Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy)

Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy)

John D. Caputo

Language: English

Pages: 215

ISBN: 0823217558

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Responding to questions put to him at a Roundtable held at Villanova University in 1994, Jacques Derrida leads the reader through an illuminating discussion of the central themes of deconstruction. Speaking in English and extemporaneously, Derrida takes up with unusual clarity and great eloquence such topics as the task of philosophy, the Greeks, justice, responsibility, the gift, the community, the distinction between the messianic and the concrete messianisms, and his interpretation of James Joyce. Derrida convincingly refutes the charges of relativism and nihilism that are often leveled at deconstruction by its critics and sets forth the profoundly affirmative and ethico-political thrust of his work. The Roundtableis marked by the unusual clarity of Derrida's presentation and by the deep respect for the great works of the philosophical and literary tradition with which he characterizes his philosophical work. The Roundtable is annotated by John D. Caputo, the David R. Cook Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University, who has supplied cross references to Derrida's writings where the reader may find further discussion on these topics. Professor Caputo has also supplied a commentary which elaborates the principal issues raised in the Roundtable. In all, this volume represents one of the most lucid, compact and reliable introductions to Derrida and deconstruction available in any language. An ideal volume for students approaching Derrida for the first time, Deconstruction in a Nutshell will prove instructive and illuminating as well for those already familiar with Derrida's work.











essence. So, if deconstruction were to have a constitution, the "bill of rights" would come second, after the "bill" or, better, the "confession of responsibilities," and its declaration of independence would come right after its declaration of dependence, for rights are rooted in responsibility. The talk about rag picking helps us see that part of the difference between the old and the new Enlightenment is a question of style. Derrida's more avant-garde style makes the old Aufklärers nervous,

and compulsion, yet still without -149- simply canceling or annulling the obligation. If I am addressed by the other, overtaken and surprised, traumatized even, as Levinas likes to say, shocked by the blow that the circle of the same receives from the incoming of the other, then I "must" "respond." But this "must" is without necessity, compulsion, or force; it is beyond mere duty or dutifulness. If I respond to the solicitation of the other out of pure duty, that is almost insulting (please, do

see Irving Wohlfarth , "On the Messianic Structure of Walter Benjamin's Last Reflections," Glyph, 3 ( 1978), 148-212; Iseult Honohan, "Arendt and Benjamin on the Promise of History: A Network of Possibilities or One Apocalyptic Moment?" Clio ( 1990), 311330; Christopher Hering, "Messianic Time and Materialistic Progress," Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 16 ( 1985), 156-166; and Christopher Fynsk, "The Claim of History," Diacritics, 22 ( 1992), 115-126. Derrida himself cites the

this otherwise valuable and provocative distinction, which I would propose to do as follows. We have been insisting (not without a certain deconstructive Schadenfreude) that, by introducing the "messianic" into deconstruction, Derrida is being very Jewish. This is not an entirely new turn of events; it has been going on in one way or another for a long time. Susan Handelman pointed out some time ago how very rabbinical, albeit ____________________ 14 For further discussion, see Prayers and Tears

word masiah, translatable into the Greek christos, marked and indexed indelibly by its Jewish, Hebrew, biblical, and religious provenance of which it can never be "denuded," by which it is still partially clothed. Deconstruction, no less than Derrida, did not drop from the sky ( ED 233/ WD157), and it cannot lift itself like an aigle on Hegelian wings above historical particularities. Derrida has brought his Jewish prayer shawl out of the closet. I have suggested elsewhere that Derrida might be

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