The Bright Side of Deconstruction

Derrida meme

In the previous post I wrote about what I find to be some uncanny parts of deconstruction. In this post I’ll quote from one of the most inspiring essays by Derrida that I’ve read so far, and a much brighter one, as I see it. Here he writes about Levinas’ philosophy, and the ethical respect for the otherness of the other, and the otherness of the origin of the trace that is outside being, before any human questioning about being, the turning towards light and clarity through the difference of shades of brightness, with references to i.e. Plato. The essay is titled Violence And Metaphysics from the book Writing and Difference (from 1967, the year deconstruction broke). I’ll comment on the quote later. In this essay there’s also some beautiful quotes on metaphors and language, a more beautiful and poetic way to put deconstruction as I see it. But here’s the first quote:

“Without intermediary and without communion, absolute proximity and absolute distance: “eros in which, within the proximity to the other, distance is integrally maintained; eros whose pathos is made simultaneously of this proximity and this duality.” A community of nonpresence, and therefore of nonphenomenality. Not a community without light, not a blindfolded synagogue, but a community anterior to Platonic light. A light before neutral light, before the truth which arrives as a third party, the truth “which we look toward together,” the judgmental arbitrator’s truth. Only the other, the totally other, can be manifested as what it is before the shared truth, within a certain nonmanifestation and a certain absence. It can be said only of the other that its phenomenon is a certain nonphenomenon, its presence (is ) a certain absence. Not pure and simple absence, for there logic could make its claim, but a certain  absence. Such a formulation shows clearly that within this experience of the other the logic of noncontradiction, that is, everything which Levinas designates as “formal logic,” is contested in its root. This root would be not only the root of our language, but the root of all of Western philosophy,20  particularly phenomenology and ontology. This naïveté would prevent them from thinking the other (that is from thinking; and this would indeed be the reason why, although Levinas, “the enemy of thought,” does not say so), and from aligning their discourse with the other. The consequence would be double. (a) Because they do not think the other, they do not have time. Without time, they do not have history. The absolute alterity of each instant, without which there would be no time, cannot be produced—constituted—within the identity of the subject or the existent. It comes into time through the Other. Bergson and Heidegger would have overlooked this (De l’existence à l’existent  [hereafter EE ]), and Husserl even more so. (b) More seriously, to renounce the other (not by being weaned from it, but by detaching oneself from it, which is actually to be in relation to it, to respect it while nevertheless overlooking it, that is, while knowing it, identifying it, assimilating it), to renounce the other is to enclose oneself within solitude (the bad solitude of solidity and self-identity) and to repress ethical transcendence.”

Writing and Difference, pages 112-113

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