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Derrida on Heidegger and . . . Robinson Crusoe? Review of : Jacques Derrida, Seminaire: La bete et le souverain, Volume II (2002–2003). Edited by Michel Lisse, Marie-Louise Mallet, and Genette Michaud.

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Derrida on Heidegger and . . . Robinson Crusoe? Review of : Jacques Derrida, Seminaire: La bete et le souverain, Volume II (2002–2003). Edited by Michel Lisse, Marie-Louise Mallet, and Genette Michaud., Page 1 of 1

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1. FN11) Page references throughout this review are to vol. 2 of the French edition, inasmuch as the English translation, helpfully, places the French pagination in the outside margin. I will cite Robinson Crusoe (Derrida reads the Modern Library edition introduced by Virginia Woolf ) only as Derrida cites it; by contrast, I will cite Heidegger’s text according to the 1983 German edition, as 29/30, which is its Gesamtausgabe number. At the same time, I wish to acknowledge and to laud Nick Walker and Will McNeill for their exceptionally fine English translation of that volume published by Indiana University Press.
2. FN22) For the review of Derrida’s Séminaire, vol. 1, see my “Of Dog and God,” Research in Phenomenology 42, no. 2 (2011): 269–95.
3. FN33) Delivered at the conference “French Theory in Translation: the Question of the Archive,” held in Chicago in November 2011, a text as yet unpublished. Michael Naas’ paper at this same conference bears the title “If you could take just two books . . .” It is also as yet unpublished.
4. FN44) If I may be permitted to refer to a work of fiction, see the phantasmatic plaint of “Spirit” in Krell, Son of Spirit: A Novel (Albany: SUNY Press, 1997), 166–69. There the phantasm of spirit—if such a pleonasm can be forgiven—demands both inhumation and pyrification: “protect me, petrify me,” he says, but also “combust me to universal haze.”
5. FN55) I have written about these things—the stirrings and loomings of an earth-relation in a unified field of physis—in Daimon Life: Heidegger and Life-Philosophy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992) and more recently in the unpublished paper mentioned earlier, “The Touchstone of All Philosophy.”
6. FN66) In L’animal que donc je suis (49), Derrida sees in Bentham’s question concerning animals, Can they suffer? the crucial question of possibility and impossibility, that is, of vulnerability and finitude—the finitude that human beings share with other living things. This is, for him, the key. If I am not mistaken, Heidegger comes closest to this sensibility to suffering when he speaks (in section 63 of the 1929/30 course) of death—not “demise” or “perishing” or some other shaky distinction—invading the ring of animal disinhibitions and “shattering” it. Such shattering, Erschütterung, was for Heidegger always the mark of progress in finite thinking, which is always an experience of Scheitern, or shipwreck, perhaps even for creatures who do not seem to think the way we do.
7. FN77) Heidegger’s 1925 Prolegomena to the History of the Concept of Time, which is a first draft of the first part of Sein und Zeit, has special importance here, because in it the analysis of anxiety is subordinated to the principal theme of Unheimlichkeit. This is therefore the volume to which one can most readily compare Freud’s analysis of the uncanny. See Krell, Archetictures: Ecstasies of Space, Time, and the Human Body (Albany: SUNY Press, 1997), chap. 3. The chapter also appears in American Continental Philosophy: A Reader, ed. Walter Brogan and James Risser (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), 179–212.
8. FN88) Another recent paper by Michael Naas (does the boy never stop?) gives the lie to both me and Derrida: in his André Schuwer lecture at SPEP in October 2011, “World, Solitude, Finitude: Derrida’s Final Seminar,” Naas shows that Walten plays a key role in Derrida’s earlier texts on Heidegger, especially “Heidegger’s Ear: Philopolemology (Geschlecht IV)” of 1989. Furthermore, Derrida’s interpretation there is very much the same as in the final seminar. Derrida’s discovery of Walten is thus by no means “late.” Yet is this not the way it always is? We find ourselves with a new idea, only to discover that the discovery of this new idea lies decades back? At all events, Naas is certainly right when he says that Derrida’s obsession with Walten means that Walten comes to rule, prevail, and dominate (in) him. And Naas is right again to suppose that Benjamin’s Kritik der Gewalt and Derrida’s own “Force of Law” lie behind this obsession—that and the bombing of Baghdad, televised live, that had begun a week prior to the tenth and final session of the seminar. If the human being shatters against one thing, and that is death, why is it that its principal occupation so often is shattering others while it still has the time? Although he never mentions it, Derrida is deeply worried about Robinson’s arsenal of muskets, fowling-pieces, loaded pistols, powder horn and powder cask, ball, bullet and shot.
9. FN99) I found very few typos in the beautifully produced French volume: p. 38, ftnt. 1, l. 2: Produktionsproceß is one word, join-up; p. 57, l. 8 f. b.: and two Cats; p. 78, l. 5, last word: bewältigen [add the umlaut]; p. 158, l. 5 f. b.: Treiben [Trieb is a noun, but the verb is Treiben]; p. 171, first line: Tierheit des Tieres [not Tieren]; p. 247, ftnt. 1, l. 3 f. b.: lettre; p. 280, l. 13: robinsonocentré [cf. pp. 317–18]; p. 282, l. 15: “Mute” does not exist in German without the zu. So one has to say either le Mut de Armut or le Zu-Mute der Armut; p. 319, l. 6 f. b.: Täuschen [correct the umlaut]. I did not check the English translation for typos, but it too seems to be beautifully and carefully produced, which is after all the consistently applied touchstone of the University of Chicago Press. And as for the translation, I repeat what I have said in the first part of the review: one sees on every page of this English-language volume that Derrida was blessed in his circle of translators, Geoff Bennington being certainly not the least of these.
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/content/journals/10.1163/15691640-12341239
2012-01-01
2015-08-30

Affiliations: 1: Emeritus, DePaul University

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