Research in Phenomenology

Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290

www.brill.nl/rp

Derrida and the Ethics of the Im-possible
François Raffoul
Louisiana State University

Abstract Derrida often insists that ethics must be the experience and encounter of a certain impossible. A proposition all the more troubling, as it is proposed by Derrida in the context of a return precisely to the conditions of possibility of ethics. It will appear that returning to the possibilities of ethics implies a return to its limits, to its aporias, which are both constitutive and incapacitating, possibilizing and impossibilizing. The purpose of this paper is to begin exploring this aporetic structure of ethics and to identify how it is tied to the impossible. I will pursue this inquiry by reconstituting how Derrida appropriates Heidegger’s expression of “possibility of the impossible,” and by reconstituting the aporias of the law, of moral decision, of responsibility, and of an ethics of hospitality as welcome of the event of otherness. Keywords aporia, ethics, the impossible, responsibility, hospitality

For Meri
From the very heart of the im-possible one would hear the pulse or the beat of a “deconstruction”. Derrida, Papier Machine

Introduction Derrida often insists on the fact that ethics, “if it exists,” as he often adds, must be the experience, the undergoing, or enduring of an aporia, of a certain impossible. A formulation that is all the more troubling, as it is stated precisely in the perspective of a return to the conditions of possibility of ethics. A clarification is useful at the outset regarding Derrida’s relation to ethics: although he underscores that ethical issues have never been absent from the work of deconstruction that he had undertaken since the beginning of the sixties (albeit in an “oblique,” non-thematic manner), Derrida readily concedes
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2008 DOI: 10.1163/156916408X287003

F. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290

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that his more explicit texts on ethics—whether those on justice, right and the law, responsibility, ethical decision, forgiveness, hospitality, the gift, the secret, hospitality, etc.—do not propose a system of morality, a normative ethics in the received sense of the term. In an interview given in January 2004, a few months before his death, to the daily communist newspaper l’Humanité, he firmly explains: “In a way, ethical questions have always been present, but if by ethics one understands a system of rules, of moral norms, then no, I do not propose an ethics,”1 It would rather be an issue for him of problematizing (and in fact not just making it a problem but rendering aporetic!)2 what he calls, following Levinas, the ethicality or ethicity of ethics (l’éthicité de l’éthique), its very possibility.3 It is indeed a remarkable and odd anomaly of the contemporary philosophical field that the professional philosophers of ethics, the socalled “ethicists,” do not in general raise the preliminary question of the ethicality of ethics, too busy that they are to “apply” it, as they say . . . Applied ethics is thus an ethics the meaning of which is ignored, not problematized, not reflected upon, and therefore presupposed. In such a context, where the current and growing development of “applied ethics” in the curriculum is paradoxically accompanied by a peculiar blindness regarding the nature of ethics, and a neglect of a genuine philosophical questioning concerning the meaning of the ethical, it would be crucial to raise anew the question or questions on the meaning of ethics. Insisting on this necessity in “Passions,” Derrida asserts: “All this, therefore, still remains open, suspended, undecided,
Jacques Derrida, “Jacques Derrida, penseur de l’évènement” [Jacques Derrida, Thinker of the Event], interview by Jérôme-Alexandre Nielsberg, l’Humanité, January 28, 2004, http://www. humanite.fr/2004-01-28_Tribune-libre_-Jacques-Derrida-penseur-de-l-evenement. (All translations are mine.) 2) Following here the contrast made by Derrida between problem (problēma) and aporia in Aporias (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993), 11–13. Hererafter cited as A, followed by page number. 3) In Adieu, Derrida narrates how Levinas once confided in him the following: “You know, one often speaks of ethics to describe what I do, but what interests me in the end is not ethics, but the holy, the holiness of the holy” (Adieu à Emmanuel Lévinas [Paris: Galilée, Paris, 1997], 15. We will discover that Derrida’s aporetic ethics is not that distant from this thinking of the holy, and that he would claim for himself the notion of an unconditional ethics as Levinas developed it, beyond ontology but also beyond ethics. As he clarifies in the same text: “Yes, ethics before or beyond ontology, the state or politics, but ethics also beyond ethics” (ibid.). Derrida would then speak of “hyper-ethics” (for instance in Voyous [Paris: Galilée, 2003], 210; hereafter cited as V; translations mine) or of a hyperbolic ethics, following Levinas. At this juncture in this article, let us simply note this similar movement in Levinas and Derrida of an exceeding of ethics towards its ethicality, its possibility, which Derrida will understand as aporetic.
1)

a thinking which. hence the “positive” or “affirmative” sense that Derrida grants to deconstruction: he thus explains in the 2004 Humanité interview: “A slogan. worn out Greek term aporia. which are both constitutive and incapacitating. in Aporias.” in On the Name. for many years now. has often imposed itself upon me. 4) . without proposing an ethics (but is it philosophy’s task or role to propose a moral system?). to the other. What is the ethicity of ethics? The morality of morality? What is responsibility? What is the ‘What is?’ in this case? Etc. 3). These questions are always urgent. the margins of undecidability. the relation to aporia is one of endurance: “It is neither stopping at it nor overcoming it” (A 32). For Derrida. the work of impossible mourning. possibilizing and impossibilizing. to its aporias. returning to the possibilities of ethics at the same time implies undertaking a return to its limits. of deconstruction: being open to what comes. indeed. thus marking ethics with an irreducible impurity. beginning with ethics. 1995). Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 questionable even beyond the question.”4 These questions aim at reopening (or preventing the forclosure of ) a philosophical reflection on the question of ethics. CA: Stanford University Press. The aporetic is affirmative. absolutely aporetic. they inaugurate Derrida’s thought of ethics. Hereafter cited as P. has indeed been to reveal the aporias inherent in philosophical systems. undertakes a return to its conditions of possibility. Deconstruction needs to be understood as aporetic thinking. the gift as impossible. positive phenomena. A few lines further.” the doublebinds of Glas. as Derrida has conceived of it and practiced. returns to the long history of the aporetic in his own thinking: “I recalled that. Derrida. constitutive. Jacques Derrida. “Passions. the old. to the to-come. Thomas Dutoit (Stanford. etc.” A “slogan” that one must associate with the privilege “constantly accorded to aporetic thinking” (V 207 n. Derrida gives a long list of the “numerous instances” where the theme of aporia has recurred in his thinking.272 F. However. but instead it is a matter “of thinking according to the aporia” (A 13). starting with ousia and grammē and the aporetics of time. As such. nonetheless. the “so-called undecidable quasi-concepts that are so many aporetic places of dislocation. and all those phenomena that involve the impossible. and responsibility. 16. and recently it has done so even more often” (A 13). decision. Aporias are constitutive of what they interrupt and. That is. this tired word of philosophy and of logic. ed. followed by the page number. the invention of the other as impossible. to that extent. One of the senses of deconstruction. An aporia will thus not be synonymous with closure but will instead represent a limit through which something announces itself in an affirmative fashion. to make use of another figure.

It is in the aporia. that we should situate the ethicality of ethics. 2001). translations mine. as impossible. Derrida would claim. emphasis mine). it would be a question of “converting the possible into the impossible.”8 Jacques Derrida. would be what “haunts the possible. I question the impossible as possibility of ethics: unconditional hospitality is impossible. Derrida writes: “I will say.F. hospitality must welcome unconditionally (which is impossible). . on the contrary. I try to think the possibility of the impossible. Ethics must do the impossible: To forgive can only happen where it is impossible to forgive.The return to the conditions of possibility of ethics would thus be an aporetic gesture. is possible. “if it is. the possible in a certain way is impossible (that is. Hereafter cited as DE. translations mine.” and of recognizing that if the impossible is possible (as impossible). In a parallel fashion. Papier Machine (Paris: Galilée. of the possibility of the impossible. 8) Interview with l’Humanité. The impossible. 7) PM 292. 307. the gift. even of ethics in the narrow sense. “What I do is then just as much an-ethical as ethical.6 In the context of a discussion on the event. but in a more radical sense in which the impossible. To do the impossible cannot be an ethics and yet it is the condition of ethics. Derrida insists that “it is a question of an other thinking of the possible (of power. of selfhood itself ) and of an im-possible that would not only be negative” (V 197). not in the sense that it would become possible. I will try to show later in what sense impossibility. 291. I will try to explain why and how I hear the word ‘possible’ in the statement where this ‘possible’ is not simply ‘different from’ or the ‘contrary of impossible’. In other words. The impossible would no longer be the opposite of the possible but. 1/28/2004). . . of the masterful and sovereign ‘I can’. . est-ce possible? (with Gad Soussana and Alexis Nouss) (Paris: L’ Harmattan. Dire l’événement. are the aporias of ethics. why here ‘possible’ and ‘impossible’ say the same” (DE 86. Hereafter cited as PM. of the impossible as possible and the possible as impossible. In Voyous. what possible means in the history of philosophy. responsible decision must judge without 5) . This is why Derrida clarifies: “What interests me. arises out of an aporia). its limits” (l’Humanité. in fact. 2001). into an impossibility. a certain impossibility of saying the event or a certain impossible possibility of saying the event. 98. in the field of right or politics.”5 what truly “enables” or possibilizes the possible. and can only be possible as impossible”. Derrida even adds: “The gift is impossible. . a movement leading into an aporia. if it is possible. 6) See Jacques Derrida. is possible. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 273 Here we glimpse already the renewed thought of the possible and the impossible in Derrida’s thought. in the impossible. obliges us to think otherwise . must appear as impossible” (DE 93). The aporia will appear as the condition of possibility (or impossibility!)7 of what it affects.

” happens to be borrowed from Heidegger. I can die (a possibility that is more a passibility. . . “the sense of the virtuality or of the imminence of the future. “possibility of the impossible. the possible as being exposed (passivity) to the possibility of . it is necessary to return to the referring of ethics to the experience of the impossible. Derrida identifies two senses of the possible in Being and Time: first. that for which I have the power. but its very fragility is what seems to me both decisive and significant.”9 The very structure of the Derridean thought of ethics is thus marked by this Heideggerian heritage. i. but by no means the impossibility of a being-able-to” (A 68). discusses at length this expression in Aporias. 1996). 9) Sein und Zeit (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag. we know. an exposure. for it makes clear that for Heidegger. First. the sense “of the possible as that of which I am capable. Translated by Joan Stambaugh as Being and Time (Albany. as he clarifies. For. for English pagination. NY: SUNY Press. and precisely from his thinking of death in Being and Time. as we just saw. death: I can die (mortal) because I am exposed to death. As Derrida explains: “The nuance is thin. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 I. Hereafter cited as SZ. “Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein” (A 69). Derrida. which is precisely the opposite of the second sense. etc.274 F. which he seeks to preserve—and complicate—in his thinking of the eventfulness of the event and of the arrival/happening (l’arrivée).e. this very impossible is presented as condition of possibility of ethics. a vulnerability.” and second. The task of these pages will be to enter further into this enigma. . attempts to reveal the possibility of the impossible as site of the ethicality of ethics. 262. And Heidegger claims that. The Inappropriable A twofold enigma thus marks the Derridean thought of ethics: on the one hand. or the potentiality. I would thus suggest a third sense. but on the other hand. “Death is a possibility of being that rules and without knowing how. the ability. 242. and never as an impossibility (of existence as possibility).” and he concludes that “these two meanings of possibility co-exist in die Möglichkeit” (A 62). and BT. We know that Derrida. for the German pagination. which is defined by the German thinker “as the possibility of the impossibility of existence in general. than a power).10 This is a crucial precision.. Now this expression. The impossible is the very possibility of ethics. ethics is referred to an impossible to the extent that one may conclude that ethics itself is impossible. “this is indeed the possibility of a being-able-not-to or of a nolonger-being-able-to. death is strictly approached as a possibility (of the impossibility of existence). And already in paragraph 50: “Death is the possibility of the pure and simple impossibility of Dasein” (SZ 250/BT 232. In Derrida’s words. translation modified). 10) In Aporias. Each time. 1953). and it probably is most essential in Heidegger’s view” (A 68). ethics can only happen as impossible.

followed by page number. a certain inappropriability of what comes or happens [ce qui arrive]” (PTT 90. In Being and Time. literally: fails] at some border or frontier” (PTT 90). 90. rather. as it were. within certain limits. discern in the Heideggerian text a thinking of responsibility. in all of its various modes. I am. of Ereignis and of death. As I face my mortality. an impossible. which Heidegger does not do. these limits appear in the notion of thrownness as it determines the 11) Jacques Derrida. he insists on the fact that “there is no event worthy of its name except insofar as this appropriation falters [échoue. in Aporias. in fact its ownmost and ultimate possibility. but its most proper and ultimate possibility. But also to his own reflection on ethics. one must admit. as Ereignis. . Derrida echoes it by explaining that “death is consequently the event par excellence” (L’Humanité interview). on the contrary. of many of his previous interpretations of Heidegger (and still in Aporias. is conceived as the encounter and exposition to an event as inappropriable (which Derrida will seek to grasp as aporia). but. Seeking to collapse the proper into the improper. is. as for Derrida. For Heidegger. 2003). it seems to me. of being-responsible. Hereafter cited as PTT.F. the possible into the impossible. here. explicitly linking the Heideggerian thought of the event to the inappropriable and the impossible: “The undergoing [l’épreuve] of the event. He then adds. Derrida finds here access to his own thinking of the impossible in Heidegger’s thought of the event.”11 In fact. One could indeed. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 275 Dasein always has to take upon itself ” (SZ 250/BT 232. When Heidegger writes that death is not the impossibility of existence. that which in the undergoing or in the ordeal at once opens itself up to and resists experience. even if he will lend to this event the features of the impossible. IL: University of Chicago Press. translation modified). 56!). Philosophy in a Time of Terror (Chicago. where Derrida tended to stress an alleged privilege of the proper in Heidegger’s work. returned to my most proper self. responsibility cannot be conceived of as the imputation or ascription of an act to a subjectcause. which opens onto Derrida’s understanding of aporetic ethics. Derrida states that the expression “possibility of the impossible” should be read as the indication that an Enteignis “always inhabited Eigentlichkeit” (A 77). involves a certain expropriation. my emphasis). Even if Derrida recognizes that any event necessarily calls for a certain appropriative reception. he states that “the thought of Ereignis in Heidegger would be turned not only toward the appropriation of the proper (eigen) but toward a certain expropriation that Heidegger himself names (Enteignis). Derrida writes that the Heideggerian thought of being as event. as I exist towards death. Going against the grain.

but what I could never appropriate. far from preventing the possibility of ethical responsibility. which as such. non-ground!).. Cognition falls “far short. Heidegger writes in a striking formulation. mostly in terms of thrownness). which can only constitute a limit for responsible appropriation. 1999). they constitute what eminently obligates Dasein and calls it to its ownmost being as finite (a finitude that Derrida would understand in terms of impropriety or impossibility). that somehow could be improved: rather.12 Ethical responsibility. he continues. ontological guilt. What is most striking in these phenomena is the fact that. if it is the case that it represents not only what I am not responsible for. As we know. the inappropriable or the “aporia” signifies an insurmountable obstacle to the power of a subject. and in Dasein’s being-guilty.” He then adds: “One does not know why” (SZ 135/BT 127). which Derrida would call instances of the impossible: The enigma of moods. These limit-phenomena represent the origins of responsibility and the site of the ethicality of ethics. it has to do with the peculiar phenomenon of moods as they exhibit the facticity of Dasein. Any rational enlightenment finds here an impassable limit. . the question of birth. the notion of Dasein breaks decisively with the tradition of subjectivity. Heidegger explaining that moods are beyond the reach of both will and cognition. And what is peculiar with this phenomenon is that the “that” of our being is given in 12) On this point. “Being has become manifest as a burden (Last).” Dasein “cannot know why” (ibid. In fact. “if it exists. Heidegger states that in being-in-a-mood.” not because of some weakness of our cognitive powers. it is in order to emphasize the element of opacity and withdrawal that seems to interrupt and foreclose any possibility of cognitive or practical appropriation. what will always evade my power. For responsibility does not disappear in the deconstruction of the subjectum: Heidegger consistently insisted that Dasein is to be thought in terms of responsibility. in the finitude of Dasein as mortal being.276 F. It would even seem to threaten the very possibility of responsible agency. although he would also mark that existence arises out of a perfectly opaque ground (or rather. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 phenomenon of moods and birth. its end. Here. Let us investigate three instances of this inappropriable. “stares at it [Dasein] with the inexorability of an enigma” (SZ 136/BT 128). for moods lead Dasein before the pure “that” of its There.” will thus have to find another origin than that of the free autonomous subject. Whenever Heidegger describes moods (Stimmungen) in Being and Time (that is. NY: Prometheus Books. my emphasis). I take the liberty of referring the reader to my Heidegger and the Subject (Amherst. as to this “why.

I exist natally. my emphasis). not in the sense that it would occupy an actual place between two external limits. a characteristic of Dasein’s Being (SZ 135/BT 127). But are they really “ours”? In fact. there is a remaining withdrawn or obscure that is irreducible: It is. as being-towards birth and towards death. 27 of Gesamtausgabe (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.F. In the lecture course entitled Introduction to Philosophy (1928). and Dasein exists towards birth. I am not born once in order to leave that event behind so that I now only exist towards-death. Moods reveal the inappropriability of our existence. rather. . 1 ( January 2007): 19–20. 340. Heidegger claims that the fact “that by its own decision Dasein has nothing to search for in the direction of its origin. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 277 such a way that “the whence and whither remain obscure” (ibid. This is why Heidegger speaks of a “Being-toward-the-beginning” (Sein zum Anfang ) (SZ 373/BT 342). vol. “our” ends. towards which I exist as born each time anew. Rather. it is through the same throw (thrownness) that I am born . special issue of Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale. gives an essential prod to Dasein from the darkness of its origin into the relative brightness of its potentiality-for-Being. Dasein is said to exist between birth and death. In other words. in the sense that we relate to both ends. mortally born. I am born towards death. as I exist stretching between birth and death. Here too responsibility seems to encounter an impassable twofold limit. Being that between.” But there are two ends: birth and death. more precisely. 13) .14 I am natally exposed to death. Heidegger says. no. for one can never emphasize enough how birth and death cannot not be separated in Heidegger’s thought. which means: Dasein is the between of birth and death. Hereafter cited as GA 27.”13 This inappropriability can also be glimpsed in the phenomena of birth. Dasein exists always in an essential exposure to the darkness and impotence of its origin. and of death. they remain for Heidegger inappropriable: I can no more go back behind my coming into being than I can appropriate death by making it somehow actual. and in a “mortal” way. We thus exist both in a “natal” way. . 1996). see Françoise Dastur’s judicious comments in Derrida. For Heidegger. Dasein exists as stretching itself between birth and death. my emphasis. even if only in the prevailing form of a habitual deep forgetting in the face of this essential determination of its facticity.. and as mortal. This is why cognition falls short: in the phenomenon of moods. Am I not expropriated from my “own” being and thus de-responsibilized? Einleitung in die Philosophie (Wintersemester 1928/29). Dasein exists towards each of them. 14) On this point. into death. Dasein is said to exist “towards-the-end. followed by page number. Dasein exists towards death. the inappropriability of our origins. the event of birth is happening each time.

It is clear that what is to be “carried” or shouldered is what remains inappropriable in existence. and to be responsible for it. “of knowing in which sense [sens] one reads the expression the possibility of impossibility” (A 77). a paradoxical phenomenon that Derrida would approach with the neologism of “exappropriation. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 It is at this juncture. In the course just cited. and yet. arising from a negativity (“Nichtigkeit”). is something that is in such or such a manner taken up or rejected in the How of Dasein” (GA 27: 337. can never gain power over that ground. emphasis mine). it has to take over being the ground in existing” (SZ 284/BT 262. . arising out of the aporia. . he insists. for Derrida. reminding the reader that “sense” should be understood also as direction (following the polysemy of the word sens in French: hence if one reverses the direction. Schuldigsein. It would be a matter of being properly the improper. according to the logic of ex-appropriation unveiled by Derrida. The Aporias of Ethics Death as Aporia Everything. as inappropriable. is at stake in the expression “the possibility of the impossible. and these aporias as site of ethics as experience of the impossible.” He writes: “Also that which does not arise of one’s own express decision. Heidegger explained that it is precisely that over which Dasein is not master that must be “worked through” and “survived.” It is a matter. my emphasis). that which for us is entirely not under the control of freedom in the narrow sense . it is out of this impossibility that Dasein is thrown into a responsibility for itself ! Heidegger underscored this paradox when he claimed that: “The self. Derrida would conceive of these phenomena as aporias. which as such has to lay the ground of itself. II. He calls it Dasein’s Being-Guilty or responsible. an inappropriable that calls human Dasein to be. even if only in the modes of putting up with or shirking something. the possibility of . that Heidegger would paradoxically situate the responsibility of Dasein. to think. in this very “aporetic” moment. The primordial sense of responsibility would hence be: the appropriation of the inappropriable. must be in such or such a way retrievingly appropriated. as most things for Dasein.278 F.” Dasein can never become master of and appropriate its own ground and origins. Introduction to Philosophy. the secret resource of responsibility. As Heidegger put it: “Thus being the ground means never to gain power over one’s ownmost being from the ground up” (SZ 284/BT 262). And yet.

I am citing it in full. and also with demise. the most proper possibility of Dasein. on the contrary.” and placing the emphasis on the improper and expropriation. for this is “not only the paradoxical possibility of a possibility of impossibility: it is possibility as impossibility” (A 70). How does one slide from the possibility of an impossiblity into possibility as impossibility? Clearly. But Heidegger never spoke of possibility as impossibility! His phrase states. it will be an issue of emphasizing an aporetic structure or “logic. and divided by the most improper” (A 77. death is the most proper possibility (die eigenste Möglichkeit) of Dasein. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 279 the impossible becomes the impossibility of the possible . live.). in a remarkable case of philosophical projection. . is the possibility of its impossibility. As we know. Heidegger never says such a thing. Strangely. never speaks of possibility as impossibility. However. from possibility as impossibility to the expression possibility of the impossible! Derrida writes: “For the moment. From the most originary inside of its possibility. one word of caution here is necessary: to my knowledge. ableben. between verenden and sterben. Derrida accuses Heidegger of sliding. when Heidegger speaks of the possibility of death “as that of the impossibility of existence in general” (als die der Unmöglichkeit der Existenz überhaupt). . For Heidegger. through an interpretive violence on Derrida’s part. . then we will have to say that expropriation always already inhabits the proper. the most inauthenticating one. Indeed. as we know. From this interpretation will follow radical consequences. and that death becomes the least proper possibility: “If death. for Derrida. The text imperceptibly moves from the possibility as possibility of the impossibility to the simple possibility of impossibility” (A 71). . this challenge to a “properly dying” (A 30) involves a critique of Heidegger’s distinctions between merely ending. he speaks of death as the possibility of the impossibility of existence in general. Derrida understands this “as” as showing that possibility is approached as impossibility. emphasis mine). or exist it? How does one testify to it?” (A 68). and properly dying. the proper of Dasein becomes from then on contaminated. Rather. Now. death becomes the most improper possibility and the most ex-propriating. Derrida speaking of a contamination between them . . as he explains in Aporias.F. How should it then be understood? “Is this an aporia? Where do we situate it? In the impossibility or in the possibility of an impossibility (which is not necessarily the same thing)? What can the possibility of an impossibility be? How can we think that? How can we say it while respecting logic and meaning? How can we approach that. if the most extreme and most proper possibility turns out to be the possibility of an impossibility. parasited. perishing. let us note that the als is translated or relayed by the genitive form of a complement of the noun.

) In contrast. that is.280 F. never an actuality. But Derrida still evokes “the impossibility of existing or of Dasein that Heidegger speaks of under the name of ‘death’ ” (A 75). although. two pages earlier (!). . the not-yet of death as possibility is not the notyet of an accomplishment to come . . then. (Derrida will object to what he sees here as a transcendental mode of thinking: I die because I can die. Finally. explains Heidegger. I can die. he wrote that “this is indeed the possibility of a being-able-not-to or of a nolonger-being-able-to. I do not know of any passage where Heidegger collapses the possible into the impossible. the possibility of the impossible does indeed mean that the impossible is possible (and it is indeed Heidegger’s entire effort in Being and Time to seize death as possibility. It could not clearer: We are capable of death. such a collapse between possibility and impossibility? To be precise. cited by Derrida at A 70). when Heidegger only speaks of the possibility of such impossibility! Further. since there is indeed access to death as possibility. from possibility to impossibility) is what accounts for the fact that indeed. and Derrida admits this: “The essence of Dasein as entity is precisely the possibility. cultivated as possibility. He even stressed. nor can I imagine how he would. Death is to be seized solely as possibility. the being-possible” (A 63). as we saw. but Derrida slides here from possibility to actuality when speaking of death. that death is a possibility that “must not be weakened. the death of the other is the first death! Derrida writes: “The death of the other in me is fundamentally the only death that is named in the syntagm ‘my death’ ” (A 76). but by no means the impossibility of a being-able-to. as if to prevent potential misunderstandings. and not as actuality). the more purely does the understanding penetrate into it as the possibility of the impossibility of existence in general ” (SZ 262/BT 242. a vulnerability or exposure than a power. but indeed the possibility of such impossibility. one does not come near the actuality of death. In any case. this possibility is more a passibility. the aporia of “my death” (but death as actuality. in our coming near death in its anticipation. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 “The more unveiledly this possibility gets understood. The being of Dasein is and lies in possibility only: Dasein is a possibility of being. Does not the genitive itself.” . And Derrida knows it full well. at A 75. it is a possibility of our being.” in fact prevent such an identification. in Heidegger’s expression “possibility of the impossibility. but its possibility. but not the reverse! It does not mean that the possible is impossible! Heidegger was always careful not to simply write that death is the impossibility of existence. a “possibility of the possible [that] only becomes ‘greater’ ” (SZ 262/BT 242).” that “it must be understood as possibility. just as he slides. since on page 68 of Aporias. as Levinas wanted. and endured as possibility in our relation to it” (SZ 261/BT 241). for Derrida the non-access to death.

as we saw. a figure of aporia that marks and determines “all that is only possible as impossible. if not the other side. These aporias risk interrupting the very possibility of its functioning and leading it to ruin” (A 28). against the very possibility of the existential analytic” (A 76–77). explaining that for Dasein. death “is both its most proper possibility and this same (most proper) possibility as impossibility (hence. I would say [although Derrida immediately adds] but Heidegger never says it like that)” (A 70). Could it be that Heidegger’s account of death as my ownmost possibility would be a defense against death as expropriation? The end of me: how should this expression be heard? As confirming myself. and territorial apparatus to which Heidegger lends credit. in the end. And death “would be the name of this threat. is for Derrida wed to the impossible. and so forth” (A 79). the gift. he speaks of the disappearance of the possible in the impossible. aporia would be “what ruins the very possibility of the analysis from within” (A 78) so that “one can turn what is thus at the very heart of the possibility of the existential analytic against the whole apparatus of Being and Time. or at least outside Heidegger. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 281 And yet. And we recall how what interested him in ethics—far from any moralism and good conscience. or as undoing it? From. then!). all gathered around the “on this side” of existence. it is for Derrida a matter of understanding this expression as an aporia (“There are several ways of thinking the possibility of impossibility as aporia” [A 72]). In short. Heidegger maintains the as such.F. the other. the example of a logic of aporia. and now against. if there is such a thing: love. even if he recognizes that Heidegger “would certainly not accept” this logic of aporia. The Aporia of the Law Indeed. despite and in fact against Heidegger. Derrida sees in this motif of death. the ethicality of ethics. to the aporia. testimony. without the ‘as such’ already sinking beforehand” (A 70). And ethics itself.” that is. and the each time mine of death. hierarchical. on page 70 (two pages later. an aporetic logic that would indeed lead to the collapse of the entire authenthic/ inauthentic opposition. ethics. far from any restoration . the least proper. In fact. at least from the threshold or the secret of death as aporia? “Death is always the name of a secret” (A 74). the collapse of the existential analytic! He writes: “At stake for me would be approaching the place where such aporias risk paralyzing the ontological. the whole of ethics. of Being and Time’s main conceptual demarcations (for instance the existentiell versus the existential) and. principle of individuation. He continues by wondering “how a (most proper) possibility as impossibility can still appear as such without immediately disappearing.

Hence the law’s originary performativity and violence. and finally.’ ” in Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice. Rosenfeld [New York: Routledge. they are themselves a violence without ground” (“Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundation of Authority. politics and morals” (MFA 31).282 F. . Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 of morality. a mystical element that Derrida names when he writes. Cornell. No justifying discourse can play the role of a metalanguage in relation to the performativity of the instituting language. and even far from a remoralization of deconstruction (P 15)-are its aporias. The act of positing the law. of “faire la loi” (literally. which rests on nothing. is a “law-making violence” (die rechtsetzende Gewalt) and an act of originary. a decision could never absolutely answer for itself. and unjustifiable violence. Nothing is able to justify the justice and legality of this law. in the last analysis without foundation or justification. Let us briefly reconstruct three aporias that Derrida thematizes: The epokhē of the rule. and M. but precisely out of faithfulness to the ethi15) “Since the origin of authority. . an established given norm. D. according to Derrida. on itself. the position of the law can’t by definition rest on anything but themselves. for at the moment of its foundation such a law is neither just nor unjust. D. The self-justification of a decision is hence impossible. the an-ethical origins of ethics. the aporia of responsible decision as heterogeneous to knowledge. that “the concept of violence belongs to the symbolic order of law. 14). This is why the coup de force. It would be a question of moving beyond the very language of duty.15 To that extent. There is no foundation of this performative foundation. . its limits. There lies the mystical foundation of authority. neither legal nor illegal. ethics can never be the conformity to a duty. the law itself is without . “to make law” as establishing a power). followed by the page number. Derrida clarifies that violence is never a physical or natural concept. 1992]. a force that is thus not external to the law. the aporia of the undecidable. the self-institution of a law without foundation (and therefore deconstructible). Therein also lies the epokhē of the rule: The “ought” of ethics cannot and “must not even take the form of a rule” (P 8). the coup de force of the law. law! There is no law of the law. indeed in relation to duty. and a priori and for structural reasons. “Here a silence is walled up in the violent structure of the founding act” (MFA 14). that is. ed. G. the foundation or ground. Hereafter cited as MFA. rather. Carlson. ungrounded. what the English language calls the “enforceability” of the law. is for Derrida inherent in the law itself. There is no law without such force. that it is radically without ground. It is in fact characteristic of the law. The first aporia marks the excess of ethics in relation to any norm or rule. there is.

it designates the fact that “as in all normative concepts .F. and consistently speaks of the ethical decision or the responsible decision. Ethics would here be a duty beyond duty. a duty beyond duty: we encounter here again the Levinassian motif of an ethics beyond ethics. the aporia of the rule is the knowledge of a rule and its overcoming. Ethics would be rebellious to the rule. A counter-duty or more precisely. and this is why it is each time (the singularity of an each time) a decision as an event. The absence of rules 16) See “Non pas l’utopie. of responsibility. l’im-possible. so that “one knows the rule but is never bound by it” (P 9). to conform to. to apply. He even makes ethics dependent on decision. that divides.” in PM 358. . beyond the language of debt or duty. foreign to any normative concept. translation modified). as Kant would say (pflichtmässig). Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 283 cal command. and responsibility or the experience of responsibility would not be reducible to duty and would be opened onto the incalculable through the impossibility of its foundation.16 That is to say.” [MFA 24]) that it infinitely exceeds duty and norm. it involves both rules and invention without rules” (writes Derrida. attempts to reverse the deciding I into a decision “of the other in me. following Levinas. . For Derrida. even if he then.”) A decision. an event that Derrida calls “impossible” because taking place outside of any possibilizing program. It is because the moral decision must judge without rules (a decision “that cuts. but now we are able to see better how this ethics beyond ethics arises out of the aporetic structure of the law. . It is always a decision without rules and each time “the event of a decision without rules and without will in the course of a new experience of the undecidable” (P 17. he always does so within a problematics of decision. nor even out of duty (aus Pflicht)?” (P 7). and thus is opened onto an incalculable. he continues. there is no decision and no responsibility without the confrontation with the aporia or undecidability. with the impossible. and Derrida breaks at this point with the Kantian formulation of duty: “Would there thus be a duty not to act according to duty: neither in conformity to duty. More precisely. which testifies to his borrowing a motif from the egological and subjectivistic tradition. The Undecidable The aporia of the rule leads the ethical decision to the undecidable. giving the example of politeness [P 9]). must decide without rules to follow. a command that paradoxically always occurs beyond the rule. (Let us note in passing here that when Derrida treats of ethics.

alone. in each singular situation. where it is said that the greatest danger. 19) “For me the undecidable is the condition of decision. happening outside of prior conditions of possibility (and to that extent. . Le Monde de l’Education ( July–August 2001). Ethical responsibility is thus a matter of invention. even if it is inscribed in a tradition” (PM 358). 70). decision [Entscheidung] “means already decidedness [Entschiendenheit]” (Contributions to Philosophy. Even if one were to simply apply a rule. The decided (lack of distress as utmost distress) has to be returned to the undecided (distress). Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly [Bloomington. But a decision does not end some aporetic phase. in the egological tradition of decision. an absolute risk that can rely on nothing but its own absence of foundation: “There is no ‘politics’. 1999]. Including when a decision is made. the most certain sign of nihilistic machination. i. impossible). trans. as we will see. The undecidable as impossible haunts any decision. hence the “lack of distress” that is the most distressful of all. www. as if for the first time. not application of a rule. but the experience of the undecidable through which alone a decision can take place.”18 The undecidable is thus not an objection to the decision but its condition. and decision is about nothing but Being. right. so as to bring out decidedness as such. being. Being is what is at stake in the decision. As Heidegger puts it. to be just. What is at issue in the decision is the decisive. without the responsibility of a decision which. the contradiction.. whereas Heidegger thinks decision outside of egology altogether.html.19 a constitutive and permanent aporia for it.17 A decision made does not suppress the undecidable. The aporia itself is the condition of decision and the very locus of freedom: “Where I still have a space for choice. that person would have to interpret its meaning and approve it. 52). 18) Jacques Derrida. “Undecidable” also designates this event character of decision: undecidable because not already decided.fr/ mde/ete2001/derrida. IN: Indiana University Press. Hereafter cited as SP. The issue is that Derrida remains.e. A decision is a leap. if to exceed it towards the other. Editions de l’Aube. to justify itself again. it remains confronted with the undecidable that makes it possible as decision. 1999]. interview by Antoine Spire. of the event” (Sur Parole [Paris. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 throws decision into the undecidable. “Autrui est secret parce qu’il est autre” [Autrui is secret because it is another]. arising out of the truth of be-ing itself. and generally with Heidegger’s treatment of decision in Beiträge zur Philosophie. 17) One will compare here Derrida’s undecidable with Heidegger’s decidedness (Entschiendenheit). and each time I want to keep the greatest possible freedom to negotiate between the two” (SP 48).lemonde. I am in the antinomy.284 F. is to believe matters decided. Derrida is quite clear on this point: “The aporia I speak so much about is not a mere momentary paralysis before an impasse. must not be content with simply applying existing norms or rules but take the absolute risk. ethics. and in fact never decided and never decidable.

there is what Derrida calls a “madness of the impossible” as opening to the incalculable. G.” Derrida explains in his 2004 interview with l’Humanité. then an alterity is its condition: I can never say: I made a decision. and therefore an opening to the incalculable. ‘I am responsible for it’. Webb (Malden. . It is when ‘I do not know the right rule’ that the ethical question arises. All these expressions seem unacceptable to me. The moment of decision. Of a Law and Decision of the Other If the decision takes place in a leap into the unknown.” Hereafter cited as TS. he maintained that. 2001). who precisely “always puts freedom after responsibility” (DE 103). would mean that I am capable of and master of my decision. For there to be a decision.20 A leap in the incalculable is necessary. as it were without seeing (voir) or foreseeing (prévoir). the ethical moment. which always takes place in a leap beyond knowledge. I do not take a decision. followed by page number. To say ‘I decide’. a horizon that dominates the traditional philosophy of responsibility as imputability of a free subject. I know that I decide’. with calculative rationality. ed. Such a distinction can only be made in a moment of ethical decision. 61. thus from a certain invisibility or unforeseeability without being able to calculate all the consequences of the decision. . by entering. Derrida here breaks in his thinking of responsible decision with the horizon of subjectivity and will (more precisely: he reverses it).F. Derrida writes firmly. into “the night of the unintelligible. supposes a rupture with knowledge. I unfold a program. is independent from knowledge. “One says too easily ‘I decide’ or ‘I take the responsibility for something’. supposes a rupture with the order of knowledge. Following Levinas. as Derrida says. MA: Polity Press. “the moment of decision. and it is a matter of deciding without knowing.” Even the difference between good and evil does not depend on a knowledge: one does not know what the difference between good and evil is. that I possess a criterion that allows me to say that it is I who decide” (DE 102). Ethics arises out of this aporia of the not-knowing of responsible decision. to say ‘you know that I decide. if you will. I apply a knowledge. . Derrida seeks to imagine 20) In A Taste for the Secret. I must not know what to do. and thus the moment of responsibility. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 285 Decision and Not-Knowing A not-knowing is thus a condition of ethical decision. the moment of responsibility. marking another appearance of the impossible: “If I know what I must do. . Donis and D. to that extent. The moment of decision.

in order to free (outside of these conditions of possibility) the possibility of the event.286 F. . a decision that would be of the other. Each time that I say ‘my decision’ or ‘I decide’.” in Questioning Ethics. by heteronomy. One also finds this expression of a decision of the other in me in “Hospitality. the im-possible. Justice and Responsibility: A Dialogue with Jacques Derrida. “A decision should split open or tear—this is what the term decision means—therefore should interrupt the thread of the possible [which Derrida understands here as the ‘I can’ of the ego. Here impossibility does not mean: that which cannot be.22 III. an other greater and older than I am” (PTT 134). for a decision worthy of this name should mark the splitting open of the self in its identity or self-sameness. should mark a hiatus in the subject. . outside of transcendental horizons of calculability. One can calculate up to a point. as power and will of the selbst]. 22) 21) . . The Im-possible In order to mark such heterogeneity of responsibility to the horizon of calculability of the subject. . and in so doing. . but is the opening of the event. an alterity or heteronomy from which and in which alone a decision can be taken. by a law come from the other. Derrida speaks of the value of “unpredictable im-possibility. as paradoxical possibility of the event: An expression one also finds for instance in V 210. Kearney and M.” which he associates with that of “incalculable and exceptional singularity” (V 203). Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 an alterity of decision. but rather: that which happens outside of the anticipating conditions of possibility of the egological subject. by a responsibility and decision of the other—of the other in me. outside of the horizons of expectation proposed by the subject. The impossible is not what simply cannot be and is thus null and void. one can be sure that I am wrong. 1999). but: “The incalculable happens” (TS 61). Derrida underscores what he calls the “im-possibility” of responsibility. it is always the decision of the other in me and I am in a way passive in decision” (DE 102). My decision is in fact the decision of the other. Derrida writes “impossible” as “im-possible” in order to underscore the excess with respect to the horizon of the conditions of possibility of the subject.”21 it is a matter of marking an alterity at the heart of responsible decision. as neutralization of the event. ed. Decision should always be the decision of the other. Hereafter cited as QE. R. My decision can never be mine. Dooley (New York: Routledge. “That is what I meant . 67. Derrida will oppose to the power of the subject. With such a “passive decision.

what Derrida calls the happening/arrival of the arrivant (l’arrivée de l’arrivant). literally. Krell. to the order of the ‘I can’ ” (PTT 134). D. In a footnote in Aporias (A 86 n. echoes Heidegger’s term that one finds in his “Letter on Humanism” of the avenant (Martin Heidegger. . and expanded ed. as leap outside of the horizon of expectations. expected and anticipated. rev.”23 Further. that is.25 and whose welcome is called. what is to come” (Basic Writings. [San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. an event as event is said to be im-possible.26 Ethics would designate this openness to the other.’ “to all this I would oppose. In fact. “l’arrivante. the eventfulness of the event. of the welcome of the other. . F. “The ‘World’ of the Enlightenment to Come. l’arrivant. 24) V. notes. the English advenient) is most often used as an adverbial phrase. some ‘I can. 1993]. The issue is thus to oppose “the pure eventfulness of the event” (PTT 134) to the power of the ego to neutralize it. It happens (arrive) as the advent of the impossible” (PM 285). if it does not simply identify with it (hospitality for him is not a mere region of ethics but indeed “ethicity itself. 198. “Unpredictable.F. à l’avenant. Being “arrives” or “presences. “ethics. As the editor of Basic Writings. this impossible—“there is the impossible. An event or an invention are only possible as impossible.” The Derridean ethics will thus determine itself as an ethics of alterity.” I am grateful to David Krell for reminding me that the term “l’avenant” was originally in Jean Beaufret’s letter to Heidegger. . Derrida mentions that. the whole and principle of ethics”).”24 It is indeed. 264). 14). Derrida thus writes: “An event or an invention is possible only as im-possible. of what must remain (in a non-negative fashion) foreign to the order of my possibilities. in the following sense: it happens outside of the horizon of preparedness of the subject as ‘I can’.” The arriving one was thus initially feminine. ed. David Farrell Krell. conformity. . The event is possible only when come from the impossible. the im-possible. happens.” we are told (PTT 120)—marks the possibility of the event. in the first place. which possibilizes the event. “after the fact. precisely. . an event worthy of this name.” he had recalled a 1977 play by Helene Cixous called. everything I placed earlier under the title of the im-possible. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 287 To the whole machination of the subject. literally the arriving one. the future. 26) Adieu 94.” Research in Phenomenology 33 (2003): 35. 23) . “If only what is already possible. . or relation to something. paradoxically. this is not an event. an ethics Jacques Derrida. it falls out of the possibilities of welcome of the subject as host. the to-come. and l’avenir. the condition of possibility that impossibilizes in this way the experience of which it claims to be the condition. 25) This term. the arrival of some unforeseen challenge. to the establishment of the power of someone. and it is. “L’avenant (cf. It is related to l’aventure. on the contrary. The event must announce itself as im-possible. to be in accord. precisely. Basic Writing. The avenant plays on adventure but mostly on the one who is coming. 264).

hospitality up to a point. see my “The Subject of the Welcome. im-possible. no. 28) On this point. one that remains regulated by the pre-existing conditions of a welcoming power—and which is in fact no hospitality—from hospitality itself. ethics becoming the experience of limits. as the possibility of the event and of what arrives. but on the side of the arriving guest. and that. whoever comes. as a new arrival. a “chosen immigration” is his expression).28 The welcome of the other—of the arrivant—is not on the side of the host as master of the house. its dogmatism and relativism. hospitality must not impose conditions. When speaking of hospitality Derrida distinguishes a conditional hospitality. 2 (1998): 211–22.” “Absolute” here is the term for the “wholly other. i. is as well incalculable. who or what arrives.e. is in fact the “contrary” of hospitality: the other is here “welcomed” on the basis of the conditions laid out by the host. hospitality registering such an arrival.288 F. and therefore absolute in this precise sense: “pure and unconditional hospitality. The im-possible is the site of this welcome. Tolerance. The ethics of the impossible. absolute. that is. that is. or pure hospitality. as responsiveness to such arrival of the other. is the welcome of the event of the other and the obligation of hospitality. Responsibility. for there to be hospitality.” 27) On Derrida’s reservations with respect to the notion of tolerance. Hospitality is on the side of the guest. It is such insofar as it also determines itself as an ethics of the event. To be such. is no hospitality. for instance. in its aporetic structure. in short wholly other” (PTT 129). it must not “choose” the guest (as French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently proposed. opens or is in advance open to someone who is neither expected nor invited. Hospitality comes from the other. happens. comes.” Symposium: Journal of the Canadian Society for Hermeneutics and Postmodern Thought 2. and absolutely “of the other. The other arrives when it arrives: “Whatever happens. there must be the event of the arrival of the other. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 of the other in the subjective sense of the genitive.27 One must therefore radicalize hospitality to the point of a genuine welcome of the other. hospitality itself. a hospitality not relative to the a priori conditions of the subject.. of what remains inappropriable or “impossible” in the event of alterity. see TS 62–64. In contrast to conditional hospitality—no hospitality but exercise of power by the host over the arriving other—Derrida proposes the notion of an unconditional. . is the only event worthy of this name” (PTT 129). to whomever arrives as an absolutely foreign visitor. in the subjective genitive. nonidentifiable and unforeseeable. which is unconditional. in the end. by a welcoming power. The im-possible is the name of such an ethics of hospitality.

the event. are knotted to such a threshold of the aporetic. the thought of the im-possible. As the passage we just cited indicates. This transcendence happens in immanence and does not constitute some theological beyond. and the event as the arrivant “affects the very experience of the threshold” (A 33). in a nonvirtualizable way. precedes me. of what happens and arrives. Conclusion Ultimately for Derrida.F. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 289 and responsibility is the response to this arrival of the wholly other. . as it constitutes a here and now. The “im-possible” event is each time the interruption and constitution of a “threshold” (drawing its contours through dis-location and ex-appropriation). . The ethics of the impossible includes the incalculability of the open and the actual situatedness of experience as constituted/interrupted. impossible hospitality. here and now. He insisted as well on the ethical scope of such thinking. and seizes me here now. Like the other. Death. Rather. It is not the inaccessible. explaining to his interlocutor: “what you say about a privileged attention to the event is correct. in the 2004 interview with l’Humanité. there is the inscription (or “ex-scription”) at the heart and limit of the immanence of experience. No theological turn or inflation here. of the transcendence of responsibility as responsiveness to the other. The im-possible is not an idea in the Kantian sense. Aporia is about a certain threshold. The event. Derrida recognized. the growing importance that this thinking of the event has taken for him. It is what is most undeniably real. not even a teleological horizon. Derrida is quite clear on this point: “This im-possible is not privative. if it is the case that an event has no horizon. as we read sometimes. the im-possible does not await at the horizon. . it is not an idea but the most real. The im-possible is thus not beyond. the threshold of hospitality—welcome of the arrivant.) as ex-appropriation. of the aporetic. sweeps down upon me. is inseparable from a thinking of the event. . the excess of transcendence is the advent of a here (situatedness . a here that is marked by trauma and difference. but pierces it in the urgency of its arrival. in actuality and not potentiality. the impossible (PTT 120). and in this sense an absolute responsibility of the other. of a here as threshold (the threshold of the self ) and site of welcome. and it is not what I can indefinitely defer: it is announced to me. ex-appropriated. as that which . . Like the irreducible and nonappropriable difference of the other” (PTT 134). It has become more and more insistent. This im-possible is thus not a regulative idea or ideal. There is.

comes from above. It happens once. that is to say. an event falls upon me. comes to surprise me. is no longer an event. in June 2004 with France 3. before us. the aleatory. Not only what happens. An event. An event is thus unique. in coming. Derrida speaks of the absolute weakness and disarmament that allows the incalculable to happen. something.” which means “exposing ourselves to what we cannot appropriate: it is there. of the secret. Derrida would describe the surprise of the event is this way: “The event is what comes and. but also who happens/arrives. What interests me in the event is its singularity.” The im-possible is thus what lies outside the subject. and that has no need of us to happen (to us)” (TS 63). to surprise and to suspend comprehension: The event is first of all that which I do not first of all comprehend. he speaks of the event of “the occasion. of forgiveness. In A Taste for the Secret. each time once [chaque fois une fois]. Derrida stresses.” it does not appear on the horizon from where I may be able to fore-see it. 29) DE 97. the arrivant. vertically. as “non-way [is] the condition of walking. For an event that one predicts has already happened. that is to say. and is an absolute surprise. without us—there is someone. without horizon. that happens to us. means what happens.” It is in this sense that aporia becomes the very possibility of a way. The question ‘what is to be done with what/who arrives?’ commands a thinking of hospitality. can never be included in a horizon of expectation. as the arrivant.290 F. anticipate it: rather. the event is first of all that I do not comprehend. “The event. The fact that I do not comprehend: my incomprehension”. and yet happens to such a subject. answering the question of the journalist who had asked him: “what is deconstruction?”.”29 In what was to be his last appearance on television. the event can only appear to me as impossible. what exceeds it. The political stakes of these reflections have been underlined. . of witnessing. happening to it as impossible. a path. I cannot see it come: an event never arrives “horizontally. Better. singularly. All of this concerns ‘what/who happens/arrives’. the impossible. One will of course refer such incomprehension to the not-knowing of the moment of decison. Derrida replied: “deconstruction. chance. that happens. Raffoul / Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008) 270–290 happens [arrive] unpredictably. and unpredictable. the event as unpredictable. is what falls upon me vertically without me being able to see it come: before arriving.” “The impossibility of finding one’s way is the condition of ethics” (QE 73). for me. of the gift. In PTT 90.

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