not directly concern sensible content. Once a linguistic object has retired from the living current that ties the parts of language to the sources of meaning. Pensée formelle.” Dialectica (1960). and Granger. 54 Granger. 12. and Jean Ladrière. but which has been projected outside of itself into the world of things. p. 434–6. it would be necessary to “[reverse] the relations between oral language and writing. Language was necessarily intersubjective. Les Limitations internes des formalismes. communication. .55 But along with this role came another that was equally important. 308. p. .. . La Conscience de rationalité. both in his article for the Gas- ton Bachelard collection. either implicitly or explicitly written. In the objective language that constitutes the formal system . 56 Ibid. The most obvious example is Gilles Gaston Granger. langage. it allowed calculations to rise above the particular subject matter involved: Writing marked the key stage of formalization.56 As Ladrière suggested. 279–320. p. many epistemologists in the late 1950s paid great attention to the symbol. p. 16–18. The transfer into language also allowed the reduction of the individual constituting subject.158 Derrida post-existentialist There is one other aspect of the work of the mathematical phenomenolo- gists that deserves our attention. Granger wrote that to understand the role of writing in the construction of formal systems and thus of science. 439.57 Preempting Derrida’s similar formulation by almost a decade. Firstly. “Logique. 58 Derrida too refers to Granger in Derrida. the movement of speech retires.53 As Granger noted. Logique contemporaine et formalisation. 53 See also Martin. see also pp.. pp. who. 38. 55 Ibid.”54 The movement was so crucial that Granger suggested that without language the concept of structure would lose its meaning. given the future development of Derrida’s philosophy. 6. like the reference point for an operation that no longer belongs to the actuality of consciousness. For in their concern to reassert the autonomy of formal systems (in order to allow a truly reciprocal relationship with the intuitive or tran- scendental). elaborated the concept of writing at length. pp.

61 For this group of epistemologists and a brief discussion of their relationship to Husserl see Bernard Waldenfels. . by its type of sensible existence. 60 Gary Gutting. p. working on internal tensions and difficulties that required the genesis of new structures. their structures were not static.60 In prematurely lamenting its demise. 380–96. But unlike those of the later structuralists. Gary Gutting in his book on twentieth-century French philosophy mourns the death of Cavaillès. but active. as does Lawlor. Gutting suggests. this form of “mathematical phenomenology” – and not the famous debates conducted by Lévi-Strauss or Althusser with Sartre – marks the hinge and crossover between the two movements. 2001). 62 We should not. 207. which acted as a conduit from the phenomenology and existentialism of the 1950s to the structuralism of the next decade. meant that they were not just tools or sedimentations of live thought. realizes an economy of memory that thus liberates thought . Emphasizing the role of transcendental subjectivity like exis- tentialism. more specifically. constitutive participants in the understanding and percep- tion of the world. . pp. La Conscience de rationalité. yet aiming for the sureness of logical validity like structuralism. synchronic descrip- tions. constantly changing and developing.62 He too hoped to tie a supposedly independent mathematical 59 Bachelard. And these geneses. p. regard Derrida’s concern with geometry as merely an effort to show the error of Husserl’s preferred example: Lawlor. French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press. 105. Again it was a form of writing that could no longer be considered as purely secondary to thought: “the sign. Derrida’s Introduction to the Origin of Geometry should be read in this context. The God of mathematics 159 Suzanne Bachelard also drew on the peculiar nature of the symbol at key moments in her texts. a logical phenomenol- ogy might have arisen to challenge the subjective existentialist variety. .61 Mathematical phenomenology in the 1950s and early 1960s showed a strong interest in formalized mathematical structures. but allowed a crucial step in that thought itself. these movements and interactions between the formal and the intuitive were mediated through language and. Phänomenologie in Frankreich (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. 228. the written sign. but to see in the sign only a means to relieve thought of an unnecessary effort would be to depreciate its value: the sign had an inductive role for the development of thought. 1983). Derrida and Husserl. p. shot during the war for his resistance activity.”59 This inductive role of the sign. But for this quirk of fate. They were structures on the move. one that detached calculations from the specific example and gave them universal applicability. Gutting ignores the importance of this movement in French philosophy.

for comparison. In French. In French. the discussion of writing is entirely contained within section seven of the Introduction. the book as published is a translation of Edmund Husserl’s Origine de la Géométrie.” it does not contain a copy of the Introduction. an absence that would be overcome only after 1965 and the publication of 63 Most commentators. As I will show over the next few chapters.160 Derrida post-existentialist discipline to a richer immediate experience. a work of epistemology appearing on the bibliographies of Desanti’s 1968 Les Idéalités mathématiques and the 1969 agrégation theme. then Derrida’s first discussion of writing cannot be interpreted unproblematically to be in continuity with his later work. such as Paola Marrati. however. not skeptical postmodernists. Further. After all. focus predominantly on the first sections. without recognizing the wide use of such concepts in French epistemology at the time.” Scholars who would have bought the Origin of Geometry were philosophers of mathematics and phenomenologists. the writing Derrida discussed in 1962 was not what it was in 1967. there is surprisingly little communication between them except to discuss Derrida’s continual failure to progress. a chapter that seems to occupy an important but not pivotal point in the argument. Marrati not even mentioning it. for Hyppolite found himself midway between the two main groupings that I am analyzing here. a productive one. it is a support to the text itself. Like the epistemologists. One exception is Len Lawlor. and especially section VII. Contemporaries read the book for Husserl’s treatment of geometry. . the book is described as Derrida’s Introduction to the Origin of Geometry and includes Husserl’s text as an appendix. he sought to understand it as historical. Interestingly enough. however. it is only in Derrida’s later works that it came to assume centrality. he attributed its ability to transcend immediate subjectivity and its historical moment through an appeal to language. Indeed in the Etudes philosophiques review of the translation the Introduction mer- ited just one line. whose comparison with Hyppolite bridges both elements. I think. Derrida’s name is not so prominent. Derrida’s reading has been seen as a proto-deconstruction. rather. aimed at deepening a reading rather than leaving it surpassed. Much lies in a title. Derrida cited Suzanne Bachelard more than any other author. It is Husserl’s text that is supplemented by Derrida’s Introduc- tion and not vice-versa. And despite Hyppolite being Derrida’s directeur de thèse. though the Hyppolite archive contains many of the drafts of the translation of the “Origin of Geometry. and following their lead. That Derrida’s Introduction drew on the texts and problematics of the epistemological tradition is suggested by the presentation of the book itself. a first over-turning of Husserl’s logocentric project. Very few consequently spend any time on the invocation of God at the end of the Introduction. writing was also conspicuously absent. The comparison with Hyppolite is. In the English translation. Beyond works by Husserl. If this is the case. In the English-speaking world. “science and technology.63 In Derrida’s contemporaneous courses.

In this case. The Origin of Geometry thus combines the discussion of objectivity with an analysis of history. The Problem of Genesis described Husserl’s constant and unsuccessful attempts to square the circle between a logicism (later a philosophy without history) and a psychologism (or a history without philosophy). The content of the essay is also significant. Rather than 1962 representing the genesis of a theme that would come to dominate much of Derrida’s career. was purely empirical. it could not found certain truth. One of the rare notes that Derrida added to his Mémoire when it came to be published in 1990 refers to this description of the Origin. I showed how the original concen- tration on questions of objectivity and psychology came to be translated into questions of the relationship between philosophy and history.65 In 1990 Derrida wrote. “sometime afterward. I suggest that Derrida’s appeal to writing in his Introduction arose in conversation with a specific French tradition of epistemology.” that is the process by which geometrical forms could be handed down through the generations for the possibility of reactivation. 65 See Kates. I noted: ‘No. the Origin of Geometry was seen as intending one side of the duality. whose later interest in history made up the subject matter of the last part of Derrida’s student work. but failing in this enterprise and thus falling back to the other side. Derrida had suggested that the Origin of Geometry relied on an empirical approach. 212 note. and it does this by inscribing a supposedly atemporal science (geometry) in a historical development. who ties this to a change in stance towards Jean Cavaillès. p. p. In the Mémoire.” 64 Derrida. Essential History. And the inadequacies of the approach lead Husserl to posit a “hidden reason” in history to tame empirical genesis and give it sense. The Problem of Genesis. This movement was to a large extent carried by the trajectory of Husserl’s own texts. 57. the origin of geometry In the chapter on the Problem of Genesis. It is from this last section that the Origin of Geometry was chosen. It is these same concerns that animated the Origin of Geometry. look at again!’ opposite these lines. as many commentators have impatiently tried to imply. The God of mathematics 161 his “Of Grammatology” articles in Critique. but this time with a difference. taking as its starting point existing science: it succumbed to the same aporias as empiricism and psychologism. . This interpretation of the Origin of Geometry would not last. like Derrida’s presentations of the rest of Husserl’s work.64 The note was appended to a sentence that asserted that “traditionality.

against a historicism blinded by the empiricist cult of fact . and on the other hand. and Jules Vuillemin had criticized Husserl for denying the history of ideal objectivities. 26 note 2. 26. If the likes of Gaston Bachelard. in the end. for the first time. And in posing the question in this way.66 This did not mean that the problems were resolved here. as grounded in “the factual interconnections of empirical history.” such as geometrical objects. As Derrida suggested “these pages of Husserl. That would be the interest in translating the Origin of Geometry: it was Husserl’s last. p. Derrida aligned his analysis with the contemporary epistemological debate. p.162 Derrida post-existentialist If traditionality were not an entirely empirical process. . 1978). trans. Gilles Gaston Granger. 26 (translation modified). Derrida thus followed Suzanne Bachelard in pro- tecting Husserl from their criticisms. 67 Ibid. first written for himself. . Derrida drew attention to three crucial elements of their project: the grounding of formal systems in a more expansive domain.”67 Rather it was an attempt to bring to light a new “profundity of historicity” that no longer saw the origin and tradition of “ideal objectivities. the centrality of language. Whereas before the different stages of Husserl’s thought had merely transcribed the same mysterious aporia from one to another phenomenological level. . and 66 Jacques Derrida. John Leavey (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. This reasoning is clear right from the first pages of the Introduction: Initially. by showing that. But never had the two denunciations of historicism and objectivism been so organically united as in The Origin of Geometry. then perhaps this might change the status of the text. on the one hand.”68 Here lay the development from the Problem of Genesis: the Origin of Geometry was the first and only text to approach the aporia directly. against a certain technicist and objectivist irresponsibility in the practice of science and philosophy. and thus it was the perfect text to which Derrida could apply himself. 68 Ibid.. Introduction to Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction. Jean Piaget. he agreed with them.. for there the question of history was investigated directly. p. In aligning himself and Husserl with the French epistemologists. have the rhythm of a thought feeling its way rather than setting itself forth. Derrida suggested a close examination of the Origin of Geom- etry would show that that was not the case. here. The Origin of Geometry is not distinguishable by its double cluster of critiques that are directed. there might be something that transcended the difference. nor [in] an ideal and ahistoric enrichment. and best. chance to overcome the paradoxes that had dogged him his entire career.

The God of mathematics 163 especially writing. like Bachelard and Ladrière before him. under which is constructed the geometrical ideality of the ‘circle.” 71 According to Husserl. in order to show the parallels with the other French epistemologists. But. as we shall see. Introduction. the failure to achieve exactness. it was not an absolute beginning independent of all human thought.’”72 Though a description of the Lebenswelt and a purifying of its forms were possible. the “anexactitude” of the pre-geometrical sphere did not impede the rigor of the description of the world. problematic. as we shall see. lines made straighter. In the Lebenswelt there were no geometrical lines and surfaces. The morphological forms created by the imagination remained sensible. 125 and note on “Sartre’s breakthrough [trouée Sartrienne]. but geometrical shapes had to transcend these and be detached from all 69 In my presentation I have reversed the order of Derrida’s and Husserl’s text. the immediate world of our experiences. in each of these three elements. 70 See ibid..71 Moreover. this was Kant’s error in the Critique of Pure Reason. Here Derrida refers to Gaston Bachelard’s work on pre-scientific phenomenology. but rather “inexact but pure morphological types: ‘roundness’ for example. It was a characteristic of this pre-geometrical field that forms could be progressively perfected. The checkered grid imposed by a Euclidean (or any other) understanding of space was a product of geometry. But this did not mean that space and time were not there already. in the constitution of those formal systems. but was the most proximate ground for geometrical idealizations. Derrida noted the appeal to a Kantian idea. and surfaces more smooth in the imagination. was not inexactitude. the absence of exactness. After following the French epistemologists closely in the first sections of his Introduction. at the very least. and finally the possibility of a “history of mathematics” that would not merely be contingent and empirical. this was not in itself sufficient for the move to intelligible ideality. As Derrida described. but transcendental. p. . 72 Derrida. the Lebenswelt was not the pre-predicative sphere. Anexactitude. it was in the final analysis of the Kantian idea that he would break with them. and so in the Lebenswelt space and time could not be determined by its standards. the Lebenswelt could not rely on geo- metrical categories. The reversal is. pp. the answer was clear: geometry arose out of what Husserl called the Lebenswelt. whose validity in the Husserlian system was.70 Prior to geometry. an artefact of the Husserlian Rückfrage. up from the lebenswelt 69 What was the origin of geometry? For Husserl. 123–4.

and indeed. which authorizes the surpassing of the finite and opens the horizon of knowledge as that of a pre-having. Language represented objective ideality. p. p.164 Derrida post-existentialist sensible ground. p. To understand the word Löwe. pp.” it had to break with the finite. this passage to the limit is only the surpassing of every sensible and factual limit. “the institution of geometry could only be a philosophical act. in whatever voice. Naturally. when he suggests that we need to move beyond a phenomenology of perception. we can never arrive at the purity of. the circle. 63.74 As Derrida explained it.. Thereby. 75 Ibid. But this was at first a closed totality. Like the epistemologists Derrida wanted to show that language was the basis of the formal. it was an infinite idea that allowed the institution of geometry. in whatever accent. whether in the imagination or in perception. 62–6. Introduction. and a second infinitization was required to free this science for an unlimited development: Galileo’s revolution. In both cases. What was it that made mathemat- ics omnitemporal. it would still mean the same thing. Gaston Granger in Pensée formelle. the philosopher is a man who inaugurates the theoretical attitude: the latter is only the mind’s [esprit] radical freedom. As Derrida suggested. as well as the constitution of the mathematical field in general. i. because across a diversity of different instances it aimed at the same object. Cf. . The first infinitization raised geometry up to philosophy. 74 Derrida.. in whatever language. 127 (translation modified). it 73 Ibid. valid at all times. “how can the subjective egological evidence of sense become objective and intersubjective?”75 For Derrida. 127. No matter how often one says Löwe (lion). Mathematics had moved beyond even this level of ideality. the answer was language.73 This was the first infinitization that withdrew geometry from the finite sensible world and made it universally applicable. However much we perfect the forms of actual experience. universalized its axioms.e. whoever is speaking. there was still a necessary relationship to the content. language and the rise of non-subjective truth Once mathematics had been formed and detached from its experiential ground in the Lebenswelt the question arose as to what allowed it to be readable across time and space. of an infinite project or task (Vorhaben). one must first have had some experience of a lion. say. the theoretical attitude makes idealization’s decisive “passage to the limit” possible. But in this example.

p.. because this required the reduction of already- constituted eidetics. 80 Bachelard. xxxi. it could never fully reduce the eidetics at work there. 68 note 65. .. The final expression was taken from Jean Hyppolite. To achieve this. of necessity. Husserl never answered and one which remained valid.” words which. 69 note 66. even if Derrida put it aside now. like them. writing is no longer only the worldly and mnemotechnical aid to a truth of which the sense of being can dispense with all consignation. it maintained phenomenology in a worldly attitude. appealed to writing. p.”76 “From then on. p. according to Derrida. A final detachment must also occur.. according to Derrida. The infinite idea was necessary. 81 Derrida. It was this difficulty that led Husserl to “defer” the discussion of language in all of his works. p. 79 Ibid.”77 But the discussion of language.. using language. 78 Ibid. and so by implication is the his- tory that language founds. Not only is the possibility or necessity of being incarnated in a graphic sign [graphie] no longer extrinsic and factual with regard to ideal objectivity: it is the condition sine qua non of Objectivity’s internal accomplishment.82 An infinitely translatable language detached 76 Ibid. the ease of the eidetic reduction compromised the phenomenological reduction. Husserl was at pains to distinguish from their mundane meanings. which constituted a “subjectless transcendental field. Bachelard’s description of writing earlier. in order to understand their genesis in the transcen- dental sphere. like that of the genesis from the Lebenswelt. the impetus that had led him to use them in the first place showed that they could not be detached entirely from conventional understandings. Derrida. p. 69. Even as Husserl tried to recast these words. Language implicitly instituted the eidetic reduction. Introduction. as Derrida had shown. the meaning of a given word is detached from all its possible real instantiations. By. It was a criticism that. 82 Ibid.81 This was particularly pressing with questions of “history” and “origins. Following the epistemologists. because it was impossible to exclude all empirical elements from lan- guage. Derrida argued that language must also detach the formal from its subjective ground.80 If language could not be fully reduced in phenomenology. also required an infinite idea. 88–9 (translation modified). Cf. The God of mathematics 165 was detached from any empirical grounding.79 It is why Derrida cited Suzanne Bachelard’s suggestion of a return to psychologism in Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic. 69. Language is always contaminated with the real. a tear was opened in the phenomeno- logical reduction itself. A Study of Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic. firstly. 88. 77 Ibid. But. pp..78 And since the phenomenological reduction required the use of language. p.

This was. Because we had already moved through the reduction away from all mate- rial instantiations. and all the phenomena of the crisis. Of the possible ways in which writing can impede geometry compare p.87 The only real danger was that which threatened the intentional meaning of writing. it inaugurated the possibility of a transcendental “disappearance of truth. if it were just a Körper. we could never forget an idea as we thought it. but was also a properly constituting body (Leib)?” (Derrida. is. not just a Körper. In order to move beyond this problem. 94. actual existent writing. however.” writing opened up the possibility of “passivity. by the very fact that it liberated meaning from its “present existence for a real sub- ject. away from its Körper. As we saw. non-constitutive. would be resistant to such a burning. like a machine working over millions of computations but without knowing what they 83 Ibid. According to this argument. and hence the meaning of the symbols could become lost.”83 Detached from its subjective ground. 84 Ibid. 85 Ibid.. is unsure: “We would be completely convinced if here – as in his static analyses – Husserl had considered writing to be a sensible phenomenon. It is clear that. 87 Derrida. p.. In becoming ideal. 93 (translation modified).166 Derrida post-existentialist from all connection to the real could only be given as an unachievable telos. The same problem arose with writing. this might entail a loss of knowledge and truth in fact. Introduction. then its physical disappearance would not matter. it is difficult to see how the one can be separated from the other. what happened in Husserl’s Crisis of the Sciences. and made significant advances by forgetting the very roots that had initially legitimated it. But did we not just find out that writing. how the end of factical writing existing in the world would not also be the end of its sense-giving role. p. after all. it plays a central role in constitution. But.”85 Of course. . the ideality of the geometrical object. p. 87. Husserl has to undertake yet another reduction of writing. its truth. but this was not the disappearance that concerned Husserl here. forgetfulness. writing detached for- mal structures from their roots in human subjectivity. inasmuch as it was grounding (or contributing to the ground of ) truth’s absolute objectivity.. p. but with the passage of time a note we jotted down on a piece of paper could become indecipherable. Writing instigated a blindness and an automatism that the other epistemologists distrusted. a “world-wide burning of libraries.”84 Husserl put aside the most obvious examples. according to Derrida. The destruction of every copy of War and Peace would have a significant effect on its existence. but also Leib. when a formalized science became detached from the Lebenswelt. 86 Though this would not be true for “enchaı̂nées” cultural idealities like literature. Being at the same time both constituted and constituting. to its Leiblichkeit. was not merely a constituted sensible body (Körper). But writing. geometrical meaning was detached from its subjective ground.86 The angles of a triangle would still add up to 180 degrees even if every document saying so were lost. 97). This wasn’t the type of loss of truth suggested by a bonfire of all existent books. 36 note.

89 For this reason. 89 Ibid. which at the same time preserved “the indetermination of its infinite open- ing.. The very possibility of a loss or a mutation in meaning posed a major problem to Derrida. we could reduce all equivocity to arrive at a unique and pure meaning. The God of mathematics 167 meant. and hence allowed a reactivation.” which was always already there in experience as a precondition of any knowledge. grounded in the univocal meaning of geometry. But it did not in itself account for its history. The notion of horizon thus makes the a priori and the teleological coincide. It set up a possible equivocity of meaning that threat- ened the very phenomenological project. Detached from their original sense there was no guarantee that writing would be reactivated in the same way. 90 Ibid. after its genesis.” while complete univocity would similarly stall the historical process for Husserl. geometry could be transmitted across time and space.. As we saw. 103. but never fully grasped.. like Husserl. the forgetting of its living ground.90 Derrida con- tinued by placing great emphasis on the concept of the “horizon. p. 105. p. Husserl had to appeal to a complete reactivation. we were left with a situation where the choice was not really possible. 117 (translation modified). provided the basis for its later enlivening. Either following James Joyce we could attempt to gather up all the equivocity and make “visible [affleurer] the greatest possible synchrony with the greatest potential for buried intentions.” The concept of horizon thus “converts critical philosophy’s state of abstract possibility into the concrete infinite potentiality secretly presup- posed therein. p. that a note we wrote to ourselves yesterday would still mean the same thing to us today. Joyce’s project demanded a mastering of history “in a total and present resumption. p. only as an ideal or telos. according to Derrida.”88 We could revel in the world of possible meanings. Confronted with this we are left with a choice. 102 (translation modified). The preservation of meaning was a question of responsibility.”91 the possibility of a historical phenomenology of mathematics The analysis of language had shown how. the question of history and the connected issues posed by Gödel’s incompleteness theory were what had made phenomenology so 88 Ibid. they were moral rather than physical failings. The horizon was the condition for all thought. But. Or. .. 91 Ibid. But because this disappearance and forgetting were purely inten- tional. the sedimentation of truth.

it was essential that before this “first time” there was a “non-geometry.”94 The specific factual moment was no longer important. p. like Kant moving back to the conditions of possibility of all appearances. 38. in order to locate and delimit it. when a constituted science (history) was deployed to understand constitution (phenomenology). Phenomenology was meant to found the regional sciences.. 95 Ibid. the sense of that first geometry also had to be the sense now.. such as physics. as Kant had shown. p. If phe- nomenology were itself to be historical that would invert the hierarchies.93 Derrida asserted that. methodologically it could only come second: “the reduction needs as its starting point the constituted result it neutralizes. 48. 92 Ibid. because the reactivation required that we already know what the phenomenon “geometry” is. for all the originarity of the transcendental. we would have to look back to a history that was no longer empirical. 93 Ibid.168 Derrida post-existentialist unattractive in the first place to many French epistemologists in the early postwar period. even Kant had to assume that these ideal objects had a history. centered on what he called “reactivation. p. but the fact that one existed was central. These three conditions provided the means to start from already constituted geometry and search back for its meaning: “From a received and already legible document. The more mundane and empirical notion of “origin” was then injected with a transcendental and phenomenological meaning. 42. the possibility is offered to me of interrogating anew and in return the originary and final intention of that which was delivered by the tradition”: Husserl’s Rückfrage Derrida translated as the “question en retour.. and cause the same type of problems that had been at the root of the crisis of the sciences. if we were searching for the origins of mathematics. Secondly. 94 Ibid. What would this transcendental history look like? Derrida sketched out the necessary forms of this new historical phenomenological sphere.”92 The return to origins must be a regression from constituted science. According to Derrida. which nonetheless “remains hidden” for him. Derrida rejected the Kantian approach..” And thirdly.” The conditions of this new reduced sphere were the following: it had to involve an “essence-of-the- first-time. and reduced. and history. as Derrida was keen to point out. p. 50.”95 The “question en retour” was the key moment in the new historical phenomenology of geometry. Derrida too recognized serious obstacles in the develop- ment of a historical phenomenology. But. mathematics. but transcendental. Kant’s forms were too static. . Otherwise how would we know where to start? But like all of the epistemologists.

p. it could no longer be fitted into the decidable distinction between “true” and “false. and how could it be assured? One could no longer define it as “a system of axioms which ‘governs’ a multiplicity. only made sense within a “geometric- mathematical horizon in general. 97 Ibid. which were “prior to those axioms and served as their ground. 99 Derrida. i. 53 (translation modified). Husserl’s theory did not succumb to Gödel’s criticism. pp. 53.e. not geometry in general.”96 After Gödel had shown the incompleteness of all formal systems of a certain power. upon which Gödel’s theorem depended. because it reached back to a more basic mathematical drive that was continuous across different axiomatizations.. a set we now know was posterior to the essential unity of geometry.”99 It was what Suzanne Bachelard had called the “consciousness of rationality. geometry was grounded in originary evidences. For the question en retour.” The question of decidability only makes sense in the broader field of a sci- ence that cares about such things. A Study of Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic. geometry could never expect a deter- mined definition. there needed to be some constancy in the sense of geometry. Derrida’s argument mirrored that of the mathematical phenomenologists. 52–5.. p. But Derrida suggested that the very question of decidability.” because such a phrase declared itself to be true and thus part of the set of decidable proposi- tions. But what was this unity.” Derrida doubted that Gödel’s theory could simply be pushed aside. this definition of the unity of mathematics was no longer valid. it would be as if the letter had been intercepted and edited on its journey. as Ladrière and Bachelard thought. One would never be able to say. The God of mathematics 169 Derrida was particularly concerned about the third condition. one that could be affirmed or denied. or as analytic contradiction. For Husserl. as the open unity of a science.98 It was a particular geometry that failed due to the incompleteness the- orem. . “Geometry is such and such. Geometry and mathematics more generally would have to find their ground outside of formal systems.” where “every proposition is determinable either as analytic consequence. it was only because of this transcendental logic that it could maintain its unity across the reformulations of higher formal systems.” Consequently. p. Introduction.97 Rather than the instability of the formal as expressed by Gödel undermining the idea that it was rooted in a transcendental sphere. 55. 96 Ibid. If the unity of geometry lay beyond decidability. 98 Bachelard. Insofar as it changes we would be unable to draw on it to reactivate its origin. and Derrida turned explicitly to Suzanne Bachelard to counter the criticism leveled against Husserl by critics like Cavaillès.

103 Derrida. escaped its grasp. the subject of the final section. as an ideal pole that is not in itself transcendent to history. Husserl’s project stood or fell: it was the condition of possibility for geometry and phe- nomenology more generally. p.. 102 Ibid. would become the keystone of Derrida’s analysis. p. I think. whose philosophy is “a sort of Christianity. The discussion of the horizon and the Kantian idea. The declaration of the Idea as mysterious should recall the Problem of Genesis. It was here that Derrida’s analysis took a very strange turn. p. The keystone of phenomenology. 58 (translation modified). It was an infinite idea whose evidence was “mysterious. and Derrida’s tying of the religious to the historical.. 148.. 101 Ibid.” could only exist as an infinite idea. A l’école de la phénoménologie. Derrida noted the necessary appeal to an infinite idea. Philosophy and the turn to Religion. Hent de Vries gives a lengthier treatment of this moment: see de Vries.” .. and one that was necessary both for Husserl and for Derrida’s contemporary epistemologists. 163. was particularly difficult for phenomenology to understand.” its refusal to be “enclosed in any determined historical culture as such. Introduction. p. quoting a phrase from Ricoeur that in contemporary courses was one of his favourites. 140 note 167.”103 Because it was infinite. p. which saved phe- nomenology from being mere phenomenalism. 129. but sees it as the continued critique of Husserl. 45 note. Lawlor makes a note of this appeal to God. and p. p. 104 See ibid. geometry could “only indicate the pure openness and unity of an infinite horizon. because geometry had the pretension to universality.”102 As Ricoeur’s catchphrase suggested. p. p. Derrida compared the indeterminacy of the idea. reprinted in Ricoeur. to God. Derrida and Husserl. 105 Ibid. most clearly in chapter 3.105 100 Ibid..” See also his references to the cross: Lawlor.170 Derrida post-existentialist Not able to have a determined form. the Kantian idea. a change in direction that. so central for the epistemologists. it had to be separated from the mere cultural traditions that were limited to one particular historical moment. but it was Kant who “limited and founded it. 148. is the most important in the book.104 The appeal to God is particularly surprising. for in the Origin of Geometry Husserl never mentioned him. Derrida stated that geometry’s status as a “science.”100 Furthermore. 106. Derrida. it could never be given “in person” to finite intu- ition. quoting Ricoeur in Kant-Studien. “Formal Indications. suggested that Husserl did phenomenology. But his discussion is quite brief. On this idea.” not fitting into phenomenology’s “principle of principles.101 the infinite idea of god So at each stage of Husserl’s work. 56.

because spatiality was part of the eidos of the object. téléologie.” Irvine. then. of the inadequation of the intuition to the object: It is on the foundation of the infinite that I perceive the indefiniteness of the finite. Husserl tried to separate himself from what he thought were the “theological” presup- positions of previous philosophies.” sheet 7.8. “Le Sens du transcendental. And Kant would reproach Husserl for not starting sufficiently explicitly from this relationship between the finite. théologie: le dieu de Husserl. one side at a time. especially that of Kant. then the intuition would become mere appearances. not just the product of our perception. The God of mathematics 171 To understand the move we need to turn to Derrida’s contemporary courses. Derrida explicitly discussed the ambivalent role of God in Husserl’s phenomenology.106 In one prepared in early 1963. and thus could access it independently of human capacities. 108 Ibid. riposted that the idea of an infinite consciousness was implicit in the idea of the Abschattung. théologie. ventriloquizing Kant. a phantom destined to make the absolutely unconditioned uni- versality of certain eidetic laws appear. and we could no longer rely on “immediate clear and distinct intu- ition of the thing present in person” to provide truth. The seeds of such a reemergence could be seen in the debate with Kant.108 But despite this rigorous and “cold atheology. “Phénoménologie. In particular he opposed Kant’s distinction between the thing for-us and thing in-itself.” Second. It is from the horizon of a total adequation of my perception to the thing that I can become conscious of the inadequation. and God had access to a nonspatial object. sheets 31–3 and 41–2.” as Husserl’s philosophy developed the name of God became increasingly present.. Neglecting this difference. including God. First. sheet 71. including God. under the transcendental reduction. God was “a limit concept. philosophy would lose all value. was reduced. But for Husserl. God too was constrained to see an object in Abschattungen.9. 106 See Jacques Derrida. the totality of the world. especially Ideas. in return- ing to the transcendental sphere “the God of religions” had to be put in brackets. and the infinite.” Irvine. . Spatiality was an “essential and irreducible eidetic component of the body itself. téléologie. Derrida. the indefinite. “Phénoménologie. both its condition and its derivation.107 In Husserl’s first works. sheet 22. and Jacques Derrida. and from this difference between an infinite consciousness and a finite consciousness. Derrida.” If the principle of principles – the certainty of the eidetic laws drawn from a phenomenology – held. 7. 6. To Husserl’s objections. which derived from the distinction between limited human intuition (intuitus derivativa) and an infinite divine intuition (intuitus originaria) that created the object. it had to hold for all possible subjects. he forgets precisely finitude itself. 107 If the opposite were true. while making the finite consciousness the originary absolute.

demands the truth. It is for this reason that Husserl claimed that his philosophy could be a “non-confessional path to God. téléologie. fittingly calling it a Kan- tian idea. .” sheets 30–2.” sheets 29–30. firstly through teleology. a close analysis revealed a persistent form of transcendence. determining the world and consciousness from the outside. Ideas I. It is time itself and not an immobile eternity. § 58. especially in his analyses of the mathematical object. which was not immediate to experience like the subject but mediate: what Husserl named God.172 Derrida post-existentialist Indeed. that. téléologie.” he no longer accorded with the “classical concept of God. for Husserl. not as the factual God of religions – the human fleshing out of this sign could be definitively placed to one side – but “a God who. in the methodological operation of the reduction has lost all his classical ontological attributes. is an opening to the indefinite horizon and not to an actual infinity. the consciousness that renders itself responsible in history for that infinity and that universality. which infinitely overflows the totality of what in fact is. this mediate transcendence in immanence would return. 111 Derrida. that God was “deferred [differé]” rather than reduced. God became more central for Husserl. because God still “announces himself ” in the immanence of the transcendental experience.” secondly through the idea of a moral order. But in Ideas. and thirdly in religious consciousness. appearing in the transcendental sphere. As Husserl’s thought developed. “Phénoménologie. whose omnitemporality required the idea of an infinite mind. “Phénoménologie. sheet 14. who in consequence seeks the truth. “can no longer be an absolutely transcendent God.”111 For this reason.”109 So.”112 According to Derrida. Nevertheless. which is mundane and anthropological. théologie. Husserl found himself continuously required to appeal to an infinite idea in order to maintain his system. the consciousness which feels itself called to such a project. Husserl thought that he could fully reduce this idea of God.110 This God manifested itself medi- ately in thought. this consciousness that thinks the universal truth across [par-delà] its factical determinations. “the Kantian idea. because it was present only mediately. Husserl talked of another immanent tran- scendence. The consciousness that projects such objects. “the recognition of a certain final order. As Derrida asserted. One such transcendence in imma- nence was the unity of the transcendental subject that accompanies all my representations. through signs. Derrida declared that this reduction could never be definitive. in the later works. even after the phenomenological reduction. this 109 Ibid. 110 See Husserl. This infinite idea was necessarily indeterminate.. it was by drawing out these implications.” 112 Derrida. this new God. théologie.

115 In all these cases God was not a transcendent thing.117 This was why Derrida referred to God in the final section of his Introduction. Geometry in Derrida’s Introduction merely served as another occasion for discussing the divine. . 117 The other phenomenologist for whom this is the case is Jean Ladrière. Derrida’s contemporary courses deal only briefly with questions of mathematics and science.” sheets 38 and 42. in the sense of an infinite Telos . or Theology.113 The divine arose within finite consciousness. sheet 34. . one scholar in particular should catch our interest here. all opening up the possibility of history.114 Indeed this form of divinity that is intimately related to the Kantian idea showed itself to be essential at several levels. . The Telos of truth. where he describes the idea as a mystery and identifies it with the idea of God. . . such as it manifests itself in the sciences and philosophy . especially as concerned the crucial question of for- malization. “Phénoménologie. sheet 35. because it had responsibility for the infinite mathematical object: There is then no infinite or universal or eternal independent of a completely historical and temporal consciousness . théologie. Though this was a broad movement. It was religious questions that most exercised him. 115 See also his analysis of Husserl’s Kantian idea in the course “L’Idée” from 1961–2. this consciousness makes the divine rise up [affleurer] within it. According to Derrida. Derrida’s engagement with questions of epistemology was a propadeutic to the more critical dis- cussion of the divine. but the pole of historicity: “he is the opening . téléologie. incorporating a variety of theoreti- cal views. of history.”116 Because the infinite idea for Husserl was God. the irruption of divine logos. The God of mathematics 173 consciousness that poses and thinks the value of infinite and universal truth. broadly corresponding to the three elaborated in Derrida’s Introduction to the Origin of Geometry. Evil. pp. . 6. always deferred [differé]. the very claims of French philosophy of science. .6. situated at the infinite as a horizon . .. Irvine. a tradition I discussed briefly in the first chapter. the emergence of the divine in history. 103–34.. . were dependent on an appeal to the infinite idea. 114 Ibid. . ‘Selbstrealisierungsprozessus der Gottheit’ [the divine’s process of self-realization]. 116 Derrida.” Revue philosophique de Louvain (February 1960). is thus the manifestation of divinity. whether of God. See especially his article “Histoire et destinée. Henri Birault was the most important and successful Christian Heideggerian in 113 Ibid. and hence to theology. especially sheets 80–5. . The theoretical tenor of Derrida’s contemporary courses chimes with a tradition of French Heideggerianism that had arisen in opposition to Sartre’s humanism.

”121 Finitude was the condition for freedom. c’est dire non. 147.. philosophies of finitude still felt finite existence as a “mal. p. 148. referring to Birault’s “Heidegger et la pensée de la finitude. an opening to the indefinite and the unlimited: “What then is this infinity of free finitude if not an irreligious and Promethean infinite of Man who.” As Birault remarked “the problem is to know if the unhappy and properly finite dimension of finitude can be maintained when the inanity of the infinite finds itself denounced. “Peut-on dire oui à la finitude?” Irvine. 120 Ibid. 149. makes himself man by the transgression of sin?”122 And yet despite its atheistic claims. difficult and subtle but of great richness. Writing and Difference. This unfavorable reading of the finite. p. it was the infinite that was the fallen form. It lacked infinity but wasn’t bereft of it. compared unfavorably to a perfect and infinite God. 7. 141. this reversal maintained the old structure of the theological opposition: even though they had rejected the idea of a positive infinite.” Irvine. a scholar who was one of the rare contemporary commentators on Heidegger that Derrida cited. 154. a yearning to overcome finite limitations. “Heidegger et la pensée de la finitude. finite: the perfect as opposed to the imperfect. . 123 Ibid. A thing only became what it was once it was finished.”123 Birault presented Heidegger’s theme of Endlichkeit as a direct rejection of this old metaphysical and theological (even when atheist) framework.” was a rejection of the “Judaeo-Christian idea of finitude” that had been read into Heidegger’s concept of Endlichkeit.9.174 Derrida post-existentialist France. sheet 65.”120 The pained sense of its own limitations motivated the finite subject to exceed them. the 1960 “Heidegger et la pensée de la finitude. “the limitation that is no longer good as with the Greek. as “a beautiful article .16. as the inability to achieve the infinite. For the Greeks. 122 Ibid. p. Even in the Jewish theological tradition the finite was not demeaned. 119 Birault. was experienced by the finite subject as “evil/pain [mal]. p. with his concept of Endlichkeit Heidegger had attempted to 118 See Jacques Derrida. Birault entered into a long analysis of the history of the finite.118 Birault’s most important article. This was the origin of atheism that reversed the meaning of previous theological discourse: “To think the finite as finitude is to trans- form this privation into a stance [position] to make the finite no longer the negation of the infinite but rather to make the infinite the negation of the finite. presented as the non-complete. 317 note 70.” Revue internationale de philosophie (1960). . 140. “Penser. in making himself God.”119 It was only in its Christian theological formulation that the finite gained its negative meaning. 121 Ibid. For Birault.. p. but which is not yet bad as with the moderns. p.. 4. Birault asserted.” p. p. 57. and Jacques Derrida..” See also Derrida. . To explain this.

. dealt with the Being of beings. the Other. or.” refusing to think this metaphor as metaphor.” Birault argued that.127 Philosophy. . As Birault asserted. Since this dissimulation was necessary and unavoidable.126 In the article on “La foi et la pensée d’après Heidegger. Being would always threaten to collapse into one privileged form of being and the thought of Being would remain a latent [larvée] theology. – Being itself could not be determined. But if Hägglund’s description of radical atheism works just as well for Birault as for Derrida. no perfect being. the Other. or infinite. we had to respect the ontological difference. 160. that Birault was not just an atheist (rejection of a positive absolute). using the words of Martin Hägglund. Refusing the stifling idea of a positive infinite as a structuring principle. Birault’s article may seem to be a rejection of religion and theology. Heidegger turned to his analysis of the “veiling. a supreme being.”124 Thought had to recall this veiling. God. “without it. thought under one metaphor or another. though Heidegger had placed an absolute distinction between Faith and the interrogation of the ontological question – between theology and philosophy – there existed a certain community between them. in Heidegger’s sense. creating what Heidegger called an “onto-theology. a community that explained their fractious relationship in history. The history of philosophy for Heidegger was the perpetual dissimulation of Being under beings. “Heidegger et la pensée de la finitude. Compare with Derrida.” p. p. God. it raises questions about the polemic intention of his book.”125 In short. not Being itself. p.” the hiding of Being in its very presentation: the “veil of Being absolutely essential to its unveiling. whether accessible to humanity or not. or res extensa. existing outside of the various metaphors. but a cursory glance at his broader project suggests that in fact the opposite was the case. there was no right determination to which it could refer. Bad metaphysics then was not a bad metaphor. to avoid onto-theology. Writing and Difference. the Good. The God of mathematics 175 dispense with all onto-theologies. 144. 125 Birault. the assertion of any particular being as supreme. Tradi- tionally this had meant the recourse to a summum ens. in Descartes’s case extension. “Being unveiling itself in being 124 Ibid. 126 We might say. but a radical atheist in his rejection of the theological remainders in the concept of finitude. so that it would still be the thought of some Absolute. 127 Ibid. all of which according to Heidegger were rather determined beings with their own way of Being. Since Being was the possibility of any determi- nation whatsoever – a being is good/beautiful/small/spiritual etc.” Being had been seen as God. Onto-theology thought that Being actually “is” (though the sense of this “is” was left undecided) the Good. but rather “onto-theology. 161.

” In other words. and ethical “no” to them. du divin et des dieux. was dependent on a primordial. for example. Finitude thus described a finite being structured by a recognition. “Peut-on dire oui à la finitude?”.. It limited knowledge to make room for faith.”129 It is on this basis that we can make sense of Derrida’s other courses that treated theological questions.” Though never a substitute for faith. 129 Birault does not actually use the word “difference” in this article. of saying no. The imperfection of the finite being. because when Being revealed itself in beings it forgot that that revelation was also a veiling. finitude made a surreptitious appeal to the divine. pp. this philosophy was the only one that could better help understand “the very word of ‘God. the 1963 course “peut-on dire oui à la finitude? [can one say yes to finitude?]. onto-theology arose. Thus. Philosophy had to resist onto-theology and sweep away human idols: “only a thought turned resolutely from all theology will be able to make itself capable to spell out the names of disappeared gods [dieux disparus]. the combined veiling and unveiling of Being in beings. then. its unflattering comparison with the infinite. It recognizes first the Abyss in which Metaphysics works and to which Christianity [christianisme] has not a little helped to precipitate us.130 As Derrida showed. For Birault. 513–50. because both worked within the same onto-theological structure. stemmed from the recognition of limitations and the possibility of transcending them. 131–2. . This difference then was the Heideggerian equivalent of Marcel’s mysterious “absent God. was necessary for Descartes to doubt and thus the ground of his freedom to say yes or no to any particular piece of knowledge. but it is a major presence in his other work. the very possibility of doubt.” In so doing this thought would “drive us to the living sources of Being and the Sacred [Sacré].” in De l’être. pp. Derrida defined finitude as a combination of a finite being and infinite freedom. Take. as for the other Christian Heideggerians. sheet 21. a “yes” to its limits. was a rejection of both bad theology and bad atheism. Birault’s analysis of Heidegger’s Endlichkeit. 128 Ibid.176 Derrida post-existentialist dissimulates itself in dissimulating this very dissimulation.” Following Birault. or the ontological difference allowed them to think the divine without positing a theological absolute.’”128 Such a view distanced Heidegger’s work from what Birault saw as the crass atheism of a Nietzsche or a Sartre and the naı̈ve religion that appealed to an accessible infinite. 130 Derrida. du divin et des dieux chez Heidegger. See especially Birault “De l’être.” and the overturning of onto-theology was the updated variant of Weil’s and Borne’s “purifying atheism. a freedom that. in a particular modern tradition. which allowed a practical.

68.131 And this “yes to God” must also be a “yes of God.” p. In an earlier course. Derrida.135 According to Derrida. replies to the yes of God.” Derrida argued that Husserl’s phe- nomenology was similarly structured. c’est dire non. See also Derrida. “Penser. a free choice. sheet 40. for all its assertion of human freedom. was incapable of thinking the inherence of a “no” in its ontotheologi- cal presentation of the infinite. however. My yes.”136 To understand the essential negativity within the divine. we would have to affirm the divine. 132 Derrida. Derrida turned to Heidegger. If the “yes” to God was the unadulterated ground of philosophy. Derrida. “Penser. the “yes” of faith would be. the “yes” of the Overman was a self-overcoming not essentially different from the classical sense of finitude. sheet 49. 134 Ibid.” “a self-affirmation [auto-affirmation] of God.” “It seems that the consciousness of finitude as a lack [comme manque] cannot be originary. if it weren’t somehow contaminated with a “no.” then we would have no choice. Writing and Difference. Derrida said “we are the nihilistic thoughts that arise in God’s brain. and the “no” purely secondary. in Derrida’s words. it is a response and a recognition. It always creates itself on the foundation of an infinite” to which the no would always be derivative and secondary.” which was the “affirmation of the finite by the finite.” Our freedom – and negativity – had to be an integral part of God.” because as the ground of all philosophical interrogation. .. a phrase of which he was particularly fond in this period. to make room for human freedom our “yes” had to be radical. sheet 48. c’est dire non. p. sheet 52. which develops a similar argument. Then. “Peut-on dire oui à la finitude?”. see also sheet 65. . the “no” of the reduction was dependent on a “yes” to immediate intuition. The Heideggerian concept of Endlichkeit implied that a 131 Ibid. “Peut-on dire oui à la finitude?”...” But in being beyond Man. It is a yes to the yes of God.” pp. this would undermine human freedom.” 136 Derrida.”134 Classical philosophy. one only has to carry discourse into God himself. sheet 47.132 Philosophy is only the recognition of this originary divine speech [parole]. Philosophy is the recognition (in both the cognitive and ethical sense of this word) I recognize God.133 But if this “yes” was truly primary. “Peut-on dire oui à la finitude?”. to save discourse and to save God. 133 Ibid. “yes to god. sheet 49. the yes of God . an “obligated recognition. in the strong sense of the word. that is to say to interpret God as the word or as Mediation to build on that collapse [effondrement] of substance a new figure of the Absolute. The God of mathematics 177 though dissimulated. 489: “One has seen that only negativity’s [Négatif] power of discrimination can found the discursivity of discourse. 135 Derrida continued to describe the Nietzschean “Dionysiac yes. Compare with Birault in “Heidegger et la pensée de la finitude. 40–1. dependent on a co-primordial possibility of the “no. negativity had to be purely human and the original affirmation could only be divine. it could never be the simple affirmation of the finite philosopher. Citing Kafka. .

140 Jacques Derrida. the difference between Being and beings that was primary.” because “God cannot be designated as . sheet 4. no infinity preceding finitude.178 Derrida post-existentialist thing only became what it was through its limit. detached from any prior relationship to an infinity. just as there was no being without Being. “Le Mal est dans le monde comme une esclave qui fait monter l’eau. For the relationship between God and Being. especially sheet 46. Thus Heidegger’s thought allowed Derrida. theology could not be seen simply as a “discourse on God. Limitation was the “def- inition and condition of Being and of Being such. an omnipotent God could not be subsumed to one particular ontological category and thus be subservient to ontology itself. Ontology was not the science about Being. it is no longer evil. while repeating the moves of the Christian Heideggerians. “Peut-on dire oui à la finitude?”.”137 Though Being was dissimulated in beings. theology was a particular science dealing with that particular being called God and thus was dependent on an understanding of what Being in general was: “Theology would be submitted to ontology as a particular science to a universal science. a priori. Insofar as evil is grounded on a greater good.” Irvine.” Further.139 The turn to Heidegger to understand God. if neither could pre-exist nor precede the other. entitled “ontology and theology.”141 These particularities of theology could just as easily be asserted for ontology. nor a perfect finite. 8. the object of speech [parole]. 138 In a later course it was a similar analysis that Derrida undertook for the problem of evil. If neither were possible alone. sheet 57. then it must be the ontological difference.. God escaped any essence and was absolutely singular: “because God is unique and because there is no concept for something unique. just as theology could 137 Derrida. “Peut-on dire oui à la finitude?”.” The relationship between the ontology and theology was fraught because each declared its own priority. 7. in a sense. was always a fraught one.” Irvine. 141 Ibid.”140 But. 139 Derrida. From the perspective of ontology. sheet 67.138 There was no Being outside beings.” Theology might rather be the discourse “of God. It was the veiling essential to its unveiling. significantly – as we shall see later – one of Derrida’s last lectures at the Sorbonne. it was only as a being that it could reveal itself. still leaves many questions unanswered.13. . of a discourse. A true understanding of evil requires a philosophy of originary finitude. like Birault before him. To bring out the tensions I would like to discuss one more lecture from the period.12. whose identity was denied by Heidegger and his French followers. . to imagine finitude and freedom without first positing an infinite absolute that was. sheet 3. Jacques Derrida. “Ontologie et théologie. Derrida noted that this necessarily privileged monotheism. .

143. since there is no Being which has sense outside of this historicity or escapes its infinite horizon. Cf. 143 Ibid. could be answered neither by a finitist philosophy nor by one pinning its hopes to an infinite. If theology was a model for ontology. or that in which difference appears?”143 The understanding of the concept of God. Being as such?”142 The question. p. as Derrida argued.. The question arose whether “the thought of Being precedes . between an “absolute logic” and a “tran- scendental logic. Bachelard. as the opening in which God announces himself? or rather if God is the very name of that opening in which Being shows itself as Being. but this identification was. The idea was both an active part of the constitution of the world (transcendent) and something that was read from it (immanent): we did not need to choose. sheet 8. 99. God was both what was read through history and yet was transcendent to all the constituted moments of that history. 163. it was Heidegger’s difference that offered the clues to understanding the relationship between God and Being. Derrida asserted. But since there can be nothing outside the pure historicity of that passage. Concluding. p. 142.. immanent transcendences. dialecticially. The God of mathematics 179 not be the science about God. 220–2. To be the object of a science. Derrida posed the unanswered question “But God = difference.”144 Because the Kantian idea was both immanent and transcendent in Husserl’s work. So too “the Idea is not an Absolute that first exists in the plenitude of its essence and then descends into history or becomes disclosed in a subjectivity. Thus. then historicity can only be the passage of a Speech [parole]. Derrida was able to challenge Cavaillès’s criticism of Husserl. Being had to be a being.”145 Thought is activity at one and the same time following and preceding passivity. sheet 7. It is both guided by formal systems and is their ground. pp.. through an appeal to Heidegger’s difference is the central movement in the last section on Derrida’s Introduction to Husserl’s Origin of Geometry. whose acts would not be intrinsically indispensable to it. Rather. pace Cavaillès. both God and the Infinite idea. as Heidegger asserted. the thought of God. were the movement of history: If there is any history. . and perhaps a mutual implication in both. 144 Derrida. . then there was an alternation. and so of the infinite idea. it was an infinite that could not be immediately opposed to finite beings: transcendence in immanence. Introduction. the pure tradition of a primordial logos towards a polar Telos. A Study of Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic. . 145 Ibid. each one seemingly dependent and drawing upon the other. since the 142 Ibid. the central error of onto-theology.

Writing and Difference. God’s voice. . 152. a difference powering a transcendental historicity. could never be given completely. p. Derrida’s last sec- tion thus fit better with the works of Christian Heideggerians who drew upon the German’s later writings to understand the human relationship to God. that offered the greatest hope for explaining the possibility of mathematics. The book’s reception and reading public do not contain all the answers to its philos- ophy. That Derrida should have won the Prix Cavaillès was not a mistake.” It is this lateness that was the “philosophical absolute. conclusion Derrida’s Introduction to Husserl’s Origin of Geometry elaborated the very questions and problems discussed by contemporary epistemologists. this signifies then that the Absolute is Passage. it always exceeded phi- losophy. a difference that was also a passage. nor an odd- ity of history. God in the world. always concealed itself in phenomena. 146 Derrida. Derrida kept running up against one condition that escaped phenomenological analysis. like the Kantian idea. p. It was Heidegger’s difference. p.. “is present only in being deferred-delayed [se différant] without respite[. 153. But this concealment was just its mode of givenness.180 Derrida post-existentialist Logos and the Telos are nothing outside of the interplay [Wechselspiel] of their reciprocal inspiration.146 Phenomenology was a response to the originary Logos.] This impotence and this impossibility are given in a primordial and pure consciousness of Difference.”148 God.” in Derrida. The Kantian idea – necessarily both the pole of historicity that governed it and immanent within history – turned out to have the same characteristics as a certain understanding of the Divine. pp. 147 Ibid. by tying the history of mathematics to its phenomenological ground. it always came late to Being. esp. the revealing/veiling of Being in beings. 149. the first ten sections of his Introduction engaged with some of the most pressing questions of this tradition at the time. 148 Ibid. But while ana- lyzing the possibility of mathematical idealities and their history.”147 It was another way of asserting the priority of the ontological difference: the originary Logos. Introduction. a “delay [retard] or lateness of Discourse after the showing [mon- stration] of Being. See also Derrida’s discussion of God and Being in the closing section of “Violence and Metaphysics. Derrida wrote for the epistemologists.. 148–50. but not as an epistemologist. There was no infinite lying outside of history: the ontico-ontological difference was this recognition.

but provided valuable resources for a revitalized reli- gion. reappropriated Heidegger to show that his philosophy was not atheistic. as Sartre had asserted. . Derrida’s “Introduction” reunited them around God. which in the halls of academia was no longer taken seriously. on the other hand. and in doing so brought together in one work the two key strands of post-existentialist post-humanist philosophy. in reinterpreting Husserl through his more scientific writings. We saw in the first chapter that the intellectual history of the 1950s can be figured as the twin attempts of communist and Christian thinkers to pick over the bones of Sartrean existentialism. The communists. In this sense Derrida’s Introduction to the Origin of Geometry can be read as the culmination of 1950s phenomenology in France. Derrida’s Introduction is thus particularly signifi- cant. The two traditions disaggregated the phenomenologists to develop non-humanist readings. The Catholics. For the first time since Sartre (perhaps prematurely) had synthesized Husserl and Heidegger around Man. set the tone for the study of his phe- nomenology throughout the 1950s. Derrida again contaminated his epistemology with religious themes. The God of mathematics 181 As in his Mémoire.

.

Derrida was not only embarking on a new stage of his career. explaining how antihumanism and writing served to ease his negotiation of the fraught political. In chapter 7. he was entering into a structuralist lions’ den: it was to be a rude introduction to 1960s philosophy. the next three chapters will present three different perspectives on Derrida’s developing thought. to take up his new role as agrégé-répétiteur at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. I provide an overview of the shift. Finally. part ii Between phenomenology and structuralism In the fall of 1964. working alongside the phenomenologists Jean Wahl. Derrida left the Sorbonne. and philosophical space at the Ecole. Speech and Phenomena. 183 . even claustrophobic. and leave its mark on the three books he published in 1967: Writing and Difference. institution where Louis Althusser held court and antihumanist Marxism was the order of the day. I examine Derrida’s confrontation with structuralism and consider the political valence of these changes. Paul Ricoeur. three texts that present what could be called the canonical Derrida. social. in chapter 8. This analysis lays the foundation for a discussion of Derrida’s engagement with a form of structural psychoanalysis that had made a base at the ENS. The move would have a profound effect on Derrida’s philosophy. Analyzing each text in turn. In passing through the main gates. In chapter 6. and Of Grammatology. socially and philosophically the ENS was a world apart. From the bustling anonymity of the Cour d’Honneur. transforming it from a specialized phenomenological theory into a mode of reading applicable to a large range of texts and discourses: what Derrida called deconstruction. by following the mutations in Derrida’s use of différence/différance. Though only a few hundred meters’ walk from the lecture halls in which he had been teaching for the past four years. Derrida once again entered the intimate. I argue how Derrida’s new teaching responsibilities shaped his thought. where he had been teaching as an assistant. and Suzanne Bachelard.

in Writing and Difference. p. of a “re-presentation” authorized by the absence of the singular signified. modeled on it. was Man trying to be God.. Clearly. a fabric of traces marking the disappearance of the exceeded God or of an effaced Man. 294. appropriately. it had the task of understanding everything and let nothing escape its ambit.”2 But because a book is itself composed of text. 295–6. in December 1966. Derrida wrote: “here or there. . Due to the limits of the human mind. 3 Ibid. and on the other the opening of the text. Writing breaks the “self-identity of the origin.” But for Derrida. neither is it possible simply to disassociate the two.” In the early 1960s. Text is the very possi- bility of repetition. we have discerned writing: a nonsymmetrical division des- ignated on the one hand the closure of the book. and one that could only impose itself by denying this finitude.1 The book represented totalizing philosophy. The “book. For Derrida. p. the book of Man.” as seen by Derrida. Like Hegel’s Encyclopedia. But. The disruption of human thought and its dreams to be encyclopedic also take pride of place in Derrida’s writing from the late 1960s. its own claims to comprehensiveness and totality are constantly challenged. because a book was written. Indeed. On the other. Writing and Difference. Writing and Difference. he set about compiling his own book. 10.”3 It was perhaps this possibility of self-overcoming that justified Derrida’s enterprise when. the most important line of continuity spanning all the essays in Writing and Difference is a resistance to the very concept of a unified totality. what Derrida called the “book. the book was in this sense doubly “comprehensive. the text that purported to be complete with the certainty of absolute knowledge and the synchronicity of a mathematical system.184 Between phenomenology and structuralism The traces of this development are made clearest by the internal tensions of Derrida’s 1967 book Writing and Difference. which collected together all his article-length essays written since 1959. where there are no originals. it can never be self-contained.” the final essay. 2 Ibid. did make 1 See Derrida. there can be no easy identification of the concept “book” as it occurs in Derrida’s writing and the concrete product that was the result of his labor that winter.. It fol- lows that. as the antithesis of his own project. On the one hand the theological encyclopedia and. all copies are equal.” which is only the trace of something else. pp. In “Ellipsis. whatever its pretensions to absolute identity and synchronicity. the book was a mere dream. written specifically for the 1967 publication.” especially as understood by Leibniz and Hegel. this comprehensiveness was illusory. The “return to the book is then the abandoning of the book. Derrida had presented the “book.

the book. Here. 6 However the title is not as unambiguous as it might first appear. a short passage after the bibliography. unusually for the time. has often been lost on those reading Writing and Difference. Between phenomenology and structuralism 185 great efforts to detach his own work from the traditional book form.” in Jacques Derrida. all these essays have stubbornly defined it as loose stitching [faufilure]. in a 1965 collection. in chrono- logical order. and there is no explicit attempt to guide the readings of the individual articles with a unifying introduction. which effected a pointillism. Derrida brought attention once again to the heterogeneous nature of his work. . The chronological structure of the book.”5 Of course the book was unified by the title. the essays only loosely sewn together: “If text means tissue. La Dissémination (Paris: Editions du Seuil.6 The only over-arching structure for the book was a historical one. Der- rida did not even consider the placement of “Genesis and Structure” as 4 The innocence of the preface is placed under scrutiny in Derrida’s later work. which he had not started before the conference. 7 See in comparison the transcript of the 1959 talk sent to Derrida for corrections for the 1965 volume: Irvine. p. for Derrida historicity was the constant overcoming of “books. and the overcoming of these finite systems took place in and because of time. It is only at the end that Derrida provided some type of overview. see especially “Hors livre. 437. when Derrida was finishing his corrections. it should have come first. history was one of the only ways of escaping the “book. 1967). 1972). But when the paper was finally published. L’Écriture et la différence (Paris: Editions du Seuil. First. 57. See the conclusion to chapter 6. in fact. rather than trying to summarize or unify the book under one common theme. 5 Jacques Derrida. it is not immediately obvious that the essays are. It is fragmentary. Writing and Difference is a collection of essays. he did not consider the chronological presentation itself as necessarily “bookish. contains no prefatory material. and consequently the narrative that it tells. Further.4 The reader is taken straight to the first essay. it had been substantially revised. when. but on the whole it attempted to undo any pretension to tightly knit homogeneity. and eschews from the first any totalizing interpretation.7 In a letter questioning another deviation from sequential ordering.” In fact. as a paper for the 1959 Cérisy conference. The most obvious deviation from this schema is the placing of “Genesis and Structure” at the center of the book. Even as late as March 1967. a form that he would regard as exemplary of the metaphysical concept.” When every determined system was considered as synchronic.” the refusal to submit historical change to historically transcendent schemas. mostly to absorb the themes from Derrida’s introduction to the Origin of Geometry.8.

Writing and Differ- ence itself tells a story: the first five essays up to and including “Struc- ture and Genesis” were originally written before Derrida returned to the Ecole. and play. B640. économie. SEL252. Derrida had written to his publishers on March 25. Sign and Play” after the essay “Restricted Economy” of 1967. 1967.” IMEC. but it might be an attempt to secure a symmetry between the first and the penultimate essays. while the final six were written while he was teaching there. “I think I have understood why I inverted the chronological order of the articles on Bataille. D7.”9 The incident demonstrates globally what it contests locally: Derrida did indeed propose to present his essays in the order they were written. Derrida described the double séance: 8 “Letter March 25. From small changes. Derrida attempted to homogenize in content the chronological development he wanted to respect in form. Sign. He asked. to large revisions. however. This process of homogenization. sign. . Writing and Difference lays out the path from the “post-existentialist” of the Origin of Geometry to the canonical deconstructive philosophy of Of Grammatology.10 This desire also explains the lack of a preface. Everything is fine.” IMEC. was never complete. and Play” essay out of order. Seuil. 9 “Letter March 28. when he wrote again. which deal with similar themes. The essays were amended and revised without remark. 1967. the double seance While the placement of his essays and the care with respect to prefatory material suggest that Derrida was conscientious in maintaining the histor- ical ordering of his earlier articles. D7. assuring the editor. SEL252.186 Between phenomenology and structuralism a problem. and métaphysique de la présence). If the Derrida that I have presented over the past four chapters sits uncomfort- ably with traditional presentations of his work. In 1972. Encompassing the changes in Derrida’s thought. and structure. 1967 to query the location of the 1966 “Structure. A preface written after the book it introduces would have disrupted the chronological presentation of the essays. such as the introduction of italics at certain points or the habitual decapitalization of key words. Seuil. B640. such as the addi- tion of important later terms (différance. The text has one foot in his phenomenological past and another in the structuralist present. he was not so scrupulous with respect to their content. 10 Derrida gives no suggestion why he did decide to have the “Structure.”8 The momentary forgetfulness lasted but three days. and mirror each other in style and content. “Will you do me the favor of verifying if that was my intention? I tried to understand why I did it. The reason escapes me.

p. thought by Levinas as a ruse of the totality to master alterity and reduce its effects. the other outside of the desconstructed system. Totality and Infinity. Writing and Difference. 148. trans. play preceded the opposition between finitude and infinity. for Derrida. 96. or 270. by disrupting any pretentions to a determined finite. pp. pp. 13 Added to Derrida. and Play in the Human Sciences. and within the 1964 version of the Levinas essay. 12 See Derrida. a way to confront that totality from the inside. Sign. p. Writing and Difference. which has a similar history. 107. 123 (translation modified). never truly endangering the dominance of the same. It is thus also worked over: the rule. according to which each concept necessarily receives two comparable marks – repetition without identity – one inside. must provide a double reading and a double writing . Between phenomenology and structuralism 187 This structure of the double mark (caught – borrowed and enclosed – in an oppositional couple. In the revisions to the early essays.” the newly minted concepts of jeu and économie were inserted into a context where those words already had a meaning. especially after his 1966 talk “Structure. For. “play” was never serious. a double science.11 But before he conceptualized this “paleonymy. . by using the system’s terms 11 Derrida. 10. system: “a system is neither finite nor infinite. See also Jacques Derrida. 37. A. and so static. p. 1969). For Levinas. The same is true for the term économie. to which it will have moreover never ceded.”13 If Levinas’s notion of play represented the illusion of alterity tolerated by the totality. Further. 1972). see also addition p.” Derrida practiced it. the history of that opposition being that of an incessant and hierarchical struggle) works the entire field in which these texts displace themselves. See also Emmanuel Levinas.” and in 1967 he reinserted this new concept into the earlier essay. It was the trick of the totality. . A structural totality escapes this alternative in its play. Derrida’s new concept emphasized that that totality was an illusion too. Positions (Paris: Editions de Minuit. La Dissemination. the inauthentic disruption of a system. “Violence and Metaphysics. often when Derrida attempted to integrate his later vocabulary into ear- lier texts. 126–7.12 But the concept of “play” would become central for Derrida himself. play became the internal movement of a structure that escaped all control and ultimately disrupted the structure itself. it became. . 102. a term retains its old name to destroy the opposition to which it no longer completely belongs. The movement of a structural totality allowed the possibility of the thought of the infinite. Within the 1967 revisions of Derrida’s essay on Lev- inas. when he inserted it into the article in 1967. Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press. the additions clashed with the conceptual structures already at work there.

between two books. It is the traces of old texts. 126 (bottom). Writing and Difference.15 Levinas’s economy was described as the process by which alterity was neutralized and converted into something that could be compared and subordinated to the “same. 14 On its occurrences in the first version see Derrida. especially Section II. relies on the fact that no moment is absolutely contemporaneous with itself. “Interiority and Economy. Even as the term “economy” was a linchpin of Levinas’s system. 141. In one key passage in the original version.” And. The author’s inability to master his or her texts completely – the persisting trace of the past and an uncontrollable openness to a future – was essential to the process of deconstruction. their resistance to change. Neither Levinas nor Derrida. The future is not a future present. p. Writing and Difference. pp. There were no clean breaks. the grammatological moment. Levinas’s concept of economy was dependent upon Derrida’s. For Levinas. 102. 126 (top). it must have once been dangerous and foreign. that revision could never be total. Derrida noted that a broad economy “cannot reduce itself to what Levinas aims under that word. then. at home in neither. and 147.” But Derrida insisted that this process already required the contamination of alterity described by his own concept of economy.14 Here the tension within the word was already apparent in 1964. it never fully belonged. Thus. they are also a symptom of its historicity. for all its inclination towards linear narratives. 148. yesterday is not a past present..” even though Levinas’s restricted sense already required it.”16 The past heralded the future. amongst others. nor a succession of two Derridas. It was for this reason that Derrida could state that “the time of writing no longer follows the line of modified presences. 93–4.188 Between phenomenology and structuralism against itself. pp. “it will have never ceded. History. and the future could never fully expunge the trace of its past. in the words of Derrida’s double séance. though Derrida’s revisions may seem to efface the heterogeneity of his book.” 15 Derrida. If alterity had to be domesticated. was able fully to master his own text. 117. the turning of the page. 300 (translation modified). as Derrida’s hesitation between the old and the new senses of jeu and économie shows. . The double séance was a double mark. Levinas’s vocabulary clamored for the revision of his system. to the extent that the future could be inscribed there. with paleonymy a word could never fully free itself from its old meaning. p. 16 Ibid. before and after 1965. 129. but rather only the movement between them. that best marks any development: the maintenance of the past in the present. to which. see Totality and Infinity. In 1967 Derrida added the concept of a general economy. but it equally permits the writing of its history.

Between phenomenology and structuralism 189 This non-effaceable heterogeneity is characteristic of all texts. 8–11. whether in the blue marker. 50. and changes were clear to see. deletions. which “corrected” those parts that required only small emendations. we must first turn to his attempts to hide it. which simultaneously conflict with the original text (otherwise why revise?) and resonate with it. 17 See Jacques Derrida. he began with offprints of the original articles. When Derrida came to rework his essays. to the extra passages. .” Irvine. which were literally cut and pasted into the original copy. it is peculiarly visible in Writing and Difference. The additions. but due to Derrida’s revision practices.17 Derrida’s itinerary can be read in his additions and crossings-out. “L’Ecriture et la difference: offprints. To best understand Derrida’s development in the period between 1962 and 1967.

”1 But.’ but one could no longer call it ‘origin’ or ‘foundation. referring to a passage in his recently published article “Of Grammatology. in the opening pages of the text. . derived from difference. c h a p ter 6 A history of différance The model of the double séance works above all for Derrida’s central con- cept of différance. Already. is to affirm that in the decisive concept of the ontico-ontological difference. In the book. 19.” but one could no longer call it “origin” or “foundation. everything should not be thought in one go: being and Being. it was not a simple one. The ontico-ontological difference would not be the “foundation” (Vom Wesen des Grundes). “De la grammatologie I. 198. the word différance did not appear in the passage cited. as much as “deconstruction. ontico-ontological would be. The revised part reads: “being and Being. an economical concept designating the production of differing/deferring [différer]. 38. 2 Jacques Derrida. significantly. the note was promoted into the main text and substantially revised. See also Derrida. Difference tout court would be more “originary. The ontico-ontological difference and its foundation (Grund) in the ‘transcendence of Dasein’ (Vom Wesen des Grundes. The passage read: Coming to recognize . . changes italicized. Derrida introduced différance to the French intellectual public in his 1966 paper “Freud and the Scene of Writing. and in relation to that which we will later call différance.” (these notions belong essentially to the history of onto-theology). De la grammatologie (Paris: Editions de Minuit. but already in an unprecedented sense. 1967). 16) would not be absolutely originary. ontic and ontological. p. in both senses of the word. p. . in an original way derived from difference. ontico-ontological would be. nor indeed in the whole of that article.” has come to represent his philosophy. Différance tout court would be more ‘originary.” Derrida. that is to say. Positions. Derrida gave a waypoint for a history of the term. a term that.2 Drawing out those parts in Heidegger’s text where he complicated any understanding of the “truth of Being” as a “transcendental signified” and 1 Derrida.’ because these notions belong essentially to the history of onto-theology. 1029. p.” Critique (December 1965). Writing and Difference. This quote is the second half of the footnote as it appeared in the article. a determined trace. p. . 190 .” But if this paper marked in a sense an origin. ontic and onto- logical. a system functioning as the effacement of difference. p. in an original way. that the meaning of Being is not a transcendental or trans-epochal signified .

the difference between Being and beings appealed to a Being that was itself riven with difference. the deferral of Being that could only show itself in hiding itself. Because Being and its ontic determinations were both signs. In this way. though a classic gesture of deconstruction. whilst giving an account of the Kantian idea. If the passage asserted a rupture. A history of différance 191 suggesting that it too was a sign. . to which no finite appearance could be adequate. of absolute univoc- ity) could be preserved even if the telos itself could never be given fully. in the book form of De la grammatologie. which showed how the consciousness of the “difference” between God’s voice and its appearance in the finite world expressed itself in a constant deferral. difference We have already seen how crucial Heidegger’s concept of the ontico- ontological difference was for Derrida in his introduction to Husserl’s Origin of Geometry. There. Derrida used the word différant. spacing and temporalization.” No longer the temporalization and differing of the ontico- ontological difference. preceded and constituted Heidegger’s.” between the “ontico-ontological difference” and “difference tout court” – repetition without identity – which came into tension with itself over the course of the footnote. He constructed the concept of différance by first determining it following Heidegger and then erasing that determination. it was contained within the word “dif- ference. can also be taken as descriptive of Derrida’s own process and development. Derrida argued that the ontico-ontological difference could no longer be primary. when this more “originary” difference was rewritten as “différance. which grew out of the two original articles.” chronologically it came second. the (structuralist) difference at the heart of signification preceded that between Being and beings. The tension was only formally recognized later. Derrida completed his footnote (which by 1967 was no longer just a note) with some advice about how to think this new difference: “One cannot nevertheless today think it in itself without determining it as the ontico- ontological difference and without erasing [biffer] this determination. whose infinitude sat uncomfortably with the finite capabilities of Man and yet was necessary for the rise of science.” This suggestion. of absolute straightness/smoothness. Concealment constituted the mode of givenness of the infinite. Though différance was the “pre-opening of the ontico-ontological difference. the regulatory powers of an infinite idea (of absolute transmissibility. Derrida’s différance.

7 Jean Rousset.8 Rousset’s understanding of writing.. p. 8 See especially the discussion of writing in Derrida. 10 Ibid. especially from its author.. 7. for various reasons. p. if not a lapse. p. 4 Ibid. Writing and Difference. and Claudel hidden structures and mathematical forms that constituted their literary merit. Corti.” No determined formal system could ever be sufficient to explain the richness of the world. just as no ontic understanding of Being could fully comprehend it.6 But Rousset’s understanding of the imagination. a collection of essays of structural literary criticism. detecting in the works of Corneille. vii. 1962). for example. Indeed.3 It is not insignificant that Derrida opened his first published essay. 160. it is to open a horizon.. perhaps. For Rousset. with which 3 See. then. there is a parallelism between the theological encyclopedia and the book written by Man. “to enter into a work is to change universe. literary works were detached from the world. writing detached sense from its subjective ground. Writing and Difference. In their original versions. as a relaxation. with a quotation from Flaubert complaining that “we have too many things and not enough forms. ii.192 Between phenomenology and structuralism This understanding of the ontico-ontological difference was central to all of Derrida’s early essays. The essay “Force and Signification” was originally a review article for Critique of Jean Rousset’s Forme et Signification. the movement of separation from any mundane causality. Marivaux. as Derrida suggested. allowed him to consider the work as autonomous. It was independent. they emphasized the inability of all formal systems to explain themselves in their genesis and change. Proust. they did not descend from another world. a topos ouranious. p. Rousset. But if Derrida approved of the method in general.4 The essays that constituted the first half of Writing and Difference fit well with Derrida’s early post-existentialism and Heideggerianism. 13. Rousset like Derrida rejected conventional Platonism. Forme et signification.”5 It was not that Rousset ignored the genesis of the structures. of the attention given to force.”7 Mirroring Derrida’s analysis in the Origin of Geometry. 3. Flaubert. In Leibniz’s model. 6 Ibid. Forme et signification (Paris: J. xv.” and thus later Writing and Difference. p. p.9 While these literary structures were autonomous. 9 Cf.10 Human writing. he wanted to turn the productive imagination from a naı̈vely used “operative [opératoire]” concept into a considered “thematic” concept. he suggested that it lacked something: “in the future it will be interpreted. . ended up reducing all meaningful change. 4. p. p. As he wrote in the preface of his book. who is constrained to construct the best of possible worlds. 5 Ibid. to be clothed in earthly form later. Derrida.. differs from that of Leibniz’s God. “Force and Signification. without an origin.

but is constituted by it. 14 Derrida. But according to Derrida it still had one major problem. change was neutralized. he thought that they achieved the beautiful directly and without loss. or determined by static schemas. Corneille’s work leading inexorably to the formal perfection he achieved in Polyeucte (1643). for Derrida and Rousset. Because Rousset’s analysis separated written forms from mundane causal- ity. 17 Ibid. 10. as only Man writes” is to know that sense never precedes the written. literary structures found their genesis in the free voice.15 In Derrida’s eyes. Such a system presupposes that sense exists before it is inscribed. Rousset’s structuralism threatened to become static. could not be separated from it. 11 Derrida. p..”12 Determined neither by the heat of passion and earthly demands. So far. it was a response to Being. and that our earthly writings are merely attempts to copy. For Rousset.. Rousset’s structuralism seems to align with Derrida’s own thought as we have elaborated it over the past few chapters. Writing and Difference. this forgetting manifested itself in the limited concept of development provided by Rousset’s schema.”17 The temporality of a work.. on the other hand. the divine writing of truth. p. the creative moment in imagination. which was often reduced to the fulfillment of a determined teleology or the working out of a pre-formation. 14. 12. p. then.”13 Rousset was clear that writing was an inscription. p. development was predetermined. rejecting with empir- ical historicity a deeper history that would be more than just a simple correlation of life and work. “writing. 12 Ibid. a revelation. 16 Ibid. .14 Even if there were no set aesthetic rules. neither was it the random creation of a “hypocritical humanism. As Derrida put it. 14 (translation modified). “to make the already- there arise in its sign”. Rousset had forgotten the “impossibility [for a work] to ever be present. Rousset presented the aesthetic forms he analyzed as stable entities that could be definitively described. we were not free to create the beautiful as we pleased. its necessary unfolding. that “what is not yet produced in the letter had no other abode. of it ever being summarized in some absolute simultaneity or instantaneity. the aesthetic structures unveiled by creative writing could never achieve the beautiful once and for all. because we are human and limited. Writing and Difference. 17 and 26. A history of différance 193 it can be compared. disciplined by a preset pole.11 But. pp. nor by a celestial realm analogous to our own that prescribed all forms. 15 Ibid. 10–11 (version from original article).16 For Derrida. there was no theological book that governed all earthly ones. pp.. 13 This criticism is consonant with Derrida’s earlier response to Sartre’s existentialism. as faithfully as possible. But if writing was not constrained from above or from below.

show- ing that we could never achieve Being outside of beings. Just as Being. a history of madness. 19 Ibid. p.”19 And. the freedom of the voice was a “nothing [rien]” that allowed the construction of aesthetic forms. Apollo and Dionysus. structure with genesis.. the language of everything that has participated. not the rational discourse on madness that he condemned. “in its most indeterminate form. the ground of all determination. because. historicity itself. had been excluded from totalitarian reason. But if the language of reason that suppressed madness was itself excluded. generating a transcendental history. It was an exclusion that Foucault himself tried to escape. Derrida then hoped to balance signification with force. not the determined end of Rousset’s pre-formation. then. describing that which. In the Rousset essay. 13. in the Nietzschean language that Derrida used. as we saw in the Origin of Geometry. See later. Derrida’s famous anal- ysis of Foucault’s History of Madness. a difference that pre- ceded both – the Apollonian unveiling that was also a violent Dionysiac dissimulation and veiling – that disrupted all structures as it gave free speech an earthly manifestation. at Being that could neither affect me. p. in the adventure of Western reason – all this is the immense 18 Ibid. 28. It was the difference between the two.. 13. see also p. the movement and development of aesthetic structures was governed by something akin to the ontological difference: the difference between Being and beings. . which significantly changes the sense. from near or far. Like the history of Being. for Derrida. this history allowed the regulative idea of a telos. The paper centered on the very pos- sibility of Foucault’s project. at least since the seventeenth century. transcendental historicity was powered by the ontological difference. Derrida used similar language to describe artistic creation. as in Derrida’s 1962 Introduction. so too. in which language could Foucault him- self write? What was the vocabulary of a history of madness. p. 20 Ibid. wanting to write the history of madness itself.194 Between phenomenology and structuralism As Derrida asserted. when “all our European languages.. In the 1967 version a new line was added: “to forget writing in the so-called living and pure present speech” (translation modified). and to want to arrive at Being outside of beings. between the free voice and its determinate condensed written form. 26. but the telos of an open horizon. for Rousset “to write would be still to play ruses with finitude. nor be by itself. Derrida asked.”18 The last line is instructive. This difference was “the opening of his- tory.”20 One can find a similar schema in the second essay. To write would be to forget difference. was “nothing [rien]” outside of beings (no Being without beings).

The primordial unity of reason and madness opened up the possibility of a communion of reason and madness. pp. Unlike error and dreaming. p. mov- ing from unmediated unity to insuperable division. 54–7. A history of différance 195 delegation of the project that Foucault defines under the rubric of the capture or objectification of madness?”21 For Derrida the answer was clear. Foucault discussed Descartes’s Meditations. Derrida might have added. which sharpened this doubt and showed us of what we can be certain even if we err in our sensory perception or if we dream. the ancient Greek concept of hubris was at least in tension with Socratic reason – to call it free circu- lation was overstatement – while. Here. madness was beyond the pale. This meant that it had to be possible to represent madness in language indirectly. 1961). “metaphorically” – as Being is in beings. Mirroring the rounding-up of the insane and their confinement in large institutions. over four pages.to negative theology. 21 Ibid. irrecoverable. Derrida.. but madness is excluded by the subject who doubts. Histoire de la folie (Paris: Librairie Plon. Descartes excluded madness from his hyperbolic doubt.”24 The cogito. both in the classical age and before. Whatever Foucault’s explicit methodology. pp.. even modern reason allowed some openness to the hyperbolic. these Meditations reflected the wider and vio- lent expulsion of madness from the city. was not happy with this Foucauldian narrative. 23 Michel Foucault. then. And if a consideration of madness could not aid Descartes on his path to ultimate infallible truth. he could only reject it: “dreams or illusions are surmounted in the very structure of truth. “mad” moment that exceeded it. Derrida asserted a complication to the story. 24 Foucault. Foucault at least made gestures in this direction. the opening of the chapter on the classical age that described the great confinement. For while recounting the history of a madness excluded by reason. 22 Ibid. .22 Madness had to be concealed in reason for it to show itself. according to Derrida. According to Derrida. a history of that madness would itself have to practice. however. Derrida’s attention was thus drawn to the turning point in Foucault’s book. one only found the resources to fight against reason in reason itself. which. Rather. 36–7. at the same time. the contamination of reason with madness. was the necessary condition of his book. Histoire de la Folie. according to Foucault. this possibility of metaphor. in his first chapter he also made reference to a prior age when the absolute division between the sane and insane had not yet been asserted and the mad circulated freely within the city. p. 55.23 For Foucault. from onto. 35.

as was the hubris of the Greeks.”25 The cogito was absolutely indubitable. But Derrida presented another reading of the passage. but rather secured its transference into language. God guaranteed the validity of the ergo sum after the certainty of the hyperbolic cogito had passed.”27 Here lay the totalitarian moment that reduced the hyperbole down to a determined rational or historical structure.”26 Just as the reach towards a nothing allowed the genesis of Rousset’s structures.196 Between phenomenology and structuralism the ground of all certainty in philosophy. It allowed us to think the totality of rational thought because it exceeded it. It was an inaugural moment. In this reading madness was not treated differently from the other sources of doubt. dreams.. the maintenance of its truth after the hyperbolic moment. as in the previous essay. p. The cogito. just like sensible error. It was not cogito. ergo sum “even if I am mad. 55. Madness was just another ratchet in the ever-increasing scale of doubt. p. p. then. The same could not be said of the discourse on the cogito. rather cogito. 26 Ibid. philosophical discourse had to exclude madness. even if my thoughts are completely mad. in Foucault’s eyes was predicated on a violent exclusion of madness. 73 and 164. 57 (translation modified). was not the final sanctuary of the sane. it added to them. detaching them from the normal causal chain of history.. 58–9. for the sense of inscription see pp. for in order to have sense. a reading that. a transcendence towards a “nothing [rien]. It was not the cogito but rather its inscription in language that marked “the break with madness. It was this moment that reduced the “passage” or the “différence” between the hyperbolic moment and its determined recorded form. . 55. ergo sum as long as I am not mad. as Foucault would have had it. The relationship between the hyperbolic moment and the finite deter- mined structure in which it was understood was also. Writing and Difference. the very possibility of history. a totalitarian moment that Foucault threatened to repeat.” This was why madness would always be silent. according to Derrida. just as writing reduced difference in “Force and Signification. was far more traditional. but rather a hyperbolic moment exceeding any opposition between madness and sanity. when he saw the cogito as a representative of the Classical age. as he noted. so too it was the hyperbolic moment that at first defined any possibility of a determined sanity or rational system. 27 Ibid. and the evil demon. see also pp. The onto-theological invocation of God in Descartes’s Meditations thus did not confirm the cogito. of meaningful change within struc- tures: “The historicity proper to philosophy is located and constituted 25 Derrida.

the constant replacement of one metaphor by another. then.32 It was not the inadequacy but rather the excess of the sign – the “overabundance” of con- flicting meanings – that caused movement. and the passages added on pp. This movement of constitution and forgetting defined history and reached beyond any break that Foucault was supposed to have discovered. 120–1 and 167.34 No longer was the ontico-ontological difference expressed 28 Ibid. 267.33 Moreover. “Méthode et métaphysique.6. in the dif- ference between history and historicity.”28 Reason was both the expression and the forgetting of the mad hyperbolic moment. 32 For the discussion of inadequation. Both the Rousset and the Foucault essays presented an opposition between finite structures and something that constantly disrupted and exceeded them.. beings and Being – allowed the transcendence of each finite structure. especially in “Violence and Metaphysics. Derrida complicated the duality and changed many of the central terms of the work. 30 See also Jacques Derrida. Writing and Difference.31 What previously seemed to be the effect of Man’s finitude. Firstly the number of references to infinity and finitude drastically declines. between that which exceeds the totality and the closed totality. instead of causing this movement. and Play” was considered as the product of excess. 74. both in the freedom of literary creation and the hyperbolic moment of the cogito. p. pp. 290. just as the metaphors for Being both revealed and hid it.” Derrida.. Similarly references to the infinite are disproportionately grouped in the first five essays. Compare with the “too many things” of “Force and Signification. for it was the very process that drove change. two themes that had been linked since the Introduction to the Origin of Geometry. 29 See also ibid. 34 See the additions. the play of the system. Sign. p.30 the rehabilitation of writing As the 1960s progressed. the resistance of God to any mundane manifestation.” Irvine.” For the excess of the signifier. 36 and 62. A history of différance 197 in this passage. 33 Ibid. see Derrida. 31 The notion of the Kantian idea is mostly discussed in “Genèse et structure” and “Violence et métaphysique. 107 and 108. even if this excess had no independent existence. . Writing and Difference. And in both cases the difference between the determined and the origin of all determination – between criticism and the creative voice.. however. 7. which powered a more profound his- tory and was manifested in the transcendence of limited structures. see also p. was now its effect. reason and the mad cogito. 60 (translation modified).” having no place in Derrida’s work afterwards. along with the dis- cussion of the Kantian idea and an infinite God. p. by 1966 and “Structure. this dialogue between hyperbole and the finite structure.29 In Derrida’s early articles. pp. he maintained his commitment to Heidegger’s ontological difference. sheet 28.

” cut in Derrida.36 In the earlier texts writing was related to human finitude. 71 and 74. Writing and Difference. “Force et signification. In this essay the relationship of the infinite to God. it was language in general which corresponded to the totalitarian reduction to the finite. 493–4. p.” where Derrida discussed the playwright Antonin Artaud.198 Between phenomenology and structuralism in the free voice that grounded the movement of formal systems. In the revisions it was not uncommon for “writing” to replace “man. of re-presenting something not there. as only man writes. 36 See also Derrida. with writing its condensation into a stable formal system. 17. lecture from April 21. “L’Ironie. . to undermine the idea of acting. where Derrida related artistic creation to the “freedom of speech [parole]. 40 Derrida. In the period before 1965. writing and the system . It was writing that needed to be put into motion by the free voice. he did not want to desert it in absolute and arbitrary freedom. p.”39 This view of writing lasted right up until 1965 and was still active in “La Parole Soufflée. is clear. now the play of différance in writing preceded it. speech took the place of the indeterminate free moment. too.. still represented the formal. . the caprice of the actor.38 In Derrida’s pre-1965 courses. 37 Ibid. et la question. 190–1.” where writing is referred to as a “vicar of speech [vicaire de la parole]” in the absence of the voice of God. p. Artaud appealed to mathematical language. 17. But if Artaud wanted to free theater from the forced repetition of a text. which was dependent on a tran- scendental field. he arrested it . as we saw.” to lose their qualification. p.”37 or phrases such as “to write. its meaning destabilized. in the rare occasions it was discussed.4. 491.” Irvine. 38 Ibid. and when a distinction was made between speech and writing. le doute.35 Writing was the finite rendering of the ineffable. The text did not refer to a spoken language of which it was merely the representation – the sign of a sign. 39 Jacques Derrida. 9 and 13. Whatever its future role. Doubt. pp. which had to be enlivened by free thought. it forgot difference. . The changing status of the concept of writing provides a perspective that allows us to understand the change in Derrida’s difference. 1964. . Derrida could assert that “claiming to transmit to us the speech of Socrates.” from early 1964. Cf. . 10.” Critique (June 1963). and the Question. writing. opening up the structure of the renvoie – but rather provided a 35 See also Jacques Derrida. served up the death of irony. L’Ecriture et la différence.. Artaud’s “theater of cruelty” attempted to remove mediation from the arts. 73. as in the Introduction to the Origin of Geometry. pp. 8. sheet. which referred to a voice that could always be spirited away. for the benefit of a new authentic theater. Derrida did not make substantive claims about writing in his courses until 1966. pp. here writing was a fall.” pp.40 Turning from phonetic writing. “Force et signification 1. Writing and Difference. “Edmond Jabès and the Question of the Book. Plato paralyzed or killed it. Thus in a course on “Irony. claiming to fix the live speech of irony by writing.

41 Artaud hoped that this writing would stem the constant slipping-away of meaning: différance. theatre would just be. . p.46 If to write was to want to forget difference. “Violence et métaphysique. the primacy of the voice could no longer be tolerated. Artaud’s script would determine the sounds.” p. need not expect that resistance to be organized first in a “philosophy” commanding some aesthetic methodology from which it would receive its principles.42 If in 1963 Derrida could state: Literary criticism. Writing and Difference. but create something concrete. 323. 45 See also passages added throughout the first essays including Derrida. At earlier stages it was speech that protected the “liberty of the question. 46 “The freedom of the question (double genetive) must be said and protected.” Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale (December 1964). 80. directed with such minute attention that they could not be robbed by a relay to a non-present meaning. need not expect that resistance to be organized first in a “philosophy” commanding some aesthetic methodology from which it would receive its principles. 1985). 28 (translation modified. the shapes and sounds appealing directly to the subconscious and involving no interpretation. Derrida declared in 1963 that this resistance would allow criticism to take account of the movement and force of an ever-elusive creative voice. Writing and Difference. as it is in speech.” in David Wood.. 323. 42 On this question see Robert Bernasconi’s discussion of the trace in “Violence and Metaphysics” in “The Trace of Levinas in Derrida.44 Asserting the injunction to resist metaphysical oppositions and language. p. Derrida & Différance (Coventry: Parousia Press. 175 and 179. “Force et signification. The first claim was erased in 1967. p.43 By 1967. Telling no story. ed. and writing that wanted to forget difference.” in Jacques Derrida. which previously was the stable ground of determination. which could never be subordinated to a philosophy. if it must one day explain itself to and exchange with literary writing. my emphases). 44 Derrida. now that forgetting was recast as the forgetting of “writing in the presence of so-called living 41 Ibid. the facial expressions. 43 Derrida. The line was changed to: Criticism. 192. p. the second was supplemented by another phrase that substantially changed its meaning. Such formulations of writing would not fit Derrida’s developing philosophy.45 The change is similar to another radical substitution. the bodily movements. p. final clause deleted in Derrida.” rep- resenting the nothing that exceeded all determined structures. A history of différance 199 language of the body. 62. see also pp. By 1967 that elusiveness was found rather in writing itself.. which must explain itself to and exchange with creative speech. The reading of such a text would no longer refer to a world of linguistic meaning. Writing and Difference.

pp. Writing and Difference. 21 and 80. 49 The word différer and its cognates do occur. 22.”47 It is for the very same reasons that Derrida would have to replace the word “text” with “book” at the end of his essay “Jabès and the Question of the Book. or indeed the additions in the 1965 version of “Structure et genèse. Rather than a voice in full presence to itself. As we shall see in chapter 8. at one degree removed. 133. p. as only man writes” being the necessary dissimu- lation of indeterminate Being under an ontic metaphor. Movement was not caused by the ontico-ontological difference that recognized every finite determined metaphor for Being as both an unveiling and a veiling. rather than the constant attempt to escape it.48 Rather than “writing. in the early essays. 48 Ibid. see pp. Writing had to be the trace of the trace. In this new philosophical framework. see Derrida. Writing was the absence of the signified. 76–7.49 The revisions privileged the internal movement of a structure.200 Between phenomenology and structuralism and pure speech. which he had begun to see as symptomatic of meta- physics. but their meanings correspond only with difficulty to the later work. it could no longer be thought of as derivative of the voice: writing as its inscription.. Also on p. All others instances before “Freud et la scène de l’écriture” are to my knowledge.” when “text” came to represent that which unsettled any totality. despite their attractive resemblance to the word used in the Origin of Geometry. and 138. If writing was to achieve a privileged place in Derrida’s philosophy. It would be difficult to give these rare occurrences the weight that Derrida would appear to require. 42.” . When in the earlier essays “differ- ence” was rewritten “différance. L’Ecriture et la différence.” it substantially changed the meaning of the essays. later additions. and this liberation could only be consummated if a transcendental signi- fied was not considered to be lurking in the background. This is the significance of the introduction of the word “différée” or “différant” into the early essays. 23. pp. Derrida attempted to undermine the privilege of the voice. caused by the excess of the sign. though rarely. “signs” in the 1964 version was replaced by “books” in the 1967 book for the same reasons. and not the trace of a pure if impossible (spoken) presence. its process of supplementing and not its inadequacy. 76. rather than that which constituted it. Heidegger’s difference seemed to come dangerously close to representing 47 Derrida. it was writing with its rejection of the absolutely self-present that seemed to be the best metaphor for (structuralist) philosophy. within Grammatology. now writing itself was the movement that undermined any static structures. 13. The centrality of this change in Derrida’s conception of writing explains why in his 1966 paper on Freud he should have looked back to the Gram- matology articles to explain the genesis of différance. now it was an internal movement within signification that was responsible for the instability of structures.

this did not fit easily with the history of what loosely one can call the “word. 189. Writing and Difference. For the moment we will hold the questions related to this move in suspension. If we can see a relationship between Derrida’s turn to grammatology and his move away from Heidegger’s ontological difference. Positions. and the consequent denial of the transcendental signified.” published early in 1965. .51 Artaud. The inscription of the ontico-ontological difference onto the field of writ- ing. Ironically. The word played a small role in Derrida’s work before its co-option to patrol the boundaries dividing Heidegger’s and Derrida’s philosophies.” Whatever the role of the “Of Grammatology” articles. came to trouble the precedence of the ontico-ontological difference: “there is. 189. p. p.” Derrida argued “a certain Heideggerian phonologism. p. The absence of the word “différance” is rendered more enigmatic. that the word made its first printed appearance. 19. actor and public. This différance. hoped to avoid what Derrida at that time called the “différance” which destroys all claims to absolute immediacy. speaking for another (an author or character). in a strange way. a Being that could not be contained in any ontic metaphor. 284. allowed accumulation and capitalization.” and one could add a “Derridian phonologism” of the early 1960s. with- out doubt. and take a step forward beyond the grammatology articles to follow the fate of Derrida’s différance. Alan Bass in his English translation misses this “différance” and renders it with an e. or thoughts: a script or a text. as we saw. for Derrida was already using it elsewhere. A history of différance 201 this type of impossible presence. Writing and Difference. a deferral of responsi- bility for one’s own voice. It was in “La Parole Soufflée. p. L’Ecriture et la différence. what one might call the genesis of the “concept” of différance.50 différance : neither a word nor a concept I will discuss the move to grammatology and its effect on Derrida’s reading of Heidegger in the final chapter. the system of relays between written script and performed play. 51 Derrida. ideas. 52 Derrida. the creation and use of a reserve of words. Derrida felt able to assert late in 1967: The ultimate determination of difference as the ontico-ontological difference – however decisive and necessary that this phase might be – seems to me. indicated by Derrida himself when he divided his work into before and after the “grammatological opening. still caught in metaphysics. Derrida.52 But the word “différance” 50 Derrida.” it is significant that the word “différance” was not used in the first article.

p. It is possible that the use of the word in “La Parole Soufflée” had already piqued the imagination of the Freudians. p. resistance to full presence). and what effect that might have had. Freud’s reality principle. Derrida asserted that this “différance” could only be thought as such “beyond metaphysics. It was hardly a fitting introduction for a seminal term. When Derrida came to revise “La Parole Soufflée.202 Between phenomenology and structuralism was not flagged or introduced in any way whatsoever.” It was only here that the word différance and the “différence tout court” of Grammatology that preceded the ontico- ontological différence were identified.”53 The word “différance. The question then presents itself as to why they should have been associated. its appearance like the concept it described was furtive. caused the “deferral” of pleasure economically. 54 See ibid. making references both to Freud’s Wunderblock. So in our analyses we have been taken back to where we started: Derrida’s presentation before André Green’s seminar at the Société Psychanalytique de Paris (SPP) in March 1966. 55 Ibid. 194. 191. at this stage. which would be the main text for his later talk. why a word that Derrida had been using elsewhere. The imprint of the talk. It could well be that the change in the centrality of the term “différance” 53 Ibid. 198. is clear in the later formulations of “différance. In that essay. but it was only later that the two were identified..” as it was deployed before 1966. at points where previously Derrida considered “différence” would suffice. 192. but cannot be assimilated to it. And further. after all.”55 The reception of Derrida’s ideas into the psychoanalytic community thus provides a first clue as to the identification of the word and concept of “différance” in 1966. and psychoanalysis more generally. and that Derrida embarked on his first detailed discussion of the term. 176. should come to stand in for this key concept.54 The concept of a différence that preceded Heidegger’s appeared just after the word “différance” was coined.. and to Lacan. .” the word was reinserted many more times into the text. and it should not be surprising then that Derrida should proffer his “différance” as a translation for Aufschub at the beginning of “Freud and the Scene of Writing.. where it is either converted from “différence” or added. towards the Difference – or the Duplicity – of which Heidegger speaks. albeit in a related sense. Derrida had appealed to them. shared key characteris- tics with its later use (movement. “Freud and the Scene of Writing.” Freud took pride of place with Heidegger and Nietzsche in Derrida’s 1968 essay on his neologism. pp. rather than drawing the line between his and Heidegger’s philosophies.

fittingly. such as “The Instance of the Letter. The split between the SFP and the SPP came to be seen as a rupture between Lacanians and those who rejected his particular reading of psychoanalysis. 57 In a later interview Derrida admitted to having only read these two early texts when he wrote “Freud and the Scene of Writing. the ideas presented here and in other crucial texts from the 1950s. which consummated the break from the SPP. 236–65.” See Derrida. it is necessary to understand his position with respect to the other major institutions and individuals in the French movement. but a reciprocal relationship of reading and writing that would render the new structuralist Derrida.56 Whereas the SPP maintained its strong links with the medical sciences – its leader. and Derrida’s first sustained use of “différance. 2 vols. Positions. although Lacan’s thought was constantly evolving. 113. Lacan 56 For a comprehensive discussion of the intricacies of the 1953 split see Elisabeth Roudinesco. to form the Société Française de Psychanalyse (SFP). as the product of a community? To understand the stakes of this talk. Lacan had broken from the Société Psychanalytique de Paris (SPP) in 1953. (Paris: Editions Ramsay. if Lagache had played the significant role in the split – indeed if Lacan had at first resisted it – it was Lacan who came to dominate the new society. But for our purposes here. Histoire de la psychanalyse en France. A history of différance 203 grew up because of the response of many psychoanalysts to this earlier text. But. not the internal development of one thinker. II. Could it be that Derrida in “Freud and the Scene of Writing” was responding to the eager interests of his host. p.” we have to turn to a set of debates that ricocheted through French psychoanalysis. or saw an opportunity to attune his thought to a particular audience? Could the development that we have been tracing over the past twenty pages be. The most forceful presentation of Lacan’s new form of psychoanalysis was his 1953 Rome Report.57 Avoiding the hydraulic model of the unconscious. 1982–6). along with other analysts under the direction of the Sorbonne psychologist Daniel Lagache. freud’s scene The history of psychoanalysis in France is often told as the story of one man. vol. And. and whose traces are apparent in Derrida’s 1966 lecture. using it as an institutional base to disseminate his linguistic interpretation of Freud. . and its rise in Derrida’s philosophy might have a very particular psychoanalytic stamp. Sacha Nacht.” had the most immediate impact on French philosophy and Derrida. demanding that analysts earn medical degrees – the SFP emphasized linguistics and asserted the autonomy of psychoanalysis from medicine. Jacques Lacan. pp.

60 See especially “The Instance of the Letter. the imaginary self and the imaginary other. the realm of signi- fiers. or in the very discourse of the patient. other therapeutic methods such as hypnosis or medication would not be effective. . whether in dreams. the symbolic nature of somatic pathology. and its effects were only felt by its punctuation of a discourse. This was the import of Lacan’s dictum “the unconscious is structured like a language”: Freud may not have been faithful to this fundamental discovery. and the unattainable object of desire. Norton & Co. As he put it “my task shall be to demonstrate that [psychoanalytic] concepts take on their full meaning only when oriented in a field of language and ordered in relation to the function of speech. The Real was the realm of the id. 56–7.”59 In part the reliance on language and especially speech derived from its centrality in analysis. A similar process occurred when encountering another person. It existed outside language.58 The Imaginary. which was formed by a baby’s imaginary identification with its reflection in Lacan’s “mirror stage. and the Symbolic. Sheridan (London: Hogarth Press. first and foremost the ego. Freud after all had founded psychoanalysis as “talk therapy. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. But given the process involved. inaccessible to it. The Symbolic was the real ground of psychoanalysis. In his tripartite division of the Real.” It was only by the identification with its image that a child could form an idea of a uni- fied self. p. pp. Lacan asserted that the traditional psychoanalytic concepts of condensation and displacement as discussed in Freud’s Interpreting Dreams should be seen as metonymy and metaphor respectively. 205. was the realm of false identifica- tions. on the other hand.” With the unconscious structured like a language. 2006). the latter. and as a breaking through. it was clear that this unified self was purely imaginary. through the process of transference. the Imaginary. biological needs. trans. the knock of a door during a dream.” and his colleague Josef Breuer’s patient Anna O. 59 Jacques Lacan. such that conversation (and psychoanalytic practice) would be structured by two imaginary objects. Fink (New York: W. Ecrits. or the ending of a psychoanalytic session.” in ibid. both in the grammatical sense. had famously classed it as the “talking cure.204 Between phenomenology and structuralism suggested that linguistic processes lay at its heart. A.. often just an ideal doubling of the first. the wholeness of the specular image deceiving the child into thinking that it was psychologically unified. B. but Lacan was more rigorous and was determined to follow through on its implications. 1977). Drawing on the linguistic model. it was the Symbolic that achieved precedence. trans. substitutions in the chain of signifiers.60 This 58 See Jacques Lacan. W.

243. 65 For an analysis of the history of this idea in Lacan’s own work and how it changed in the period before the Rome Report. Lacan: The Absolute Master (Stanford University Press. with its imaginary – and in a sense. who tried to master the absence of his mother by the symbolic repetition of her coming and going with a reel of thread. p. and the slipping of the signifier over the signified. those of the unconscious. its detachment from the hic et nunc. the absent is presented. it disrupts the immediate identification with the specular self and allows the disturbance of the ego’s self-presentation in slips of the tongue. see Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. was its enunciation. The Ich in Freud’s phrase was no longer translated as the moi or ego. because by sweeping away his imaginary desires. the analysand presents his imagi- nary ego. 63 See Roudinesco. as structured like a language. the subject of the unconscious.. A history of différance 205 process of exchange.61 In a word. for it was precisely the imaginary ego that had to be worked around to get at true desire. 265–71.”64 By breaking the stranglehold of the imaginary ego. Histoire de la psychanalyse en France. These desires were not true because they revealed an otherwise hidden self. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. of metaphor and of metonymy. Lacan’s classic example is that of the two words men/women on lavatories. played by Freud’s grandson. 3. This disruption of the ego was crucial in therapy. presenting it in speech. 1991). the patient would come to recognize his true desires. Ecrits. signifiers structured the Real. Lacan’s reading of the mirror stage made this interpretation impossible. soll Ich werden. false – desires. See ibid. . in the symbols of his symptom. 62 See ibid. 64 Lacan. first and foremost.66 This was how Lacan reworked Freud’s famous declaration “wo Es war. pp.65 Rather the unconscious. vol.. ch. 66 See Lacan. found its condition of possibility in Lacan’s asserted priority of syntactical relations. a symbol. the patient could uncover the “lan- guage of his desire.63 In a Lacanian session. 140. p. the Ich stood for the je of the enunciation. the slips of the tongue indicating a subtending desire. 228. that is the primary language in which – beyond what he tells us of himself – he is already speaking to us unbeknown to himself. which 61 If anything. II. the signifier here distinguishing between two otherwise identical doors.” It was understood previously in France and elsewhere as the imperative for conscious thought and the “ego” to displace the id – “le moi doit déplacer le ça”. But by talking about the ego and its desires. its own truth. p. the ego already begins to loosen its grip on the patient. In Lacan’s translation. 416.62 Lacan’s ideas had a profound significance for the actual practice of psychoanalysis. Because the symbolic is the realm of the absent signified. p. It recapitulates the Fort-Da game.

“punctuation . See also Bruce Fink. Histoire de la psychanalyse en France. changing the punctuation renews or upsets it. where the patient could not while away a set amount of time to avoid coming to terms with his desires. pp. then. the attempt to break its hold elicited great resistance. 70 See Elisabeth Roudinesco.”69 This was the theoretical reasoning behind Lacan’s infamous sessions de durée variée. that true progress could be made. it would allow the patient to bide his time. . and incorrect punctuation distorts it. 69 Ibid. It would only be in sessions of variable length. “when the subject’s question assumes the form of true speech. The rejection of set session times had caused Lacan trouble with other psychoanalysts in the early 1950s. The session would end as dictated by the dissolution of the ego and the emergence of the patient’s speech into truth. 1995). The International Society for Psychoanalysis had never recognized 67 Lacan. 251. Ecrits. play games until the end of the hour to preserve his cherished identifications.”68 In psychoanalytic practice. 271. 68 Lacan.70 The SPP had no room for such blatant self-aggrandizement and empire building. p. p. Ecrits. up to three times more than other analysts. . A fixed session time would be like the injunction to place a full stop after every sixtieth word without concern for the meaning. but the trauma of the earlier break returned to haunt him. p.” to bring the speech of the patient to the true desires expressed by the unconscious: “full speech. 311. p. that would lead the patient to the recognition of his own desires. the division of the subject. intervening at crucial moments when the ego had dissolved and the unconscious signification became clear. the analyst had to “punctuate” the patient’s speech.206 Between phenomenology and structuralism Lacan distinguished from the imaginary ego in his Ichspaltung. establishes the meaning. . of the patient’s unconscious. The Lacanian Subject (Princeton University Press.. The distinction derived from that made by the French grammarian Edouard Pichon in 1926. Jacques Lacan (Paris: Fayard. we sanction it with our response. As Lacan stated. The 1953 split and the formation of the SFP briefly gave Lacan the school he wanted. To the cynical. II. 46–8. Since the creation of the ego was an understandable defense mechanism employed by the patient. To do this. and not as ordained by the clock in the analyst’s office. 1993). 258.” It was the analyst’s mastery of the symbolic. 255. and it was the SPP’s resistance to it that had eventually pushed Lacan to join Lagache and the rebels in the newly formed SFP. more money – and crucially more students. a practice that allowed Lacan both more patients – and as a consequence. p. See Roudinesco. vol.67 The goal was to escape the distortions of the imaginary ego expressed in “empty speech. variable-length sessions invariably meant short sessions. Worse.

For the first time Lacan had an audience of philosophers. Henri Ey’s now famous conference on the unconscious at Bonneval in 1960. A history of différance 207 the new society.. It was through these shared students that the philosophical norms and political meaning of both Lacan’s and Althusser’s work were impressed upon Derrida. and whose opposing positions went beyond the interpretation of the philoso- phers there. 323–9. adopting one side of an opposition that had wrenched French psychoanalysis apart for most of the postwar period.71 What must at first have seemed an unforgivable betrayal turned out to be a great opportunity. pp. the ENS director. Robert Flacelière. pp. Several of Lacan’s students and colleagues were willing to sacrifice him. detached from the corporatist squabblings of the psychoanalysts. vol. 1–6. The SFP was formally dissolved in January 1965. pp. II. The role of the Normaliens in the psychoanalytic movement fits into a broader history of structuralism at the ENS that we will discuss in the final chapter. The precise form of Derrida’s first intervention into psychoanalysis. offered Lacan the Salle Dussane for his seminar. and in 1963 they edged him out of the society. and effectively a ready supply of enthusiastic Normaliens to follow his instruction.72 On Louis Althusser’s recommendation. which brought psychoanalysts and philosophers together. 72 See Lacan. Althusser. Lacan’s students made psy- choanalysis relevant to Derrida. and it became increasingly clear that Lacan with his short sessions was the key obstacle to its return to the psychoanalytic fold. was provided by a debate that preceded the arrival of psychoanalysis at the Ecole. Derrida. 328–77. and her Histoire de la psychanalyse en France. crucial as it was in the absorption of structuralist ideas into the French philosophical mainstream. . Between 1964 and 1969. their interest piqued his. and Lacan were teaching the same active and engaged students. students receptive to his new reading of Freud and willing to grant him the status of maı̂tre à penser. however. The students at the ENS editing and writing for the new journal Les Cahiers pour l’analyse inherited the linguistic mantle from the SFP. Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. The invitation was probably one of the most significant single events in postwar French intellectual history. the unconscious The debate began with Dr. just as Lacan would do a few years later at the 71 See ibid. Lacan was left homeless. a history that is crucial for understanding Derrida’s development.

Underwood (London: Penguin Books. though open to structuralism. what one might call a topographical understanding. vol. 144. See Ey.73 At the conference.. See Henri Ey. an economic model. but in his response Green assimilated the idea of qualitative difference to a topical understanding and that of a quantitative difference to an economic understanding. unlike Lacan. in 1966. 74 Their paper was published in Les Temps modernes in 1961 and thus had a significant role in public perceptions of Lacanian psychoanalysis. . a representative of the drive in the realm of representations. L’Inconscient. Ey. the contamination of the organic in the psychological. 77 See especially Sigmund Freud. 76 Ibid. Leclaire and Laplanche even went as far as to declare the second version “phe- nomenological. it merely changed its state.” According to Freud. Interpreting Dreams. La Conscience (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. p. they identified two different ways in which he attempted to understand the difference between consciousness and the unconscious. the topographical position of this representation decides the topographical position of the 73 For Ey.74 Focusing on Freud’s The Unconscious from 1913. II.77 Leclaire and Laplanche resisted the second idea. De Brouwer. because that representative was a signifier. And Henri Ey. and so the division between the conscious and the uncon- scious could not be determined by the drive: “in contrast. ed. At times Freud asserted a “qualitative difference”: conscious and unconscious contents were a “double inscription” divided by a physical line.76 Rather than an unconscious content being reinscribed in a new location when it became conscious. opposed Ey’s energetic and organic account. In particular.. it must itself already be conscious or unconscious. J. 144–7. 2006). For Ey. 103–6.208 Between phenomenology and structuralism ENS. was a psychia- trist promoting an “organo-dynamic” understanding of the mind. trans. But. if markedly revised. refusing any absolute autonomy of the psychic from the organic. it could only manifest itself in psychic life by linking itself to a Vorstellungs-Repräsentanz. pp. Serge Leclaire and Jean Laplanche. Histoire de la psychanalyse en France. p. pp. last part. 1966).” a different noesis for the same noema. The conference proceedings were published. see Roudinesco. two of Lacan’s students. 1963). For Leclaire and Laplanche. L’Inconscient (Paris: Desclée.75 Elsewhere Freud asserted a “quantitative difference”: the unconscious and the conscious were distinguished by the pulsional energy invested in each one. 75 Leclaire and Laplanche regarded both qualitative and quantitative differences as central to the topical distinction between consciousness and the unconscious. psychoses should be understood as an “energetic deficit” that prevented the sub- ject from controlling its instinctual tendencies. 104. they faulted the economic model for its identification of “cathected” with “pul- sional energy. because the drive was organic and not originally conscious or unconscious.” because the same object was given “a different lighting.

. which provoked a varied response from Lacan over the coming decade. 82 On the connection between these two concepts see Green. 143–53. Crucially.” Critique 194 (July 1963). the Leclaire/Laplanche paper represented the Lacanian orthodoxy. 83 See also André Green. he hoped to balance out the privilege of the linguistic elements in Freud’s thought. of metaphor and of metonymy.80 Leclaire and Laplanche wanted to assert the absolute rupture of the signifier from the signified. Laplanche suggested that for Freud only the pre-conscious and conscious had access to language as it is commonly understood. 18. pp. L’Inconscient. 79 See ibid. 365–79. a dry linguistic model would not be enough. but rather as things. . p.82 As the title of Green’s later book Le Discours vivant sug- gested. could too easily assert the continuity between the biological and the psychological. By asserting the topographical model of the unconscious. they felt. p.”78 The syntactical laws of the uncon- scious were independent of any investment with pulsional energy. pp. “La Psychanalyse devant l’oppositions de l’histoire et de la structure. 120–1. especially pulsional energy and affect. with a reassertion of the somatic side. Despite the differences. Ibid. the drives were detached from their original organic meaning and placed under the iron rule of syntactic laws.83 According to Green. Laplanche went on to complicate the Lacanian orthodoxy by suggesting that the unconscious was the condition of language. 118. Thus in the unconscious one has representations of things. 114. and so complicate the absolute difference crucial to the rise of a linguistic understanding of the unconscious. 654. whereas in the conscious one also has representations of words.” Les Temps mod- ernes (August 1962). Le Discours vivant. while in the unconscious words were not treated as words. 1973). p. 106. the “cutting out of the signifier [découpage du signifiant]” crucial for Lacan’s theory. 78 Ey. The economic model.. The different status of unconscious language rendered more understandable the points de capiton.. was cut off cleanly from the drives and the organic. p. they were still first and foremost signifiers. L’Inconscient. A history of différance 209 libido that has just fixed itself there. Laplanche and Leclaire could reiterate the key battle-cry of the Lacanian system: “the unconscious is structured like a language. It was these laws that decided the movement from the conscious to the uncon- scious through the application of metaphor (repressing the initial signifier) and not the quantity of pulsional energy cathected into a representation. 5–6. not that it was structured by it.81 Broadly. See André Green. 80 Ibid. Le Discours vivant (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. for Green as for several others. pp. p. to all intents and purposes. See also in Ey.79 Psychic content. despite the difference between representations of words and representations of things in Leclaire’s and Laplanche’s theory. giving the organic drive a role in the movement of the psyche. It was precisely by reasserting the economic model that the SPP psy- choanalyst and student of Henri Ey André Green responded to Leclaire and Laplanche.” Once translated into a Vorstellungs-Repräsentanz. pp. granted by Lacan and his student Leclaire. the eventual concordance of conscious language and the unconscious. 81 André Green “L’Inconscient Freudien et la psychanalyse française contemporaine.

But as Green would later suggest. Green saw it as an essential and irreducible motor of psychic activity. 306–9. . [strip] the concept of every scientistic resonance.84 Taken individually. Green charged Leclaire with ignoring the Repräsentanz’s economic con- notations. 153. Green stated.” It was for this reason that he doubted whether Freud would find in Laplanche and Leclaire’s model “an account of his theory – I mean a full account [son compte – je veux dire tout son compte]. p.” If Lacan and his friends at the SFP had concentrated on linguistics to the detriment of affect. pp. say in repression. Green asserted that quantitative differences of energy could manifest themselves in qualitative differences. As we saw. 144.”86 Again the argument revolved around the question of the Vorstellungs- Repräsentanz. While Leclaire and Laplanche had denied the role of the drive in the move from conscious to uncon- scious states. Histoire de la psychanalyse. 85 Ey. II. we seem to be able to perceive agreement where the protagonists harmonize without realizing. we delight when across the dis- sonances between Freud’s sons. “in a diametri- cally opposed fashion. to raise it to the level of an authentic phenomenology of mind [esprit]. L’Inconscient. but also with respect to the quantity of “affective charge” with which it was invested: “force” as well as “sense. then. For Bouvet. the representative of the drive in the psyche. it played no role itself in psychic function. The Repräsentanz was not merely defined topographically. p.”85 Green. 87 Ibid. moving up the scale from somatic need. both cases. hoped to provide a comprehensive model. for Leclaire and Laplanche. 136–41. this Vorstellungs-Repräsentanz had to be sup- plemented by an Affekt-Repräsentanz. In the terms of the 1960 debate. See also Green. Fin- ishing his response to the 1961 article. pp.”87 This “affective charge” was partic- ularly crucial in the consideration of the movement from one part of the mind to another. around figures such as Maurice Bouvet and Jean Mallet. especially pp. to a conscious demand: “Qualitative differences maintain solidarity with quantitative 84 SeeGreen. p. “whatever reproach of eclecticism that one could address us . vol. 132. Le Discours vivant.. 145. p. . 86 Ey. through instinctual drive. 285–7. see Roudinesco. See especially Green’s discussion of Lacan in Le Discours vivant. . L’Inconscient. Le Discours vivant. psychological desire. Green asserted “will not go without some impov- erishment of the Freudian text. it was not so on the other side of the French psychoana- lytic aisle.210 Between phenomenology and structuralism interpreters of Freud’s work had tried either to “eliminate the role of hypo- thetical construction to integrate [the unconscious’s] mechanisms into the knowledge of the biological or psychological sciences” or. because the drive only figured in the psyche through its representative.

130. Indeed the series of seminars to which Derrida had 88 Ey. on the non-Lacanian side of the divide. but at the seminar of a doctor who was peculiarly receptive to Lacan’s innovations.. and demand. desire. there was no absolute cut that delimited an entirely independent realm of signifiers. L’Inconscient. between the crude symbolism of the drives and the more nuanced play of signifiers in the psyche. 89 Ibid. and whose work had attempted a synthesis. p. ..91 In conceiving language. p. The psyche was not governed by a single homogeneous linguistic system. 151. in the form of affect. drive. for the symbolic was no longer a homogeneous field but dissolved into the Real and the biological. mov- ing from drives to representations of things to representations of words in consciousness. 92 Ibid.”92 psychoanalytical difference Where did Derrida fit into these questions? His crucial intervention came at the seminar organized by Leclaire’s opponent André Green at the SPP.. one could say that Green refused the absolute separation of the Lacanian Real and Symbolic. but by a differential structure. p. Further. There was a sliding scale from “need. but must already be in a sense symbolic – indeed the dualism between the libido and the death drive implied a prior symbolic structure.”88 The drives themselves were not a language. A history of différance 211 changes that govern the passage from one level to another.. 91 Ibid. The organic drives were already symbolic. p. and at each level became further demotivated and detached from its biological ground. 151. its economic connotation. 90 Ibid. Green concluded that it was only correct to call the elements of the psyche “signifiers” “at the condition of adjoining to the Freudian signifier. By inference. but was structured like a language. to be able to be translated into the Vorstellungs- Repräsentanz.”90 The economic understanding of the unconscious refused any absolute rupture between consciousness and the unconscious and it allowed a con- tamination of the psyche by the somatic. according to Green. 150. the different levels of the mind following their own specific laws. with his talk “Freud and the Scene of Writing” from March 1966. different in this from Saussure’s. It was thus at the crossroads of French psychoanalysis that Derrida gave his talk. 147. p. Freud “explains simultaneously the origin from which it emanated and the path traveled to its arrival.” and differences arose between the representation of a thing and the representa- tion of a word. the drives had to be already differentiated.89 The unconscious was not a language.

following the question of the relationship between conscious and unconscious contents. 94 See Derrida. 331 note 22. pp. especially that Western metaphysics had repressed writing. the paper that was at the center of the Leclaire/Green debate. 100 Ibid. 201–2. one had to change linguistic models.. Positions. neglected pulsional energy.97 In particular he saw the same repres- sion of writing. 215. Green wanted to bridge the divide. p. 98 See references to phonologism in Derrida. and 221. 99 Ibid. Derrida suggested. See Roudinesco. vol. Derrida suggested that one could not include the biological elements of the drives by supplementing a linguistic understanding with an analysis of affect.96 But.94 Indeed Derrida introduced the central sec- tion of his talk. even discussing the fraught question of the relationship between representations of words and representations of things. 97 See chapter 8.” because it preceded and constituted both. p.. 221. Histoire de la psychanalyse. 204. 394. Derrida weighed the topographical and economic understandings of the psyche. pp.99 Writing. an analysis of Freud’s Note on the Magic Writing Block (1925). rejecting phonocentrism by recognizing that everything – including the drives and the somatic – was already structured like writing. when it called for an absolute difference between the real drives and the symbolic psyche. Dis- cussing the unconscious. 95 Ibid. p.98 Derrida argued his case by charting the rise of the scriptural metaphor in Freud’s psychoanalysis in the analysis of both psychic content (breaching/photography/writing) and the non-psychic apparatus (biologi- cal neurons/optical machines/writing pad) of the mind: the psychological and the somatic. unlike Green.93 The very terms of Derrida’s paper mirrored those of the debate between Leclaire and Green. Writing and Difference. 117–21. 96 See Derrida. p. II. See pp. p. and consequently the return of the repressed. in Freud’s own work. p. rather than with a linguistics dominated by an old phonologism. by highlighting the difficulties in Freud’s text The Unconscious.”101 93 Other participants included Michel Serres. Rather.212 Between phenomenology and structuralism been invited was an attempt to introduce the training analysts of the SPP to linguistic philosophy. Writing explained “forces but also locations. which was its condition of possibility. and Jean-Pierre Vernant. allowed Freud to overcome the distinction between the topographical and economic models of the psyche.. like them. 101 Ibid. René Girard. 220 (translation modified). both of whom were in his audience that day. Derrida picked up upon the arguments he had put forward in Of Gram- matology. like Leclaire’s.. .100 As Derrida said. Writing and Difference. 199. 198–9 and 220. “psychoanalysis sees itself called to collaborate with a graphematics to come [à venir].95 Derrida agreed with Green that a phonocentric model.

”104 With the scriptural metaphor the topographical and economic models of the psyche were combined: inscription and drive for reinscription..”103 The scriptural metaphor suggested that the unconscious text was not fully present. the model of transcription or translation suggested the existence of “a text. Derrida argued. should undo any pretensions of immobile primary texts: “the text is not conceivable in an originary or modified form of presence. . 104 Ibid. The signifier did not float so completely above the signified that it could be replaced by another without loss.. Further. Translation. which would be already there. p.” for if it were. in terms of the labor of the writing which circulated like psychical energy between the unconscious and the conscious. The emphasis on the materiality of the signifier. A history of différance 213 Derrida argued that the distinction between signifier [signifiant] and signified [signifié] suggested by the phonological model could not be “rad- ical. immobile: the serene presence of a statue. Because of this inadequacy it had to be supplemented by the conscious one: “we must . was central in dreams. As Derrida 102 Ibid.102 But iron- ically this residual connection between signifier and signified meant that complete translation too was unattainable. taken seriously. and allow it to be replaced by another. . its materiality. p. .” But to explain the movement from the unconscious to consciousness. 211 (translation modified). Without a uniform dream language. Echoing Green. however. 209. The “body” of the signifier. .. the topographical model was insufficient. interpretation could only take place by a reasoned explanation of the links between dream symbols and what they represented.” The unconscious text that had been “translated” was “already a weave of pure traces. 103 Ibid. which. the idiosyncracy of oneiric (dream) language would render any dream interpretation impossible. . everything begins with reproduction. . hence Freud’s ability to use plays on words and puns in his interpretation. made it impossible to describe the movement from the unconscious to the conscious as a simple transcription. then. had to forget the body of the signifier. that of the pre-consciousness or the conscious. of a written stone or archive. Derrida asserted that “an entirely and conventionally topographical metaphor of the psychical apparatus is to be completed by an appeal to force. understand the possibility of writing advanced as conscious .” Force entered into Derrida’s analyses through his appeal to writing. whose signified content might be harmlessly transported into the milieu of a different language. p. focusing entirely on ultimate signification. 212. . differences in which meaning [sens] and force are united .

which effected the translation into consciousness. . only the resin base retained a lasting record. and the surface of the writing pad would appear blank. In the magic writing block the two could not be separated.” The magic writing block comprised two elements: An upper sheet. which made the block ready to receive writing. the two elements separated such that the marks disappeared: repression.214 Between phenomenology and structuralism concluded. one orients oneself towards a configuration of traces that one can no longer represent but by the structure and functioning of writing. p. but for him this economic aspect was integral to writing itself. but also was more or less effaced.. Like Green. As Derrida described it: “From a system of traces functioning according to a model that Freud wanted to be natural and from which writing was perfectly absent. This would render the mark visible. representing the pre-conscious/conscious system. a pul- sional investment of the unconscious. 105 Ibid. nor an absolute break between the strata. such an investment could be just as easily withdrawn. It was in his short essay on the Note on the Magic Writing Block (1925) that Freud managed to find an analogy for the psychical apparatus that would complement the scriptural quality of psychical content. supplementing it. 226. The trace was a signifier.. p. The upper sheet was itself constructed out of two parts: on top clear celluloid. it would force together the two waxy surfaces.”105 Writing acted as the condition of possibility for both a linguistic understanding of the psyche and force or energy. 106 Ibid. when the machine was reset. and a wax or resin base: the unconscious. “the distinction between force and meaning is derivative in relation to an archi-trace.”106 The writing block combined a topographical (two sheets) model of the mind with an economic system (investment) that controlled the effacing of the sign. The generative effects of différance produced the conscious text out of the unconscious inscription. As we saw. constituted a Besetzungsinnervation. because the contact between the waxy lower surface of the upper sheet and the bottom resin layer was broken. But if pressure was applied to the upper celluloid sheet. demanding to be repeated or supplemented. however. Then. The trace on the upper sheet (the conscious) disappeared. to be reinscribed elsewhere. the underside of the upper sheet and the resin base. 213. say with a stylus. covering and protecting a thin layer of wax. for Derrida the movement of content from one part of the psyche could not be understood without the resources of an economic model. The condition of the model was that “there be neither a permanent contact. Normally the upper sheet would sit lightly on the resin base. In Freud’s model the proximity of the two elements.

44. this was just another example of the supplementarity of writing: a supposedly “dead” representation coming to make up for the insufficiencies of the live model. 109 Jacques-Alain Miller.’”109 Since in Frege’s system all objects were identical to themselves. The unconscious was structured like a language. p. Les Cahiers pour l’analyse. In “La Suture. A history of différance 215 which was already a trace and effacement. Frege started with zero. then. This declaration of the zero set’s extension was. an aid to it. and for this reason one didn’t need to choose between the topographical and the economic. it is “dead. The extension of the zero set. The internal movement of différance preceded both. Leclaire and Green had reopened their debate on the pages of the Normalien journal. that is a discourse constrained by the requirement of truth. and at the heart of their discussion was the new centerpiece of Lacan’s theory: the objet (a) (read “objet petit a”). which was defined as the “number assigned to the concept ‘non- identical to itself. the non-conceptualizable conceptualizes itself. for Miller. the letter a The Green/Leclaire debate also suggests why Derrida might have chosen the word “différance.” Les Cahiers pour l’analyse 1. The zero. referred to in Freud’s text on the unconscious (Derrida.” Miller argued that “the logician’s logic [la logique logicienne]” depended upon a logic of the signifier that allowed the “suturing” or the closing-up of non-identity. The Magic Writing Pad “represents” the living mind. .108 To show how the suture undergirded scientific discourse. The debate was set off by a text written by the editor of the journal.107 Différance as a concept became Derrida’s mediating solution to the major debate in French psychoanalysis. See chapter 8.” Another hand is required periodically to separate the upper sheet from the wax base. “Avertissement. p. Writing and Difference. 1.” Les Cahiers pour l’analyse 1. however. For Derrida.” In the months preceding Derrida’s talk. and. no object conformed to this concept. The question of representation. it brought together Green and Leclaire. a “0” circling an absence. just as the writing pad is both an inadequate model for memory. in the first edition from late 1965. 221). Miller suggested that the suture was the psychoanalytic condition of scientific discourse. unlike the zero it represented was 107 The last part of Derrida’s essay deals with the question of the representation. made that absence visible: “from the zero-lack to the zero-number. Jacques-Alain Miller. but according to Freud it is a poor imitation because it does not work by itself. but it was a written language. In his avertissement to the new journal. links this question to that of the Vorstellungs-Repräsentanz. was zero. p. in practice.” This number zero. “La Suture. This “representational relation [rapport représentatif]” is one of supplementarity (p. 108 Jacques-Alain Miller. Miller turned to Frege’s discussion of the construction of numbers. the suture. The question of the “suture” tied into the very project of the Cahiers. 228).

the impossibility of the suture was related to the objet (a). 6. “Marque et manque. difference was stitched up in the suture. 111 See Roudinesco. a desire that could never be fully satiated because the lack was real. vol. eds. Frege had turned 0 into 1.110 Lacan himself appreciated the attempt at mediation. and unity with the mother was irretrievable. Jacques Lacan. See also in Cahiers pour l’Analyse 3. The suture. where Lacan shows that the attempt to save the truth leads to the suturing of the subject. while preserving Althusser’s ideal of a non-subjective science.” in Knox Peden and Peter Hallward. p. II (London: Verso. The “logic of the signifier” and the suture that it made possible thus allowed the rise of mathematical logic and undergirded it. the construction of numbers in Frege’s plan depended upon the logic of signifiers. The objet (a) could never be fully sutured. the possibility of signifying 0 for it to count as 1. or. It subsumes all the numbers up until n. But. see my “Reading Lévi-Strauss with Derrida and the Cercle d’Epistémologie. desire persisted to power the movement of the signifying chain. the objet (a) was the residual lack caused by a lost unity with the mother. Both sides. it was the cause of desire. identical to itself. the non-identical was transformed into the identical. For an analysis of the debate. and thus itself excluded from. it could not be understood within the confines of logic. Ecrits. By representing the unrepresentable. In this logic. The subject too was that non-identical thing that allowed the possibility of “one extra signifier.. p. but dis- tanced himself from Miller’s analysis in his later conference “Science and Truth. Miller’s analysis hoped to mediate between his two teachers. But it was only represented in. 731. How to be a Good Structuralist.111 For Lacan. Miller tied the suture to Lacan’s subject of the unconscious. as well as the zero number. 427. thus the number assigned to the concept of the “number zero” was one. however. As initially presented. the unconscious. n + [0] (the sutured 0) is n + 1. The number assigned to the concept “member of the sequence of numbers ending by n” is n + 1. 110 See Alain Badiou. allowed the indefinite construction of the integers. As such. and Lacan. by maintaining Lacan’s reference to the subject of the uncon- scious.216 Between phenomenology and structuralism an object. Concept and Form: The Cahiers pour l’Analyse and Contemporary French Thought.” Les Cahiers pour l’analyse 9. Lacan and Althusser. The process continued.” suggesting that science always failed to suture the subject. Rather. Miller’s article was not well received by orthodox Lacanians.” the concatenation of the signifying chain. rejected Miller’s compromise. Criticized later by Althusseri- ans such as Alain Badiou. traditionally understood. in Lacan’s system. p. he had sutured the non-self-identical to produce a self-identical object. . 2011). since the suture transformed the non-identical into an object that was identical with itself. In the latter part of his paper. then.

70. for Leclaire. for a moment. or finger that. the zero number would never fully represent the zero lack.” because he is not interested in preserving truth or remolding the non-identical into the self-sameness of the number. “L’Analyste à sa place. 116 Green first discussed the objet (a) in the 1963 Critique article. But according to Leclaire the analyst must resist the operation. Miller’s analysis of the suture dissimulated the prime focus of psychoanalysis. Leclaire asserted that “the analyst does not suture.” Les Cahiers pour l’analyse 3. Because difference was primary. For him. “L’Analyste à sa place. Writing in the third edition of Les Cahiers pour l’analyse. 51.”114 Because this difference was irreducible. what appears? I would say. the analysis of the objet (a) would “mark 112 Serge Leclaire. brought into the chain of signifiers to produce a stable formal system. for Miller it would have been a perfect candidate for the suture.. Leclaire argued that this difference appeared in Freud’s work around the “unconscious concept” – a concept intimately related to Lacan’s “objet (a)” – which. it is radical difference. as a concept. p. 113 Borch-Jacobsen. 52. 115 Ibid. Responding in the same edition as Miller’s piece. Further. p. 231. 661–2. but comprised non-identical objects. drifted “between imaginary continuity and real separation. As we have seen.”112 The suture had to be resisted because it concealed the foundational difference that structured psychoanalysis. again hoping to temper the absoluteness of Leclaire’s difference. of a self-difference that imposes itself in the last analysis before the irreducibility of sexual reality. penis. p. as Borch Jacobsen has written. recast the debate around the objet (a).” p.”115 Green was quick to respond. sexual difference. p. See pp. represented by parts of the body like the nose. 114 Leclaire. 133. Lacan: The Absolute Master. . was unified.”113 As the non-identical object. for me. but.116 The objet (a) allowed Green to refine his criticism of Saussurean linguistics.” in Les Cahiers pour l’analyse 1. that is. the cutting-out of the signifier (découpage du signifiant) required the difference between the organic and the psychic to be absolute and irreducible. Leclaire continued “if one renounces. Green drew on many of the themes with which we have become familiar such as the role of affect in the Vorstellungs-Repräsentanz. resist the temptation to cover over the “the truth of a radical difference. the saving of the Truth. it would always resist the suture. the theme of Lacan’s seminar that year. See also his “Objet de la psychanalyse. A history of différance 217 Leclaire opposed Miller’s understanding in the same way. there would remain what Leclaire would later call the “irreducible difference between the sought after and the obtained satisfaction. like Leclaire.

This. making one tour of the Möbius strip: “it is the cut [coupure] that permits representation. he agreed with Leclaire on the internal exigencies of the “uncon- scious concept. . 120 Ibid. producing a set of partial objects. Green claimed that the objet (a) had to be sutured into the signifying chain.” p.218 Between phenomenology and structuralism the limits of the agreement of Lacan’s thought – and without doubt all psychoanalytic thought – with modern structuralism. Circumnavigating the strip would bring one to the other side: the crossing of the bar between Real and Symbolic that the suture described. Arguing against Leclaire. n ) with the blacking out of a term as soon as it has manifested itself. 118 It was a reproduction of a talk he had given at Lacan’s seminar on December 21. Green suggested that “to this binary opposition. 25.119 And yet. It was only because the Real objet (a) could be separated from the body that it could then be sutured into the signifying chain. two sides of the same band. by suturing the non-identical objet (a). 24. according to Green. . p. a process that at one and the same time symbolized and effaced it. one substitutes here a process with three terms (n.”120 For Green the structure of the suture described an operation that would move beyond the opposition of signifier and signified. but was rather made up of different levels – a “differential distribution” – that were continu- ous with each other and permitted an economic understanding of their interrelations. Mov- ing beyond this simple duality of the assertion of difference or its effacing. 121 Ibid. 1965. “L’Objet (a). as a partial object of desire. 27. the Real too must be able to enter into the chain of signification: a “cutting-out” at the level of the signified. Green suggested this also implied the presence of affect in 117 André Green. If there was a general economy and interchange between the signifier and signified.. arguing for the equal importance of both the cutting out (coupure) and the suture to understand the con- catenation of the signifying chain. was the significance of the Mobius strip metaphor in Lacan’s work.”121 The suture allowed the possibility of a new signifier in the chain. p. 119 Green.. Signifier and signified were separated. p. the necessity of the cutting-out and difference.” i. that which linguistics offers us. For this to work. but the curious topology of the strip meant that they were also continuous with one another. which founded that on the level of the signifier. 16.118 This concatenation showed that the psyche was not a homogeneous field of signifiers. “L’Objet (a).”117 Green revisited Miller’s paper. + . that of phonology where relations are always posed in terms of antagonistic couples .e. .” in Les Cahiers pour l’analyse 3.

putting the signifying chain in motion. inscription. as we have seen. citing Derrida. 77 and 95–6. republished in Derrida. The Real always exceeded the Symbolic – too many things. Différance was not what demanded the partial object as an inadequate stopgap. See Serge Leclaire. 29 and 33–5. pp.” pp. p. participating in the psyche like other signifiers. supplementing and preceding the analysis of the Symbolic. “Les Elements en jeu dans un psychanalyse. even if it followed different rules. 90–5. letter. but rather what produced and effaced it: Derrida’s neologism became an alternative to Lacan’s objet (a). was the result of an integral understanding of the objet (a). 28–30. pp. The differential distribution of signifiers. . also continuous with each other like the two sides of the Möbius strip. pp.122 The division between the affect and representation of the objet (a) mirrored and repeated that of Lacan’s split subject between the ego and the subject of the unconscious. But. combining both a concern for its representative and its affective elements. Structural instability no longer arose from the inad- equacy of written forms. by the mid 1960s Derrida had refigured his under- standing of difference. 123 Ibid. which for Derrida remained phonological. and to which the psychoanalyst must always be open. Green introduced his paper by asserting that it would “allow us to consider the objet (a) less as the support of the partial object than as the path of a tracing hand. the replacement of one partial object for another.123 The suture then explained the rise of partial objects of desire of the objet (a) and the inscriptions of affect into the psyche.” p.”126 122 Ibid. pp. 29. “De la grammatologie II. by the end of his life. “L’Objet (a).125 In doing so Derrida never strayed too far from Green’s own analysis. not enough forms – and it was the inadequacy of any Symbolic system that drove structural change.124 Lacan and Leclaire’s description of the “objet (a)” mirrored Derrida’s own reading of Heidegger’s difference in the essays from the early 1960s. The Lacanian Subject. 124 See Fink. It was an element that Green regarded as lacking in Lacan. A history of différance 219 the psyche: the representative of the objet (a) in the signifying chain could not be reduced to a simple representation. the different levels of the mind rising out of the organic could be understood through an economic model.” Les Cahiers pour l’analyse 5. Pre- empting Derrida’s own treatment of writing. the difference between reason and the hyperbolic moment. 20–1. 125 Though Leclaire clearly saw in Derrida a theoretical ally. a.. 126 Green.. Freud was particularly concerned to give affect the status of a signifier. The movement of the signifying chain. De la grammatologie. The objet (a) produced and effaced the trace. According to Green. 21. but rather by the excess and movement of the Symbolic itself.

writing and difference. . The title is an implicit double séance. L’écriture et la différence or L’écriture est la différance: Derrida’s book is caught in the polyvalence of its title. playing on the homophones in French between et and est. To someone who had never read Derrida. which arise in dialogue between its spoken and written form. but presented first. And. Like all of Derrida’s titles. a passage between two covers. with an ear attuned to Derrida’s terminology. the confrontation of two heterogeneous terms. after a reading of the book. But a closer look challenges this initial judgment. between the latent and the explicit. a writing that would forget Heidegger’s ontico-ontological difference as in the first five chapters. the sense of writing being différance is inescapable. L’Ecriture et la différence hides several meanings. the never full repression of an old word in the production of new meaning. It was the very différance of writing that allowed the movement between Derrida the post-existentialist and Derrida the non-conformist structuralist. Derrida’s Writing and Difference thus allows a transformative reading. But. It cannot be the totalitarian book in the Leibnizian or Hegelian sense.220 Between phenomenology and structuralism conclusion I suggested at the beginning of part II that only one element of Derrida’s book L’Ecriture et la différence seemed to escape its historical structure. the title reads as it is written. was an effect of writing itself. the title summarizing the book was devised after it.” the movement between the two meanings. as in Derrida’s “Freud and the Scene of Writing. différence and différance.

Rue d’Ulm. I intend to examine this change from two perspectives: the move away from phenomenology. 221 .1 For. The latter will shed light on the political meaning of Derrida’s project and provide new ways to understand the role played by antihumanism in French theory. In a 1976 article. as I will argue. showing how it mutated from a post-existentialist reading of phenomenology into a quasi-structuralist theory. “Sciences de l’homme et la phénoménologie.”2 Derrida widened his intellectual horizons by returning to the ENS. c h a p t er 7 L’ambiguité du concours The deconstruction of commentary and interpretation in Speech and Phenomena In the last chapter we tracked the changes in Derrida’s thought during the middle years of the 1960s.” p. because his autobiographical statements seem to refuse such an analysis: the philosopher of the marginal. by urging the philosopher to place himself at “school of facts. 2 Merleau-Ponty. While Merleau-Ponty opened phenomenology up to the human sciences. Indeed. after 1964 the vast majority of his books and articles examined texts from outside of the phenomenological canon. 122. while before 1964 Derrida focused his attention almost exclusively on Husserl’s texts and participated in the technical realm of French phenomenological discourse. as the following chapter makes clear. Derrida enjoyed his contested position on the fringes of academic philosophy. Scholars have been resistant to placing Derrida’s thought within its insti- tutional context. But the causes and stakes of this transformation remain unexplained. I do not want to imply that there exists an autonomous methodology called deconstruction that is merely applied to texts. and. and the confrontation with structuralism. in chapter 8. Over the next two chapters. Derrida asserted that. because it concerns the rise of deconstruction as a methodology. The former is worthy of consideration. 1 Derrida resisted the idea that deconstruction is simply a method. in his new teaching responsibilities. the genesis of an aspect of Derrida’s work that has been central to its reception into the English- speaking world. we will see how what could be classed as the first object of deconstruction played a considerable role in the construction of the theory. The key to this unprecedented expansion in Derrida’s professional interests lies.

but Derrida was insistent that deconstruction was also its “effect. or Derrida. from his teaching role where he had to follow the norms of a jury and a canon “that in his eyes [had] been discredited.”4 To understand these claims as drawing a clear line between deconstruc- tion and the academic institutions in which it first emerged would. by the mid 1970s. It did not proceed according to the established norms of theoretical activity. Plug (Stanford University Press.. . Of Grammatology. according to his philosophy.5 For all his discussion of the “dissociation” between his philosophical project and teaching duties. which left no structure unquestioned. Rebels often depend on the institutions that they assault and can never wholly stand beyond them. 77.222 Between phenomenology and structuralism it had been obvious that the work in which I was involved . Derrida was careful to assert the “dissociation” between his pub- lished and teaching work. Mar- gins for Derrida were never on the outside of a text. .3 Further. In more than one of its traits and in strategically defined moments. . pp. it must be remembered that.” and when he declared that deconstruction did not “belong simply” to the forms of the philosophical institution. Who’s Afraid of Philosophy? p. as an outrage to. “scandals” were as much a product of. In Derrida’s case. 5 For a discussion of scandals see Derrida. . he wanted to highlight the complexity of the relationship. 2002). it was only from within the French philosophical system that he found the resources and the authority to attack it. and that Derrida’s later criticism and resistance to the agrégation concours grew out of an early and intimate involvement with it. Taken by students in their mid-twenties between the completion 3 Jacques Derrida. it had to have recourse to a “style” unacceptable to a university reading body (the “allergic” reactions to it were not long in coming). I will argue that the practice of deconstruction was a response to the conflicting demands of the exam. 71–2. 283–4. 104–5. separating his philosophical project. a system. p. pp. and if Derrida felt that his work was a “scandal” for the mainstream. pp. not its nonexis- tence. had become an object of deconstruction. Derrida also made clear that this dissociation was a “fiction. The agrégation de philosophie was the gatekeeper of French academic phi- losophy. – the (affirmative) deconstruction of phallogocentrism as philosophy – did not belong simply to the forms of the philosophical institution . 4 Ibid. The educational system in France. Writing and Difference. however. Who’s Afraid of Philosophy? trans J.”6 This chapter aims to understand the crucial and unexplored connection between Derrida’s philosophy and one of the most important institutions in French academic life: the agrégation. . 6 See Derrida. be an unjust reading of a philosophy that refused absolute exteriority. 74.

to reproduce and make others reproduce: forms.”8 Derrida’s day-to-day role at the ENS was to reassert and enforce the rules imposed by the test. To discard this enormous intellectual production as incidental would be a mistake. L’ambiguité du concours 223 of a Mémoire thesis and the beginning of doctoral work.11 For while biographical. social. April 25. Both while taking the exam – when he described it to Althusser as “concentration camp idiocy [une connerie concentrationnaire]” – and later when teaching it. he had trouble submitting himself to its demands. and a content. norms. 930595/8. what they must respond to at the different stages of testing and selection. and political contexts in which to place an author’s thought. 8 Derrida. there were few other twentieth-century philosophers who had such an intimate relation- ship with it: Derrida taught for twenty years at the ENS. Masters of Theory (University of Chicago Press.” CAC. including Robert Linhart. I would say they were amongst the best in the Ecole.10 The majority of the pages that Derrida wrote during the 1960s and 70s were lecture courses preparing students for the concours. 103. May 2007. and political themes often require some form of translation to 7 Derrida Letters at IMEC to Althusser. 75. Interview with Marguerite Derrida. social. the day-to-day academic work of professional philosophers and intellectuals remains a relatively untapped and yet immediate context. In 1982 he considered that he had done a good job. He was the agrégé-répétiteur. as Derrida described. 9 Letter July 23. cited in Peeters. Who’s Afraid of Philosophy? p. was “destined to repeat and make others repeat. he saw it as “ghastly”. While intellectual historians have often looked to biographical. 1956. . very constraining. “the results have been excellent (if I appreciated such honors. 19930595/31. training students to take the exam. decided that they did not want to take the exam and asked to be released from the obligation. a teacher who. “very codified. 11 For an important study of the pedagogical context of Cambridge Mathematicians in the nineteenth century see Andrew Warwick.”9 When in the early 1960s two Normaliens. According to his wife. It was not an institution that Derrida particularly liked. 2003). the agrégation effectively granted a small elite of young philosophers access to university positions. 10 “Commission des Etudes de l’ENS. of all the Ecoles) both in the percentage and the placing of those who passed. Derrida personnel file at the ENS. p. Derrida found the exam a constant burden. 1982 to ENS directeur. but continued to teach with the agrégation in mind. Derrida was promoted to maı̂tre-répétiteur later. CAC. Derrida. Derrida opposed their petition. He [had to] assist students in the reading and comprehension of texts.”7 In spite of all his opposition to the agrégation concours. help them interpret and understand what is expected of them.

only about fifteen passed each year. Because of the importance and intensity of the course and program. Derrida expanded the scope of his philosophical reflections and learnt how to approach textual fragments from the history of philoso- phy at the very moment he was teaching his students to do the same thing. within the context of the agrégation. or the Bulletin officiel de . We can understand the transformation of Derrida’s theory from a predominantly technical study of phenomenology into a mode of reading applicable to a wide variety of texts from a number of diverse traditions. the agrégation plays an important part in my story of Derrida’s development. the agregation de philosophie Taking the agrégation was a daunting affair. The agrégation only became critical for Derrida’s continued work when he became the agrégé-répétiteur in the History of Philosophy at the ENS in the autumn of 1964. they are text more than context. Students crafted their essays in ways that they thought would ensure success. by showing how his new philosophy could provide valuable resources for his students entering the concours. their teachers were directly influenced by the syllabus and the exams to be taken. the two were seen as mutually dependent. many of his own lectures acted as the first draft of a book.224 Between phenomenology and structuralism explain their impact on often abstract theory. as we shall see. Second. and rightly. even where publications and books emerged from independent research. academic demands and institutional constraints – which mobilized the interest of their students and the expectations of their employers – had a profound influence on all their theoretical work. while in courses. students would start serious preparations a year beforehand. considered alongside publications. In the 1950s. of three hundred or so candidates. it is not possible to separate teaching from research. Indeed. By 1965. From Aristotle’s Ethics to Kant’s Logic. the norms and demands of academic institutions directly affected the form and content of written work. despite the massive growth in the higher education system. In the summer before the student intended to take the exam. In particular. First. he or she would refer to a copy of the Revue universitaire. For many intellectuals. In Derrida’s case. the courses that academics taught often dealt with parallel subjects and helped shape arguments and approaches. academic courses are often. we cannot draw an absolute line between the two. In the majority of cases. this number had risen to only thirty. lecture courses have been assimilated into the canon.

Essentially. 15 Each composition took place between 8 a. the other listing the texts set for the oral. there were two leçons. Based on this corpus. In the period 1945–65 the written program named a number of authors for study (approximately five or six through the 1950s and settling down to two in the early 1960s). However. or the BO as it is referred to.” or the relationship between science and philosophy. the philosophy agrégation graced the first page of the special supplement. an exam that would normally take place a couple of weeks later after the examiners had marked the 900 or so essays. and Friday. probably in an effort to reduce the instructors’ workload. 16 Two examiners would mark each question. From 1919 until the 12 The Revue Universitaire ran until 1957.15 The first two questions were based on far-reaching philosophical topics. This too did not survive long.13 These were taken from the slowly developing philosophical canon. such as the “conflict of duties.12 With philosophy considered the queen of university disciplines. the question generally consisted in a citation from one author of the program. The selection of authors and texts for these explications made up the bulk of each program.m. Though not explicitly formulated as such. only a small portion – around a sixth during this period – were classed as “admissibles. however. students would face a set of three compositions in June. Wednesday. in the second half of the decade the latter were considered to be too specialized. with approximately half the program changing every session. . and a number of explications de textes.” “determinism. before being replaced by a list of themes for discussion.” “certitude.m. and were replaced by the explication of an unknown text.17 In an explication de texte a student was required to give a detailed oral presentation of a philosophical passage. L’ambiguité du concours 225 l’éducation nationale. it consisted of two types of test: a leçon on a topic chosen by lot. after which the only source appears to be the Bulletin Officiel. falling on a Monday.. commenting on another. when Derrida first sat the exam in 1955 he had to answer the question: “What does Plotinus’s system owe and what does it not owe to Platonism?” Of the three hundred or so students each year who sat the written part of the exam. In this period the only twentieth-century author to appear on the written program was Henri Bergson. and 3 p. The program consisted of two sections: one listing the authors to be discussed in the written exam. to find the program for that year. The students would then face a composition in the history of philosophy. 17 In the early 1950s.14 Each author remained on the program for two years. 13 After 1960 the number of authors dropped. a grande and a petite. or a comparison between the two. For example.16 The organization of the oral exam was less stable during this period.” These were allowed through to the next stage. 14 In 1951–2 and 1956–7.

and the work of Alan Schrift has done much to focus attention and interest. 20 See Julian Bourg. would always be in French. Unlike the written section. and after five hours’ access to the library at the Sorbonne. it immediately created a market for critical literature on his philosophy. Hegel. Mass. pp.18 The language qualifier referred not to the origin of the author. and then could choose between a Greek. or book Lambda of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. “The Effects of the Agrégation. however. before the First World War. a different topic was given to each candidate. In the secondary literature most emphasis has been placed on the first area: the connection between the authors listed on the program and those that came to interest philosophy more broadly at the time.” Journal of the History of Philosophy (July 2008). in the oral exam only a single text. certain students were able to provide an explication of either Kant’s Critique de jugement. as Schrift notes. pp. If an author was placed on the agrégation syllabus. Thus. 19 The exam. 2004). Alan Schrift. After the Déluge (Lanham. 2006). 201–4. 449–73. while in 1957 the candidates faced a Latinate Descartes.226 Between phenomenology and structuralism mid 1960s. For the leçon. 23–5. played a major role in canon formation. 462. pp. In recent years. a German. but rather to the language in which the text would be given in the exam. when other languages were introduced. and most recently. when the sociologist Georges Davy became president of the jury soon after the end the War the number of empiricist philosophers on the program greatly increased. they were supposed to present a lecture to the jury of about fifty minutes. Md. The program for the agrégation. The students were asked to analyze a philosophical fragment. and finally the style of philosophy undertaken in France. Twentieth-Century French Philosophy (Malden. the production of a French philosophical community. 21 Schrift.21 Schrift has also remarked on the coincidence of 18 Alan Schrift has pointed out to me that. or Mill’s Examen de la philosophie de Hamilton instead of the Greek text. ed. or perhaps only a small part of it. and this played an important role in the rise of the social sciences in French philosophy. was listed on the agrégation syllabus: the fifty-sixth lesson of Comte’s Positive Philosophy.: Blackwell. or an English one. and Husserl at times appeared in the French Section. “The Effects of the Agrégation on Twentieth-Century French Philosophy. .19 So Nietzsche. it is argued. which would demand knowledge spanning the corpus of the authors cited.: Lexington Books. the candidates had to give one French and one Latin explication.20 The importance of the agrégation can be shown in three central areas: the constitution of major themes and trends in French thought.” p. philosophers and historians have begun to appreciate the centrality of the agrégation in French philosophy.

There was a society dedicated to his philosophy formed in 1946 by Armand Quinot.24 We cannot therefore conclude that there existed a simple causal relationship between the appearance of his name on the agrégation program and the rise of French Nietzscheanism. Foucault and. albeit not always by mainstream philosophers. Derrida. especially that of Deleuze. the program of the agrégation was as much a response to trends as generative of them. In most cases. The appearance of authors on the agrégation program did. serve to magnify their importance. and shows how Nietzsche’s relatively regular appearance on the agrégation d’allemand program from before the War informed the Germanist literature on Nietzsche. Henri Albert (Paris: Société du Mercure de France. for he had been seen as a critical influence for the existentialists and Heidegger. 24 Schrift notes books by Bataille and Lefebvre and the interest given by Wahl amongst others. As we saw in the first two chap- ters. 23 Friedrich Nietzsche. the program did not exhaustively determine the philosophies that could be used and referred to in the exam. La Généalogie de la morale. Using the agrégation to understand the processes of canon formation in French philosophy provides an important corrective to traditional explana- tions. a new addition to the program had to be available in French. trans. 464–9. Though Hegel’s texts only appeared on the compulsory section of the agrégation in 1951. Nietzsche even appeared regularly in ENS student exposés from the early 1950s. Firstly. Nietzsche was hardly ignored before 1958. mobilize publishing machines.23 In terms of secondary literature too. L’ambiguité du concours 227 the appearance of Nietzsche on the exam in 1958 and a whole slew of books written on him. pp. however. and Nietzsche’s work had elicited many critical responses in French. .. something that was certainly the case for Nietzsche by the late 1950s: the Henri Albert translation indicated on the program of the Genealogy of Morality was over half a century old.22 He suggests that the institutional pressures and opportunities provided by the agrégation were fundamental for the rise of French Nietzscheanism. without a tradition of Nietzsche studies in France he would never have been included. and incite several philosophy professors to write and publish on them. but we cannot see it as absolutely determinative. but it did affirm that canon and secure it. of course. Secondly. Georges Davy complained in 1947 that “several candidates have sacrificed so much 22 See ibid. 1900). while several German analyses had been translated. in the period after 1940 scholars had become increasingly interested in Nietzsche’s work. The agrégation may not have created the canon out of nothing.

Sartre. Hegel. Cf. phenomenology in all its heretical forms. Even in the explications. One thing that is perhaps most remarkable about this period in France is the enormous vari- ety of different movements in philosophy: Existentialism. p. The explicit program of agrégation authors represented a relatively stable and slow moving canon. a good if not complete selection of this period have been grouped together at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. and yet he was a standard reference in the exam from the late 1940s. to the point of scorning almost anyone else. Mikel Dufrenne. epistemology. Open to philosophical fashions. 1 and 4. Hyp- polite. a phenomenologist. Even with the two philosophers at the Collège de France and the grouping in the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. post-structuralism.” 1947. The fact that the set program could act as a pretext for discussing other themes and authors and bringing to bear different theoretical apparatuses on set texts suggests another key role of the agrégation: maintaining the unity of the French philosophical community. See “Rapport du President. and Merleau-Ponty were noted by the jury throughout the 1950s. Several of the other rapports can be found in the national archives. Taking 1953 as an example. Christian spiri- tualism. structuralism. This unity can be attributed more to the stability than to the movement of the canon. This heterogeneity is even more remarkable given the size of the university philosophical population. or Sartre could be used to elucidate the chosen texts. 1955. p. Hegel had been on the German section of the agrégation in 1938.26 Though the explications des textes presented a rigid reading list. 25 For the rapports. and 1958. the moral philosopher. p. French analytic philosophy. In the 1960s a number of candidates started using “structuralism” as a guiding theory. but no candidate felt lim- ited to it. Jean Wahl. 1950–). at the Sorbonne. There were around fifteen professors of philos- ophy at the Sorbonne in the 1950s. Mar- cel. 6. pp.228 Between phenomenology and structuralism to Hegel. Marx. the university community in Paris aside from the historians of philosophy comprised the existentialist Merleau-Ponty at the Collège de France. while devotees of Bachelard. Jankélevitch. p. the the- matic questions on the written part and the leçons allowed a certain freedom of choice. 6. under the title “Agrégation: Philosophie” (Paris. 5. art. and around fifty others spread around the fourteen or so other philosophy faculties in France. . see Rapport 1965. though their own books might not have been on the syllabus. 26 Rapport 1951. the official agrégation program would only confirm a new movement once it was already underway and established. 8. an expert on contemporary German thought. 2. Gaston Bachelard. See similar complaints concerning Husserl and Heidegger in 1951 and 1952.”25 Husserl was not placed on the program until 1959. concentrating on Hegel. in CAC. 1952. the community was very small. 19880121. amongst many others.

Martial Guéroult. For Derrida too. philosophy instructors at the Ecoles Normales and the agrégés teaching at Parisian lycées could be added to this roster. to a large extent.28 The agrégation played a central role in the constitution of a French philosophical community. we must first analyze these demands and investigate the various strategies employed to address them. it went beyond the determination of authors read and themes discussed. A major factor in the absorption of phenomenol- ogy into French philosophy was the parallel made between Husserl and Descartes. Husserl was far more acceptable to the French intellectual community. reflected in the agrégation program. Once he had been assimilated to a certain form of Cartesianism. and logicians could all engage in debates over the same philosophical canon. The agrégation. Phenomenologists. structuralists. the exam exerted a powerful normative role. L’ambiguité du concours 229 the historian of science. . The constant demand to train his students in the most effective way possible for an exam that would determine their future careers imprinted the peculiar and often conflicting demands of the concours on Derrida’s own work. Of course. 27 See the list in Etudes philosophiques 3 (1953).” Modern Intellectual History 8. Spinoza. or that he should have been the focus of a protracted debate in the early 1950s between Henri Gouhier. which was. and for philosophical conversations to be possible they had to reach across doctrinal lines. The centrality of Descartes is a clear example of this. a logician. To understand the agrégation’s role in the development of deconstruction. “Descartes. It is not surprising that the key clash between Derrida and Foucault should revolve around Descartes.27 At the university level there were no large communities following any particular methodology. and surrealist interpretations. Gaston Berger’s Le Cogito dans la philosophie de Husserl (1941) and Husserl’s own Cartesian Meditations (developed from lectures given in Paris in 1929) helped nativize the German phenomenologist. a debate that brought together existentialist. and Fernand Alquié. 28 See on this issue the excellent article by Knox Peden. Appropriate tactics for answering agrégation questions were repeatedly impressed upon students in their yearlong preparation. and the Impasse of French Philosophy: Ferdinand Alquié versus Martial Guéroult. a shared reference for all university philosophers. But for certain individuals. proto-structuralist. while mirroring and reinforcing philosophical movements. served as common ground.2 (August 2011). and for those teaching them these demands were felt no less insistently. 339. determining what good philosophy was. and Poirier. p.

p.” many showed an awareness of contemporary ideas.”33 In the 1950s in particular the jury regularly complained of students using “phenomenology” or “dialectics” uncritically and without fully engaging with either these ideas or the texts 29 See for instance the disappointment in Rapport 1950.230 Between phenomenology and structuralism pedagogy and research: the conflicting demands of the agregation As we have seen. Mikel Dufrenne. 32 Rapport 1949. In 1969. In 1949.30 In selecting the next generation of French philosophers. .29 Such was importance of the rankings that on at least one occasion in the female concours it was decided not to grant a first place to preserve the prestige of the top agrégée. the year of Lévi-Strauss’s Anthropologie structurale and two years after his Tristes tropiques. 33 Rapport 1962. students also had to avoid parroting fashionable authors. 31 Rapport 1949. The agrégation jury hoped to keep abreast of current philosophical trends and they expected the candidates to demonstrate an awareness of the most modern themes.”31 In the leçons. As the most important filter for the next generation of scholars. complained that too many candidates were unwilling to engage with contemporary philosophy. while serving on the jury. the jury warned the candidates that “tens of their competitors can utilize the same conventional plans and recall the same clichés just as well as them. the agrégation played a significant role at the highest level of French academic philosophy. the jury showed disproportionate interest every year in the very best candidates. or Rapport 1959.32 Though the present could not be ignored. the highest-ranking women were given second and fourth places. the jury tried to remain up to date. p. which notes the small number of the very best. and remarked on the “necessary rejuvenation of the competition with the evolution of the world. though some topics reiterated traditional themes such as “is there a science of the individual?” or “rationalism. such as the leçon “Myth and History” in 1958. In 1962. p. when the first and third places were left unfilled. tracking its importance for the existentialists. or Rapport 1957. See also Rapport 1950. 3. 2. Similar occurrences can be seen following other important events in philosophical life in France. or remark on the brilliance of the cacique: the jury was on the lookout for the next Bergson or Sartre. the jury would often bemoan the lack of any great stars who might have wowed them. 6. 3. when Pierre Aubenque came first. In the rapport they compiled after each year’s concours. 30 In 1948. p. “writing and speech” was included as one of the leçons. or one on “anguish” in 1950. just after Derrida’s triple publication in 1967.

11–12. see Louis Althusser. 1951.: Harvard University Press. .”35 Given this emphasis on the very highest quality work. 1957. It is to analyze it. in practice. the most able candidate. 1949. and the most up-to-date philosophy. With the vast growth of university education after the War.” IMEC. Indeed for most of its history. . would reunite the heterogeneous and physicalist self of prior philosophy and thus help to form responsible citizens. and recipients of the CAPES worked harder and earned less than their agrégé colleagues. As president of the agrégation jury from 1840. 8. 1959. 1961. A holder of the CAPES would teach eighteen hours. p. p. 2. which he hoped would foster social peace. 6.03. the jury objected that “too many candidates . and to show the development of its thought. As Jan Goldstein has shown. Victor Cousin. Both Althusser and Derrida in their comments on practice agrégation dissertations rewarded those that were “personal”. not maverick and radical philosophers. by training reliable and conformist educators. it was a powerful political and social tool. 2 and 4. the candidates were urged to go beyond superficial or schematic readings. to explicate a text. more 34 See Rapports. used it to pro- mote his own philosophy in French society. 5. 37 An agrégé had to teach twelve hours a week. a new exam. The Post-Revolutionary Self (Cambridge. ch. this had changed.36 As time had progressed. 35 Rapport 1959. . 2005). Two of the most highly praised qualities were “personality” and “originality. 1950. its explicit and traditional purpose was to select high-school philosophy teachers. Because of the agrégation’s role in educating and qualifying high-school teachers. 6. p. Jacques Derrida. L’ambiguité du concours 231 they were supposed to elucidate. . E6–02. pp. its structure.” Cousin hoped. to show the dialectical or hierarchical relationship between these primary ideas with its secondary ideas. 36 See Jan Goldstein. its general intention. 5. 1952. ALT 2. 8. “Agrégatifs. For though it was one of the key filters into the philosophical elite in France. .01–03. It was a less prestigious concours. etc. p. does not mean to say it otherwise (and generally poorly).37 The new exam was created in recognition of the changing structure of the French educational system. p. Cousin opposed the fragmented subject of the Condillac sensationalists. pp. In 1959. Mass. it is perhaps surprising that the official purpose of the agrégation was so mundane. p. One of the agrégation’s champions in the mid nineteenth century. The introspective discovery of the “moi. it is to disengage the main ideas. the majority of agrégés would enter life-long careers teaching in lycées. In 1950. Cousin hoped to disseminate this program more generally in France.”34 Similarly. seem to believe that to explicate is to paraphrase . the CAPES (Certificat d’Aptitude au Professorat de l’Enseignement du Second degré) was instituted to recruit teachers alongside the agrégation. in the explications de textes.

That such a range of philoso- phers would have deigned to address teenagers. Eric Weil. and fewer were content to remain in the secondary system. the agrégation brought current philosophical ideas to a broad intellectual community. aimed at philosophy students in terminale (the final year of lycée). for one. Serres. because his position as assistant at the Sorbonne was treated as a lycée post for official purposes.38 The interchange between tertiary and secondary education in France was exemplified and facilitated by a set of television programs made in the mid to late 1960s. Freud. Organized by Dina Dreyfus. 4. 39 A total of twenty-nine films can be seen in the Audio Visual room at the BNF. and that the themes and interests of the philosophical elite should have had a resonance and importance for a wider 38 See Lycée Montesquieu teaching material at Irvine. only makes sense in a system where academic philosophy had such a rich connection to secondary education. or that it should have been considered worthwhile to confront schoolchildren with this material. a connection that found its concrete expression in the agrégation. But the history and original intentions of the agrégation system still marked the structure and demands of the concours. Heidegger. . while Bourdieu. philosophers were contractually obliged to spend five years teaching in lycées before they could pursue a university career: Bergson taught at schools in Angers and Clermont-Ferrand. and produced by the Centre National de Documentation Pédagogique de France. Nietzsche. Foucault. Sartre in Le Havre. and Guillermit amongst others were brought in to discuss their own specialties. Derrida. 10–15. It is perhaps no surprise that the tradition of the public intellectual should have had such an important place in French cultural life. that thinkers could become household names. Deleuze in Amiens and Orléans.39 Dreyfus and Badiou led a roundtable discussion of phi- losophy and truth with Hyppolite. and Canguilhem.232 Between phenomenology and structuralism agrégés were moving to university teaching posts. Derrida spent only one year at Le Mans. the Enseignement de Philosophie programs were hosted by the young Alain Badiou and brought together some of the most important thinkers of the age: Hyppolite discussed the relationship of philosophy and its history. and Lévi-Strauss. Ricoeur spoke on philosophy and language. teaching at the lycée in Le Mans from 1959 to 1960 introduced his students to Merleau-Ponty. By sending the best and brightest philosophers to teach in schools around the country. It was only after four years there that he had fulfilled his five-year contract and could look for other positions. and Foucault presented the relationship between philosophy and psychology. Following success at the exam. Ricoeur. filed under Dina Dreyfus as the producer.

41 The role of the agrégation in France’s broader educational system man- ifested itself in the organization and form of the concours. Turning on the Mind: French Philosophers on Television (University of Chicago Press. The leçon was meant to simulate a lycée class. But with the expansion of education after the War. Leçons on freedom. the majority of schools were single-sex and thus the vacancies were similarly divided on gender lines. It is for this reason that many candidates from the French Empire were classed as “hors-rang [non-classed]”: it was assumed that they would return to their home country and teach there. and social policy as well as vast over-arching theories about the history of philosophy were favored over limited and specialized technical questions. 2007). was set earlier in the year by the Ministry for Education to fit the number of posts available in the lycées.42 40 One should not perhaps romanticize this too much. p. interesting theme were required. The number of admis. the male and the female concours were split. without getting bogged down in the details or being too abstract. even as they were accorded the rank that they had earned with respect to the other candidates. and a broad. by bolstering the links between university philosophy and the far larger field of secondary education. politics. The relationship to the lycées also explains why the men’s and the women’s concours were separated: in the secondary education system in France at the time.40 The agrégation did not only mark philosophers. p. L’ambiguité du concours 233 public. it left its imprint upon France. ch. so clarity. As they would not take French jobs it was not considered necessary to include them in the official statistics. even if they responded to the same program and were judged by the same jury. 13. . the requirements of a lycée philosophy class were always on their minds. with a very limited number of women taking the exam. 41 See Tamara Chaplin. Even as they sought originality and brilliance. concrete examples. The introductory sequence of Michel Serres‘s program showed several people unable to identify Descartes. 3. Before the War. 6. men and women were assessed together. 42 See Rapport 1949. those who would eventually pass the exam. they required evidence of pedagogical skills above all. or Rapport 1957. determinism. When the jury members were assessing each candidate. The candidates were trained to set their philosophical sights on the large themes. hence Jean-Paul Sartre’s and Simone de Beauvoir’s impressive first and second place in the 1929 concours. Candidates were encouraged to avoid the small and technical and instead to debate issues that would attract the attention of their future charges.

44 It was in this vein that the jury continually complained about the presen- tation of the leçon. spoke volumes: ‘A candidate who is certainly cultivated and distinguished and whose failure can be considered as an accident. badly organized his or her work. “the report by the president of the jury. Experiment. 2. p. 21. Result. This scientific method demonstrated the now standard model of Observa- tion. 13. 1991). the agrégation examiners expected students to refer to a canonical experiment undertaken by Claude Bernard in the 1860s and described in his book. he constructed a set of experiments to test this claim. Mass. and not embroil him. Eribon goes on. too slowly. Because the leçon was meant to mimic a philosophy class.: Harvard University Press. having already placed badly on the written. several speak a little too softly or confusedly. 14. 37.’” 44 Cf.” the designated subject. 13. and on a standard subject. dutiful exposition – was never far from sight. p. Indeed in Foucault’s first attempt at the agrégation he failed because of his inability to fulfill the basic requirements in his discussion of “hypothesis. normally only found in carnivores.” Foucault failed to demonstrate the basic pedagogical skills that the agrégation tested. In this leçon. If the candidate spoke too fast. p.or herself in particular interests before having outlined the fundamentals. In a presentation to the 43 Quoted in Didier Eribon. a forceful flow that would be intolerable in a class. Michel Foucault (Cambridge. but a certain number speak with brilliance of voice. By ignoring this canonical figure in the discussion of “hypothesis. did not fill up the time. Interpretation. a firm grasp of conventional ideas was also a clear requisite. Rapport 1958. Hypothesizing that the rabbit had begun to con- sume its own blood. Introduction à l’Etude de la médecine expérimentale (1865). and Conclusion. 45 See Rapport 1959. it was imperative that in the discussion of topics stu- dents should not move too quickly to the finer and controversial issues. Bernard noticed that a starved rabbit had acidic urine.”45 teaching to the test The possible tension between these two elements – verbal brilliance and clear. p. he or she would be severely penalized: “many candidates have a badly posed voice. and Rapport 1949. The teacher’s first duty was to provide a comprehensive and rounded understanding of the topic.234 Between phenomenology and structuralism The pedagogical emphasis also manifested itself in the demand for mod- erate and responsible analyses. . of being more concerned with demonstrating his erudition than with treating the subject proposed. also Rapport 1961 p. Hypothesis. But.” he remarked afterwards. p.43 Cleverness by itself was not enough to succeed. Rapport 1960. he made the mistake on the oral. written in Davy’s hand. “I forgot to mention rabbit pee. or simply read the lecture.

Husserl.”50 In the 1950s. between the written and the oral part of the agrégation exam. p. pp. 1984).” Bulletin de la Société Française de la Philosophie (1938).” Henri and Isabelle Gouı̈n.48 The resemblance is not surprising given that the ENS too was originally designed to train schoolteachers and from the middle of the nineteenth century had a privileged relationship to the agrégation. 148–9. while the répétiteur-agrégés. Althusser put the students through an arduous training schedule in preparation for the second and potentially most difficult part of the exam: the oral. pp. is dedicated to scholarly exercises destined to improve candidates’ ‘technique’ at the agrégation. the philosopher Georges Fried- man suggested that too much emphasis had been given to the pedagogical elements in the agrégation and that this unfairly disadvantaged the bright- est students.49 In these seminars.” CAC. Michel Foucault.47 Emphasis was placed on the difference between the ENS entry concours and the agrégation.”46 Merleau-Ponty complained that a student could pass the agrégation and still have no understanding of Hegel. what was described as the “ambiguité du concours. 48 See “Rapports du Jury du Concours ENS. 64. At this period the ENS concours was modeled on the agrégation. 47 Ibid. and were expected to hand in written work in the style of an agrégation dissertation. Examens. 930595/62 49 Eribon. The ENS convened seminars with the express purpose of preparation for the agrégation.51 In the quiet of the medieval abbey. As Althusser described in a rapport at the end of the academic year 1950–1: “every week. the other to pass mediocrity. Althusser and then Derrida.” in CAC. L’ambiguité du concours 235 Société Française de la Philosophie in 1938. The first was alleged to spot brilliance. p. students were encouraged to present exposés. Marx. far away from other disturbances.. under the direction of the agrégé-sécretaire [Althusser]. 51 Jean-Paul Aron. . mocks of the leçon. 50 “ENS: Enseignement. The Abbaye de Royaumont had been recently converted into a cultural center by its “propriétaires-mécènes. a two-hour class. 117–58. especially Normaliens: the “scientific” and the “pedagogical” elements were seen as conflicting. or Heidegger. At the Ecole classes were specifically geared towards the exam. 33. Louis Althusser took those of his students who had passed the first stage of that exam to an Abbey 35 kilometers north of Paris. An analysis of the two exams does not at first show any major difference. giving them advice and technical tricks that would work to their advantage in the highly ritualized concours. Each 46 “L’agrégation de philosophie. Nietzsche. with similar questions in the written paper and a comparable list of leçons to be given in the oral. Les modernes (Paris: Gallimard. saw their prime task as preparing students for the test. 930595/89.

the norms of the exam became law for young Normaliens. “I would have loved to have given you a more impressive result. published every year. ALT2. like baptism and confirmation. a considerable number. judging whether each effort was worthy of admission at the final exam. 54 IMEC.” 56 “L’Agrégation de philosophie.55 But the problem was perennial: one contributor to the 1938 debate suggested that it could “have as its subtitle: How to explain the failures of Normaliens at the agrégation?” The speaker was none other than the director of the Ecole.02. . With a considerable number of failures every year.” Critical Inquiry (Autumn 2006). . the precision. writing to Althusser after the exam. E3. “it only remains for me to thank you once more for the constancy. It was an almost sacred retreat. to reconcile the two conflicting demands of the agrégation were of crucial importance to the Ecole. Understandably advice abounded. Indeed. . this agrégation is as much yours as mine. one of those sacraments so solemn that one can only receive it once. and a third of the philosophers had left the ENS without passing. you would have passed the agrégation today for the 2nd (10th or 11th . . during the 1950s. then. 55 See Althusser.236 Between phenomenology and structuralism evening he handed out subjects for the next day’s presentations and after a night of frantic preparations they would present to their classmates. 53 This telling phrase highlights continuities between the intellectual practices demanded by the agrégation and the “spiritual exercises.” which according to Ian Hunter mark the history of theory. The rapports by the agrégation jury. embarrassed by what seemed to be demanded of him. 52 Moulier Boutang. declared. upon being placed lower then he had expected. 465–6. but deep down I don’t think that I am an agrégation animal!”54 The sheer time and effort invested by the Ecole did not ensure the success of its students. . notes from after the 1960 and 1961 agrégation. ) time . had to reenter the concours at least once before passing.52 Althusser would then comment on the morning’s work. the Ecole had been doing extraordinarily badly. including Derrida and Foucault.03.” When the result was not so positive it was with personal regret that they wrote to Althusser. “if the agrégation wasn’t.”53 This attribution was justified by the enormous effort shown by Althusser in the preparation for the exam: the student continued. See Ian Hunter. As one successful candidate put it. pp. no one could take the agrégation for granted. “Liste des philosophes sortis de l’ENS depuis la guerre.56 The efforts. 138.” p. One student. “The History of Theory. and the fecundity of your guidance. and Normaliens often used religious language to describe the agrégation. In the five-year period before Derrida took the exam. Louis Althusser: une biographie.

and at the same time the proof of a gift of presentation. the jury went further. CAC. except by starting to philosophize ourselves. 58 Rapport 1952. 19880121. to the opin- ion of the man on the street). art 2.”58 In 1961. one could not be original without a clear confronta- tion with the philosophies of the past: “it is therefore impossible to do philosophy without a long familiarity with the philosophers.”61 This approach would allow one to fulfill 57 Rapport 1948. p. 60 Denis Huisman. CAC. pp.57 According to the jury. L’ambiguité du concours 237 emphasized that teaching and research were opposite sides of the same coin. Huisman gave advice for all levels of philosophical education after the Baccalaureate.. . surpassed in the second part by a generally rationalist antithesis. One could not separate the two elements of the agrégation. of a thesis (that appeals to common sense. humbly but courageously. the divorce between teaching and research is a grave error. 14–16. 1961. 8. to discussion and appreciation. 1956). 61 Ibid. they should sustain and mutually provoke each other. but just as much a deepening of thought. p. where one takes common sense as a primary target [tête de Turc]. 59 Rapport. art 2. and earn it through a preliminary and effective effort to interpret it. because a “personal” reading had to emerge organically from a thorough and solid commentary of the text: “one must first earn [conquérir] the right to criticize a text.” They continued. “the art of the philosophical dissertation resides primarily in that ability to rebound from a first spontaneous analysis to the critical mode. 13 and 5.60 The specific model for the commentary of texts was to move from simple explication. however Hegelian it might be. before finishing with a synthesis which would transcend the antinomy of the first two parts. Rather if it is true that expression is not only an instrument of communication. But the demands of the agrégation filtered down to the lower levels. In 1948. the solid foundation on which will be built both the professeur and the savant. It is in this spirit that the agrégation works to distinguish a double aptitude in demanding the proofs of significant learning. pp. but it is also impossible to understand what they are saying to us. which is no less useful perhaps for the latter as for the former. Guide de l’étudiant en philosophie (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. and that which is worthy of our interest. the president stated that: in our opinion. to show its veritable meaning. Most of the options could be described as “dialectical”: “every dissertation draws on this simple schema. 19880121.”59 In Denis Huisman’s Guide de l’étudiant en philosophie from 1956 he suggested five different models for writing the dissertation. 2.

but they had to be encountered through the first-order understanding of the work: immanent critique. In all these cases. Desanti showed how Husserl confronted the twin obstacles of time and the other in the fourth and fifth. from 1963. “too many papers present all or part of a philosophical system as flowing. from a ‘central intuition’ or ‘principles’ come from who knows where. pp. p. By following the process of the phenomenological reduction in the first three Cartesian Meditations. when he 62 Ibid. obstacles. Desanti’s “destruction” of phenomenology would take seriously these reduced moments of time. These obstacles could not be reduced. hidden implications. In a section dedicated to the dissertation in the History of Philosophy. charting the tortured path of its construction.” to provide a reevaluation that would overturn the privilege of consciousness.”63 The recognition of a text’s complications and difficulties was an essential part of any dissertation. 13–14. Analyzing phenomenology as it unfolded would permit the philosopher to see it “affirm and undo itself.”64 In a process that Desanti called “destruction. 110. at first glance. before complicat- ing it in the latter parts of the essay. by following its “fundamental development” whereby it aimed to arrive at the knowledge of the object. Jean-Toussaint Desanti’s book Phénoménologie et praxis. . Phénoménologie et praxis. 63 Ibid..238 Between phenomenology and structuralism the pedagogical requirement in the thesis and antithesis. without jolts. the strategy involved presenting a clear and standard exposition of a text that would act as the foundation for any further analysis. and provide the means to draw out contradictory and. the other. 108. p.”62 Or later. Desanti’s task was to show the unraveling of phenomenology.. even though they were incompatible with the guiding primacy of the ego. what is required is an internal analysis of the thought of the author. for example. as a philosophy privileging consciousness (a “unilateral philosophy”).” the moment of critique would emerge organically from within an exposition of the text itself. which derives from work done during his first year at the ENS Saint-Cloud in 1960 preparing students to present Husserl’s fifth Cartesian Meditation at the agrégation. If we look at the work of other philosophers intimately involved in the training for the concours we can see similar approaches. 64 Desanti. Huisman offered advice and stark warnings: “above all. Though we will discuss Derrida’s treatment of Husserl later. This fundamental tension required that Husserl would constantly have to “rework [remettre en chantier]” his key concepts. Take. and their union in “History. not detached and abstract musings from first principles.

Derrida urged his students to “begin with as few presuppositions as possible. 2.” Irvine. and the value of this distinction?”66 Derrida emphasized the pedagogical demands of the agrégation. 66 Derrida noted at the end that he was confusing the text on the oral section of the agrégation and the form of the written part. In your opinion.” to “appeal to only the minimum of complicity in the historical knowledge of Husserl’s themes and terminology. “Agrégation preparation. the similarities between Desanti’s “destruction” and Derrida’s “deconstruction” are notable. 8.” Derrida reiterated this imperative in his general remarks on his students’ essays. Derrida had been employed to write a study guide to the text. and the comments he gave to papers written at the ENS.”67 But Derrida. He criticized one of his ENS students because he “took each philosophy in its synthetic moment and in its conclusion. Again the same concern with responsible expo- sition and brilliant flair that reflected the dual demands of the agrégation exam played a crucial structuring role. what were the intention. never in the work of a discourse creating itself. Derrida trained his students to reconstruct the arguments of a text carefully in order to be able to perform a critical reading that called into question the starting premises. 67 Derrida. and later in the year he provided a model agrégation dissertation for his students. the stakes.” p. With Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic (Logic) on the agrégation program in 1965 and 1966. In his notes. derrida and the agregation We can see Derrida’s response to the peculiar demands of the agrégation by looking at a mock agrégation essay (dissertation) he wrote for the Centre Nationale pour télé-enseignement in 1965–6. like other philosophers who taught to the exam. citing the importance of “the moment of comprehensive and accessible commentary. the concepts of sense and truth are not co-extensive. knew that a simple commentary on the text was insufficient.65 Derrida set himself the question: “In the first section of the Formal and Transcendental Logic. “Agrégation preparation.” Derrida’s essay was not just going to be a simple résumé of the themes of Husserl’s Logic. The first section was entitled “the path towards the distinc- tion.45–6.” to be “very ‘pedagogical’ in the articulation of the problem of the difficulty to which one has to respond. . but he considered it nonetheless an important exercise.” tracing the split between sense and truth back to Husserl’s Logical 65 Jacques Derrida. L’ambiguité du concours 239 studied a different text.

”68 The terminological change highlighted a new emphasis on the intentionality of these judgments – their constitutive nature as judgments of . First. In contrast to the Logical Investigations. There were two key changes. could be questioned. The advance over previous formulations of logic was that it would be entirely formal. Such requirements would have to be met before the consideration of the truth-value of the propositions. a new layer within the logic of sense excluded the contradictory (widersinnig) such as “a square circle. is based on the 68 Ibid. but of “statements of judgment [énoncés judicatifs].” an a priori science of significations. detached from any objects in the world. after the logic of non-contradiction. inde- pendent of any factual existence.” which is both grammatically correct and non-contradictory. In the fourth Logical Investigation. This reflected another major change. formal apophantics was distinct from the logic of “existents. by the Logic there were three different layers.” This “grammar” of significations determined whether a proposition had any sense. . but it excluded all those that were self-contradictory. In Husserl’s Logic. It was only at the final level that a statement such as “there is a gold mountain. described as a “pure grammar. by the time Husserl wrote the Logic he had replaced the term “signification” with that of “judgment”. In addition to that separating out the non-sensical (unsinnig). 3. It is false because it conforms to no existing mountain. distinguishing between non-sensical (unsinnig) utterances such as “a man is and” from well-formulated propositions that fulfilled all syn- tactical requirements.240 Between phenomenology and structuralism Investigations from 1900–1. truth only appeared at the final level of formal logic. It did not in itself verify these propositions: sense was a necessary but not sufficient condition for truth.. Truth. unlike sense. In the second section of his essay. and bring to light the obstacles and tensions that would allow the second and critical moment. – even if it was only in their form and not their content that they were assessed. . Unlike the double division between the a priori grammar and the logic of the object in the Logical Investigations. p. Derrida explained how this division was developed in Husserl’s Logic. . Husserl had developed a logic of sense. where the possibility (non-contradiction) and actuality of the object were not distinguished. Derrida turned to the history of Husserl’s phi- losophy to understand its inner workings.” This middle level comprised all propositions that obeyed syntactical laws and thus passed the first syntactical test. the “region of sense” was supposed to decide whether the object of a proposition was possible. unlike before. it was no longer a question of sense in general.

elaborated by a careful historical analysis of the texts. In answer to the original question. to transgress the sphere of the a priori of sense. elicited several questions. before intuition. Alone. it could only be demanded. and the entire class of formal propositions was now declared to be structured by the possibility of judicative assertions. and reminds us. p. As Derrida asked “will it be possible. It required the transcendental field. This blurring of the boundaries manifested itself most clearly in the final level of formal logic. both highlighted the porous border between the formal and the concrete. originary. it could never actually determine whether something was true or not. . not enacted. added nothing in content to the previous two layers: there would be no actual proposition that could be discounted by moving from the logic of non-contradiction to the formal logic of truth. Though still formal. L’ambiguité du concours 241 possibility of adequation outside of formal logic. logic had to be given content by intuition. headed from the beginning towards a necessary confirmation in intuition. This meant that the formal logic of truth. and of an a priori that is still formal?”69 Husserl’s answer was that the logic of truth required that the statements of the previous layer be “fulfilled.e. which had previously been seen as the realm of ontology. For despite the initial concentration on formality.” But since this fulfillment rested on an appeal beyond formal logic. was now regarded as an element of formal logic. they were disciplined by their ultimate function of making concrete claims about the world. and adequate knowledge. then. The two changes. purely formal. confusingly labeled “the logic of truth. the fulfillment of its Bedeutungsintention with an intuition. The logic of non-contradiction. what is the final intention of all logic: the intention of a clear. as Husserl suggests. but only as a preparation for a more radical grounding in transcendental 69 Ibid. while still remaining inside the domain of the a priori.. Rather it just “changes the orientation.” Husserl insisted that truth required “clarity [Klarheit]”.” The logic of truth then clearly showed the goal underlying all formal logic that had been suggested in the previous analyses: it was a mere propadeutic. whether a gold mountain actually did exist. the third layer of formal logic. makes a new theme arise. Derrida had shown that the distinction between sense and truth found its place within formal logic. in opening formal ontology. and without intuitive consciousness. Yet one had to understand the necessity of intuitive fulfillment within the realm of the purely formal and a priori – i. 5.

6–7. .242 Between phenomenology and structuralism logic. guided nonetheless the construction of the objective formal logic from the beginning. even in the empty form. one that allowed a more “active” reading. 73 Ibid. the theoretical presupposition uncov- ered through a careful reading was a residual metaphysics teleologically guiding all of Husserl’s phenomenology. the final section guiding the first teleologically.”73 In Derrida’s mock essay from 1965.”72 In more concrete terms. He demanded that his students move through pedagog- ical commentary. like its telos.. the structural priority of intu- ition even over the purely formal – what Derrida would later call the 70 Ibid. this suggestion holds moreover in general for the philo- sophical treatment of any ‘subject’: seek behind the visible characters the one that is absent.” IMEC. you give it a new theoretical profundity. while respecting the letter of your subject.. explaining the text in its process of construction in order finally to reveal its hidden presuppositions. though only appearing at the summit of the stratification.” it is in remaining aware of the rigorous necessity of the stratification proposed by Husserl’s Logic.70 The question of “truth” had guided Husserl’s analyses of “sense” from the start.. By this means. which. . 71 See amongst others Louis Althusser. Derrida’s mock essay followed the carefully laid-out structure of a good agrégation answer. ALT2. Com- ments 1963–4. It is only thus that one can ask oneself about the metaphysical origin of the values of truth. Jacques Derrida. The recognition of this teleology was the key critical moment that had emerged from the careful commentary of the text. E6–02.02. inten- tional fulfillment and clear and distinct evidence. he suggested to one stu- dent writing on Rousseau that the goal was to “mark better the body of theoretical presuppositions that is in fact present behind and in Rousseau’s explicit theses . and a constant awareness of how these aporias fit into and possibly conflicted with the broader system: Derrida asserted that it was the reconciliation between these two that “defined the entelechy of the dissertation. 1965. what he called “the apparently contradictory twin demands” of the concours. the teleological standard of a full and complete presence in intuition was active. “Agrégatifs. or the hidden concepts which stage the visible concepts. 72 Ibid. Derrida required an organic union between the profound close readings and a sense of the general. It thus showed the way between the first and the second section of Husserl’s Logic. demonstrating their indissoluble unity. pp. Derrida continued: If a critique of the Husserlian intention has some chance of reaching its goal and touching the “thing itself. 1966. intuitive adequation. .71 The driving principle was the tension between a critical analysis that uncov- ered the aporias in a text.

1967. at times. he implicitly proffered his own deconstruction as an alternative. David B. L’ambiguité du concours 243 metaphysics of presence..78 speech and phenomena A reading that can be neither simple commentary nor simple interpretation. For this enterprise there can be no example as good as Speech and Phenomena. one of the three books Derrida published in 1967. Allison (Evanston: Northwestern University Press. much of the content and subject matter of his books often followed the agrégation program and began as courses for the concours. “which wanted to produce ‘a new concept of the subject’ even though [he] had previously recognized that the very concept of the subject belongs in general to the closure of onto-theology. it seems that in the mid 1960s Derrida considered many of his own ideas amenable to the demands of the agrégation.] I am thinking of Nietzsche. the most allusive. Indeed. Jacques Derrida. This analysis suggests that it might be possible to read Derrida’s pub- lished work with an eye to the demands of the agrégation.. and the most dogmatic. and by that period Derrida had come to describe his students’ successful analyses of philosophers as “repetitions. 88. Speech and Phenomena79 74 Ibid. 1966. worries a certain inside of the philosophy of the subject[. 78 It is perhaps fittingly deconstructive that we can best understand Derrida’s movement away from phenomenology by studying his last major work on Husserl. In the interests of my readers. or psychoanalysis. Like other scholars. he complained that the essay on subjectivity did not “attempt an opening of that which.. 77 Ibid. 1966. it recalls some of the major themes in Derrida’s published work. Described as such. The form too of his philosophy might have reflected its peculiar criteria. of certain intellectual gestures that one loosely collects under the heading ‘human sciences. I have stuck with the standard English translation. I recognize the weakness of the translation of Derrida’s title by Speech and Phenomena. by a thought at once clear and difficult. only . As we have seen. trans. p. 75 Ibid. We have evidence of students using Derrida’s “différance” in agrégation essays as early as 1966. My emphasis. less successful case.’”76 Similarly Derrida rued the inadequacy of the “personal” part of one student’s dis- sertation. when Voice and Phenomenon better fits Derrida’s program and meaning. 1973). however.”75 Or in another. . despite the avowed distance between his own work and teaching. 76 Ibid.. This last part. which de-constitutes with the calmest mastery the very concept of subjec- tivity as mastery. autonomous and critical power . from a certain outside. .” just as in his own work. 1967.74 He praised one of his students for “the quiet. Speech and Phenomena. then. is the shortest. 79 Jacques Derrida.”77 When Derrida urged his students to avoid a “classical” construction in their essays.

82 To regard any part of one of Derrida’s most notorious texts as pedagogical might appear laughable. 82 See ibid. . the present condition of its own over-coming. As we shall see. a text published over a quarter of a century after the Logical modifying it when necessary. 80 See also the analysis of commentary and the need to move beyond it in Derrida. in large part. at the same time. Lawlor notes the importance of the distinction too. to inter- pret. 350). or the Crisis of the European Sciences. what was not immediately obvious. pp. As Derrida asserted. Before tackling the claims in Derrida’s book. 175–6. which offers an admirable model of interpretative criticism. Of Grammatology. 31. was the foundation of the agrégation essay. see Lawlor. up until the point where it makes visible. Speech and Phenomena is a very dense and difficult book. following the progressive and necessary unfolding of a thought. in 1965 and 1966 Husserl’s Formal and Transcenden- tal Logic. discovers in it the motifs which refute its essential project. pp.. the clear and responsible pedagogical reading that aimed to make ideas accessible to a teenage audience.244 Between phenomenology and structuralism At several key points in Derrida’s book Speech and Phenomena. 53 and 88. A new translation by Leonard Lawlor under the title Voice and Phenomenon will be published in 2011. in this instance. 157–64. As we have seen. At the heart of the German word Bedeutung is the verb deuten. and.80 Commentary. as we shall see. Here commentary no longer opposes the work with another conception. the Formal and Transcendental Logic. with respect to phenomenology. An analysis of Husserl’s first Logical Investigation. it focuses on a text that was in no way as central to Husserl scholarship in France as Ideas.81 In bringing together commentary and inter- pretation. where he stated: “Derrida’s reading. Speech and Phenomena mapped onto the opposing demands – the pedagogical and research-oriented elements – of the agrégation. it is the depth of the reading which. It presents an unfamiliar Husserl. the access to ‘the things themselves’” (p. Speech and Phenomena confronts the vexed question of “mean- ing” in Husserl’s phenomenology: vouloir-dire. 33–7. he refers to the distinction between commentary and interpretation. as we have seen. It described the process that he had taught his students: drawing out the “theoretical presuppositions” hiding behind the first layer of the text. See also René Schérer’s review in La Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale (1968). as the ultimate horizon. we must first see how and why it took the form it did and explain Derrida’s decision to study the first Logical Investigation for his first book-length treatment of Husserl. seemingly detached from standard interpretations. Derrida and Husserl. pp. Derrida’s choice to pair commentary with “intepretation” in Speech and Phenomena is more specific to the book. or in the German Bedeu- tung. 81 Derrida. the strangeness of the text is in part a function of the agrégation. to interpret was to bring out the implicit. pp. But. an apparently idiosyncratic interpretation of Husserl’s work. Speech and Phenomena. the Cartesian Meditations. from the very interior of the text. operates by successive delimitations and sketches.

”86 Further. 84 See Jacques Derrida. Derrida was clear that the Logical Investigations set the terms of Husserl’s later works: “Ideas I and Formal and Transcendental Logic develop without break the concepts of intentional or noematic sense. 4 note. L’ambiguité du concours 245 Investigations. S. beyond the general and intrinsic interest that the problems we are dealing with may present. Speech and Phenomena. . “Agrégation preparation. Often we will have to refer to it explicitly. “Introduction. it is to indicate the principle of a general interpretation of Husserl’s thought. 2. sheet 18. preparing his students for the exam. It is evident that. . Though explicitly treating the Logical Investigations and the Ideas. In addition to his notes for the Centre Nationale pour télé-enseignement. .” Irvine.85 Derrida also made the argument in Speech and Phenomena itself. the difference between the two strata of analytics in the strong sense (the pure forms of judgments and consequence-logic). Strategies of Deconstruction. 85 The obscured centrality of the Formal and Transcendental Logic for Speech and Phenomena goes a long way to explain the very varied response to the book. See also Kates. Bachelard will be explicating it at the Sorbonne. was on the program for the agrégation. . should bring us to the threshold of Husserl’s Logic and more precisely the first section set by the agrégation pro- gram . Derrida asserted its relevance to Husserl’s Logic at the first meeting: The work that we are beginning today . .. p. 2. . 9. p.” 86 Derrida. the course from which Derrida’s 1967 text Speech and Phenomena first developed was concerned with the Formal and Transcendental Logic. From the very beginning.84 Whatever its overt subject matter. Derrida’s course hoped to complement and not repeat what was being provided elsewhere. p. But why not approach the text directly? The answer was relatively banal: We will not concern ourselves with that first section of Husserl’s Logic for itself dur- ing these classes.” Irvine. the considerations that we will have for Husserl’s Logic would not only be an ulterior motive or a promise. 116. see also p. advertised with great enthusiasm to his télé- enseignement students – teaching but five minutes away. because . 91. moreover. “La Théorie de la signification dans les Recherches Philosophiques et dans Ideen I.”87 83 Jacques Derrida. . Derrida taught a course at the ENS in 1964–5. 87 Ibid.4. Derrida asserted that his reading was valid for the whole of phenomenology: “each time that we go beyond the text of the First Logical Investigation. For a sense of the controversy over Derrida’s first book-length project on Husserl see Evans.45. Essential History. and suppress the deductivist or nomological form which had hitherto limited his concept of science in general.83 With the author of the standard commentary on the text – a commen- tary that Derrida. p. 3.

See also Derrida. Derrida’s turn to the first Logical Investigation allowed him to bring up some of the key themes in phenomenology. It was the very point with which he had ended his mock dissertation. especially in the last two investigations. . Though Husserl’s Logic was probably the most important text for Husserl scholarship in France in the 88 Derrida. With the emphasis on formality. Derrida wanted to argue that direct intuition governed formal sense teleologically. we will have already taken a step into the Logic. one could say that the realm of expression offered a midway point between the natural attitude and the transcendental sphere: it was the eidetic foundation of formal logic.” the formal and the transcendental. The reduction of “indication” then cut expressions off from any dependence on the world. sheet 1. According to Derrida.5. .” Irvine.246 Between phenomenology and structuralism What was the contribution of the earlier work? We have already seen the importance of the Logical Investigations in Derrida’s mock essay. .” sheet 19. Speech and Phenomena. It was only elsewhere in the Logical Investigations that Husserl would explicitly breach the ques- tion of the transcendental ground of such a logic. In Husserl’s later language. they remained entirely formal. the Logical Investigations had made an important stride beyond previous logics that had remained beholden to some material determination. As Derrida said in his course. it was of no immediate consequence if expressions were fulfilled or verified in intuition.” even if the latter had not been named as such in the earlier text. the very idea of “expression” marked the “paral- lelism” between “the signifying intention and the fulfilling intuition. 9. they were “indications” if they made direct reference to things existing in the world. 11–12. the Logical Investigations was the first text in the history of philosophy to discuss a “pure formal logic” and a “formal ontology. “La Théorie de la signification I. detached from the real. “La Théorie de la signification II. As the second chapter of Husserl’s Logic testified. But as would become increasingly clear.” Propositions were “expressions” if they were sufficient unto themselves. “in explicating the Logical Investigations .”88 The first Logical Investigation had made the key distinction between “expression” and “indication. The Logical Investigations then marked a key waypoint on the path to Husserl’s logic.89 Moving beyond commentary to inter- pretation. and that this would have profound consequences for phenomenology as a whole. As propositions. the formal studied in the first investigation (the investigation that would be the central object of study in Speech and Phenomena) was not entirely uncontaminated by the intuitive. pp. 89 Jacques Derrida.

. which had been central since Merleau-Ponty and Sartre. p.” or rather a self-proximity. First. 22.” in Derrida. 1967). an ownness (Eigenheit).92 Not attempting to understand the object itself. expression always indicated something. the turn to this obscure part of Husserl’s work allowed Derrida to treat French phenomenology’s central themes and fulfill the pedagogical requirement of any agrégation dissertation far better than if he had been bound by the terms of the first section of the Formal and Transcendental Logic. the distinction between expression and indication allowed Derrida to discuss the phenomenological reduction. brought the first Logical Investigation into line with the phenomenological principle of intentionality: Transcendental phenomenological idealism answers to the necessity of describing the objectivity of the object (Gegenstand) and the presence of the present (Gegen- wart) – and objectivity in presence – from the standpoint of an “interiority. La Voix et le phénomène (Paris. Derrida. Speech and Phenomena. and time.” Derrida’s retranslation of the phrase as “vie solitaire de l’âme” in the book is of singular importance.”90 To prove this. be it only ideal. at the beginning of the Logical Investigations. L’ambiguité du concours 247 late 1950s and early 1960s. Speech and Phenomena. intersubjectivity. 92 Derrida. Speech and Phenomena. Husserl thought that one could have a “rigorous distinction of essence. p.” reducing the sign down to its Bedeutungsintention. it did not deal at length with the key phenomeno- logical questions of the reduction. the pure relationship to an object. where expression was free of indication. Ironically. without directly implicating any particular object directly. Practically. 22. But despite this factual contamination of expression and indication. however. 91 The English translation. mirrors Derrida’s 1964–5 courses and the French translation in the Logical Investigations of “im einsamen Seelenleben. His choice was “the solitary life of the soul. 90 Derrida. thus. 22. The distinction between Aus- druck and Hinzeichen. a theme not fully addressed in Husserl’s Logic. afforded Derrida the opportunity to deal with the big questions of phenomenology without leaving the confines of the text in question. “solitary mental life. p. expression and indication. Though expression and indication were distinguished in the first pages.” as “vie psychique solitaire. which is not a simple inside but rather the intimate possibility of a relation to a beyond and to an outside in general. phenomenology contented itself to analyze the intention that aimed at it. Husserl had to show one particular moment. it was not a simple separation.91 The attempt to purify the expression. See J. 20. especially when it was involved in communi- cation. p.

. “let us suppose that indication is excluded. p.”93 Indication always pointed beyond the sign. 30. For if not.99 Words did not exist out in the world.. “later. [Husserl] will describe this solitary life of the soul as the noetic-noematic sphere of consciousness. but Husserl denied that they could exist in the empirical mind either. it “always links an actual consciousness to a nonactual consciousness. 45–6 note. the whole structure of phenomenology would come crashing down. it signified nothing. p. The linguistic components of expression could not exist in the world. Derrida had to show that the reduction to expression was not simply a return to psychologism.”97 To demonstrate this. or as marks on paper. and the empirical and returning to what was immediately given. 96 Ibid. pp. the physical instances of each word would “indicate” the meaning. the brand name on a packet indicates its contents. 97 Ibid. They existed rather as ideal forms that were animated by a meaning and were uncontaminated by the empirical differences that occurred every time the same word was spoken or written. Ibid.. and so.. Derrida was clear that they were compara- ble. 98 As Derrida suggested in a footnote. the emphasis on expression allowed Derrida to describe the reduced sphere. 17. without this distinction between the imagination and perception. The word then had to be apprehended as “imagined” and not as “perceived.” the expression “signified” nothing. but had no signification because the meaning was immediately present. This link to the épochè was further revealed by the title of the second chapter of Derrida’s book: “The Reduction of Indication. 32. 42–3. Conversely. Derrida elaborated. it was not the absence or the cereal itself. reality. 94 Ibid.”96 Although in terms of Husserl’s own development. an expression was no longer a sign. one could always be mistaken. by reducing all references to existence. With meaning “immediately present to itself. expression was indubitable. with indication. the reduc- tion of indication preceded the development of the real reduction and the turn to the reduced sphere. 95 Ibid. 28. 27. p. pp... referring to an ideal form beyond themselves. 99 Ibid. p.248 Between phenomenology and structuralism The move to study pure expression was thus equivalent to the phe- nomenological épochè. after the discovery of the transcendental reduction. or the eidetic reduction: it reduced all reference to existence (indication) to arrive at the realm of pure intentional objects. 33.”98 In this sense Derrida wanted to suggest that.”94 As such it did not carry meaning fully in itself: the chalk mark on the door indicates to the thief that the owners are away.95 Second. It is for this reason that Derrida opposed Schérer’s translation of Bedeutung as signification. See p. The next chapter began. p. for Husserl. . For Derrida the expression had meaning.. 93 Ibid. as the vibrations of air particles.

. 47. Refus- ing all indication. 101 Ibid. Speaking and understanding all had to occur in the “blink of an eye. L’ambiguité du concours 249 if in the Investigations Husserl conducts his description within the realm of the mental rather than the transcendental. by proxy. If the relationship to another ego had to be reduced. To develop this theme. he nonetheless distinguishes the essential components of a structure that will be delineated in Ideas I: phenomenal experience does not belong to reality (Realität).” otherwise one ego would “indicate” a meaning to another ego that was not absolutely identical. When another person says “I am happy. but the noematic content. In it. so too did time. pp. Derrida’s redescription of the expression/indication opposition in the later language of phenomenology allowed him to address two issues that had troubled French thinkers: time and the other. it was fatally contaminated with indication. then they could not be tied to a psychologistic understanding of phenomenology. the transcendental sphere. is a nonreal (reell) component of the experience. . Husserl eliminated the possibility of reminding yourself of a thought from the past. Derrida moved 100 Ibid. A commentary on Husserl’s phenomenology that ignored these questions would have been inadequate and we have already seen that they were right at the heart of Desanti’s parallel discussion. 38–9. the realm of expression also had to exclude that which was involved in communication. certain elements really (reell) belong to consciousness (hyle. or an idea that had been forgotten. the sense. The discussion of the “other” was motivated by Husserl’s discussion of expression in the first Logical Investigation. it is only indicated by the words used: “the subjective side of his experience. For the same reasons that another person’s indication of his or her interior state was excluded.. his consciousness. p. in particular the acts by which he gives sense to his signs. Even though the first Logical Investigation preceded the discovery of the transcendental reduction. The expression had to reveal its meaning to the same ego that had originally expressed it. then. This set the reduced sphere apart as transcendental.”101 To preserve the purity of the expression. are not immediately and primor- dially present to me as they are for him and mine are for me.” I do not have immediate access to the sentiment.100 If the noema were not real or existing in consciousness. Insofar as communication transmitted the lived experiences of one ego to another. morphe and noesis). one must reduce the other with whom one might communicate. Der- rida’s careful analysis allowed him to present.

. “Poursuivons notre lecture.. 21. 103 Ibid. the critical moment had to arise organically out of the commentary. As the handbooks for students had explained and as Derrida had reiterated. Indeed. rather than being predicated on. For instance. it was only to align his analyses with themes at the heart of the Formal and Transcendental Logic. Translation adjusted. especially expression (the matter of logical propositions) and formality.”103 Later he used the conditional when he asserted that a thesis “would make us pass from commentary to interpretation. presenting the épochè. The English translation does not preserve the conditional. giving a clear introductory analysis of Husserl’s phenomenology as a whole. p. drawing out implicit presuppositions. Speech and Phenomena was a dual attempt to present the key issues of the first part of Husserl’s Logic. 25. his willingness to transform a reading of Husserl’s Logic into an explication of the major themes of phenomenology. “let us return to the text. In his presentation. 21.. with an analysis of Husserl’s thought as a whole. Derrida’s turn to the Logical Investigations and his broad sweep over the totality of Husserl’s philosophy allowed him to provide a relatively standard and clear account of phenomenology. its complexity demonstrates the lengths that Derrida took to fulfill the first pedagogical “commentary” that was required in any agrégation answer. where Derrida’s text did seem to move away from a standard presentation. but in the earlier stages these remarks were provisional or anticipatory. Indeed. p. the reduction. especially the framing of his discussion of the natural attitude and the reduction in the language of the sign.102 But in the first few chapters he prefaced such remarks with phrases such as “we would be tempted to say” before suggesting. Derrida’s commentary was already bordering on interpretation. It thus fulfilled the ped- agogical section of the agrégation. the transcendental sphere. at several key points in his analysis. 31. Derrida broke out of his commentary voice to make gestures towards broader arguments.250 Between phenomenology and structuralism on to the explicit discussion of time in Husserl’s Lessons on Internal Time Consciousness.”104 Similarly in making claims about the centrality of the voice. If anything. from the beginning he made suggestions that Husserl’s analysis could be interpreted to privilege language over phenomenology. and the twin questions of time and the other that exercised French phenomenology in the period. . pp. which arose in his discussion of the reduced sphere.” 104 Ibid.” and “we shall have to return to 102 Ibid. Derrida insisted that “we only wanted to note here what ‘expression’ means for Husserl. and 30–1. the linguistic distinction between expression and indication founding. the agrégation text that guided his analysis of the Logical Investigations.

it was only later in Speech and Phenomena that such arguments gained traction and the remarks moved from the conditional to the indicative. and this was the only text where Husserl allowed the “perception” of what was not present. But. the key distinction rather lay between pri- mary and secondary memory. emphasis in the French version.. retention and re-presentation. Derrida’s broader critical argument arose during the commentary section of his text.”108 To reduce indication fully. hoped to guard from criticism. 108 Ibid. 33.. then. The move from commentary to interpretation gained pace in chapter IV. which had been tantalizingly intimated earlier. metaphysically.” If retention and protention were really non-perceptions and it was impossible to disentangle them from the living present. the triple structure of time composed retention and protention with presence. retention was still perception. He drew on his claims 105 Ibid. where Husserl had classed it rather as “non- perception. as Husserl himself stated. Despite the necessary contamination of the present with the past. p. Husserl still insisted on thinking this irreducible complexity and “spread” of time “on the basis of the self-identity of the now as point. p. 61. Husserl asserted the “dominance of the now” that his analysis seemed to undo. Firstly. La Voix et le phénomène. p. non-presence was already at work. it was in fact derivative of it. The first developed move away from commentary occurred in Der- rida’s reading of Husserl’s conception of time. Derrida referred to other conflicting instances.. it invited absence right into its heart: “One then sees quickly that the presence of the perceived present can appear as such only inasmuch as it is continuously compounded with a nonpresence and a nonperception. 63. 107 Derrida. Here. But according to Derrida. L’ambiguité du concours 251 this. 109 Ibid.. Husserl recognized that time could not be cut up into single moments: “no now can be isolated as a pure instant. a pure punctuality. . p. it was impossible.”105 As was required in an agrégation answer. 68. Derrida.”107 In the retention of the past moment. But retention was perception only in the loosest sense. p. 64. 106 Ibid. suggesting that this trace and what Derrida would later call différance was already at work at the most fundamental level of phenomenology. it was a suggestion that Husserl strongly resisted. and which Husserl.109 In his discussion of time. p. For Husserl. Derrida started to unpick the very gestures that he had so painstakingly elaborated in the first few chapters.”106 In the Lessons. accord- ing to Derrida. 61. to maintain the absolute distinction between presentation and re-presentation. Speech and Phenomena. Derrida developed his claims about the primacy of language.

so it could no longer be considered as absolutely originary. p. 110 Ibid. that is. Just as in his analysis of time. Just as the understanding of time came to complicate Husserl’s idea of presence. But despite the exigencies of his own project. despite and across the deformations which the empirical event necessarily makes it undergo. Expression was already repetition. preceding any distinction between expression and indication because it was at work in both. . and be able to be repeated as such. the non-effaceable movement of the sign was presented as dependent on an originary sta- bility. 112 Ibid. For Derrida. No matter how we say or write a word. high- lighted the possibility of re-presentation as that sphere’s central characteris- tic.. for the process involved in the latter was irreducible in the former. which was to be always and everywhere the same. even though nothing was actually communicated. its meaning does not change: “it must remain the same. p. In both cases the immediate presence of intuition could not be pure. then.”112 Derrida argued that. which was already worked over by a structure of repetition. The commentary that had presented the reduced sphere.. 111 Ibid. 50. The analysis unsettled the clean distinction between the real and representation. The sign was always “the reproduction of a presence. to a perception and positing of existence. he drew out implications that were in tension with the original commentary. to a belief in general. and the fiction of talking to yourself. p. In Derrida’s secondary moment of interpretation. this tied the reduced sphere to the sign.111 With the repetition of the sign as primary. 55. 51. The sign was a re-presentation – Vergegenwärtigung – of both the signified and the ideal form of the signi- fier. and the “representation” (Vorstellung) of oneself as talking to oneself. the purity of the expressive sphere was troubled.252 Between phenomenology and structuralism about imagination and fiction: the imaginative status of expression. Both elements seemed to privilege “re- presentation”: the “re-presentation” (Vergegenwärtigung) of the imagina- tion as opposed to the presentation of perception. in which Husserl still gave theoretical precedence to the idea of pure pres- ence in spite of the irreducibility of the past moment.” It “retains a primary reference to a primordial presentation. so too the careful analysis of expression invited the non-self-presence of the sign into the reduced sphere.”110 Even if Husserl had tried to detach expression from this empirical ground in his analysis – in the expression the word was merely “represented/Vorgestellt” in the mind – this very process was parasitic of the general structure of the sign. Husserl adamantly pre- served the originarity of immediate presence..

A telos. expression was still structured by a “theoretical core of indication.. It was perfectly one’s own. The noema as an ideal object could find its home neither in the world nor in a detached realm of ideas. which in turn can be determined only as the aiming at an object. Manifesting pure auto-affection. and contradictory (widersinnig) speech avoids non- sense (Unsinnigkeit). p. 116 Ibid.” but at the same time. 71.. could only be indicated. “The ideal object is the most objective of objects. p. and so even after the reduction of all empirical indication.”117 The appropriate medium then was one “whose phenomenality does not have worldly form. only its grammaticalness does not prohibit a mean- ing or meaning-intention [intention-de-Bedeutung].. 70. pp. Forced to move beyond language. “being nothing outside of the world. the central object of expression confined to the solitary life of the soul. this “pre-expressive sphere” was the transcendental ground for formal logic. 75–6. absolute immediacy of the signifier 113 Ibid. 74–5. independent of the here-and-now acts and events of the empirical subjectivity which intends it. further troubled his distinction between expression and indication. Husserl was forced again to resort to a more fundamental level. p. “the telos of perfect (intégrale) expression is the restitution. pp. and expressed in a medium which both preserves the presence and self-presence of the acts that aim at it... 117 Ibid.. 76. 115 Ibid. 72. All of the levels of language. the discipline of expression by a non-present ideal.’”113 In the Formal and Transcendental Logic. or a final grounding in intuition: “Speech that is false is not speech. to avoid a conventional Platonism.”118 For Husserl the answer to the conundrum was clear. to preserve the purity of phenomenology Husserl would have to resort to a “pre-expressive” sphere. by its nature. only the voice seemed to fulfill these criteria. were structured by the possibility of a Bedeutung. repeated.”116 To preserve the phenomenological principle of principles and refuse priority to repetition and absence. this ideal being must be constituted. Husserl referred to a “phenomenological ‘silence. .”114 Whatever its pretensions to formality.”115 Husserl’s turn to a telos. The voice. With the internal voice the expressed Bedeutung or meaning was always immediately there. 118 Ibid. L’ambiguité du concours 253 because the realm of expression was constantly worked over by repetition. p. 114 Ibid. of a sense actually given to intuition. dis- tinguishing between Unsinnigkeit and Widersinnigkeit. didn’t seem to leave that self or enter into the world. of which expression was just the re-presentation. speaking to itself. in the form of presence.

To reactivate writing is always to reawaken an expression in an indication. in order to preserve the purity of absolute pres- ence. It was this self-division at the heart of the self. Husserl was insistent on the impossibility of scien- tific truth without writing. the voice was not completely effective. inscribe. According to Derrida. 87. source and recipient. if speech must be “added” to the thought identity of the object. of a primordial “supplement”.. a “voice that preserved silence. that was the teleology of all expression. writing in the everyday sense – must necessarily be “added” to speech to complete the constitution of the ideal object. Husserl’s strategy for turning to the voice was his last-ditch attempt to preserve his principle of principles. then. 81. which is not added to sense. and incarnate an already prepared utterance. it comes to compensate for a primordial non- self-presence.”120 Even though writing was secondary to the voice. . 121 Ibid. p.” But at each stage he was unable to reduce the constant 119 Ibid. But as a stopgap measure. 78. as we saw in the Origin of Geometry. p. Derrida asserted that writing in the Origin of Geometry “proceeds to fix. Drawing out implications which did not seem significant in his 1962 intro- duction. p. And if indication – for example.119 It was the voice. it is because the “presence” of sense and speech had already from the start fallen short of itself. the final resort after the Husserl’s recognition of the irreducible contamination with indi- cation. the moving of absence into the heart of presence. splitting in two to be able to affect itself. we can nonetheless speak in regard to them. The auto-affection that marked the voice required the self to divide.. As always in Husserl’s schema.254 Between phenomenology and structuralism to the signified. Husserl could not deny the importance of the incarnated sign. Husserl had been led first to exclude indication from expression. Though the voice forewent the need for any incarnation. its structural disciplining by the idea of pure presence. record. it did reassert the necessity of the incarnated and the indicative right at the heart of ideality. their addition comes to make up for a deficiency.121 This unavoidable complication of presence and the necessary supplement- ing of the transcendental also explained the other aporias enumerated throughout the book: the movement of time or the presence of the other in the transcendental sphere.. this writing was secondary to the voice that it inscribed. 120 Ibid. this “différance” that now seemed absolutely primary: If indication is not added to expression. it denied any indication. and then teleologically to ground an expression worked over by the structure of repetition in the eternal self-sameness of the pre-expressive.

p.” the liberty of language. The relationship between formal apophansis and formal ontology thus lay at the heart of Speech and Phenomena just as it did in Derrida’s interpre- tation of Husserl’s Logic. relinquished phenomenology to metaphysics. was always deferred. Speech and Phenomena. 93. it was in order to reduce doubt that Husserl had asserted the voice in the first place. by the hope at least of a fulfilling intuition. and at the same time opened up the differences that existed between the subject and the world. the movement of the sign that always seemed to encroach on the stability of pure intuition. that he privileged presence through the invocation of the voice against many of the implications of his own text. The Formal and Transcendental Logic was filled with examples of Bedeutungs without the possibility of an object or an intuition: “A square circle. and the intuitive certainty of his cogito had passed. The question was whether the formal structure of language needed to be governed teleologically by the possibility of pure presence. 95. it could account for the structure of consciousness. But Derrida was adamant that this was not the case. we only need to signify what escapes our intuitive grasp. presence was not absolutely necessary for meaning. But if one took this deferral as primary. for the process of signification. p. still had a meaning. never achievable. the absence of the past moment in retention.” according to Husserl.122 Différance was at work in the auto-affecting self. a non-intuition was required.124 It was what Derrida called the autonomy of the “vouloir-dire. and now that voice seemed threatened.” still had sense even though Descartes was no more. and the subject and the other.123 In a sideswipe at the Cartesian cogito. L’ambiguité du concours 255 contamination of presence by absence.. In fact. “franc- parler”: the possibility of meaning without full presence. Derrida wanted to show that the very goal of preserving this pure presence was metaphysical 122 It is here that the structure of Derrida’s deconstruction seems especially to mirror Desanti’s “destruction. the absence in the sign allowing rep- etition. 124 Ibid.” 123 Derrida. After all. The ideal moment of pure presence. and the formal to be supplemented by the natural attitude. Derrida noted that Descartes’s “I think therefore I am. The fact that the expression was not fulfilled by an intuition did not impair its “meaning [vouloir-dire]”. To take this moment and movement seriously was Derrida’s goal in the final chapter. the various levels that required the transcendental to be supplemented by the formal. it drove temporality. With the process of différance and supplementarity at the heart of the transcendental sphere. That Husserl resisted this implication. it might appear that all certainty was lost. .

the agrégation had favored the synthetic over the fragmentary. as texts overcame their own limits – might be related to the agrégation context. we cannot draw a one-to-one connection between textual claims and the milieu in which it arose. conclusion The agrégation’s twin demands informed the very process of deconstruc- tion. First. in privileging the disruptive. Traditionally. the common ground of both absence and presence. it is clear that Derrida’s strategy was not the only possible response to the framework instituted by the agrégation. Desanti’s recourse to a founda- tional historical materialism. pairing an initial commentary that presented a standard reading of a text with a second dis- ruptive reading. the Hegelian synthesis. a way of reading a variety of texts that he developed and honed while teaching his students for the agrégation. While the form of the disruption – not the insufficiency but rather the excess of the sign. for all its attractive similarities to Derrida’s method. Whatever future conflicts Derrida might have with the university establishment. Derrida suggested that Husserl’s teleology was no longer necessary. which set up a series of constraints without providing an explicit solution. or the emphasis on the ontological difference to oppose the pretentions of “onto-theological” thought. either due to the elusive nature of the mystery. or. Derrida had argued against totalizing systems. to which I shall return shortly. and the majority of approaches urged stabilizing readings: Cousin’s recuperative moi. Derrida maintained old interests. We should also be wary of reductive readings for a second reason. It would be a mistake. Since his early essays on the Christian existentialists. Even though a text is the product of a certain environment. The agrégation is only one of several contexts in which we can read Derrida’s thought. one closely connected to the practice of deconstruction. They helped mold it into a new reading method. to reduce Derrida’s thought to this particular context for two different reasons. was suited to the tasks and exigencies of the exam. In the words of the citation with . which under- girded phenomenology and disrupted it.256 Between phenomenology and structuralism and that Husserl constantly had to defer the key questions of language in his attempt to reduce absence. however. By uncovering a deeper movement of différance. organically growing out of the first: reliable pedagogical presentation and “personal” brilliance. it is clear that deconstruction. From a deconstructive perspective. no system is sufficiently stable that its products must necessarily be harmonious with it.

interpretation is dependent on commentary. In January 1975. it was only by the rigorous and careful construction of phenomenology as a phi- losophy of presence that Derrida was able to draw attention to the themes of representation. unlike in other structurally similar reading techniques. the dependence on the moment of commentary was more than just a starting point that would be revised and developed over the course of the analysis. . The moment of interpretation should not call into question the value of the initial commentary. and ultimately to uncover the primordial movement of différance at work at even the most fundamental level of phenomenology. time. and the other that unsettled it. In decon- struction. The pedagogical commentary pro- vided a grid whose confrontation with the text would make incongruous elements visible. Derrida played a leading role in the formation of GREPH (the Research Group on Philosophical Education). and break their own laws. p. 141. L’ambiguité du concours 257 which this chapter began. one of the 125 Jacques Derrida. We can even cast Derrida’s later opposition to the agrégation in the light of his adherence to its norms. but of his intense engagement with them. That Derrida’s first explicit political intervention concerned the university system was a sign not of the exteriority of his philosophy to the forms of philosophical education in France. But the second moment only transgressed the limits set by a text if the commentary that had elaborated them was assumed to be correct. In deconstruction.”125 We can interpret that contraband as the disruptive reading or “play” that the agrégation promoted. both must be valid. Speech and Phenomena presents an important example where this pre- supposition could be called into question. the moment of interpretation did not attempt to refute the commentary. Derrida referred to what he called a “sort of contraband between the agrégation and the GREPH. Du droit à la philosophie (Paris: Galilée. exceed their own limits. In an article mark- ing the foundation of the new organization. As we have seen. Deconstruction requires that the text should both definitively set its own limits and overcome them. What interested Derrida was the necessity of texts to overstep themselves. Derrida’s work did not “simply belong” to the forms of the educational institution. As we saw. which aimed to examine modes of production and reproduction in the education sys- tem and militated for fundamental reform. coming to unsettle the concours itself. 1990). because for Derrida there is no such thing as simple belonging. The agrégation background remains instructive nonetheless. or replace one poor reading by a second better one. Further.

we should consider whether the contestatory moment staged by this commentary was a set-up. which was as much an interpretation as the reading that aimed to disrupt it. p. and Hegel the philosopher of Absolute Knowledge. Marx the materialist. To develop his commentary Derrida had to read Husserl’s later theses into one of his earliest books. using a text that preceded the emergence of phenomenology. a disruptive reading was always secondary to the communally accepted “pedagogical” reading upon which it was based. Derrida and Husserl. was a metaphysical prejudice. In the context of the agrégation de philosophie. How could one choose between Husserl the philosopher of intuition and presence or Husserl the thinker of time and the other. In practice. The heterogeneity of texts. Given the dif- ficulty of constructing the initial reading. it appears that Derrida’s commentary arose not only from his contact with the text. it is perhaps worth asking whether this privilege of a traditional reading. But if one strays from the immediate context of the agrégation concours. raises the question as to the best starting point.258 Between phenomenology and structuralism most striking aspects of Derrida’s book was its attempt to give an over- arching presentation of Husserl’s thought. emphasizing Rousseau’s sharp distinction between nature and culture. Lawlor. 126 What Lawlor has called the first and second Husserl. their complex and contradictory structure. 167. the reason for starting with and assuming the validity of a traditional reading is clear. but rather in the standard readings from which they emerged. One might then wonder whether Derrida’s presuppositions lay not in his willfully perverse reinterpretations of texts. but also from standard readings of the author. . if both were manifested in the same text?126 The limits that différance hoped to overcome cannot be unproblematically read from the very text that calls them into question.

15. 259 . Derrida would have to translate his work into their language. And. Reading Capital. it was their political aspirations that rendered the philosophy taught at the school pertinent to the larger debates of the Cold War. B. As Derrida would be the first to assert. the discovery of and training in the meaning of the “simplest” acts of existence: seeing. no translation is ever innocent or without loss. it is 1 Louis Althusser. reading. p. Louis Althusser1 In its formative years. Indeed it is the intensity of Derrida’s first confrontation with structuralism and the lasting traces that this confrontation left on his thought that has legitimated the “post-structuralist” label in so many sec- ondary accounts. After all. It was these students who constituted Derrida’s primary intellectual audience and who were his most constant interlocu- tors in the three years before the publication of Of Grammatology in 1967. deconstruction would find a privileged object in structuralism. it was occasioned by both local and global factors. speaking. 1971). c h a p t er 8 The ends of Man Reading and writing at the ENS However paradoxical it may seem. But one should not read the translation of Derrida’s earlier phenomenol- ogy into structuralist language as a capitulation or the dissimulation of his earlier ideas beneath the forms a new philosophical fashion. emphasizing the antihumanist elements of his thought and adopting their structuralist terminology. Rather. Brewster (New York: Pantheon Books. Derrida’s turn to structuralism was not merely a response to the latest intellectual fashion. listening. In order to be relevant to these students. The new language did not toler- ate his earlier explicitly theological considerations or the simple evocation of phenomenological themes. I venture to suggest that our age threatens one day to appear in the history of human culture as marked by the most dramatic and difficult trial of all. trans. Derrida found himself right at the heart of an engaged student body. After 1964.

For all the differences and changes after 20 years of work and study. one must first learn to speak Greek. Alone. but rather allowed Derrida the opportunity to engage with it fully. is appropriate to ENS philosophical politics – one might say that Der- rida mastered the ways and forms of Normalien structuralism to agitate against and ultimately dethrone a fetishized science. for it is the very language and argumentative structures in which ideas are expressed that give them philosophical value. By challenging the Normalien faith in a coupure épistémologique that would guarantee the separation of science from ideology. But it was the Party’s attitude towards decolonization that was most important for its 2 Derrida. In the essay “Violence and Metaphysics. . Even as certain themes were effaced or deemphasized. Derrida suggested that to kill the Greek king. Soviet communism had lost much support in 1956 after the brutal suppression of dissent in Hungary and Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin at the Twentieth Party Congress.260 Between phenomenology and structuralism not clear what such a dissimulation would be in philosophy. 89. marxism and the rise of the althusserians The Ecole to which Derrida returned in 1964 was not the same that he had left eight years earlier. In particular. Derrida demonstrated that there was no radical break in his own work. The change in Derrida’s thought should not be read as a capitulation for a second reason: Derrida drew on the powerful resources of structuralism to promote philosophical ideas that were directly inimical to the students’ own.2 Adopting the language of his Althusserian students was not a submission to their philosophical project. as we shall see.” published almost contem- poraneously with his move to the Ecole. p. Normalien Marxists had shifted allegiance from the Soviet Union and European parties and looked to the East for political inspiration. Grammatology can be read as a repetition of Derrida’s earlier religiously inspired criticism of epistemological hubris. the structuralist translation of his thought provided Derrida with new and powerful philosophical resources. Derrida’s continued resistance to science and the pretensions of human knowledge indicates a line of continuity across the apparent rupture in his philosophical development. and one cannot separate the ideas expressed in Of Grammatology from the way in which they were formulated. theses are merely dogmatic claims. Writing and Difference. If one wants to develop the conspiratorial trope – a trope that. as a result of the tortuous history of communism over the period.

History of Structuralism. most Normaliens took positions in the administration or taught in military schools. 5 See François Dosse. 2 vols. The policy reversal of the French Communist Party with respect to Algeria – by 1960 it had come to support Algerian independence – helped raise its profile again at the Ecole. . who were required to spend two years in military service after their studies. Gone were the strident Marxists espousing philosophical materialism. The communist cellule. became the leading voice of intellectual opposition to the War. In 1956 the Communist Party delegates voted to give special powers to the French authorities in Algeria. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1997). Régis Debray. When Jacques Rancière arrived in the Ecole in 1960. I. he claimed that the majority of students were Heideggerians. a Heideggerian.3 Of the two main groupings discussed in chapter 3. and Michel Haar. a future historian of phenomenology. and politically minded 3 Though all students went through compulsory military training. The ends of Man 261 delegitimization at the Ecole. When the PCF endorsed the French “police action” in North Africa. 4 Badiou was a regular contributor to the Christian Normalien journal Vin Nouveau. conventional parliamentary parties lost their appeal. Dominique Janicaud. it was the Catholics who gained most from the new political climate. and Catholics at the Ecole profited from its enhanced repu- tation. p. the journal edited by Emmanuel Mounier. and the new intake. vol. most often in Algeria. was again on the rise. condoning the increasingly violent repression there. under the influence of Jean Beaufret.4 These political changes were mirrored in the philosophical norms current at the ENS. it severely damaged its reputation among those who would become the unwilling tools of an oppressive French state. and Etienne Balibar. 290. Rancière was probably referring to philosophers like Jacques English.5 But things began to change in the early 1960s. The Algerian War and the question of decolonization more generally had become defining political issues in France in the latter part of the 1950s. At the same time the fortunes of the previously popular Radical Party took a turn for the worse after the failure of the Mollet government in Algeria and its embarrassment at the collapse of the Fourth Republic. including Jacques Rancière. regrouped around Althusser. but they were particularly important for Normaliens. Several Normaliens who would later become intimately involved with Althusserian Marxism. Esprit. were engaged in Christian socialist politics in the late 1950s. like Alain Badiou and Emmanuel Terray. renamed the Union des Etudiants Communistes (UEC). With de Gaulle’s presidential style written into the Fifth Republic’s constitution.

1987). It focused on India and Algeria. in the December 1965 presidential election. China: Castro.’ a generational strug- gle between the elders of the Party and the youth of the UEC. Les Cahiers Marxistes Léninistes 1 (1966).8 The first edition. like other young communists. ed. “The Red Guards of Paris.7 The development can be seen in the steady drift of the Normalien com- munist journal.6 The failings of other parties on the pressing question of decolonization helped precipitate the students’ return to the PCF. Latin America. Revolutionary politics were back in style. By late 1966 the Cahiers opened a discussion of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Génération (Paris: Seuil. But. Che. 7 See also Philippe Robrieux. published in late 1964. however. “if one believes the bourgeois press. see Hervé Hamon and Patrick Rotman. Communism may have become politically important again. François Mitterrand. 255–88. Because of its interventions in Eastern Europe. In April 1966 the Ulmien UEC was dissolved to create the Maoist- leaning Union des Jeunes Communistes marxistes-léninistes (UJC-ml). 477. “Présentation. applying Marxist concepts to the process of decolonization. right. and Mao replaced Stalin. 1977). of two orders: an incidence of the Moscow-Peking ‘ideological conflict.” History of European Ideas 31 (2005). The Ulm Circle has applied itself to demonstrate the inanity of these questions.”9 The bourgeois press was. Many Normaliens. which hoped to provide a secure theoretical footing for an analysis of political events. 8 For an evocative account of this period.” 10 See the document prepared by Benny Lévy. pp. .. 1972). increasingly.262 Between phenomenology and structuralism students turned to forces outside of the mainstream. The second edition of the Cahiers turned its attention away from the old imperial powers to the developing world. “Faut-il réviser la théorie marxiste-léniniste?” published in Patrick Kessel. The editorial policy of the Cahiers followed political changes at the Ecole.10 6 Indeed part of the reason students moved away from the Communist Party in the mid 1960s was its support of the socialist candidate. pp. and Thorez in the youthful communist imagination. 9 The Ulm Circle was the communist cellule at the ENS. played down the idea of a split in the Party: the communists were. looked for guidance rather from the fresher revolutionary struggles of Vietnam. but the Soviet Union was no longer the unchallenged standard-bearer of the movement. 304–5. p. and. Khrushchev. 149–61. Le Mouvement “maoiste” en France (Paris: Union générale d’éditions. Les Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes. See Julian Bourg. and its allegiances became obvious to all. pp. the circumstances of the French party’s rehabilitation in student politics proved a double- edged sword. Laffont. Notre generation communiste (Paris: R. The fifth number treated Latin America. it was all too easy to recast the USSR itself as an imperialist power that had forgotten its revolutionary origins in an attempt to hold onto power.

13. a survey by Jean Duché showed that many Normaliens resented their five-year obligation to teach in secondary schools and held as their eventual goal the escape to higher education. Several high-powered members of the Party wrote to Althusser late in 1966. one student. 13 Clément Rosset.11 Althusser himself did not break with the Communist Party – and in his autobiography he suggested that he was willing to give the renegade students “a rocket. See also Le Monde (January 27. In the 11 IMEC. 1967). could introduce its students to research far earlier in their careers. citing illness. the ENS compared less and less favorably with the other Grandes Ecoles. Althusser scolded his students for their political excesses. 12 That is. Rosset set himself the task of distinguishing what he saw as the liberal and thoughtful Althusser from his radical disciples. A debate ensued. without the official duty to train schoolteachers. 354. Althusser. Althusser’s philosophy was a crucial element in the radicalization of the Normalien Maoists.09. Things came to a head when. and eventually the Ecole secured the right to allow students to dispense with the exam. which. that many students still slavishly followed his work: “the subjugated ear of the faithful to a master. He politely demurred. . p. hotly followed by the national press. confirmed Althusser’s claim that he had never tried to “inculcate” his students with his philosophy. in the early 1960s. urging him to discipline his students. 14 Bulletin de la Société des Amis de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure (June 1951). In practice. In his reminiscences of the period. The ends of Man 263 For its part. A43–02. twenty-one scientifiques at the ENS refused to take the agrégation.14 In light of these aspirations. it began to lose some of the best science students to the Ecole Polytechnique. the drive to fill the ranks of the secondaire had long stopped being its central purpose. who in November 1966 had rejected the reso- lution prepared at Romainville for the upcoming Eighteenth French Party Congress. p. 1992).”12 He nonetheless refused to disown them as they openly declared their support of Mao.”13 That it was Althusser’s work that gave philosophical form to the students’ political grievances stems in part from a major institutional change at the ENS. In part his recalcitrance stemmed from a shared philosophical platform. ALT2. Clément Rosset. if a little polemically. Already in 1951. the Ecole had aspired to become a research institution. and the importance of the Ecole for higher education meant that research rather than teaching was the ultimate career goal of a significant proportion of its students. The Future Lasts a Long Time and the Facts. the French Communist Party became increasingly distrustful of the wayward Normaliens. From the mid 1950s. But Rosset continued. En ce temps-là (Paris: Editions de Minuit. Since the mid 1950s. letters from Daniel Monteux and Paul Laurent.

But it was not just the quantity of teaching that was affected. deconstruct metaphysics with Derrida.” In his letter. In a document prepared in June 1963. . Philosophers could study Marxism with Althusser. citing both Jean Beaufret and Michel Foucault as telling examples. and Bouveresse. the student noted the danger of mental collapse caused by solitary academic study. 17 “Commission des Etudes de l’ENS. If you were clever and lucky enough to gain a place at the ENS to study philosophy in the 1960s.” . Having been the lone agrégé- répétiteur for sixteen years. my emphasis. in Octo- ber. and investigate the unconscious with Lacan. In addition to traditional courses in philosophy. it provided important new possibilities for research.” CAC. the ENS was redefined as “an establishment of higher education . 3 January 1963. in 1968. when you publicly affirm that the possession of the agrégation and secondary teaching are incompatible with the advancement of research. 15 See “Reflexions sur le statut de l’école.19 From being merely a base from which Normaliens directed their own line of studies as it had been in the 1950s. “I can’t believe that you are truly interested in my work. Althusser outlined possible expan- sions of philosophy teaching at the Ecole. on returning to the Ecole. Letter Michel Gourinat to Jean Hyppolite. in the next edition of the Bulletin de la Société des Amis de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure. Jean Hyppolite. the newly agregated Bernard Pautrat.16 But if the modification in the school’s status upset many alumni. The ENS became one of the most important centers for the new French philosophy: structuralism. the choice and level of the courses and seminars on offer was quite astounding. he petitioned for the creation of another post. either led by a specialist or conceived as a research group.17 So.”15 It was considered a revolutionary move.264 Between phenomenology and structuralism Decree of October 3. and he put forward Derrida’s name.” 19 See “Commission des Etudes de l’ENS. while taking further courses with Canguilhem.” 18 “Dossier Althusser. . destined to prepare for teaching and for research. Archicube was the name given to an alumnus of the Ecole. and vastly increased the number and scope of learning opportunities for the students. The new position was agrégé-répétiteur in the History of Philosophy. Althusser felt that the increased responsibilities meant that one full-time instructor was no longer sufficient. 16 Bulletin de la Société des Amis de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure (March 1963).18 Althusser and Derrida were joined by a third. archicubes wrote angrily protesting the changes. Serres. 1962. The decree ensured support for new research groups and seminars. Bourdieu. The goal and focus changed as well. citing as cause the expanded mission of the school. See Fonds Hyppolite. Althusser added new seminars. at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. Badiou. the ENS found itself on the frontline of philosophical research. One wrote. Especially incensed were those lycée professeurs whose doctoral theses were being advised by the then directeur of the Ecole. 930595/1 (1).

It was only as the school remodeled itself as a research institution and Althusser merged his teaching and research duties that his philosophical program gained currency. but it was Althusser’s courses that would be determinative for a large number of the students. The combined effect of these political and institutional changes meant that the ENS of the 1960s housed a politically radical generation of students who were particularly receptive to Althusser’s philosophical project. In its process of destalinization after 1956. . Derrida avoided theoretical confrontations with Althusser. ALT2. Etienne Balibar. and François Regnault. L’Avenir dure longtemps (Paris: Stock/IMEC. To remain relevant and to make his ideas attractive to the new generation. showing how his work became more engaged. IMEC. but that for strategic reasons they did not want to make these criticisms public. whose arrival at the Ecole was facilitated by the decree. All-03. Derrida had to address their project and translate his work into a language they understood and valued.02. a large Althusserian school formed at the ENS. the theoretical failings of Party-endorsed Marxism could be summed up in one word: humanism. See notes of the Groupe Spinoza. The ends of Man 265 I have already examined the influence of Lacan. 21 This did not mean that they were uncritical of the Chinese Communist Party. and of course collaborating with Althusser himself on Reading Capital. more political. but he could not avoid interaction with the students they shared. See Louis Althusser. 200. Developing research seminars. p. playing a major role in the Cahiers pour l’analyse. althusserian antihumanism Althusser’s work suited his students because it provided them with a language in which to frame their rejection of Soviet communism. 20 Althusser suggested that his first foray into Marx was a result of the request by Pierre Macherey. The reforms at the ENS provided a space where Althusser’s ideas were absorbed and sharpened by a generation of committed Marxists who were on the lookout for ideology and intent on combatting it. Althusser engaged his students as partners in a new philosophical project.21 For Althusser. responsible for a range of ventures and publications: running Les Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes.20 Althusser’s biographer Moulier Boutang noted a change in his approach to teaching after 1960. 1992). In the mid 1960s. the Soviet Union announced that it had moved beyond class warfare and instigated a new stage in history: a “humanism” under the slogan. It was through these students that Althusser’s and Derrida’s ideas came into contact.

Humanisme Marxiste (Paris: Editions sociales. In Althusser’s eyes. Monocausal economic explanations (as in the Stalinist model) or the simplistic story of human alienation in capitalism (as in humanist Marxism) were no longer 22 See Preface “To my English Readers.23 Althusser believed that this was a theoretical error that muddied the water of Cold War politics and weakened the communist movement. Roger Garaudy again took up the crusade. By signaling its adherence to humanism. socialists. 9–15. trans. Brewster (New York: Random House. but rather remained stuck in an old metaphysical tradition. emphasizing the work of the “young Marx” and concentrating on his denunciation of capitalist alienation. humanism had to be combated at all costs. best repre- sented by Ludwig Feuerbach. B. pp. this “revisionism” indicated that the Soviets had abdicated their world historical mission.” When Althusser attacked the new orthodoxy. the Party had joined a broad reactionary front that stretched across the political spectrum and placed them in dialogue with Christian democrats. It was only when Marx came to renounce his earlier humanism in the “epistemological break [coupure épistémologique]” of 1845 that he was able to found a scientific theory of history. as party theorists asserted.” in Louis Althusser. In Althusser’s opinion. This was the central political purpose guiding a set of articles and courses that would culminate in Althusser’s dual publication of 1965: For Marx and Reading Capital.”22 Humanist Marxism. was now graced with the imprimatur of the Soviet state and flourished in France and abroad. he did not pro- pose a return to Stalinist dogmatism. but rather a rejection of any single unified dialectic at all. 1969). 1957). 30.266 Between phenomenology and structuralism “All for Man. For Marx. Marx’s key discovery from 1845 was not the inversion of Hegel’s dialectic. moving from an idealist to a materialist core.” Althusser set out to establish a theory “for Marx. 24 See Althusser. 23 See Roger Garaudy. . such as the 1844 manuscripts. Responding to the Soviet Union’s “for Man. For Marx. and liberals. Marx’s early humanist writings. whether about the economy or Man. he contended that humanist Marxism and the Stalinist emphasis on the forces of production were linked by a common metaphysical attempt to understand history as the develop- ment of one particular narrative. did not hold the key to his philosophical sys- tem. however.24 Rather. To set communism back on track. with the Soviet Union expressing a desire for peaceful coexistence with the West. The blurring of theoretical lines was accompanied by a general thaw in Cold War relations. which as we saw in the first chapter had had only limited and periodic success in the 1930s and 40s. p.

pp. 27 For an analysis of the debate over the Argenteuil Resolution see Louis Althusser and Louis Aragon. 176–80 and 289–98. it is difficult to see how Derrida could fit into a school whose structuralist Marxism was so opposed to the religiously minded phenomenology he had taught at the Sorbonne. The ends of Man 267 sufficient. In the notes of the Groupe Spinoza that we will discuss shortly. See Althusser. . 28 See Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes: 1. the result of the interaction of many layers of ideology and society. Althusser made no secret of his theoretical disagreements with the Party and openly rejected the March 1966 Argenteuil resolution. as some commentators have done.28 In their 1966 break with the party. Aragon et le Comité central d’Argenteuil (Rambouillet: Société des amis de Louis Aragon et Elsa Triolet.. The philosophical norms at the Ecole – communist. 26 Althusser was very clear to separate his conception of history from traditional understandings. 35–54. vol. as many traditional Marxists wanted.”25 In Althusser’s view.26 Antihumanism then was a necessary precondition for science. providing the theoretical rigor that was essential to the success of the communist movement. whether Man or the forces of production. it was stated that to achieve their political goal.29 derrida’s antihumanism On the face of it. as well as economic forces.” 29 We should also be wary of placing too much weight on the fact that Althusser stayed in the Party. A change in the base might be held up by the resistance of politics and ideology. and for both this manifested itself in an overt preference for the Marx of Capital and a resistance to his presentation as a philosopher of alienation. its effects could be mediated through the various levels of superstructure. 112. 2000). out of step with the forces that would only determine them “in the long run.” dialectic. Lire le capital. II. Althusser and his students adopted a critical stance with respect to the humanist doctrine expounded by the Party. Rather than the movement of the base simply determining history. could Marx formulate the object of his science: history in all its complexity. Althusser’s students had translated his philosophical dispute into political terms.27 Whether from within or without. only by rejecting the ideological and distorting idea that there was one dominant motor of historical change. “Sciences et ideologies. p. in which the PCF sided with the humanists. or “over-determined. reveling in the sureness of science. the Althusserians would have to place members both inside and outside the party. especially pp. and reso- lutely atheistic – were overtly hostile to the themes that had characterized 25 Ibid. Althusser regarded both as overly reductive and urged the con- sideration of a more complex.

backward. Derrida marshaled Heidegger’s ontological difference to challenge idolatrous ontotheologies. In his reminiscences of the period.268 Between phenomenology and structuralism Derrida’s early work. etc. But the radi- calization [of this position] appeared to me often. Derrida. . even reactionary. Following Christian Heideggerians like Henri Birault. however. September 1. . and a com- mon resistance to philosophical humanism became a crucial element in Derrida’s negotiation with the philosophical tradition at the Ecole. Derrida Letters.. What you presented . Derrida made much of the commonality: “I feel as close as possible to the ‘theoretical antihumanism’ which you propose with as much force as rigor. idealistic. 186. a certain conjuncture of empiricism and idealism. 1993).” Instead of looking towards Marx.” But for Derrida the true sources of antihumanism were not to be found in the classic texts of communism. . drawing on a French Christian tradition that opposed atheistic thought. . remarking that during the 1960s he was marginalized at the ENS. The Future Lasts a Long Time. 1964. that is. provided a vital point of contact. however. And since I was already formulating things in these manners. p. Derrida said that he felt enormous pressure from his students. transcendental. The Althusserian Legacy (New York: Verso. or whether Derrida was suggesting a different theoretical foundation. this appearance was rendered complicated to the extreme. very Althusserian. p. Derrida continued: “I was less convinced by everything that tied these propositions to Karl Marx himself . just before he was to take up his new position. including Sartre’s humanism. Derrida’s thought in the period preceding 1964 culminated in an antihumanistic reading of Heidegger.30 He felt “a sort of theoretical intimidation: to formulate questions in a style that appeared. 176. p. suggests that he was referring to Martin Heidegger. Althusser. clearly demonstrated Marx’s rupture with a certain human- ism. 188. Kaplan. phenomenological. shall we say. whether they were Althusser’s own.33 As I suggested in chapter 5. p.”32 It is not entirely clear what Derrida meant by these non-Marxist antihu- manist premises. After his state- ment of broad agreement. Cited in Peeters. 187. 30 Anne E.”31 Antihumanism. 31 Ibid. A look at Derrida’s own intellectual itinerary. 33 Cf. In a letter he wrote to Althusser in September 1964. to the point of making them unreadable for those at whom they were directed. . in its strongest and most seductive moments. 32 IMEC. or ontological was immediately con- sidered suspicious. Derrida suggested “that other – non-Marxist – premises could govern this antihumanism.

see Julian Bourg on Clavel and Foucault in From Revolution to Ethics: May 1968 and Contemporary French Thought (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. In the letter.35 His response to the book. Given that his first remarks on his essay come from the autumn of 1963. asking why Levinas had to resort to the metaphor of the face. would also challenge this duality. Derrida dates the meeting with Ricoeur as 1961 or 1962.34 It is worth dwelling on one of the very few occasions in his early work where Derrida discussed humanism directly: his 1964 article on Levinas. the general tenor of the essay fits into this 34 For a parallel discussion of the split in antihumanism. There is. Derrida’s resistance to Althusser’s concept of ideology thus was code for his opposition to the older man’s concept of science. for philosophical reasons . Where Althusser saw antihumanism as marking an epistemologi- cal breakthrough that allowed a more scientific understanding of society and history.” in late 1961. But. Moi. . it appears to me to be still the prisoner of a metaphysics and a certain ‘reverse idealism’ that you know better than anyone else. Derrida had been introduced to Levinas’s book Totality and Infinity by Paul Ricoeur one summer afternoon in 1961. “Violence and Metaphysics. Written at the Sorbonne under the auspices of Paul Ricoeur. demanding recognition of the limitations of human knowledge. pp. It was published in the final two editions of the journal that year. 35 Fonds Ricoeur. Derrida implied that Althusser’s division between subjective ide- ology and objective science did not radically challenge the foundations of philosophical subjectivism that it hoped to reject. The essay. sheet 15. . Derrida’s antihumanism cleaved to the Christians. Derrida admitted to only having read Levinas’s “classic” texts on Husserl and Heidegger before then. 2007). Personne. Derrida was explicitly critical of Althusser’s notion of “ideology. 6. Derrida’s own correspondence with Levinas only seems to start in 1964. leaving its essential structure in place. A more rigorous analysis. we can perhaps suggest that he meant the summer of 1962. The ends of Man 269 Derrida’s tracing of an antihumanist genealogy back to Heidegger is not merely of passing academic interest. Irvine. Derrida first cited Levinas in the article on Jabès – published January 1964. which makes passing reference to Totality and Infinity. 261–75. which was always defined in opposition to it. After that there is no mention before 1964. Derrida implied.” He asserted that the very notion of ideol- ogy “troubles me. Derrida then suggests that it was in the following summer that he himself read the book.” Just as Althusser diagnosed Feuerbach’s humanism as an inversion of the Hegelian problematic.2. however. a note found in his course “Je. it entailed significantly different positions on defining issues.” was written over the summer and autumn of 1963. . and – following a relatively long correspondence over the conditions of its publication – accepted by Jean Wahl for the Revue de métaphysique et de morale in early 1964. we must assume that it occurred in 1961. then. marks one of the last pieces published by Derrida before his return to the ENS. as he qualifies it as before Levinas’s soutenance de thèse.

100. not structurally different to Husserl’s charge that science had forgotten its very origins. Derrida argued that Levinas in Totality and Infinity was engaged in a project that was structurally similar to that of Husserl and Heidegger. the necessity to explain the Other in terms we understand. but “expresses itself.” The “Face. despite his powerful criticisms of both. It was the “infinity” that exceeded any “totality.” Because Levinas wanted to avoid the reduction of alterity. This stance led Derrida to refuse Levinas’s all-or-nothing 36 Derrida. Levinas pointed to the immediate encounter with the Other in what he called the “Face. The differences they described inside the self were “false” differences. Levinas had to suggest that their movements beyond the “Greek” philosophy of the same were mere feints. Levinas asserted that Husserl’s phenomenology and Heidegger’s thought of Being obscured the absolute alterity of the Other. for it broke our primordial solipsism. it was. Der- rida argued. Writing and Difference. and Heidegger subsumed the Being of the Other under Being in general. the Other could not give itself “in person. for Derrida there was no unadulterated infinity that preceded finitude. p.” his desire to exceed Being and theoretical consciousness towards the thought of the Other mirrored their own desires to surpass the mundane and the ontic towards the openness of the tran- scendental (Husserl) or the indeterminacy of Being (Heidegger). the Face had to present the Other directly. with which he charged Husserl and Heidegger. with its concentration on human finitude and the divine. Husserl always reduced the Other to the categories of the transcendental ego as the fifth Cartesian Meditation showed. .”36 For Derrida. For though Levinas would attack Husserl and Heidegger for remaining within the “philosophy of the same. It was not a sign.270 Between phenomenology and structuralism period of Derrida’s work. In contrast. which was the necessary source of all philosophy. preventing any absolute alterity. In order to argue that Husserl and Heidegger were both implicated in the Greek tradition despite their own protests. As we saw in earlier chapters. was for Levinas the very condition of thought. giving itself in person.” It was impossible to grasp it without resorting to the language of the same.” always resisting attempts to reduce it to our categories. If Levinas thought the philosophy of the same had obscured the Other. But Derrida remarked that all three men looked back beyond the Greeks and hoped to reinvigorate something that they had left out. however. without a familiarizing metaphor. or Heidegger’s charge that ontotheology ignored the ontological difference.

For Heidegger too the thought of Being did not reduce all difference to the thought of the same. Derrida argued. the use of metaphors against other metaphors. 40 Ibid.. but “the history of movements out of the totality.. because their philosophy was never as totalizing as Levinas suggested. If Levinas wanted to end all violence.37 Further. and so the search for the unadulterated Other could only lead to failure or more violence. p. an inadequate language turned on itself. history as the movement of transcendence. it could never be described as the closed totality that Levinas wanted to condemn. As language proclaimed its own failings.41 By submitting Being to such an analysis.. as Levinas wanted. 123. He argued instead that we must accept that alterity reveals itself in language. One could not reduce their thoughts to the dominance of the same.39 Indeed in the relationship to other egos described in the fifth Cartesian Meditation.. while recognizing the insufficiency of all discourse to grasp the Other fully. 38 Ibid. 121.” in ibid. Husserl’s analogical representation respected rather than eclipsed otherness: it described an alter ego. 37 Note the use of the word “insufficiency. p. In Derrida’s reading.40 Husserl’s philosophy was in fact preferable to Levinas’s because it permitted the possibility of representing the Other. Husserl recognized that this was not possible. nor was it receptive to the pure presence of the infinite that Levinas saw in the “Face. The ends of Man 271 approach to metaphor. 117. rather than an alter ego..” History was not a finite totality. one unique category under which everything was subsumed. language can be used to denounce its own inadequacies. even if it always involved some dis- simulation of its alterity. where any contamination of the Other with the same was interpreted as its total subsumption. Husserl acknowledged the object’s irreducible alterity.”38 This recognition saved Husserl and Heidegger from Levinas’s attacks.” This violence. 41 Ibid. Levinas had forgotten the ontological difference whose main purpose was to inhibit the identification of Being with a being. an inauthentic alienation of the Other in the language of the self. 39 Ibid. this is what Derrida meant by the “economy of violence. his concept of intentionality demonstrating the impossibility of the full adequation of an intuition to its object. 116. Husserl’s was open to the infinite horizon of thought. Absolute peace was an unreachable goal. defined history. for precedence and authority were ontic characteristics. of the excess over the totality without which no totality would appear. It made no sense to give Being precedence or authority. 136. Being was not a supreme being. it did not mistake what was given for the unmediated Other. p. p. . p. a God governing everything else. all forcing of the Other into the categories of the self.

” preceded any determined relation to God.47 Derrida’s antihumanism. as Althusser had wanted. 145. then. as Derrida would later suggest.. Derrida asserted that Heidegger’s concept of the Holy. itself resembled a supreme being. . du divin et des dieux. Criticizing Levinas’s claim that Hei- degger instituted a pagan philosophy. Derrida in “Violence and Metaphysics” moved directly from his discussion of the ontological difference to a discussion of the Holy that it made possible. Derrida argued. it was the Other rather than the pour- soi that was supposed to transcend metaphysics and escape all totalities. p.46 In Derrida’s presentation. as “the essential experience of divinity.”43 For Derrida. Both theories retained a privileged place for “Men. it was Levinas’s thought that verged on onto- theology.” modeled on and usurping the place of God. but rather was its necessary condition. at the very least.”44 In contrast. made his antihumanism. nor beings without Being. The emphasis on the ontological difference. 142. It is for this reason that Derrida is concerned that this would not be a negative theology. 45 Ibid. who had recognized this problem. See Derrida. 43 Ibid. 47 Compare with Henri Birault.42 And because this privileged Other was human. Ibid. ambiguous.. 351–6. Humanism was to be replaced not by the certainty of science. 106 and 146. a differ- ence that had to be primary because there was no Being outside of beings. was not an attack on religious faith. a non-denominational space before any par- ticular religion. p. or rather ensured that Being was History. before even the distinction between atheism and faith. which followed from his destruction of onto-theology through an appeal to the ontological difference. In particular.. especially pp. only that. 148–9. “The Ends of Man. 44 Ibid. It is not surprising that Derrida should later qualify Levinas’s humanism as “atheistic. 46 Ibid. It is a reading that directly recalls Birault’s work and the themes we discussed in chapter 5. Derrida appealed to Heidegger’s ontological difference. 317 note.. pp. pp. and Of Grammatology. by transcending all totalities. p.. p.” in Margins of Philosophy. Husserl’s teleological idea and Heidegger’s dif- ference were both recognitions of the limitations of human thought. “Existence et vérité d’après Heidegger. 143. Levinas’s Other.48 As he 42 It was at this point that Derrida made a favorable reference to Birault. Writing and Difference.” in De l’être. And like Birault and the other Christian Heideggerians.272 Between phenomenology and structuralism Rather. p. 24.45 It was this difference that drove History. Levinas’s humanism was parallel to Sartre’s. Levinas’s philosophy was what Heidegger in the Letter on Humanism had called a “humanist metaphysics. for Levinas. but rather by the humility and patience of an openness to God. the constant movement from one ontic metaphor to another. 48 See Derrida. for Derrida.

” IMEC. 53 Ibid. the motor of the ontological difference was the transcen- dence of Dasein. ALT2.”49 As late as the early 1960s Derrida still translated Dasein as réalité-humaine. but rather Man was possessed by “l’ek-sistence.”53 It is because they understood their work as inherently political – hoping to 49 Derrida used “existance” as late as 1960. but rather his arrogance and sense of self-sufficiency. .03.9. A10–03. sheet 2. 50 For use of the translation “réalité-humaine. The Groupe Spinoza reiterated Althusser’s claims about the political role of philosophy. Irvine. sheet 74.1. “Erreur et errance: Heidegger. best expressed in the writings of a secret organization called the Groupe Spinoza.” Irvine. See Irvine.”50 The ability to transcend any particular determi- nation was what distinguished Man from other beings. Etienne Balibar. and in courses during this period he was clear that only Man is historical. the Groupe Spinoza comprised around fifteen present and past students. only “Man is Ek-sistence. 51 Jacques Derrida.51 We also saw the centrality of the concept “Man” in Derrida’s early articles.. and knows this organic relationship to politics that makes it a philosophy. p. for Derrida. The end of Humanism. which Derrida had in 1948 suggested translating with “existance (with an a). including Alain Badiou. Their toleration for Derrida’s ideas derived from their understanding of the role of philosophy. thinks.” see Derrida’s course on the “Transcendental.” 52 “Groupe Spinoza. When Derrida turned away from humanism. did not at first entail the death of Man.” 1961–2. Michel Tort. 4. sheet 3. like all philosophy.11. ‘nature’ does not have a history. and “only Marxist philosophy openly confronts and assumes this task: not only is it political. The ends of Man 273 admitted in 1967. asserting the link between “theoretical research and political intervention. he rejected not the idea of “Man” as the author of philosophy.” to the move- ment of “différance (with an a). seminar dated March 1962. 8. Though Derrida asserted that this freedom was not a characteristic of Man. In its preservation of the possibility of human transcendence towards the divine this form of religious antihumanism was as close as possible to the Christian humanism from which it emerged. and Pierre Macherey. and it was only a small step from Dasein. but it recognizes. 50.”52 Ideology was the misrecognition of the political dimension. Formed by Althusser in 1966. the groupe spinoza Althusser and his students were well aware that Derrida’s antihumanism did not fit easily with their own. sheet 1. But this did not disqualify Derrida’s version for them. hastily written out for the 1967 collection. 6.

which they argued was the “cement. 1994). pp. the Groupe Spinoza set about forming their own alliance. For all the fundamental differences between their philosophical projects. sheets 5–6. they named the “Front de Libération Philosophique. Ecrits philosophiques et politiques (Paris: Stock/ IMEC.09. many of the pages are covered in muddy boot prints. The Groupe Spinoza’s support for this motley bunch of antihumanists was not. The Future Lasts a Long Time. however.09. 56 “Groupe Spinoza. On the other hand they regarded it of critical importance to protect Foucault from attacks. The obvious partners in such a front were the “neo-structuralists.” Lacan. Derrida was a valuable ally.”54 Though philosophical in content. locked in a fundamental combat. p. Tort stated. Foucault. the Groupe Spinoza believed that they could overturn the PCF’s support of humanism. to distinguish ourselves in the same way from the ‘allied’ elements (Foucault. See “Groupe Spinoza. considering it ill-judged and ineffective.56 To resist this diverse group of humanists. theirs was a broad church. recruiting antihuman- ist philosophers of many different theoretical stripes. 393–415. Lacan) and the 54 Althusser. idealists-rationalists-critical philoso- phers. and so strengthen the communist movement in France and beyond.” Like the humanist front. A11–03. unqualified. “Conjoncture philosophique et recherche théorique marxiste” (26 June 1966). in what Michel Tort called “a theoretical war.57 If sufficient intellectual strength could be mustered. fearing that their deliberations might be discovered and their work compromised. as if indicating a late-night raid by the forces of order. whose philosophy provided valuable intellectual resources for the criticism of humanism.” The clear enemy was human- ism. Barthes. sheet 5.55 The notes depict a world of opposing alliances. 57 “Groupe Spinoza. Convening in secret every two weeks.” ALT2. which. 55 The Groupe Spinoza criticized the Cahiers pour l’Analyse for their attack on psychology in the second number. Inexplicably. the group began to use pseudonyms after May 1968.274 Between phenomenology and structuralism influence the policy of the PCF and Communist Parties more widely – that the groupe’s meeting notes seem conspiratorial. “it is not possible to make use of them in the same way. and Derrida. their project resembled political intrigue.” ALT2. A11–03. and humanist Marxists.10. making an oblique reference to the Alge- rian revolutionaries. Cf. 197.” ALT2 A11–03. . existentialists-phenomenologists. in Louis Althusser. where theoretical interventions were judged on their strategic importance and possibility of success. Referring to the two fronts. the ideological connection which alone reunites conjuncturally disparate elements” on a “front” comprising spiritualists-personnalists. then. The corollary of the Groupe Spinoza’s attempt to “intervene in pol- itics as a philosopher” was a desire to intervene in “philosophy as a politician.

sheets 10–11. while helpful for the general project. The clear problem with antihumanists like Lacan. just as much as they distrusted the other members of the “antihumanist front. then. at least from the perspective of the Groupe Spinoza. A11–03. Here.09. His conjunctural position is such that he is at the same time obliged (and intelligent enough) to integrate the results obtained on the antihumanist front. he was capable of reshifting the alliances and forming a new front. They worried that his philoso- phy. 3. sheet 4.” ALT2. they had no place for what we will see was his equal indictment of (especially Althusserian) 58 Ibid. 4. 61 “Groupe Spinoza. . Foucault. sheet 3. 60 See also “Groupe Spinoza. As Michel Tort suggested in a note from late 1967 that refers explicitly to Derrida.. The very content of his philosophy is appropriate to serve a future compromise between the humanist front and the other. The Groupe Spinoza distrusted Derrida and his turn to antihumanism. sheet 10. He is incontestably the only traditional philosopher of any stature. Lacan was depicted as a cynic intent on preserving the legitimacy of psychoanalysis by shoring up its intellectual credentials at the Ecole and advocating a mere “revolutionism de bon ton on the polit- ical level..” With philosophy governed by political demands and ideology a weapon to be wielded. Derrida was a friend. 59 Ibid.”60 The reasons given for this expectation were: 1. The ends of Man 275 humanist bloc.61 In other words. He was one of the most dangerous figures on the field. Though currently aligned with them in his antihumanism. 2. the members of the Groupe Spinoza recognized the ambiva- lence of Derrida’s antihumanism. placed at a crucial strategic position. He already has a considerable hold on an important element of the conjuncture (the discourse on literature where the contradiction humanism/non-humanism is lived acutely). certain “theoretical enterprises repress the political scope of their work.”59 Derrida was regarded as particularly dangerous. His antihumanism could not be trusted. serve as the ideological cement to humanism. it is necessary to determine the procedures of effective and precise critique-contestation-investment. A11–03.”58 This work.” Though they saw the benefits of Derrida’s reading of the history of philosophy and its understanding of metaphysics. and Der- rida was that they placed a theoretical revolution above the political one. might easily “in the near future. different to those that it is appropriate to use with respect to the humanist front. parallel antihumanistic philosophies were allies to be used and disciplined. was ultimately reactionary.” ALT2. but an unreliable one.12.

The Groupe Spinoza decided to take preventative action: 1. but he was also dangerous. threatening at any moment to adopt a humanist line and reintegrate cast-off religious themes. Describing his rapprochement with the human sciences. Derrida presented a more problematic case. 64 Ibid. 62 Ibid.” ALT2 A11. The tensions were particu- larly difficult due to the close friendship between Althusser and Derrida.” a reference to the modernization efforts of the Second Vatican Council. . 456. as a prelimi- nary step towards the disciplining and coopting of Derrida’s thought.09. structuralist Marxism. 3. But this did not mean that these differences were without import. . they remarked that “the metaphysico-religious enterprise is taking the forms of an aggiornamento. notes by Althusser. Strike at the level of literary theory to denounce the non-humanist obscurantism of the same group. 63 “Groupe Spinoza. 65 “La Querelle de l’humanisme. Short-circuit him at the level of the status and nature of philosophical dis- course . It provided a point of confluence that allowed otherwise opposing doctrines to interact and coexist.12.” ALT2 A11–03.03.63 Maintaining the antihumanist front – and in particular preventing Derrida’s drift to the other side – became a central task for the Groupe Spinoza.65 Antihumanism acted in the Ecole as a unifying doctrine that brought together approaches as diverse as Foucauldian genealogy.64 Tort referred to Althusser’s “Humanist Controversy” article. Derrida would have to be watched. sheet 13. and pressured to conform ever more closely to Ecole orthodoxy.” in Althusser. sheet 14.. when humanism was both a rallying point and a highly contested term. sheet 11. a discreet critical support was recommended. who was to make him “intervene strongly against spiritualist phenomenology (cut all ties with Ricoeur) and with Sartre. Derrida was useful to the Groupe Spinoza. pp. force Derrida to maximize his critique of phenomenology and his pseudo-rupture. Make metaphysics as such an object of analysis. Just as in 1945.” p. Throughout this period Derrida remained as suspicious of the group around Althusser as they were of him. Ecrits Philosophiques et Politiques. See also “Groupe Spinoza. 2. 4. See especially the reference to Derrida’s refusal of origins and the “trace. 433–529. twenty years later antihumanism was the buzzword of a fraught alliance. . Through criticism. With Foucault the greatest danger was his “political adventurism..276 Between phenomenology and structuralism science.” This was to be reined in by Althusser. Lacanian psy- choanalysis.” With Lacan.62 The Groupe Spinoza was also wary of the religious tone of Derrida’s work. and Heideggerianism.

The ends of Man 277 the turn to structuralism Antihumanism was a crucial plank in the Normalien program. Jacques Rancière.67 But in all cases the question was ironic. “Elèves d’Althusser. for what was repressed was not a dis- course but precisely the “non-work [non-oeuvre]” of madness. Not that this meant an uncriti- cal adoption of Lévi-Strauss’s philosophy. Althusser presented Foucault’s work on the History of Madness. The search for origins for Althusser and his students was the classical gesture of ideology. . but in his reference to an original unity between the two.” Magazine littéraire 304 (November 1992). A40–02. linguistics. and Pierre Macherey. sheets 1–2. Dumézil. Rather. p. “Seminaire 1962–3. mathematical for- malism. by appealing to a common language of structuralism. was able to organize the “liaison between psychoanalysis. he allowed the subject to reactivate the latent sense (signified) in discourse (signifier) tele- ologically. including Etienne Balibar.01. Althusser and his students gave presentations on such diverse subjects as linguistics. and epis- temology that constituted this singular moment in philosophy. A40–02.”66 This function of structuralist language can be seen in Althusser’s 1962–3 seminar on that topic. “Seminaire 1962–3” ALT2. which suggested that discourse was founded upon what it excluded and refused: the foundation of reason rested on the suppression of madness. 69 Althusser. “the unsaid [non-dire] is not a statement [dire] . 67 Louis Althusser. 68 Althusser. the first research seminar after the change in the status of the Ecole. but the condition of possibility for 66 Yves Duroux. sheet 3. Althusser.02. . but the language of their thought was structuralist. language.01. or of structuralism itself. folder 1. just as the humanists thought they could read into the complexity of history the signs of an alienated human essence. and Foucault. The structuralism seminar from 1962 to 1963 was run for and by the agrégatifs. According to his student Yves Duroux. 47. whether the origins of history. .” ALT2. sheet 2.” ALT2. The driving force of the course was the question of origins. Husserl posited a “gap” between signifier and signified. Lacan. Lévi-Strauss. structuralism provided a common set of conceptual tools that could be used to read other philoso- phies and judge them.69 No longer could there be a sense that a hidden truth could be discovered behind the explicit. and ALT2 A40–02. “Seminaire 1962–3. history of science.02. The idea of the origin led Husserl to believe that one could reach beyond an explicit discourse to discover its hidden meaning.68 Opposed to this. A40–02. He presented Husserl as a key culprit.

sheets 21–3. See Cahiers pour l’Analyse 4. 72 Ibid.278 Between phenomenology and structuralism the discourse.”71 When Foucault turned to the history of these structures and hoped to uncover their originary conditions. But according to Althusser. “Seminaire 1962–3.’”74 In lan- guage that recalls Althusser’s opposition between over-determination and 70 Althusser. The attempt to return to the great exclusion in the his- tory of madness was structurally similar to Husserl’s ideological attempt to find the original meaning of the formal.02. that which was hidden in the vertical [structural conditions] becomes the sense of the horizontal [meaning of history].” ALT2 A40–02. especially the latter’s essay On the Origin of Language. this development in Foucault’s project was a betrayal of his most important claims. sheet 5. and at times seemed to veer close to the Husserlian perspective. no immediate givens of the understanding. no ‘savage mind.” But this was what structuralism. and it would figure prominently in Jean Mosconi’s account. in trying to write a “history” of madness. Althusser suggested that Fou- cault provided a “vertical” one. Not looking for a “horizontal” analysis. “there are no absolute premises. following the unfolding of history.” expressly prohibited.”70 There was no original moment where the unsaid was immediately given. this analy- sis of Foucault’s work closely paralleled Althusser’s own understanding of structural analysis as expressed in Reading Capital. As Macherey put it. 71 Ibid. but which had since been forgotten. . 73 Derrida would write on the same theme for the second half of Of Grammatology..02. For Althusser. which “looks for the structures of the signifier. for Rousseau the absolute difference between nature and culture made the idea of a natural origin of lan- guage contradictory.72 The turn to the structures of signification entailed a refusal of all ques- tions of origins.73 While Condillac had traced the origin of language to the natural. and thus. 74. In the same seminar Pierre Macherey presented an analysis of this theme looking at the ideas of Condillac and Rousseau. he implied that it was pos- sible to reach beyond discourse to its ultimate ground. “Seminaire 1962–3. Foucault undermined the scientificity of his project. but rather hoped to uncover the foundational suppression that had formed a discourse. “that it is possible to discover the structures of the signified and the relationship between sig- nifier and signified. As we shall see.” ALT2. 74 Althusser. sheet 9. to be reactivated later. A40–02. studying synchronic structures of which texts and institutions were just manifestations. Foucault did not remain true to his struc- turalist premises. Both reactivated something lost: “curious reversal of metaphors.. sheet 3. p. Foucault was not content merely to analyze particular struc- tures of reason.

for they “contain. ‘men’ at the dawn of human culture. Althusser argued: “all thought which is knowledge is the thought of forms that is of the relations that unite determined elements .”77 Lévi-Strauss’s work manifested a “bad formalism” because it thought that some forms were more universal and essential than others.75 Lévi-Strauss. not a simple origin that could be located in history. 1962). 77 Ibid. both “missed [manque] their object. The ends of Man 279 humanism. conformed to Condillac’s model despite a declared debt to Rousseau. ALT2. The twin analyses of Condillac and Rousseau allowed Macherey to intervene on the contemporary theoretical scene. In particular Lévi-Strauss thought that he could uncover universal archetypes in prim- itive societies. p.76 Lévi-Strauss overstepped the crucial line dividing signifiers from the signified. 263–4. sheet 2. He sought an origin in the animal and natural. folder 3. 420 . p. The criticism that Lévi-Strauss hoped to privilege and naturalize prim- itive structures was one that Althusser himself would repeat in an August 1966 paper. according to Macherey. p. like Fou- cault. “Seminaire 1962–3. See my “Reading Lévi-Strauss with Derrida and the Cercle d’Epistémologie. that marked the boundary between science and ideology. where struc- tures ultimately reflected the biology of the brain. 419. 130. Lévi-Strauss.. but of bad formalism. See also a similar criticism by Althusser. complex. Macherey stated that Rousseau figured language as the dialec- tical relationship between several types of explanation. in primitive peoples. who comfort their bad conscience by finding. I don’t address the reproach of formalism in general to Lévi-Strauss. under a real and visible form the truth that is obscured and alienated today in our non-primitive. A40–02. makes especial reference to Balibar’s contribution to Reading Capital.”78 The error repeated that of humanist Marx- ism. betrayed the promise of his theory by breaching its asserted division between signifier and signified in an attempt to find some ultimate ground for the structures of signification. societies.” 76 Althusser.” ALT2. etc. In this sense he had betrayed his formalist inten- tions. Ecrits Politiques et Philosophiques. See Claude Lévi-Strauss. A40–02. 1966). sheet 10.01.” As Althusser suggested. Lévi-Strauss hoped to find invariant and basic structures in primitive societies and dissolve culture back into nature. culture from nature. 78 Ibid. . or.03. These societies were posited as an “origin” for culture. and The Savage Mind (University of Chicago Press.. Both theories unjustifiably privileged one ideological and subjective idea of the human. How to be a Good Structuralist. Lévi-Strauss and 75 Althusser. . Le Totémisme aujourd’hui (Paris: Presses universitaires de France. pp. “children of colonization. civilized.” It was the reverse racism of ethnologists. rather than concentrating on the system itself.

“Nature. and so any claim to do so was ideological.. for. 80 Jacques Derrida. the structures of kinship were not simple expressions of the human spirit or the brain. We can see how Derrida came to cleave to the Althusserian orthodoxy in the Ecole by his own reading of Lévi-Strauss. seeing a universal “essence” in what was really a complex and over-determined structure. Lévi-Strauss had falsely appealed to an ideological and thus empty universalism. talking about the human brain and not the rela- tions of production that were really fundamental. reserving the final thirty minutes for questions and answers. For Althusser. Derrida’s treatment of the father of French structuralism was perhaps his text that was most immersed in Normalien culture. while misrecognizing him. In their readings of the other structuralist thinkers. 1958). by declaring primitive social structures to be direct manifestations of human nature or brain biology. Derrida made space in his discussion of “writing and civilization” in Lévi-Strauss for his students to respond. Anthropologie structurale (Paris: Plon. 9.” Irvine. According to Althusser. but in this course Derrida deliberately confined himself to the first hour. sheet 20. ecriture. the paper began as a course for the agrégation in early 1966 at the ENS. In particular he could not give an account of the cultural variety found in ethnological research. p. it was not possible to reach the signified independently of the signifier. pp. especially in the ideological and subjective ground of immediate experience.14. which hoped to ground formal structures in the transcendental field. . Althusser and his students asserted the importance of restricting oneself to the scientific study of the signifier and decried any attempt to root structures elsewhere. Although it would achieve its definitive form as a chapter in Of Grammatology. The text is a privileged example for gauging the rapprochement that had occurred between Derrida and the norms of the ENS over his first two years there.80 His meditations on Lévi-Strauss were then published as an article in the Normalien Cahiers pour l’analyse. 418. Usually his lecture would fill the ninety minutes allocated. in contrast. 79 Ibid. in late 1966. culture.”79 This error came at a price.280 Between phenomenology and structuralism his epigones “claim to be representatives of Marx. In this they directly opposed the central gesture of phenomenology. the reasons for variation were clear. 364–75. In prematurely asserting the “object” of his science. Lévi-Strauss refused himself the analytical tools required to investigate them further. Derrida opened his text to the critical eye of his students. Althusser referred in particular to the passage in Claude Lévi-Strauss. but rather relations of production intimately connected to different modes of production. At several stages of its presentation and revision then. Unlike previous courses.

I.”84 Just as Althusser criticized Lévi-Strauss’s moral privileging of primitive societies. The ends of Man 281 Derrida’s analysis centered on a chapter from Tristes tropiques. pp. p. pp. In Lévi-Strauss’s presentation. 317–18. 183.”81 For Lévi-Strauss. hot and cold societies) with the presence or not of writing. pp. According to Lévi-Strauss. where Lévi-Strauss recounted how he had taught a Nambikwara chief to write. Where Althusser challenged the priority that Lévi-Strauss gave to “savage thought [la pensée sauvage]” by asserting that primitive societies were just as overde- termined and complex as those that were more advanced. 13. so too Derrida suggested that his declaration of Nambikwara purity demonstrated a reverse ethnocentrism. p. 82 Lévi-Strauss.85 Derrida reprimanded Lévi-Strauss for taking primitive societies out of the Marx- ist paradigm. A History of Structuralism. 1955). or a ‘zero degree’ with reference to which one could outline the structure. the growth. this primitivism made a nonsense of Lévi-Strauss’s declared Marxism. vol.” the “index to a hidden good Nature. . emphasizing the violence and social hierarchy that it allowed. Following this description. as a recovered native soil. Lévi-Strauss had always associated the civilized/primitive distinction (in Lévi-Strauss’s language. p. For Derrida. Of Grammatology.. Tristes tropiques (Paris: Plon. primitive society became an “anti-ethnocentric mirror. but just reversing the value judgment. and the social superiority that it confers. 114. Of Grammatology. Derrida. and when he taught the chief to write. Derrida questioned Lévi-Strauss’s nos- talgia for primitive societies. Tristes Tropiques. the chief “immediately understood its role as sign. Derrida appealed to a concept of writing that troubled the distinction between the primitive and the civilized. 118–20. See Claude Lévi-Strauss. he had even changed the name of his chair at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes from “Religions of Primitive Peoples” to “Religions of Peoples without Writing Systems. As Derrida noted. as for Althusser.. 81 Dosse. 85 Ibid. keeping the same categories and distinctions (society without writing). rather than its role in the constitution of science: writing was “more a ‘sociological’ than an ‘intellectual’ necessity. the insidious effects of social “warming” were soon visible. the Nambikwara was a “cold” society without writing. 314–18. and above all the degradation of our society and our culture. which supposedly contravened basic struc- turalist imperatives. 84 Ibid. declaring them free from any form of exploitation. it was writing that allowed the institution of social hierarchies and violence that were typical of “civilized” societies.”83 Like Althusser and his students. 83 Derrida.”82 Lévi-Strauss considered writing to be wholly damaging for a society. 130. p.

87 It was a remarkable turnaround.282 Between phenomenology and structuralism Firstly. . Derrida was adamant that writing was a necessary condition for science. p. he was able to marshal this language to challenge their idea of science. writ- ing played an even more important role in Derrida’s thought. Lévi-Strauss was only talking about class violence. 86 Ibid. 88 Ibid.88 Derrida’s engagement with Lévi-Strauss shows that. the turn to a study of writing would allow Derrida to smuggle his earlier phenomenology into the structuralist paradigm. he remarked that Derrida wasn’t sufficiently attentive to the differences of violence. And yet he used these ideas to criticize their claims to pure scien- tificity. while adopting a language and many philosophical strategies from the Althusserians. for Derrida the reaction of the chief of the Nambikwara showed that writing was not as alien a concept to the Nambikwara as Lévi-Strauss thought. And because writing was so clearly a condition for social hierarchies and economic oppression. crossing the boundary between science and ideology. For though Althusser excluded the work of Husserl and Heidegger as ideological.. p. above all. sheet 4. which would save science from an intimate connection to ideology. pp. The corollary of this would be that the violence of writing and class violence could be distinguished. a language.. the very science that Lévi- Strauss wanted to institute could not be detached from the ideologies he hoped science would overcome. 87 Ibid. What had begun as a reiteration of Althusser’s criticism of Lévi-Strauss turned out to be a direct rebuttal of one of Althusser’s most cherished claims.03..” they already had the means to understand it. A58–02. 127. which. scientific or not. it could not have been entirely foreign to them. allowed Derrida to criticize structuralist scientificity in structuralist language. 130–1. and questioned any search for origins. and. See Louis Althusser.86 Lévi-Strauss’s distinction between societies with and without writing could not be as absolute as he wanted to suggest. To the question “is there a knowledge. He followed them in their engagement with structuralism. that one can call alien at once to writing and to violence?” Derrida responded with an unequivocal no. The key to this curious combination was writing. Ever since his introduction to the Origin of Geometry. In Althusser’s reading notes on Derrida’s essay. 123.” ALT2. Derrida refused Lévi-Strauss’s attempt to separate the social and scientific aspects of writing. not violence in general. Writing and différance were the common ground for both science and the processes of capitalization and class hierarchy – the realm of ideology. Secondly and most importantly. As we shall see. that though they might not have had writing “au sens courant. “Notes sur Derrida. adopted their criticism of attempts to leave the realm of the signifier.

it is only since Marx’s later writings that we have known what it is to read and write. I. separated by the epistemological break. just as Feuerbach had been able to read it in God. . was simply to read (lesen. . Althusser asserted.. herauslesen) in black and white the presence of the ‘abstract’ essence in the transparency of its ‘concrete’ existence. Jacques Derrida89 Derrida’s science of writing was a direct response to the new style of reading proposed by Althusser and his students in the collaborative work Reading Capital. 16. is not . Over two volumes Althusser. p. but the inaudible and illegible notation of the effects of a structure of structures. acknowledging the Lacanian roots of many of his concepts. also Derrida’s criticism of expression. vol.”92 Thus in the 1844 manuscripts Marx was able to “read” Man’s alienated essence in the capitalist economy. 93 Ibid. vol. we must reread differently. a text written on the pages of a Book . 91 Althusser. 42. to write differently. and religious production. 16. The ends of Man 283 grammatology: a science of writing If today the problem of reading occupies the forefront of science.”93 Instead of trying to read something that was already there. and Balibar among others sketched and then elaborated two different models of reading: an old theological model that aimed to read an essence in appearance. and a new scientific reading that concerned the conditions of discourse. . The first sentence is not found in the English translation. and 41. Althusser insisted. . that we have begun to listen and speak. and its critique of an “expressive reading. Of Grammatology. Reading Capital.91 The young Marx. pp. or the “real” object hidden in its appearances. pp. Althusser suggested that reading itself was governed by structures in society that determined what was visible or invisible. p 17. In contrast. See Louis Althusser. Macherey. in Derrida. Because we are beginning to write. the essence of the historical human world. 90 Althusser. it is because of this suspense between two ages of writing.” Cf. The truth of history cannot be read in its manifest discourse. to get to the signified hidden behind the signifier. Althusser asserted that “the history of men . Lire le Capital. 92 Ibid. political. I.90 The two forms of reading mapped onto Althusser’s earlier distinction between the early and the late Marx. p. of its economic. . that 89 Derrida.. 16. If it was only since Freud. because the text of history is not a text in which a voice (the Logos) speaks. . aesthetic. Speech and Phenomena. followed the old way of reading. for which “to know the essence of things. 86–7. Humanism too – reading all of history as one simple dialectic – participated in this mode of reading that cut through all complexity to get to the supposed heart of the matter. p. Lire le Capital. .

p. just as much as what it was able to see. vol. vol. 96 Althusser. p. but produced its own object of knowledge. See also Althusser. which lie in the conditions of its production.” It was 94 See also Althusser.” As it stood the sentence seemed to be nonsense. in particular Ricardo’s claim that “the value of labor is equal to the value of the subsistence goods necessary for the maintenance and reproduction of labor. the classical polit- ical economists had surreptitiously moved to discuss the means necessary to keep the worker functioning. After all. 98 Ibid. p.96 Of particular interest was Marx’s epistemological break. 22.e. and their discussions of the value of labor. the sighting is the act of its structural conditions. vol. 99 Althusser. 41–53 and 70–81.98 In making this shift. but rather marked by “radical discontinuities.. p. I.99 As Althusser rewrote the phrase: “The value of labor (power) is equal to the value of the subsistence goods necessary for the maintenance and reproduction of labor (power). and refusing the teleologies that he had suggested allowed the convergence of the two in phenomenologies such as Husserl’s. it is the relation of immanent reflection between the field of the problematic and its objects and its problems. Lire le Capital. Reading did not reach through the mess of existence to gain a glimpse of the real object in its essence. the undifferentiated energy required for work that had to be fueled by the nourishment of the worker. which instituted the science of historical materialism. he was able to see something to which the classical political economists were blind. 95 Althusser. 97 Ibid. pp. Lire le Capital.” as new epistemological regimes arose that created new objects of knowledge. Reading Capital. . 25. 52. classical political economists like Smith and Ricardo had answered a different question than the one they had originally set themselves (what is the value of “labor”?) and they had “produced” a new object. I.. 25. Althusser analyzed Marx’s reading of the classical political economists.95 Detaching the object of knowledge from a mythical real object that expressed itself in knowledge. He saw that Ricardo had unintention- ally produced the idea of “labor-power. what was the “maintenance” or “reproduction of labor”?97 But when Marx read the passage. No longer concerned with the value of the work itself. 23. like in Foucault’s epistemes:94 The sighting is thus no longer the act of an individual subject. Reading Capital. I. p. Vision then loses the religious privileges of divine reading: it is no more than a reflection of the immanent necessity that ties an object or problem to its conditions of existence. endowed with the faculty of “vision” which he exercises either attentively or distractedly. Althusser asked. 42 and 48–9. pp. Althusser argued that history was not linear.284 Between phenomenology and structuralism caused the errors [bévue] and lacunae of a reading.” i. Lire le Capital.

102 Adopting its forms and mode of expression. whereas the spoken word was “a unity of sense and sound.101 Where Althusser analyzed the rise of the “labor power” and its corollary “surplus value” – what the capi- talist could take for himself after having paid the worker for his labor – Derrida discussed arche-writing. showing that he had produced the “concept of the efficacy of a structure on its elements. Writing was the signifier of the signifier. . As the Normaliens stressed. 103 See all the articles on the “Object of psychoanalysis. . 31. pp. 21. Since the science does not yet exist. this structure being the object of their science. or Althusser’s second contribution to Reading Capital. was governed by the meta- physical priority of speech over writing: phonologism. Derrida rewrote Saussure. both in their readings of Marx and appropriation of Lacan. according to Derrida. 29). . The ends of Man 285 only after Marx’s epistemological break of 1845 that he was able to move past prior ideological formulations and construct a new object of discourse. . the determination of the scientific object was the most important task for philosophy.” in the Cahiers pour l’analyse 3. 102 Amended citations from Ferdinand de Saussure. 51. Of Gramma- tology. 101 See the similar use of the word “classical” in his discussion of the linguists: Derrida. . as in Althusser’s presentation of Marx. 1916).” without being able to see it as such (p. Cours de linguistique générale (Paris: Payot. had considered the his- tory of writing to be separate and unimportant compared to the history of speech. Linguistics is only a part of that general science . or. in Derrida. to speak a 100 Althusser would then go and perform a similar “symptomatic reading” for Marx. . no one can say what it would be. but it has a right to existence. and 39. p. Mirroring Althusser’s own presentation. a place staked out in advance. the laws discovered by (grammatology) will be applicable to linguistics.100 In defining grammatology. Modern linguistics. the father of structural linguistics. Derrida made the same move. this object was defined more generally as the “concept of the capitalist mode of production” (p. Indeed Ferdinand de Saussure. Of Grammatology began as a recognizably Althusserian project. reading into the texts of the – in his case – classical linguists a new object that they had been unable to see themselves. the new object was produced through the recognition of the internal conceptual inadequacies of the previous object of linguistics. of concept and voice. Althusser and his students hoped to uncover this structure in their own reading of Capital. to be studied in a new science of gramma- tology. The formulation of arche-writing and its emergence out of the work of the classical linguists comprised the majority of the first part of Derrida’s book. replacing the word “semiology”: I shall call it (grammatology) . 16.103 And. p.” As it became clear over Reading Capital. 208). “The Object of Capital. Of Grammatology.

106 Ibid. especially in pronunciation changes?108 Derrida’s answer was that the best model for the functioning of the sign was not – as had previously been thought – speech. pp. pp.. p. If the watchword of Saussure’s linguistics was the arbitrariness of the sign. there was no absolute dividing line that could permanently 104 Derrida. 34. 105 Ibid. how could one explain the possibility of its usurpation? How could one account for the fact of what was de jure prohibited: the unnatural contamination of speech by its written form. p. The difficulties Derrida confronted in this passage can be attributed to those of his attempt to unite Heideggerian and Saussurean difference.286 Between phenomenology and structuralism more rigorously Saussurean language. Writing was dependent upon and secondary to speech. Writing was a dangerous “outside” come to disturb the proper functioning of language. if writing were really exterior to speech. in this model. the exclusion of writing in modern linguistics was particularly problematic. 109 Ibid. p. 107 The image of “clothing [vêtement]” was a direct reference to Husserl in the Krisis.” effacing its relationship to absolute presence. 31.107 Following Althusser’s outline of ideology. p. Speech was no longer the prototype for all language.106 Speech. Of Grammatology. how could one type of sign be distinguished from another and placed in a hierarchy? Further.. according to a purportedly “natural” relationship. 37.”109 Because speech was already a type of writing. “in which the other is announced as such. and writing as fallen and unimportant. of the signified and the signifier. and so its attempts to change speech demonstrated an unjust revolution of the proper order. but should itself be seen as just another “kind of writing. to be shown their rightful place at the bottom of the metaphysical hierarchy. logic.105 Further. Writing was a system of signifiers like any other.. 75. an inessential “clothing [vêtement]” thrown over the true purveyor of meaning. say. came first and writing was secondary and derivative of it. Derrida argued that the sign was instituted following the structure of the trace. but rather writing. Derrida argued that this prejudice (the metaphysics of presence) privileged immediate intuition. any impact it might have on. pronunciation represented an unhappy contagion. . 39–41 and 43–4. and it was difficult to see on what grounds it could be so passionately excluded.”104 Given the exteriority of writing to pure speech. 108 Derrida. Derrida considered that modern linguistics after Saussure participated in the very metaphysical assumptions that had always debased writing – assumptions that Althusser too would have called ideological because they were structured by the teleological unity of signifier and signified.” The sign was then not unmotivated but rather “becoming-unmotivated. 45–7. writing’s malicious tinkering with speech was considered by Saussure to be an unhappy forgetting of the “origin” of language. And yet. and regarded science. Of Grammatology.

ibid. In Saussurean linguistics. 78–90.. including its arbi- trariness (the purely conventional relationship of a letter to its sound). As understood within the metaphysical tradition. 111 Ibid.111 Even though writing was excluded from Saussure’s analyses. as long as it is still distinguishable from the rest of the alphabet). explaining the possibility of the contamination that Saussure decried. The ends of Man 287 exclude writing narrowly defined from speech.110 At this level. But writing was prevented from making a direct appeal to the signified from which it was buffered by another level of signification: 110 Derrida continued with a lengthy analysis of the disputes of Jakobson and Martinet with Hjelmslev over the necessary phonic quality of the signifier. pp. its negative and differential nature (the letter t is defined by its difference from all other letters). it seemed to privilege a referential understanding of language by making that relation- ship primary. and vert. what they meant. the shape. from the philosophical proximity of a traditional understanding of writing to the major claim of Saussure’s linguistics. then by a correlation of the differences between signifiers (the color words) and the differences between the signifieds (the vases). It was one of Saussure’s major theses that difference was fundamental to the production of linguistic value. it would be possible to develop a sense of the “value” of the words. or the object. the differences between them could not be classed as phonic or graphic – they were inaudible and invisible. But at a more fundamental level. 326 note. the emphasis on differences placed the materiality of the sign to one side. bleu. . according to Derrida. If a language teacher pronounced the word bleu on presenting a blue vase. At several moments of the Cours Saussure was compelled to use the model of writing in order to illustrate certain essential characteristics of language. along with the words rouge. speech was the immediate unity of signifier and signified. it would not be clear whether she were referring to the color. writing and speech could not be distinguished. Whatever the state of the signifiers themselves. however. and hence the inconsequence of variations in form and material (it does not matter how and where t is written. meaning is produced not by an immediate referential relationship of the signifier to its signified. but rather by the differences that exist between signs themselves. It resulted.. he had to call on it to elucidate his arguments. she presented many different vases of different colors. writing or the trace seemed a better model for the priority of difference. Saussure’s appeal to writing was not a mere slip or an expendable illustra- tion of his ideas. As Derrida argued. If. p. which was added for the book. Derrida found resources for his claim in Saussure’s text itself.

Of Grammatology.” Derrida asserted that this “amounts to saying once again that there is no absolute origin of sense in general. however real and massive. An arche-writing whose necessity and new concept I wish to indicate and outline here. as the signifier of a signifier (the written word signifying the spoken). and which I continue to call writing only because it essentially communicates with the vulgar concept of writing. in a process of constant deferral.” “natural..” etc. there could be no absolute origin. signifier and signified. p.288 Between phenomenology and structuralism speech. including speech:112 I would wish . 181. 56. Rather than restricting the realm of signifiers. 112 This curious linking between the intentionality of the signifier. If arche-writing (or the trace as it was also called) was the “origin of sense. required the origi- nal unity of heterogeneous elements. 113 Derrida. Derrida argued that the origin and the signified were already worked over by différance and the trace. language had never existed. for the trace was always the trace of something else. Essential History. the signified did not need to be excluded. as had Althusser before him. because the signified (speech) was itself a signifier.113 The emphasis on arche-writing and différance allowed Derrida to criti- cize the search for origins.”115 If. was possible only on one condition: that the “original.e. Derrida’s trace was “orig- inary. the identification of the movement of deferral from a signifier to the signified (which is itself a signifier) with the diacritical relationship between signifiers is more complex and fraught than Derrida allowed. there was one major difference. refusing the absolute immediacy of the signifier and signified. . It was writing that provided the model for this expansive version. to suggest that the alleged derivativeness of writing. That is. p. better modeled the horizontal relationship between signifiers that Saussure’s linguistics prioritized.. writing was a privileged metaphor in the structuralist account of all language. His was an expansive rather than restrictive version of structuralism. Writing. and constitutes perhaps the greatest difficulty in Derrida’s attempt to translate his phenomenological investigations into structuralist language. it demanded the “reference to a signified able to ‘take place’ in its intelligibility. that it had itself always been a writing.’ before any expulsion into the exteriority of the sensible here below. for it too was part of the general system of signification. as Joshua Kates has shown. 115 Ibid. 13. See Kates. as we saw for Althusser. . before its ‘fall. i. p. For Derrida. 114 Ibid. its intended relationship to a signified. Derrida absorbed the origin itself into the play of signifiers. never been intact and untouched by writing.”114 Origins. Though Derrida’s approach to origins seemed to mirror many of Althusser’s claims. p. In writing. While Althusser refused the search for origins. excluding any claims about origins and the signified.” preceding any distinction between signifier and signified. sensible and intelligible. and the differential relationship between signifiers is problematic. on the other hand. 95. . In Derrida’s words.

60. p.116 The differences between Derrida and Althusser are clearest in Derrida’s discussion of Louis Hjelmslev. but Derrida suggested that he remained nonetheless metaphysical.. 117 Derrida. for Hjelmslev rigorously adhered to a formal linguistics. Derrida suggested that just as the origin was already a trace.” But for Derrida “experience” was absolutely central. Rather than a move outside of the formal system to find a transcendental origin. were threatened by what Husserl had called the crisis of the sciences. Derrida claimed that “the decisive progress accomplished by a formalism respectful of the originality of its object. Husserl’s transcendental was already a sign. The ends of Man 289 Thus. Derrida was able to rehabilitate phenomenology within the structuralist framework. that is to say by another unper- ceived or unconfessed metaphysics. Althusser’s and Hjelmslev’s retort would have been that this appeal to experience was necessarily ideological. . like Althusser. In particular. the Danish theorist of glossematics. Hjelmslev had recognized that the differential nature of the sign prohibited a privilege of the voice. that transcendental ground revealed itself to be another manifestation of the formal system of writing: “the value of the transcendental arche [archie] must make its necessity felt before letting itself be erased . such as phonics or logic. by concentrating on formal systems. Unlike Jakobson and Martinet. . this transcendental was already structured by arche-writing. by rejecting lived experience.” Without a reference to this more fundamental experience (which put what was traditionally understood as experience “in parentheses”). which thus 116 Here Derrida referred to his analyses in Speech and Phenomena.118 But because in Derrida’s schema. the origin did not even disappear . because by reaching beyond the formal system of signifiers. Of Grammatology. whereas Althusser condemned the appeal beyond structure – in Husserl’s case. . 61 118 Ibid. .”117 Hjelmslev’s and Althusser’s claims. it sought to ground science in the vagaries of undisciplined and prejudicial subjectivity. it was never constituted except reciprocally by a nonorigin. it did not conform to traditional presentations. the trace.’ [would be] plagued by a scientificist objectivism. Hjelmslev refused any appeal to “experience. . detached from any material or immaterial substance. The discussion of Hjelmslev could well have been a substitute for Althusser himself. of ‘the immanent system of its objects. p. Derrida considered that the presentation of formal systems was itself an “experience. to the transcendental – as ideological. From a phenomeno- logical standpoint formal systems had no validity if they were not grounded in the “experience” of the transcendental sphere.

” But in grammatology. it also allowed a rapprochement between Saussure and Heidegger. and so the difference between signified and signifier was nothing (rien) too. the formal and the transcendental.” appearance and that which appeared. .” At these moments. could be subsumed under the general difference between signifiers (Saussure’s difference). for all his precautions. 121 Ibid. because it structured both. 23. Heidegger only implied that Being was a transcendental signified in certain parts of his work. The move to the primacy of différance followed gestures elsewhere in Heidegger’s thought. according to Der- rida’s schema.290 Between phenomenology and structuralism becomes the origin of the origin. As in Speech and Phenomena.. as we have seen. a “primum signatum . and functioned in its “horizons. for Heidegger the sense of Being was nothing (rien) outside of its ontic manifestations. In Heidegger’s case. implied by all categories or all determined significations.”122 Just as the signified was the trace of the trace. this would mean that Being too was structured like a signifier. . and especially in his criticism of Niet- zsche. p. because he appeared to posit Being beyond the beings in which it was “signified. Derrida argued that in certain parts of Heidegger’s work.. For this reason we should also be wary of Derrida’s criticism of Heidegger here. reframing it in structuralist language. phenomenology and structuralism. 20.” As Derrida had often asserted since his introduction to the Origin of Geometry. By appealing to writing Derrida was able to absorb his previous work on phenomenology into the general movement of the sign. where the movement of différance structured the experience of time and created the spatial categories of inside and outside. in his later writings. the transcendental and the formal.. there was no Being detached from a particular determined form. 120 Ibid. which seems to concede a little too much to his Normalien students.. 61. As Derrida was careful to make clear. another element in the play of signification. by Heidegger’s constant reference to the “voice of Being. 22.”120 It was a claim that was corroborated. a creation of the fundamental movement 119 Ibid.121 It is for this reason that Heidegger. the difference between a signifier and a signified (the ontological difference). p. arche-writing allowed the articulation of speech and writing. Heidegger too seemed metaphysi- cal. was increasingly concerned to cross “Being” out – what Derrida called the “last writing of an era. .”119 Arche-writing and différance preceded the difference between the formal and transcendental. p. temporalization and spacing. 122 Ibid. p. the world and the “lived. the thought of Being threatened to become a transcendental signi- fied. While the turn to writing allowed Derrida to bring Althusser and Husserl together.

” Kates. In his reading notes. It shifted the emphasis in Derrida’s work from the transcendence of Dasein to the move- ment of signification.” Drawing on the work of the anthropologist André Leroi- Gourhan. [is] a stage or an articulation in the history of life – of which we will here call différance – as history of the gramme.”123 The ontological difference may have been struck out. however. In his adoption of the structuralist language that was common currency at the Ecole. so too the “sense of Being” was produced by the movement between its determined forms. p. Différance then preceded and conditioned the “ontico-ontological difference and its ground (Grund) in the ‘transcendence of Dasein. p. The reinscription of the ontological difference in the language of struc- turalism had a profound effect that is worth noting here. . but its function of destabilizing any determined system was preserved. . The strengthening of his antihumanist position was not. and a genetic “pro-gramme” was more fundamental than any distinction between Man or beast. The ends of Man 291 of signification. Derrida suggested that “the unity of man and of the human adventure . 124 Derrida. uniting all forms of “life” from the amoeba to the new electronic programs of a cybernetic world. The difference between Being and beings was not the difference between two “things. now it was the internal differing and deferring of the signifier that powered systematic change. Of Grammatology. It was because Saussure’s difference had been contaminated with Heidegger’s that Derrida was able to unsettle structuralism’s synchronic systems. Derrida made clear that it must release itself from the con- cept of “Man. The signifier in Derrida’s work. Derrida had shifted closer to Althusser’s version of antihumanism where “Man” was the product of a given historical moment rather than that which denied the very possibility of such a determined totality. and we can perhaps see his hand in Derrida’s decision to promote the footnote into the text and vastly expand the Heidegger section in his 1967 book. suffi- cient to ingratiate Derrida with the Althusserians. by encompassing the seemingly recalcitrant domain of experience – 123 This was the passage that played a central role in my argument in chapter 6.” but rather was made apparent by the instability of any particular ontic determination of Being. Althusser gave this sense of “striking out” considerable prominence.’” which had first to be thought before being “struck out. Rather than the transcendence of any determined structure being an essential attribute of human finitude. .”124 Différance preceded and constituted Man. 162. 84. on outlining the characteristics of a new gram- matology. Essential History. For this reason. Kates makes this section a “topic sentence for the entire discussion of Grammatology.

p. As the common condition of the real and the discursive object. the transcendental and the formal. the science of writing should . the “signifier of the signifier” as the primary model of linguistics. We can see why the Groupe Spinoza thought Derrida’s break with phenomenology was only a pseudo-rupture.. 27. arche-writing could not simply be its object. the determined differences and the determined 125 Ibid. . the object of knowledge and the real object. he effaced the difference between the real and the discursive.. See also Althusser. Arche-writing was the “condition of possibility of ideal objects and therefore of scientific objectivity. it was a condition for the rise of science itself. in Althusser’s view. p. 126 Derrida. 127 Ibid. . signified and signifier. p. and thus. the very trajectory of his discussion showed that writing both preceded and threatened the distinction between the real object and the object of discourse. See also the French version.”125 Simultaneously condition and object. arche-writing “is that very thing which cannot let itself be reduced to the form of presence. It was for this reason that Derrida eventually declared that grammatology could not simply be a science. 89. p. preceding and conditioning the oppositions of presence and absence. science itself. was in fact a radical critique of the Althusserian project. . A science of the possibility of science? A science of science that would no longer have the form of logic but that of grammatics?126 Exceeding the bounds of science. vol.”127 Science could only study the “work and the fact of différance. writing is the condition of the episteme. De la grammatologie. in Derrida. and so it was dependent on “a certain kind of structurally and axiologically determined relationship between speech and writing. . 124. In particular. the sensible and the intelligible.292 Between phenomenology and structuralism Husserl’s transcendental and Heidegger’s Being – was markedly different from Althusser’s. look for its object at the roots of scientificity . Science in Althusser’s model relied on a secure and rigorous opposition between signifier and signified. p. ideology and science. Since arche-writing preceded and constituted this division between writing and speech. The latter orders all objectivity of the object and all relation of knowledge. Though Derrida had presented grammatology as a science of writing. Lire le Capital. despite all its attractive similarities to Althusser’s new mode of reading. By turning to writing. arche- writing would always resist the attempt to reduce it down to one side. Derrida made everything a type of discourse. 57. Derrida’s turn to writing. Before being its object. Final sentence added in the 1967 book. phenomenology and structuralism.” more specifically the idea of phonetic writing. 27. . I. Of Grammatology.

was caught up in a metaphysics that Derrida criti- cized. Derrida suggested that even Spinoza. or indeed writing.. Given all these changes. where phe- nomenology still held sway. by maintaining the sharp distinction between signified and signifier. Derrida adopted his stu- dents’ language. far from further supporting the idea of science. In his effort to engage with the Normaliens and make his work relevant. Derrida moved away from an earlier reliance on the transcendence of Dasein as the motor of historical change. one 128 Derrida.130 For all the progress they had made. Moreover. one of Althusser’s most important influences. in the Normalien negotiation between two antihumanisms – “Man” presented as a dangerous illusion. replacing it with the internal movement of signification that for- ever deferred the moment of pure presence. 33. The ends of Man 293 presences that they make possible. The science of writing. There cannot be a science of différance itself in its operation..”128 The foundation of the concepts in which science worked. 130 Ibid. 71.129 Science. p. the very ground of the distinction between intelligible and sensible. to the Ecole Normale Supérieure. could not be subordinated to that science. and like them criticized the search for origins and an extra-scientific ground for objective knowledge.. presup- posing the very oppositions between sensible and intelligible that différance and the trace preceded. the real object and the object of knowledge. that is to say of a certain nonorigin. p. Of Grammatology. 63. 131 Ibid. “structuralism” and “Marxism” and implicitly Althusser’s structural- ist Marxism. or his humbling in the face of the divine – it was the constructivist claims of Derrida’s mentor Althusser that won out. p. had not escaped onto-theology. shook “logocentrism” itself. emphasized his adherence to their theoretical antihuman- ism. As his context changed so too did Derrida’s philosophy: when he moved from the traditionalist Sorbonne. and thus ideology and science. then. 129 See ibid. . Saussure replaced Husserl and Heidegger as his most visible influence. p. were beholden to metaphysics. as it is impossible to have a science of the origin of presence itself.131 conclusion The history of Derrida’s thought from 1964 till 1967 has a great appeal for the intellectual historian. 46. and so the possibility of their articulation. perhaps the most important center of the structuralist revolution. In an attack that must have been particularly bruising for Althusser.

that ideology could never be entirely reduced. for them. Margins of Philosophy. But Derrida was always suspicious of the idea of such a break. given meaning by the students who saw it as a powerful tool in the pursuit of tangible ends. he remarked later. 132 Derrida. which. In the Ecole Nor- male Supérieure all philosophy was inherently political.or neo-structuralism challenged the pretensions of a hubristic humanity. which allowed Derrida to rein- scribe his earlier phenomenological investigations into the new philosophy. can be entirely just. The still readable traces of Derrida’s early phenomenological and reli- gious leanings in Of Grammatology made his students wary of him. For these young French men who looked for redemp- tion in the sureness of science and in distant revolutions. Just as in his early work. it was Derrida who constantly reminded them that no science is free from ideology. in which Derrida had hoped to show the limitations of human thought to make room for faith. and science was never pure. Discontinuity is never total. however foreign. p. . a con- cept. separating the old and the young Derrida. Derrida showed that structuralism could not claim the stability and certainty to which it aspired. showed that the trace of the past was irreducible. 24. and no upheaval of the social order.294 Between phenomenology and structuralism might be tempted to see an epistemological break. and context is never entirely determinative. In the 1960s at least. For though Derrida was always reticent in making his political positions explicit – a reticence that has led to charges of apoliti- cism – his ambivalence towards his students’ political project was clear to them in his careful criticism of their philosophical ideas. now his form of post. “is much used or abused today. Rigorously adhering to structuralist language.”132 The very problematic of writing and différance. Derrida never developed the type of following enjoyed by Lacan or Althusser. an immediate political relevance. a privilege of signification over subjectivity. and even the abstract analyses of linguistics had.

On the face of it they shared common goals with the students from Nanterre and the Sorbonne. who were facing a disciplinary hearing. ran roughshod over the traditional privileges of the university by inviting the police to break up the gathering. there were rumblings of student discontent at the Nanterre University campus. The unrest caught the Althusserians at the ENS off guard. the CRS. The Sorbonne Rector. the students complained of living and study conditions at the university. barricades were erected in the narrow streets of the Latin Quarter. on the evening of the May 10. just to the west of Paris. but in early May the same complaints could be heard on the streets of Paris. As a sign of soli- darity with the leaders of the Nanterre demonstrations. seen as exemplary of the Third World and communist resistance to the capitalist West. The decision escalated the unrest. Reading Capital had been an indispensable handbook for student Marxists across Paris since its publication in 1965. Jean Roche. channeling the ghosts of 1848 and the Paris Commune. Posters of Che Guevara and Mao Tse-Tung could be found plastered around university buildings. overreacting and fearing the expansion of the Nanterre disturbances. and. Both criticized the capitalist West and in particular its often exploitative relationship with the emerging Third World. Violence erupted in clashes between the students and the increasingly unrestrained riot police. Indeed. Epilogue A challenge to the Normalien political program was not long in coming. and Althusserian vocabulary 295 . But the sense of unrest was bolstered by widespread opposition to the Vietnam War. In the early spring of 1968. which had suffered most from the poorly planned and rushed higher-education expansion in the early 1960s. and the National Education Minister. some students orga- nized a poorly attended protest at the Sorbonne on May 3. who resorted to their batons and tear gas. including Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Alain Peyrefitte. The events in Nanterre caused relatively little stir. Predominantly.

It was this disconnect from the working classes and the labor movement that made Althusser’s students so suspicious of many of the revolutionaries. The fate of the revolution was no longer in its hands. and which thrived in its diversity of competing groupuscules. Lefebvre’s depiction of alienation in everyday life seemed more topical than Althusser’s presentation of over-determination. The disciplined theoretical overhaul urged by Althusser and his students was out of place in the carnivalesque atmosphere of May. Even as barricades were constructed on the Rue d’Ulm. As we saw in the last chapter.04.04. ALT2. the 68ers ignored the Communist Party. “the characteristics of ‘bureaucracies. the Ecole’s most important role was in the provision of medical care and as a haven for injured students.” .296 Epilogue had infiltrated often unacknowledged into the myriad pamphlets and speeches of May. who only joined the movement in the major strikes that were unleashed the following week. Stuck in their own “petit-bourgeois” concerns – sexual liberation and conditions at the university – the students demonstrated precisely the type of ideological and utopian thinking that Althusser had attacked. and Jean-Paul Sartre was the only established philosopher invited to address the students at the Sorbonne. the Althusserians had placed their hopes on a realignment of the political and theoretical orientation of the international communist movement and particularly of the PCF. which tied the events to “petit-bourgeois ideology. But in the event.’ to which the students seem definitively allergic.” While the Althusserians defined ideology as the misrecognition of social and economic structures.1 The antipathy was not one-way. curi- ously find themselves in the structural method. The student movement had begun elsewhere with other student leaders. and the Normaliens had to play catch-up. where most participants were poorly versed in current philosophy. their concerns and hopes matched better the playful analyses of the situationists than the dry and lengthy discussions by the structuralists. and the rejection of science. the emphasis on illusory human agency. the soixante-huitards saw it as the subservience of human creativity to such structures. A11. As Nanterre psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu wrote. for the most part. Althusser and his students were no longer the avant-garde. and regarded science as an integrating technique that hoped to 1 See the notes to this effect of the Groupe Spinoza. Insofar as it is possible to extract broad trends from the ideas of the 68ers. But. and the revolts in the Latin Quarter seemed at first detached from the needs of the working class.

2007). the days of his hegemony at the school were over. which mocks the Lacano-Althusserians at the ENS. to my knowledge. 4 Andrew Feenberg When Poetry Ruled the Streets: The French May Events of 1968 (Albany.” See Keith Reader. Before the events were over. you are hopeless]. 1969). See also Clément Rosset writing as Roger Crémant. Les Matinées structuralistes (Paris: R. and the Maoist student leader Robert Linhart. Génération. as Andrew Feenberg has it. History of Structuralism. p. 51–60. Balibar was chased out of Vincennes.: State University of New York Press. pp. 3 As many have pointed out. 468 and 480–1. For them. writing as Epistemon. Laffont. Indecision and inaction ruled. “Althusser à rien [Down with Althusser]” was scrawled on the walls of the Sorbonne. It was clear that Derrida expressed considerable sympathy for 2 Didier Anzieu. 63. Epilogue 297 quash dissent. p. 7 See Julian Bourg. Linhart admitted himself to a clinic. and there exists. . 6 Hamon and Rotman.”2 Humanity had to be freed from a system that wanted to turn everyone into mere cogs in a machine. pp. Though Althusser would develop his own thought and perform an autocritique. 1974). careful not to fall into the errors of “theoreticism” again. editor of Les Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes. “poetry ruled the streets. Ces idées qui ont ébranlé la France (Paris: Fayard. 5 Dosse. 120.Y. Symbolically. vol. however. “the structuralist era in France has done nothing but transpose into the domain of ideas the patent immobilization of the social structures of the corresponding epoch. We do. Martin’s Press. 1993). He has not written directly about it. have one document stamped May 12: a paper entitled “The Ends of Man.6 His Althusser-inspired UJC-ml collapsed. pp. 1968). From Revolution to Ethics: May 1968 and Contemporary French Thought (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. suggesting that it was marked by the events.3 His austere rereading of historical materialism had little place. 8 See Louis Althusser. when. N. “Althusser à rien” is a homophone of “Al. had a nervous breakdown.” Derrida commented on the timing of his essay. tu sers à rien [Al. II. The May 1968 Events in France (New York: St. and the new Gauche Prolétarienne was formed by some of its members. no record of what he did in those crucial days. Éléments d’autocritique (Paris: Hachette.7 This political weakness precipitated the decline of the philosophical influence of the Althusserians.5 Locked in his ENS thurne in the first few sleepless days of May. 28–9.”4 Althusser’s students did not fare much better: Macherey was booed at the Sorbonne.8 derrida: we revolutionaries We have very little sense of Derrida’s involvement in the events of May. Linhart struggled to find an appropriate response to what at the beginning seemed a purely petit-bourgeois student revolt. 2001).

” But such a representa- tion was false. .” aligning them with the central theme in his essay. a “shaking” to which Derrida wanted to contribute. This was the certainty that – beyond any particular policy positions. 11 Derrida. p. 114 and 134 (translation modified). nor that it endorsed the West’s “imperialistic” goals. Margins of Philosophy.” A conversation solely between Euro- American philosophers. the “end of Man. This did not mean that such a conference repeated the very claims of the West. Margins of Philosophy.”11 This geographical limitation – the Occidentalism of a certain form of philosophy – was brought further into relief by the theme of the conference. But Derrida asserted that their opposition “was not bothersome [ne gêne pas]. and the “societies. a “shaking” of humanism. More specifi- cally. they rather reinforced the sense that Western societies themselves could understand and speak for Man in all his universality. cultures. 112 (translation modified).”9 Derrida gave the paper in October that year at a Franco-American con- ference at the SUNY conference center at Oyster Bay on Long Island. They presupposed both the national differences that made them necessary and a “common ele- ment” that made a discussion of those differences possible. many participants had expressed their opposition to the War in Vietnam. He referred to 1968 events as a “shaking movement [mouve- ment d’ébranlement]. including that on such a major issue as the Vietnam War – had to be challenged. languages. they required “the representation of a certain transparent ether that all the participants must have. the conference purported to speak for all mankind. It seemed yet another example of Western arrogance.10 In his opening remarks.298 Epilogue the students. Indeed. that would be none other than what is called the universality of philosophical discourses. 9 Derrida. pp.” It was accepted – police did not disrupt the conference – because it posed no direct threat to Western dominance. International conferences such as that in New York did not shake the very foundations of Western society. Those who were a real threat to this certainty – and here Derrida referred to Martin Luther King and the 1968 student movement – were met with force: the assassin’s bullet or the police officer’s baton. and political or national organizations with which no exchange in the form of an international philosophical colloquium is possible are of a considerable number and extent. International conferences were not in fact universal. 10 See the conference proceedings published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (June 1969). but met predominantly in certain geographical regions (Europe and America). “Language and Human Nature. he discussed the conditions of possibility for such international philosophical conferences.

a hesitation between the on of a detached history. and Christian Democrats. 123–4. p. economic.” Derrida wrote. “We are. or ethnological. See also Derrida. 282. and that of French philosophy more broadly. Jean- Paul Sartre.14 To aid this present-day nous. 13 Derrida. of Marxism in the classical style. Derrida’s account started as we did. 119. political. humanism was “a sort of common ground of Christian or atheist existentialism. in a “period” that has brought humanism into question. For as we shall see. pp. with humanism.”12 Such were the sense and stakes of Derrida’s analysis of the current situation: “Where does France stand with respect to Man?” Derrida hoped to participate and aid this shaking. France had turned against “man” defined for and by Western scholars. he argued. “played out in the violent relationship of the whole of the West to its other. When used in the text. of the philosophy of values (spiritualist or not) or personalisms of the right or the left. Writing and Difference.” indeterminate with respect to the speaker. p. Derrida considered that the “we” – so close to “we-men” – could play the same falsely universalizing role as the word “man.. etc. Such indeterminacy is all the more significant because the history that Derrida recounted repeats the story I have elaborated over the past 300 pages: a story that was at once his. though rejigging the concept of Man to detach it from its earlier 12 Ibid. socialists.. . military relations. Philosophically. ibid.. Derrida provided a history whose sub- ject was the on. twin ébranlements. in this case.” it was stuck within the ethnocentric system it hoped to escape. or the on of collective autobiography. 118. Margins of Philosophy. p.” Derrida marked the complexities of the current situation – its difficult and contestatory relationship to humanism. 117. an “antihumanist and antianthropologist ebb.15 The main culprit. 134–5. to prevent it from being reabsorbed once again by a system that too often domesticated its rebels and turned hopes of escape into false exits. to secure and promote its shaking and deconstruction of humanism. In French the pronoun on hesitates between “we” and “they. but the turn-around was neither simple nor complete. See especially pp. In the early postwar period. 14 Cf.” Though it was an antihumanist “we.”13 But by using the pronoun “we [nous]. Epilogue 299 The soliciting of the concept of Man and the student revolution of 1968.” a unity mirrored on the political scene with the shared “anthopologism” of communists. 15 Ibid. nous most often refers to a residual humanism in antihumanist projects. whether a ‘linguistic’ relationship (where very quickly the question of the limits of everything leading back to the ques- tion of the meaning of Being arises). p.

was nothing other than the metaphysical unity of man and God .”18 Moving beyond anthro- pologism. p. which like psychologism and historicism could evoke a crisis of the sciences.. 18 Ibid. sideshows to the dominant trend in the French intellectual arena: structuralism. nor that this progress had led to the questioning of the humanist insistence. and this facilitated the translation of the “we” of the philosopher to “we-men”. which in its turn against “Man” had rejected Husserl and Heidegger as humanists rather than working through the antihumanist implications of their thought. “What one [on] then called the ‘réalité-humaine’”was still Man. Derrida argued that this unjust privilege of a particular human experience – “what one [on] had thus named in an allegedly neutral and undetermined way. . 115–16 (translation modified).16 This uncritically assumed consensus about the fundamental unity of “Man” was challenged in the 1950s by new readings of phenomenology. or of Heidegger. [T]he project of becoming God as the project constituting the réalité-humaine” – marked Sartre’s step into onto-theology.. where the phenomenological reduction bracketed all questions of mundane objects including “Man. p. Husserl. 119 (translation modified).300 Epilogue spiritualist and metaphysical presuppositions. Matching his earlier complaints. .. which was a determined and regional science. But in a phrase where the trace of the je remains particularly strong. The same humanist misreading had dominated the initial Heidegger reception in France. Humanist philosophers restricted themselves to Hei- degger’s philosophical anthropology. 117 (translation modified).”17 Derrida with others had come to recognize that the claims of the German phenomenologists went beyond anthropologism. and Jean-Toussaint Desanti proposed a transcendental phenomenology. Humanistic interpretations of Husserl privileged “descriptive and regional work” and “one [on]” ignored the “transcendental questions” that grounded it. Suzanne Bachelard. It is true that the developments in phenomenology were. and in their commentaries and interpretations they bypassed the ontological 16 Ibid. Derrida asserted that this “does not exclude that one [on] had made some progress in France in the reading of Hegel. the philosopher was allowed to use his own experience to act as a spokesman for all humanity. never called into question the unity of Man. 17 Ibid. . pp. the existentiel analyses of Man. where the vagaries of human experience were sidelined in favor of the sure devel- opment of science. secondary to and derivative of broader concerns. by 1968. writers such as Tran Duc Thao.

p. were understood in the sense of this proximity of Man to Being. the argument made by Christian Heideggerians like Henri Birault. For Heidegger. Derrida argued that the question of Being was always inextricably linked to what he called the “proper of man. even as this transcendental demanded the surpassing of the regional science of “Man. 122 (translation modified).” In Being and Time Heidegger had stressed that “we” always have a pre-understanding of Being. no matter how primitive he is. even after the explicit turn against humanism.”20 Reason teleologically uncovered itself in a transcendental History. And yet. As Derrida summarized his argument.” cited in Derrida. and ultimately the Being of God. the animal rationale. Derrida recognized a humanism at a higher level in both German thinkers..” in ibid. though not man. and implicitly their later French interpreters: they demonstrated.”21 It was still a “Man” who grounded the transcendental and allowed its development and movement. or the Lichtung. It was. 126–7 (translation modified).” This was why Dasein (or “we”) was that being that had to be interrogated to open up ontological questions. who urged the rejection of humanism as a first step towards an understanding of Being.” the latter was still “that being that we are ourselves” that had privileged access to Being. and raise to a new level. “The Origin of Geometry.” The end (telos) of Man coincided with the drive to move beyond him (the end of Man). the French emphasis on Man. 20 Ibid. the thinking of Being (objective genitive) was always the “thinking of man” (subjective genitive). Despite his distrust of the word “Man” and preference for “Dasein. The same was true for Heidegger. and he resisted metaphysics and 19 Relever was Derrida’s new translation of the Hegelian Aufheben. is nevertheless nothing but man. . a “sublation of Man [relève de l’homme]. as we saw in chapter 5. Epilogue 301 questions that constituted Heidegger’s explicit project. though transcendental phenomenology exceeded and comprised anthropology.23 All the metaphors of the clearing. Margins of Philosophy. “functions in every man.”19 For Husserl. Man was still privileged in Heidegger’s thinking..”22 In the later works. obscured the true rela- tionship with Being. preserve. 122. which meant to cancel. p.” which announced itself to “humanity. This teleology of reason and transcendental phenomenology. in 1968. 23 Ibid. 22 Derrida. pp. as Derrida argued. See “Le Puits et la pyramide. Margins of Philosophy. p. “one [on] can read in that same opening the teleology that commands Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. as Husserl noted. Man was always “close [proche] to Being. like all onto-theologies. 21 Husserl. “one [on] sees then that Dasein. 128.

” constituted the most significant advance by the structuralists. pp. equally.” The breaking away from this concern with meaning. the “destruction” of “metaphysical humanism is produced initially on the basis of a hermeneutical question on the meaning or the truth of Being. the subject of both Heidegger and Husserl’s phenomenology was still human. In both Husserl and Heidegger.302 Epilogue humanism only to respect better the “dignity of man. an unspoken understanding between the “we” or “we-men” to whom the meaning of Being was always accessible. by using against the edifice the instruments and stones available in the house. Husserl and Heidegger had merely displaced Man from the object to the subject of philosophy. It was this residual humanism that legitimated the structuralist critique of phenomenology: “what shakes perhaps today. as Derrida showed. For Husserl the ambivalent turn away from/back to Man operated according to the “essential motif” of a “reduction to meaning [sens]. Both humanism and the philosophies that wanted to overturn it implied an unjustifiable universality. 134–5. In terms that resembled the analyses of the Althusserians. the co-belonging and co-propriety of the name of Man and the name of Being. the “reduction of meaning” as opposed to the phenomenological “reduction to meaning. But. the study of Man as a regional science was made subservient to a broader phenomenology that.” Husserl and Heidegger rejected anthropology as a regional science because it had always impeded the uncovering of sense and meaning.”24 In their relève of humanism. in language. But because this was the traditional project of philosophy.” Similarly for Heidegger. as primary.” Derrida argued that even as Heidegger turned against humanism (constituting the end of Man) for the thought of Being. by repeating what is implicit in the founding concepts and the original prob- lematic. the thought of Being was Man’s end or telos.. such as this co-propriety inhabits. In moving beyond an ontic humanity. . is it not this security of that which is close. They attempted “an exit and a deconstruction without changing terrain. and is inhabited by the language of the West. that is. was no longer able to draw on anthropology’s insights. the essence of Man was merely replaced by the “we” that had a privileged access to meaning. Husserl’s and Heidegger’s phenomenologies were never fully radical. In both one could recognize a conspiratorial complicity between the writer and the reader. Derrida argued that the structuralist project showed that “meaning [sens]” could only be understood “on the basis of a ‘formal’ organization which in 24 Ibid.

They targeted the very metaphysical ideas that retained phenomenol- ogy as a humanism. Epilogue 303 itself has no meaning. participated in the general antihumanist move- ment. p. cannot be simple or unique. “the choice .’ one [on] has nothing but the choice between two strategies. Derrida implied. Both hoped to separate themselves from bourgeois and ideological Western ideas and install themselves in the “outside” “in a discontinuous and irruptive manner. 28 Ibid. Derrida declared.”26 But such an approach posed many dangers. the structuralists threatened to reinscribe their thought into the old system. Structuralism would 25 Ibid.”25 In reducing meaning. pp. Margins of Philosophy.”28 Writing. The difficulties of escaping ethnocentrism and the constant danger of subtly reinscribing old systems were common to both the phenomenolog- ical immanent critique of metaphysics and the structuralist attempt at a clean break: “from the inside in which ‘we [nous] are. As the students who denigrated the work of the Althusserians attested. structuralism maintained the very metaphysics that it tried to overcome. the Althusserians shared a common goal with the 68ers. as was his central thesis in Of Grammatology. “the simple practice of language ceaselessly reinstates the ‘new’ terrain on the oldest ground. A new writing must weave and interlace the two motifs. the sense of the privileged access of a (Western) Man to universal meaning. where each prevented the other from falling into its own particular errors. 133–4. allowed a convergence of phenomenology and structuralism. because neither could fully overcome the system they criticized. and more specifically the Althusserians at the ENS. 282.” There was no ultimate and transcendental meaning to which we had access. p. In this sense.” and yet. Writing and Difference. p.. . everything was dependent upon local conditions: “one [on] conceives that the reduction of meaning operates by means of a kind of break with a thinking of Being which has all the traits of a relève (Aufhebung) of humanism. the structuralists. 26 See also Derrida.” As he elaborated.. . 27 Derrida. in particular the resistance to the Vietnam War that Derrida noted at the beginning of his paper. it was another part of the machine that crushed human creativity.”27 It was the same criticism that Derrida had detailed in Of Grammatology: by using the old opposition between signifier and signified. . 135. Derrida suggested that they ran the danger of “inhabiting more naı̈vely and more strictly than ever the inside one [on] declares one has deserted. The Althusserian attack on meaning could all too well be seen as complicit with the system it attacked. 135 (translation modified).

because the life that they announce will itself be created under the sign 29 Ibid. the French on was itself etymologically tied to the homme. a Man effaced by the process of linguistic transformation and history. Rather the always insufficient attempts to move beyond “man” were themselves part of the broader history of the on/homme. “the proletarian revolutions will be festivals or they will not be at all. resulted from “one [on]’s” attempt to break with the old spiritualist ideas about the essence of Man “with all its metaphysical heritage.” Such a deconstruction could never fully detach itself from “man. Where the Althusserians urged a clean break. no coupure épistémologique. the traces of Derrida’s theological and phenomenolog- ical past..”30 The history of the “on” gives us the story of the continual effacement and reinscription of Man. in the play of telos and death. which it would deconstruct from within. Even Sartre’s humanism. better models. their claims to totality threatened. and this prescription has never done anything but modulate the equivocity of the end. no doing away with history. . the end of Man has been prescribed since always. of the constant overcoming of humanism. Fittingly so because. 30 Ibid.” while phenomenology would bring to attention the dangers of an old metaphysical vocabulary.304 Epilogue limit phenomenology’s attempt to revert to a humanism of “meaning. In his history of the “on. The end of Man was only conceivable from the perspective of a grammatology that worked between these two “ends of Man.” and yet it continually worked at the undoing of all humanisms. 134.” every type of humanism was the result of the overcoming of a prior more metaphysical form. p. Derrida recommended play and the dance of Nietzsche’s Overman. Derrida noted. p. brought him into line with the “mouvement d’ébranlement” in Paris that had left its stamp on the paper’s composition.”29 So too the residual humanism in Heidegger’s “proper of Man” was in the process of its own deconstruction in his critique of the “close [proche]”: “In the thinking and the language of Being. 115. There was no clean break. like its German counterpart man. Through an understanding of Heidegger and phenomenology. without supplanting them with newer. Derrida’s history was the history of play.” that never reached an absolute outside. an understanding first expressed in a religious argument about Man’s finitude. without thereby asserting new and more all-encompassing systems. This play.. the movement beyond “man. It was the con- stant play of différance. As the situationists wrote. structures could be destabilized.

Génération. . see Douglas Smith. as they would play an important role in the reception and future development of Derrida’s thought. Situationists International. expounding a kind of pre- structuralism.” Modern and Contemporary France (November 2005). but rather because they reveled in its possibilities. and the developing “post-structuralism” of Michel Foucault. cited in Hamon and Rotman. While he has often been charged with neglecting history. Alongside Deleuze’s anti-psychiatry and celebration of difference. Derrida’s joyful plural readings remained open to the future not because they broke with the past. “Giving the Game Away: Play and Exchange in Situationism and Structuralism. We finish with the “events. 31 The Poverty of Student Life. Derrida attempted to mediate between phenomenologists and structuralists. and its differences from the post-structuralist version.” events that would reshape the intellectual landscape of postwar France. For an analysis of the concept of “play” in Situationist discourse. And yet at this vigil of a bright new day. detailed his own history and the intellectual history of postwar France that were united in the “on” of his narrative. Barthes’s playful structural- ism in S/Z. its relationship to anthro- pology and ethnography. In this conclusion we remain at a crossroads. 399. Epilogue 305 of the festival [fête]. If in his 1967 Of Grammatology. As Lévi-Strauss and Althusser dropped by the wayside.”31 Far more than the dry theory of his Althusserian students. Derrida returned to the past. Derrida sat at the threshold of a new intellectual age. the fervor and carnivalesque that marked 1968 allowed him to be appropriated as part of the new philosophy. Derrida’s play made common cause with the language and ideals of the revolution. Derrida’s strategy here is instructive. the hope of another beginning. Derrida’s thought became emblematic of postmodernism. p.

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102. See also Louis Althusser. Walter. 15. 232. 4. 2 268. 22. 1. 159. Bates. 22. 104. Robert. 274. 228 236. Claude. 146. 181. 10. 305 Beaulieu. 217 Aron. 264 Axelos. 274–6. Lucien. 1. 264. 305 Alquié. 232 antihumanism. 177. 89. 230–9 Badiou. 108. Bachelard. Biemel. 49. 274. 17. Roland. 245. 201 Bourdieu. 4. 90. Nicholas. 183. Bernasconi. 283. 261. Pierre. 268. 266. 230 Bourg. 235 Borne. Mark. 232. 159. 227 297 Algerian War. 82. 242. 105. 15. 272. Mikkel. Kostas. Maxwell. 291. 103. 154. 223. Emile. 34. 274 Barsotti. 45. 9 Derrida’s. 268. 28. 89. Jacques. 290. Bataille. Robert. 229 See also Groupe Spinoza Bergson. 148. 87. 91. 291. 56. Bennington. 2. 10 295 Berger. 216. 280 157. 269. 151 Alleg. 103. 304 Birault. 303 Bernard. Olivier. 97. 232. David. 122. 199 300 Bevir. Henri. Pierre. 4. Renée. 263. 41. Henri. 297 Aucouturier. 264 295–7. 105. 146. 304 Bidault. 147. 265. 183. 108. 277. 4. 259. Etienne. 231. 222–9. 115. 38. 261. Gaston. 109 Bouveresse. 27 Sartrean. 85. 262. Maurice. Jean. 181. 288. 85. Bernard. Artemko. 157 Artaud. 173–6. 261. 146 Bourbaki. 7. 179. Georges. Michel. Henri. Louis. Bianco. 150–1. 229 Bass. 22. 264. 256. 4. 198. 109 Baas. 5. 162. 106 Aristotle. 5. 1. 269. 99–100. 106 Borch-Jacobsen. 13. 44. Etienne. Beaufret. 261. 226 Blum. Baudrillard. Jean. Fernand. Henri Birault. 286. 263. 43. 235. 2. 9 207. 216. Georges. 178. 163. 68. 13 Bouvet. 100. 4. 120. 279–80. 68. Jean-Paul. 281. 24. Groupe Spinoza Blanchot. 57. 75 283. 169. 276. 17 Barthes. 299. 64. Maurice. 5. 265. 293. 101. 101. 107. 264. 116 264 Aubenque. 120. 94. 92. Pierre. 266 Bédarida. 183. 267–73. 117 For Marx. 269. 285. 5. 293 Bigo. 261. Albert. 160. 300 Demands of. Pierre. 293. 265–7. agrégation. 181. 186. 85. 272. 293. 176 Aron. 104. 302. 273 See also Jacques Derrida Balibar. 289. 116. 298. 102. 85. 227 93. Jean. 283–4. Pierre. 101. Henri. Julian. 25 Bachelard. 224. 163. Didier. 173–6. Antonin. 277–8. Alan. 183. 9. Suzanne. 155. 299. 292. 273. 273. Alain. 210 319 . 265. 38. 234 Christian. 152. 42 Anzieu. 282. 108 291. 278. 150. 245. 7. 1. 44–6. 296 Bloch. 147. 250. 259. Geoffrey. 225. 68. 49. 42. 156. 135. 257. 279. 9. 103. Léon. 127. 259. 27 Adereth. 205. 275. 226. 123. Gaston. 41. 165. 90. 301 Jacques Derrida. 294. 147. 11. 84 Arnaud. 230. 201 Althusser. 97 Reading Capital. Index Abirached. Raymond. 29 Marxist. 267.

9 de Saussure. 259. 136. Derrida. 234 294. 104 and nihilism. 155. 145. 53 191. Czarnecki. Nicholas. Maurice. 41. 243. 91. 192. 190. 160. 268. 9–12. 226 “Freud and the Scene of Writing. Pierre.” 192–4. 13. 108. 7. 1. Rudolf. 199. 254. Henri. 94 188. Joseph. 61. 5. Régis. Hent. Simon. 200. Jacques.” 185 Cornu. 217. Davy. 285–8. 276 . 25. 200. 29. 109. 185. 132. 172. 144. 215. 179 deconstruction. 239–43. Cohen. 180. André. François. Hélène. 78. 278 163–70. 255. 223. 104. 105 202. 140 194. 282. 72. 108 and atheism. 68 268. 18 Carnap. 232. 16 économie. 69. 219. 207. 243. Cohn-Bendit. 272 Canguilhem. 290. 67. 75. 9. 161. 161. 109–11. 229. 29. 211. 87. 186. 178–9. 85. Albert. 92. 63. 235. 268.” 194–7 Castro. 8. 60–2. Georges. 278. 73. 6. 183. 74. 262. 142. Critchley. 204 de Vries. Léon. 75. 192. 15. 108 Caputo. 112. François. 9. 232. 216. 197 Cousin. 83. 282. Charles. 186. 244. 51. 43. 49. 59. 222. 183. 227. 303. 147. 215. 280. 56. 60 d’Harcourt. Henri. 221. 1 logocentrism. 305 de Beauvoir. 140 as outsider. Jean. 275. 293. 280 Camus. 75. 61. 193. 185. Ferdinand. Gilles. 5. 41 190–1. 10. Armand.320 Index Breckman. 232. Georges. 201 de la Croix-Laval. 290. 1. 13. 212. 144. 48–55. Philippe. Alphonse. 227. 304 Critique (journal). 64. 138. 295 143. 291 and Marxism. 8 and Christianity. 179–80. 202. 197. Che Guevara. Jean Laplanche. 158. 20. 218. 102. 258. de Lubac. 239. 6. 196. 177. 8. 179. 221. 41. 30 107. Peng. Jean. Chaplin. 233 Origin of Geometry.” 198. 193 “Genesis and Structure. 200. Tamara. Daniel. 264. 191. 171–3. Corbin. 230. 236. 153 “Cogito and the History of Madness. Auguste. 111. 41 God. 256 Collège de France. 186. 183. 265. 271 Cixous. 170 Brunschvicg. 10 179. 228 “Force and Signification. 152. 169. Franz. 186. 74. 121 Debray. 64. 190. 45 184. de Cusa. 227. 148. Maurice. 132. 222. 121. 68 de Waelhens. 147–50. 127. 15. 198. 161. 1. 183. 222. 159–60. Châtelet. Serge 229. 269 “Ellipsis. 1. 90. 7. 63. 250. 131. 294 154. de Condillac. 3. 288. 152. 55. 128 293 Breuer. John. 146. 282. Auguste. 219. 191. 11. 256. 6 65. 267. Josef. Simone. 293 and morality. 104. 63. 251. 211–15. 198. 89. 142. 285 276 See also Jacques-Alain Miller. 226. 10. 231. Leclaire 257. Caveing. 165. 262 220. 70. 50–5. 293 cybernetics. 273. Victor.” 184 Cogniot. Olivier. 290 de Gandillac. Fidel. 17 and history. 91 différance. 7. 7. 67. 191. Mustapha. 183. 265. 265. Warren. André Green. 147. 221. 231. 1. 200. 2. 254. 80. 100. 181. 29 personal relationships. 297 Deleuze. 257 Crémieux. 2. 274. 262 and communism. 233 256–8. 12. 257 de Gaulle. Maurice. Darbon. Jan. 285. Alain Badiou. 151. 140. 161. 259 Charbonnel. 271. 18. Corvez. 28 Of Grammatology. 49. 18. Etienne Bonnot. 194. and the agrégation. Cavaillès. 8. 221. 189 Clavel. 183. 50. 201. 180. 197 Comte. 264 childhood in Algeria. 8. 80. 209 as Jewish philosopher. 220 Corneille. Cheah. 15–18. 9. 229. 201–3. 51. 3. 19–20. 291. 257. 181. 2. 67 Daniélou.” 190. 187. 156. 198. 225. 173. 194. 175. 27. 6. 109. 274. Georges. 305 Cahiers pour l’analyse. 167–70. 26 and existentialism. 109 Cusset. 256 GREPH. 188. 13 editorial practices. 261 “La Parole Soufflée. 146. 189. 63. 10 293 Chérif. 267. Adolphe. 261 Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes. Jean. 84. 280–2. 3. 5. Brentano. 188.

207 Dreyfus. 220. 302. 67. Robert. Jeanne Mercier. 95. François. 109. Oswald. 99 82. 70. 110. 57. 105. 62. Farber. Mikel. Paul. 24. 108. 61. 300 Descartes. 59. 95. Eugen. 279. 104. 293. 170. 272. 193. 62. 181. 143. 276. 64. 127–31. 230 234. 22. 44. 136. 262–3 301. 261 289. 73–8. 206. 189. 162. English. 74 266. 50. 258. Marguerite. 123.” 74. 158. 101. 61. 9 64. 67. phenomenology. 118. 68. 127–31. 113. 274 “Restricted Economy. 3. 3. 207. 32. 226. 4. 46. 277 305 Duroux. 43. Fauve. 200. 183. 261. Jean-Toussaint. 21. 63. 55. 144 Dreyfus. 74. 255. Dina. 228. 196. 47. Herman van Breda. 261. 3. 132–6. 284. authenticity. 122. communist cellule.” 186. 180. Michel. 139. 2. 236. 144. 89 Flacelière. 65. 62. 113. 71. 3. 61. 121. 260. Jean Paumen. 183. 179. 71. 80. 7 159. Paul 269–72 Foulquié. 1. 97–101. “Structure. 180 Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS). 35. 64. 7. 232 Flynn. 29. Dumézil. 120. 105. Louis Lavelle. 207. 183. 96. 41. 221. 224. 259. 67. 106 141. argot. 271. 67. 161. 109. 281. 183–6. 129. 178. 201. Ludwig. 94. 245 and religious thought. 177. 138. 114. 261 144. 48. 202. 93. 72. 65. 151. 93. 81. 293. 263. 243–56. Yves. 113. 227. 260. René le Senne. 123. 180. 267. 261 82. 140. Esprit (journal). 183. Maurice 292. 293. 296 and psychoanalysis. 304 104. 144. 85. 146. Etienne Borne. 57. 269. 76. 101. 93. 195. Jacques. Henri. Richard. 283 Feenberg. 290. 5–7. 59. 2. 3. 294. 9. 63. 235 181. 113. 141. 140–5. 283 Dondeyne. 29 Reading of Husserl. 301 Evans. 264. 7. 194–7. 181. 7. 176. 259. 72. 121. 54. 106. 281. 283. 228. 212–15. 187. 297 Fink. Andrew. Camus. 300 “The Ends of Man. Francis Jeanson. 179. 3. 117. 142. 80.” 186 anguish. J. 272. 100 Feuerbach. 103. 106 Frege. 97. 255 Faucon-Lamboi. 155. 299 Speech and Phenomena. 105. 10. 101. Roger 220 Troisfontaines. 279. 282. 122. 268. 40. 223 Wahl. 191. 109. 2. 94. 219 Dosse. 136. 249. René. 87. Simone de Beauvoir. 221. 229. 230. 28. 48. 55. 297 Dilthey. 50. 271. 3. The Problem of Genesis. Jean Derrida. Jean-Pierre. 39. 19. 230 and skepticism. 3. René. Gottlob. 33–8. 72. 103. 234. 8. 105. 111. 140. 254. 44. 131. 76. 183. Writing and Difference. 211–15. 55. 229. 140. 256. 50. 267. 57. 105 dialectic. 94. Reading of Heidegger. 83–93. 90. Gabriel 197–201. Claude. François. Christian. 55. 147. Thomas. 232. 207. 299 305 distinction existentiel/existential. 2. 168. 146. 165. Marcel. 143–4. 143. Léon. 82. Eribon. 266. 104. 140. 305 See also Jean Beaufret. 202–3. secret. 181 293. 57. 237. 256. 229. 80. Engelmann. 303 Merleau-Ponty. Henri Gouhier. 221. 77. and Play. 113. 167. Simone Weil Desanti. Henri. 106. 146. 97. Albert. 219. Marvin. 95. 1. Sign. 106. 58. 264 219 Catholic groups. 166. 125. 144. Faye. 290 143 and structuralism. 304 Emery. 274. 183. 71 atheistic. 152. 175. 103. 138. Index 321 and the Prix Cavaillès.” 187–8. Dufay. 39. 4. 239–42. 46 Fink. 124. 144. 6. 109–11. Dufrenne. 80. 156. Ey. 78. 78. 57. Jacques. Wilhelm. 285–8. 290. 3. 106 Foucault. writing. 58. 109. 131. 155. 82. 176. 256. 64 143. 257. 133. 154. 135. 105. 49. 119. 243–56. religious turn. 156. Alfred. Claude. 173. 215 . 144. 60. 207 160. 2. 101 104. 61. 110. 192. 227. Albert “Violence and Metaphysics. 127 233. 34. 276. 235. 277. 107. 289. Evans. 96. 92. 21. 221. 118. 58 Dussort. 80. 147. 103. 57–60. 99. 162. 90. 238–9. 160. Bruce. 87. Jean-Paul Sartre. 196. 12. Didier. 41. 161. 136–8. 113. 277 Foulquié. 280–2. 197 76. 33 Ducrot. 150. 269. 143. 285–90. existentialism. Claude.

104. 72. Denis. 300. 2. 287. 217–19 279. 124. 80. 237 Greco. 297. Jean Wahl Haar. Gabriel Marcel. 10. Jürgen. 273. Groupe Spinoza. 36. 268. 164 Huisman. 118–19. 148. 47. 173 76. 72. 245. 78. 127. 107. Hervé. God. 106. 275. 235 “Letter on Humanism. Aron. 118. Hägglund. Martial. 194. 172. T. 159 Jeanne Mercier. 119. 121. 169 179. Michael. Hammerschlag. 140. 47. 273. 296 Marxist. 152. 290. 26. 120. Guéroult. atheism. Michel. 226. Georges. 239. 107. 300 idealism. 300. 105 Derrida’s. 19 “What Is Metaphysics?” 73. 120. 74. 2. Pierre Hervé. Pierre. 134. 75. 200. Sarah. 119. Edmund. 256. 4. 114. 137. 39–40. 31. 302 Grenfell. 300 existentialist readings of. 273. Louis. 154. 92 Christian. 123. Hubert. 138. 301 139. 190. 256. Jean-Paul Sartre. 105. 131. 232 socialist. 304 292. Pierre. 272. 235 Herve. 228. 275.. 277. Gerard. 43. 45. 176. 82. 42. 276. 17. Freud. 209–11. 31. 208. Hamon. 32. 24–8. 292. Henri Lefebvre. 149. See also Louis Althusser. 73. 80. 4. 278. 135 127. 4. 104. 289 269. 72. 156–7. 214. 45. 26. 243–56. 173. 9 archives at Louvain. 264 Heter. 184. 77. 73. 219. 244. 112. Gurwitsch. 27 Gourinat. 113. 40. 293 Hargis. 42. 291 Gordon. 124. 283. 155. 300. 304 Guillermit. 48. 180. 26 Husserl. 302 143–4. Henri and Isabelle. 276. 249 . 290. 238. 178. 131. 121. 68. Hollander. 165. 34. 202. 299 Gurvitch. 160. 274 Marxist readings of. 100. 258. 299. 166. Crisis of the European Sciences. 74. Edmund Guterman. 74–6. 227. 304 232. 161. 271. 228. 71. 127. 46. 8–9. 102. 73. 227. 299 Etienne Balibar. 6 162. 202. 173–6. 181. 104. 144. 279. 144 Friedman. 289 Granger. 226. 107. 152. 235. 73 Geroulanos. Being and Time. 176 152. 274. Gutting. 43. Roger. 153. 244. 302. 229 181. 237. 34. 231 220. 190. 110. 283 Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. 157. 105. 197. 204. 31–3. Gilles Gaston. 276. 109 Cartesian Meditations. 191. 171. Lucien. 67. Michel Tort Sartrean. 68. André. 299 Grenier. 247. Green. 272. 266. 220.322 Index French Theory. Sigmund. Goldstein. 123 Martin Heidegger. 77. 141. Hauriou. 44. 232. 245. Georg Friedrich. 106. Georges. 82. 272. Heidegger. 34. 201. 272 Front de Libération Nationale (FLN). 76. 46. 31. 78. 103. Gary. 262 Hunter. Henri. 244. 79–80. 103. 103. 77. ideas. 74. 104. 258. 148. 101. Ian. 131. Storm. 268. 143. 268. 106. 290. 266 Nazism. 208. 145 existentialist readings of. 68. 178. 171. 127 270. 270 Hegel. 73. 131. 103. 152. 262. 236 Habermas. Peter E. 104 Gouhier. Dana. 301 253. 175 132. 24 229. 83. 74. Martin. Louis. 156. 102. Georges. 19 228. 103. 1–2 humanist readings of. 267. Alain Badiou. 235. Michel. 122. 33 Granel. 229 Herr. Jan. Stefanos. 274. 4. 27. 132. 127. 138. 113 Harvard University. 124 French translations of Dasein. 24. 268. 305 289. 250. 292. 102. 300 172. 270. 135. 155. André. 277. 50. 268. 266. 272. 293 Formal and Transcendental Logic. Kurt. 105. 142. Martin. 261. Roger Garaudy. humanist readings of. 23. 28–30. 41. 23 ontological difference. 142. 158. 138. 67. 48. 286. 43. 37. 242. 4. 240. Jill. 175. 74 See also Jacques Derrida. 235. 255 Christian readings of. 167. 301. 104 humanism. 193. 274. 270. 221. 43–4. 77. Genesis. 104. 180. 134. 244. 105 Hjelmslev. 265. 115. 42–6.” 22. 282 Garaudy. 25. 6 Husserl. 127. 72. 120. Experience and Judgment. 229. 34. 89 Gouı̈n. 21. 73. Gödel. 47. 215. 72. 48. 298. 22.

25 171. 45 269–72 Jeanson. 139. 94. 289 65–7. 53. 22. 169. 41. 170. 107. 98 Jankélevitch. 101. 128. Henri. 273. 82. 130. 118. 115. 98. 141 temporality. William. 138. 141. 277. 172. 287. 121. 33. James. Khrushchev. 297 224. 146. 30 Martin. 36. 187. Paul. 171. Dominick. 102. Jacques. 108 Jabès. Michael. 250 Ladrière. Dominique. 148. 70. 219. François. Alexandre. 103. André. 167. 3. 1 289 noema. Andrew. 150. 92. 114. 260. 54. 63. 261 Lecourt. 127. 37. 156. 176. 123. 208. 238. William. 271 Kierkegaard. 41. 158. 271 110. 120 Lévi-Strauss. 68. 203–7. 99. 245. 301 Lauer. 164. Emmanuel. Mao Tse Tung. 75. Michele. 53. 265. 232. Roger. Lacroix. 208. 72. Daniel. 44. 64. 114. 144. Lavelle. 48. Gottfried. temporality. 93. 154. 128. 111 Juquin. 135. 192. 72. 244. 102. 102. 179. 291 Jay. 168. 78. 167 Linhart. 173 and science. 164. 95. 228 Kates. 160 Kelly. 119 Lysenkoism. Abel. 71. 249. 105. Robert. 116 119–20. 156. 106. 223. 49. André. Joshua. Jean. Roger. Immanuel. 262 148. 85. 105. Origin of Geometry. Jacques. 105 Lévy. 285. 34. 6 131. 130 LaCapra. 269 le Senne. 91. 227. Pierre. 64. Laurent. 262 Jolivet. 50. 99 Kanapa. 42. 163. 124. 138. 142 James. 184. Jean. 170. intersubjectivity. 82. 238. 6. 42. 245–50 Koyré. 170. Jeannière. 250. 125. 180 277. 130. 170. 283. 133. Gabriel. 166 King. 230. 13. 41. 141. 30. Julia. 84. 35 228. 277–82. Serge. König. 136 Lebenswelt. Emmanuel. 72. 291 Maritain. 160. Richard. Alexandre. Jean. 284. 146. 132 Logical Investigations. 101. 172. 146. 73. Kleinberg. 65. 34. 119. Francis. 209. 57. Macey. Carl. 298 Lessons on Internal Time Consciousness. 74. 43. 34. Benny. 117. Macherey. 99. 4. 130. 191. 1. 146. 165. 50. 89 250. Jung. 152. 30. 121. 138. 5 Marrati. 18. 110. 161. Jacques. 169. 115. 210 formalism. 131. Dominique. 55–6. 146 Hyppolite. 141. 118. 210. 119. 247. 55. 6. 232. Jakobson. 127. 3. 68 Leclaire. 272. 132 Marxist readings of. Vladimir. 101. 159. 57–9. 106. 108 idea. Arthur. 153. 71. Krebs. 34. Paola. 278. 105. 244. 92 147. 26. 217 Janicaud. 67. 264 Lawlor. 163. 208. 12 Levinas. 50. 180. 85. Louis. 305 Jodelet. 226 Mallet. 2 teleology. 74. 228 Lefebvre. Søren. Laplanche. 42. 264. 132. 150. 210 242. 289 Lamont. 157. Jacques. Jean. 37. 294 Philosophy of Arithmetic. 50. 248. 4. 129. 276. Jean. 34. 111. 282. 44 Lewis. Nikita. 142. Roman. Martin. 139. 163–70. 163. 27. 160. 240. 49. 297 Juillard. Leonard. 154. 288. 110. 156 . 110 107. 262. 135. 295 197 Marcel. Lagache. 51. Jean. 84 Leroi-Gourhan. 258 le Roy Ladurie. 159. 179. 105. 143. 251 Kojève. Jean-François. 274. 103. 165. and morality. 80. 131. 12 reductions. Jean. 160. 241. 173. 263 258 Lautman. 37 Leibniz. 97. 114. 122. Auguste. 200. David. 99 143. 270. Karl. 123. Lecoeur. 263. 114. 76. 149. 137. 125. 104. 220 Jaurès. 114. 27. 129 Mandouze. Edmond. 181. 253 Lacan. 125. Martin Luther. Ethan. 71. 216. 133. 28 Kearney. 206 147. 151. 147. 203. 122. Index 323 intentionality. 296 Jaspers. 101 Lycée Louis-le-Grand. 112. 127. 173. 277. Kristeva. 41 Joyce. 121. 108 Lyotard. 52 61. 135. 139 142. René. 122. Pierre. Quentin. Claude. 95 Kant.

115. 5. 27. 232. Alain. 23. 97. 34. Bernard. 159. Jean-Claude. 109. 3. 235. 101 146. Francis Jeanson. 218 Sartre. 115–17. Maurice Mill. 139. 105 Mosconi. 287. 101 Picard. Tran Duc Thao. Max Scheler. 98. 198. Michel Tort 147. Marxism. Mercier. 263 Poirier. 1. 4. 293. 42. Jason. Edgar. 276. 4. 103. 226 Merleau-Ponty. 268. Paumen. Jean-Philippe. 140. 122. 229 Groupe Spinoza. Emmanuel Levinas. Edmund 247 Husserl. Eugen Fink. Jean Peeters. 203. Desanti. Sacha. 221. 26. 174–6. 94. 31. 21. Megill. 7. 22. Yann. 86 See also Suzanne Bachelard. 22. Meylan. Jean. 235. 56 Rancière. 40. 147. André. Henri Lefebvre. 194. 43 Gaston Berger. Daniel. 132. 53 Reader. 84. 265. Blaise. 63. 203 Jacques-Alain Miller. 65. Jean Beaufret. 257. 282. Pierre Naville. See also Cahiers pour l’analyse. Bernard. 91. 46. 91. 266. 1 Cavaillès. 9 293. Philippe. 41. Jeanne. Revue de métaphysique et de morale. 119. Jacques. Marvin Farber. 228. 94. 120. 90. 107. 69. 36. 3. 95. 95. 1. Carl Jung. 190. Cahiers Pautrat. 36. 42. Jean-Paul Miller. 54. 95. Peden. 225. 27 229. Herman Van Breda Mitterrand. 152. Pierre. 297 Ofrat. 261. 295 273. Georges. Knox. Karl. Politzer. 119. 104 Thévenaz. Jean. André Munier. René. 273. 299 Derrida. 290. 47 Nietzsche. Frédéric. 102 Rauh. 95. 130. 40. 126. 26. 262 Piaget.324 Index Martinet. 30. 41. 2. 296 Mouvement Républicain Populaire (MRP). Jean. 125–6. David. 228. 26. 10 236. 275. Friedrich. 100 Morin. 303 Mension-Rigau. 30. 147. Alain. 295 Pierre Macherey. 47. 289 Papin. Peyrefitte. 278 Poster. 281. Gideon. 301 Reynaud. Mounier. 118. 25. Jacques 23. 227 176. 90 See also Louis Althusser. 202. 40. 121. 84 Morin. Martin Heidegger. 67 Etienne Balibar. 299 and science. 280. 284. 101 Kanapa. 56. existentialism. Jean Merleau-Ponty. 28. 29. Jean. 264. 105 Pompidou. Pierre Hervé. 35. 44. 243. 29 Quentin Lauer. 181. Mascolo. 261 277. Eris. 76. 99. 272. Benoı̂t. 227. 33. Sigmund Freud. 102. 103. 285 Parti Communiste Français (PCF). 27. Henri Ey. 292. 29. 280. 264 Marxistes-Léninistes. 36. 232. 284. Quinot. 46. 85. 34. 41. 135. 258. 267. Henri Birault. Powell. Roger Garaudy. 277 Nouvelle Critique (journal). Guy. 202. Pariente. 106. 230. Georges. 97. Jacques-Alain. 113. 215. 4. Alain Badiou. 162 Mochon. 89 Plotinus. 90. 226. 304 Rabinbach. Georges phenomenology. Pierre Milou. Jean-Paul Sartre. 243. 260. 259. Jean. 267. 104 Marx. 154. Claude. Jean Laplanche. 44 Green. 218. 113. Serge Leclaire. Anson. Maurice. 99. 2. Yvonne. 293. 41. 99. 33. 221. 261 Plato. 34. 101 . 253 Monod. Jacques Lacan. Pierre. 268. 21. Tran Duc Thao. 15 Jean-François Lyotard. 108 267. 183. Daniel Lagache. 289. 131. Mark. 300. 270. Emmanuel. 196. 143 Mollet. Armand. 140. Louis. 76. 216. Keith. 177. 100. Robert Linhart. 265 ontotheology. 262. 82. 10. 9. 243. 88. 74 Pons. 229 Moret. Gabriel. 110. 93. Jean-Paul. Allan. 86. 300. Nacht. 24. 91 Politzer. 265 psychoanalysis. Jacques Ranciere. Jean Ladrière. Jean-Toussaint Merleau-Ponty. François. 9. Jacques Derrida. Roger. 93. 89. 33. 151. 26. 261. 302. 265. 283. structuralism Naville. 262. 167. Mikics. François. 43 Nora. Dionys. John Stuart. 103. 228. 285 Passeron. 296. 225 Monteux. 44. 269 256. 6 Regnault. 63. 120. 244. 94. 186. 27 Moulier-Boutang. Jacques. 179. Paul Ricoeur. Pascal. 146. 34. 29. 41. 235. 151.

Jean. 65 and morality. 274. 159 264 Warwick. human condition. 299 and psychoanalysis. 1. 89. 7. Clément. 78. 294. 22. Michel Foucault. 120 Troisfontaines. 227 Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière Wahl. 293 Roche. Benjamin. Jacques Derrida. 105. Judith. 71. Waldenfels. 6 Rosset. 230. 68. 248 Vuillemin. 27 276 Sorbonne. 121 at the ENS. 30. 63. Joseph. 31–3. 228. 54. Alan. 147. 121. 9 difference. Edith. Matthew Bunker. 133 intentionality. 120 Tersen. Elisabeth. Being and Nothingness. Michel. 122. 300 The Imagination. 61. 277 176 See also Louis Althusser. 156. 300. 124 Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions. 222 Viannay. 94. 232. 121. Marxism. 17 Rousseau. 262 intersubjectivity. 55 Tubeuf. Pierre. Joseph. 284 Sirinelli. Maurice. 141. André. 2. 47. 124. Bertrand. (SFIO). 196. 21. 90. 292. 244. 30. 44 293. atheism. Jean. Lucien. 259. 52. 212. 120 210. Jean-Jacques. 232. 197 193. Sommerhausen. 47. 162 Schrift. 226. 58. 233. 32 119. 262 Rotman. 94 vocabulary. 103. 24. Rovan. 82. 233. Jules. 228. 183. 277–82. 104. 86. 200. 155 Schérer. 227. 99 Smith. 106. 121. Herbert. 50. 52. Jean-Jacques. 121. Paul. 124. 159. 96 Ricci. 286 Russell. 107. 63. Jean-François. 54. 294. 7. 120 Thévenaz. 34. 302. 229. 43. 80. Emile. 52. 6 . 228. 178. 57. 232. 21. 36. 47. Andrew. 27. Adam. 105. 220. 159. 216 Stora. 103–5. 86. René. Ridgeway. 183. 181. 131. Bernard. 269. 54 138. 105 Spiegelberg. 205. 94. 170. 78 van Breda. 295. 125. 36. 89. 37 Thao. 296. 32. 183. 23. Herman. Pierre Christian readings of. 132–3. 57. 276 Marxist readings of. 25. and post-structuralism. 128. Patrick. Philippe. Andre. 296 Rinieri. 55. 72. Ferdinand de and colonialism. 48. 47. 51. 4. 20. Michel. Roger. 71 Thorez. 262 Spinoza. 123. 102. 273. 85. Baruch. 28. 183. 107 ontology. 143–4. 33. 65. 203. 76. Jean. 269 Serres. 97 226. 183. 52. 223 Sève. 39. 68. 265. Vergez. 113. 94. 4. 133–6. 269. 105 Normalien readings of. 87. Index 325 Ricardo. Pierre. 48. Terray. 1. François. 91. Tran Duc. 69. 73. 51. 305 276. 45 Macherey. 275. 74. 277. 260. 92. Rousset. 83. 228. 247 Tort. 3. 95. 207. 209. 123. 25 Scheler. 305 Steedman. 260. Luc. 97. Jean-Paul. 206. 36. Philippe. 293 and literary criticism. 23. 118. 292. 104. 50. 9. 54. 38. 58. 41. 42. David. 192 Sartre. 66. 84. 208. 101. 154. 4 74. 186. 218. 55. 7. 120. 152. 21–3. 85. 245. 284 Ricoeur. 103. 40. 118. Michel. 61. 38. 297 Stalin. 9 Roudinesco. 261 78. 4. 147. 212. Emmanuel. 46. 124. 115. 295 Srajek. 103 Virieux-Reymond. Jean Rousset. 259. 29 freedom. 155. Jacques 120 Lacan. The Imaginary. 2. 262. Etienne. 9 Existentialism Is a Humanism. 303 Rushing. Elisabeth. Martin. 58. 70. 207. 264. 34. 1. 33. 104. 203. 33 Surkis. 27. 92. 39. Roland Barthes. 101 Weber. 2. 116. 58 Robrieux. 267. 78. Carolyn. 258. 37–40. 192–4. 296. 2. 297. 54. 108 Huis clos. 47 Saussure Critique of Dialectical Reason. 232. 124. 30. Claude Lévi-Strauss. 98. 242. 123. Stein. 65. 263. Antoinette. 24. 219. 70. 278 structuralism. 31. 293. 135. 50 Verret. 116 Scandal. 67. Sara. 120 Teilhard de Chardin. 191. 299 132. 99. 101 72 Verley. Max.

Alfred North. 59–60. Max. 50 Zhdanov. Karl. 98 . 153 Weil. 100 Whitehead. 4. 82. 68 Weierstrass. Simone. 64. Eric. Robert. 128 Wittgenstein. Andrei. 232 Weil. Ludwig. 38. Young. 10 176 Weiner. 61. 40. Susan. 6. 63.326 Index Weber.

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