Derrida on “9-11”: “philosophy” meets “terrorism”

Yes Derrida prioritises language; yes he believes we cannot know for certain, yes he goes on to “language-games” in the midst of “terror”… yet what he says, and how he says it, is so important, that it challenges the “status quo” version of “truth”… but not necessarily truth itself.  I believe Derrida has a lot to offer, problem is not many of us really know how to listen to him.

The following is an excerpt of an excerpt of an interview with Derrida after the “9-11” tragedy.

Full excerpt here:

Borradori (interviewer): It seems that you place your hopes in the authority of international law.

Derrida: Yes. In the first place, as imperfect as they may be, these international institutions should be respected in their deliberations and their resolutions by the sovereign states who are members of them and who have thus subscribed to their charters. I mentioned just a moment ago the serious failings of certain “Western” states with regard to these commitments. Such failings would stem from at least two series of causes.

First, they would have to do with the very structure of the axioms and principles of these systems of law and thus of the charters and conventions that institutionalize them. Reflection (of what I would call a “deconstructive” type) should thus, it seems to me, without diminishing or destroying these axioms and principles, question and refound them, endlessly refine and universalize them, without becoming discouraged by the aporias such work must necessarily encounter.

But second, such failings, in the case of states as powerful as the United States and Israel (which is supported by the U.S.), are not subject to any dissuasive sanctions. The United Nations has neither the force nor the means for such sanctions. It is thus necessary to do everything possible (a formidable and imposing task for the very long term) to ensure that these current failings in the present state of these institutions are effectively sanctioned and, in truth, discouraged in advance by a new organization. This would mean that an institution such as the UN (once modified in its structure and charter—and I’m thinking here particularly of the Security Council) would have to have at its disposal an effective intervening force and thus no longer have to depend in order to carry out its decisions on rich and powerful, actually or virtually hegemonic, nation-states, which bend the law in accordance with their force and according to their interests. Sometimes quite cynically.

I’m not unaware of the apparently utopic character of the horizon I’m sketching out here, that of an international institution of law and an international court of justice with their own autonomous force. Though I do not hold law to be the last word in ethics, politics, or anything else, though this unity of force and law (which is required by the very concept of law, as Kant explains so well) is not only utopic but aporetic (since it implies that beyond the sovereignty of the nation-state, indeed beyond democratic sovereignty—whose ontotheological foundations must be deconstructed—we would nonetheless be reconstituting a new figure, though not necessarily state-related, of universal sovereignty, of absolute law with an effective autonomous force at its disposal), I continue to believe that it is faith in the possibility of this impossible and, in truth, undecidable thing from the point of view of knowledge, science, and conscience that must govern all our decisions.

Full excerpt here:


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Passage for this Season

Philippians 2:11-13 (NIV) (12)Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13)for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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