Month: January 2017

Foucault and the Politics of Rights Reviewed by Andrew Dits in the NDPR

He writes, by way of a summation,

How then ought we use rights? In his concluding chapter, Golder insists that precisely because they are forms of counter-conduct, they can be remade, reshaped, and redeployed to new ends. “Foucault does not simply capitulate to a certain ‘rights talk’ because this is the predominant language of his time,” Golder writes, “but rather tries to semantically undo that rights talk and to make it mean differently” (156). This is, Golder insists, the essence of Foucault’s critical method generally: by taking up rights as a critical counter-conduct, we can “occupy rights” (156) as a mode of self-reflective critique and make them mean differently. That is, Golder shows us that they can and should be used in the same way Foucault used them: contingently, ambivalently, and tactically. In his closing pages, Golder invites us to consider the future of rights, challenging us to reflect on the conditions in which we find ourselves and how the tools of power that dominate us may be strategically used for our liberation and the reformation of selves.

Source: Foucault and the Politics of Rights // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame

The Philosophical Salon is Out

First published as channel in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the book offers short 3-4 page interventions by Kelly Oliver, Claire Colebrook, Jay Bernstein, Geoff Bennington and a host of others. It is edited by Michael Marder and Patrícia Vieira and is available open access at Open Humanities Press.

The New Derrida, Lecture 2: The Animal

The New Derrida, Lecture 2

The Animal


Derrida, The Animal that Therefore I am, pp. 1-52. (Stanford UP, 2008)

Nicole Anderson: “deconstruction and Ethics: “An (ir)responsibility,” in Derrida: Key Concepts.


Judith Still, Derrida and Other Animals: The Boundaries of the Human (Edinburgh University Press, 2015)

SEP, “Emmanuel Levinas”

Matthew Calarco, Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida (Columbia UP, 2008)

Who am I? In the French, the question is Qui suis-je? Who is this “I” that speaks to you and of itself, saying “I” with such ease. For Descartes and Heidegger this experience of the “I” is never questioned: “I think therefore I am,” a phrase to which we’ll return often tonight, is the most famous and perhaps economic of proofs in the history of philosophy. For Heidegger, each Dasein, each existent, must say “I” because the one who questions after the meaning of the Being of beings—first and foremost in Being and Time, the being of that entity who is the questioner, namely Dasein—for the very reason that it is “in each case mine (je meines).” This is the most concrete and primordial of experiences: the least we could say: I am. You are. But of course who we are arrives from an inheritance because of each of us has survived and lived on beyond the dead before us, and whom we follow: we say “I am” in a language whose inheritance and grammar we cannot refuse. Whom do I follow? The question in French is again Qui suis-je? For readers of Levinas, we know that the I is always hostage to another, to one who is “greater and older than I am,” as he puts it. The Other precedes me, holds me hostage, such that we begin to feel trembling the “me” we take to be the most common, the first and last, of experiences of what we dub the human. The child differentiates itself from its mother and thus can enter the structural, linguistic order, to enter experience proper, one it is able to say without saying, “I am” and perhaps even “you are” for its parents. Who am I? Whom do I follow? In our last moments, Heidegger argues, no one can die for for us. Death—the possibility of our impossibility, as he calls it—is my own. Thus from the beginning to the end, that which names itself I, Ich, je, and so on—a name it tells itself is most itself even if it’s not a name, but an indexical that names us all that say it and repeat or follow it—and says I am or I am here, begins and returns to this most primordial of experience, the experience of experience that is auto-affection, even as this repetition of each of us, each that is mine, repeating “I am” points to a heteroaffection, the one to whom “I am” is a response, or testified to by the very repetition from in my own supposed voice of what was not given firstly in my own voice, “I am.”

Derrida’s The Animal that Therefore I am and all of his writings, from beginning to end, are known for contesting that what I am is simply or merely human, and it is this supposed “anti-humanism” that brings out the beast in his critics, spitting their venom like snakes and attempting to scare away those who would approach his work. The critics find their animality at precisely the moment that they want to hold to some value of the human beyond the animal: reason and language and thus the ability to respond and have responsibility. What we will follow here is one particular animal as he follows a certain deconstruction of the human/animal distinction in The Animal that Therefore I am as well as in his last two lectures courses, The Beast and the Sovereign. But we must return, always, to that most concrete, supposedly, of questions: who am I? Whom do I follow? From Plato through Descartes through Kant through Heidegger, man (and I will keep this nomenclature for now, for reasons that will become clear) is that being that names the animal as such. When the animal that therefore I am asks who am I?, the answer invariably starts from the proposition that I am not one of those many billions of entities that we call, we follow and hunt down, as “the animal.” This is where we begin our auto-biographies, which always have in the background that we follow less from what we dub the animal, though evolution tells us otherwise, than as but one human among others who rose above animality when history began. History, then, is the story the human tells of its rise, of its becoming erect and standing, and thus able to survey over those we name, one by one in different ways, the animal. We name it thus—this is the story from Genesis, a power given to Adam by God, but it’s an event that occurs every moment during which we dub ourselves human—and thus erect the human as sovereign.

I am thus a “who” rising above the “what”-ness of animality, and no doubt we spend our days trying to sniff out and cover over the reek of that animality that therefore I am; we don’t wish to smell like a beast. Let us enumerate the ways in which Derrida will discuss in The Animal that therefore I am—a lecture first given at Cerisy, France, in 1997—and his later lectures courses how and where we make this cut between the human and the animal, which in turn allows for all the cuts we make into the animal while disavowing that “it” (not a he or a she) suffers. At each turn let us keep in mind that each of these are symptomatic of a fundamental disavowal in the history of Western philosophy—indeed it makes any writing of “history” itself possible in the first place—and this disavowal is undeniable, a term that will in the coming weeks gain in import. As Derrida puts it in The Animal that therefore I am:

[T]his question of the animal is not just interesting and serious in its own right. It also provides us with an indespensable intertwining thread for reading philosophers and for gaining access to a sort of secret “architectonics” in the construction—and therefore deconstruction—of a discursive apparatus, a coherence, if not a system. One understands a philosophy only by heeding closely what he [or she] means to demonstrate, and in reality fails to demonstrate, concerning the limit between human and animal.

This is where deconstruction begins: what does this animal that is human tell itself about what or who it is such that it can say “I am…” human? What does it have to sacrifice in intellectual rigor in order to defend the structures that surround all manner of sacrificial logic, which will extend, as we will see in the weeks ahead, to the death penalty and its scaffolds, but also to all manner of violent deaths in war or in simply the biopolitical choice of health for some populations, but not for others? The places of these cuts between the human and the animal are innumerable and thus uncountable, even as they are, in the end, unaccountable:

  1. The human is that which can be naked or nude: the animal may be without clothing, but it does not know that it is without clothing, doesn’t think to dress or cover its sex, and thus can’t can’t state the naked truth that “I am.”
  2. The animal has no shame and it’s not even ashamed of it. It has no shame over its shame, as the animal that therefore I am might find in a therapy session when I am made to feel guilty over the guilt that I feel, or that another animal that we’ll follow finds in the face of his cat, in the face of that which is said to be without a face, in the shower scene that opens The Animal that therefore I am.
  3. The animal therefore cannot be nakedly or cruelly evil. As in Genesis—we think we live in such as secular age, but Derrida’s texts are convincing on just how much, concerning the animal and so much else, we still derive from the Islamo-Judeo-Christian tradition—the animal is before good and evil, even as it invariably is the motif or metonymy for evil. It is before or beyond innocence and thus cannot be moral or immoral.
  4. The animal is without reason and this is why animality is the metonymy for being abjectly stupid (Derrida hence relies on the French bêtise, meaning stupid and animal, throughout his texts on animality).
  5. The animal without access to language and the logos, and thus to history and its vicissitudes. It cannot literally say “I am” and thus cannot cannot account for itself, cannot give an autobiography, let alone give an autobiography of its species that we call history. While every living creature is said to move spontaneously, automatically, and from Aristotle forward, is said to “feel itself” and hence “to relate to itself,” that is, to have “autoaffection or automotion…the self of that relation to the self,” what is “in dispute…is the power to make reference to the self in deictic or autodeictic terms, the capability at least virtually to turn a finger toward oneself in order to say ‘this is I.’” This is the minimum of thought: the “I think” that accompanies thought and its representations: the animal perhaps has the latter, but is always denied the former. And it is the minimum for speaking properly:

Men would be first and foremost those living creatures who have themselves the word that enables them to speak of the animal with a single voice and to designate as the single being [qua a specimen of the animal] and to designate it as the single being that remains without a response, without a word with which to respond.

This is why Derrida will play on the homonym in French of the portmanteau animot and animaux, since “animal is a word that men have given themselves the right to give.”

6. The animal does not respond; it reacts. We thus owe it no ethics: it is a machine and if we put questions to it, we would receive only repetitious, verbal seeming barks or other noises. As if, given the machine we call language and its iterability, and given any logic of the unconscious, we could discern with any credibility the difference between our responses and reactions. All questions of responsibility come down to this distinction, and thus any attempt to deconstruct it, to be naked about the cruel inability to give “purity” and “rigor” to the cut between one and the other, opens us onto all questions of the political and the ethical, the juridical and the moral. How to take the measure of when one is merely reacting, when one is behaving as the animal that therefore I am, from when one is responding and thus when one is responsible for what one does? One would have to be criminally stupid not to see the point. No doubt this “risks…casting doubt on all responsibility, all ethics, every decision, etc.”  Let me quote Derrida at length on this point, since what he writes is central for how we respond or react to his work:

Casting doubt on responsibility, on decision, on one’s own being-ethical seems to me to be…the unrescindable essence of ethics, decision and responsibility. All firm knowledge, certainty, and assurance on this subject would suffice, precisely, to confirm the very thing thing one wishes to disavow, namely, the reactionality of the response.

That is, if such a knowledge were certain and assured, it would be programmable and machinic, that is, reactive. Rather, Derrida writes,

[I]t is a matter…of taking that difference [between reaction and response] into account within the within the whole differentiated field of experience and of a world of life forms, and of doing that without reducing this differentiated and multiple difference, in a conversely massive and homogenizing manner, to one between the human subject … and the nonsubject that is the animal in general…the nonsubject that is subjected to the human subject….It would therefore be a matter of reinscribing this différance between reaction and response, and hence this historicity of ethical, juridical, or political responsibility, within another thinking of life, of the living, within another relation of the living to their ipseity [explain], to their autos, to their own autokinesis and reactional automaticity.

  1. The animal is capable of perishing (verenden) but not dying (sterben), as Heidegger puts puts it in Being and Time. That is, since it has no relation to its death as such—as if one could ever have a relation to death as such—the animals merely goes away, stops working, if one will, but does not truly die in full human sense. Thus while Dasein is always already dying, always already in a relation to its being-towards-death and its own mortality, the animal never dies even as it is not immortal. But neither is it mortal either, since to be so would be to have a relation to one’s own mortality and finitude.
  2. To Bentham’s famous question, can they suffer, philosophical history has been all but silent, since to admit as much would be to admit more than auto-motility and autoaffection in the animal; only the human experiences pain, which is the consciousness of what one suffers or undergoes. We deny it even as Derrida notes it’s undeniable.
  3. Since the animal lacks consciousness, it also lacks an unconscious. There can be no psychoanalysis of the animal, even the animal que donc je suis. The animal is also that which is unaware of this lack of a lack; it fulfills needs but does not desire, and hence we can with good conscience relieve them of what shakes any ability in the human to have a good conscience, namely the unconscious, since as Kant recognized, one never knows just why one follows the most ethical of maxims, since one does not know if there is some “secret inclination hiding” behind reason.
  4. The animal, as in Lacan, cannot lie: it would need to be conscious of the truth to feign otherwise. Even when it covers its tracks to throw off those that follow and are after it, like the animal that therefore I am, the animal can feign nothing; it always is in the truth even if it doesn’t know it. Even though the whole logic of the unconscious—Lacanian or Freudian or even Kantian—belies this about lying, given that any “truth” could be a symptom or phantasm, a “lie” one tells oneself, if there can be such a thing, without even knowing it.
  5. The animal has no face, in the Levinasian sense: it is not an Other. Even as the Other is unknowable, unable to be captured within a concept, which would relegate it in Levinas, to the level of the Same, this alterity must always already be known as human.
  6. The human is that being that is cruel, perhaps first and foremost, Derrida suggests, since this cruelty arrives through this supposition of a sovereignty of the human over the supposed animal. That is, the human can know, can be transparent or naked to itself, about its aims when it does violence. It cannot commit crimes, though there is a tasty history of animal courts in the Middle Ages, when pigs, dogs, and such were subject to the law and thus expected to be lawful subjects, although in fact much of the lore around these animal trials is phantasmatic and appears to have been something of a parodic joke. As one article puts it:

In an age where animals were often roaming the streets and children were found in the fields, accidents were pretty common. [A scholar on the topic] describes one, fairly typical case in 1379 in which two herds of swine were feeding together when a trio of pigs became agitated, and charged the swinemaster’s son, who died from his injuries. All of the pigs from both herds were tried, and “after due process of law, were condemned to death.” Somewhat luckily, all but the three instigating pigs were implicated as accomplices, and later pardoned….Beastiality was also an occasional accusation that led to the trial of an animal, although this charge was actually known to go in the animal’s favor. “Both the human and the animal might be put to death, but in some cases, they seem to have managed to say that it wasn’t the animal’s fault, that the animal didn’t consent,” [the scholar] says, “So the animal wasn’t punished.” …Still other animals were imprisoned right along with human criminals. In this case, as no one honestly believed the animal was solemnly considering its actions, the owner was charged for the animal’s board as a form of second-hand punishment.

Can that which does not die be condemned to death? Can it suffer the death penalty? How could one judge if or if not an animal consented? What would it say and in what language? This should not, Derrida argues—yes, he makes arguments and is not merely a reader of texts, as I went to lengths to show last week—lead us the there is a “continuity” between the human and the animal, or better, “between what calls itself man and he calls the animal.” There is no doubting that what weighs on us is precisely the inheritance of this difference and its continuing performative effects when we say “the animal.”

Bringing this to a close so that we can dive into the texts, let’s highlight Derrida’s “three-sided thesis”—again, a position, one for which he spends an entire set of lectures arguing and defending while also providing readings that show a disavowal in the philosophical tradition (he will read Descartes, Kant, Heidegger, Lacan, and Levinas) of this three-sided thesis: (1) the rupture between the human and the animal is not a clean cut (even l’animal que donc je suis needs this rupture every time it cuts into the animal), that is, “a unilinear and indivisible line having two edges.” (2) This “multiple and heterogeneous border of this abyssal rupture has a history.” Indeed this history is possible—history, he argues, as such is possible—only on the basis of this rupture. And this history, he argues, enters an entirely different phase in the eighteenth century when that which dubs itself man begins a certain technologization of the animal, a certain “production” of it that occurs precisely at the time, by coincidence or not, when putting to death itself—of men, that is—is made more virtual or specular, though no less visible. Thus we move from the public tortures to the guillotine to all manner of ways we make less painful and sufferable for the animal that therefore I am the death of those condemned. All to disavow its continued bestial monstrosity. In any event, in an argument that tracks to something like Heidegger’s in “The Question concerning Technology,” [explain] this change is recent and cataclysmic and is one for “which we have no scale.” (3) there is no “animal” as such, but rather “a multiplicity of organizations of relations between living and dead, relations of organization or lack of organization among realms that are more and more difficult to dissociate by means of the figures of the organic and inorganic.” This would thus call into question such notions as species and genus, since one cannot come upon the other of the animals that we are following and not recognize their specificity and inability to “objectify” these “intertwined and abyssal” differences. Such is the thesis to which today and next week we must respond, or rather to which we tells ourselves we respond, even if we just merely react somamnulantly, as some in these classes are wont to do. Who am I? Whom do I follow? Qui suis-je? The question is comes before us and addresses us, and is one that is addressed to me from me. Am I an animal or not? A question that seems an accusation—am I a beast? What have I done?—but is central to the tasks of deconstruction and those that therefore follow it.


The New Derrida Graduate Course: Lecture One

I’ll be posting each lecture of the course here. Feel free to give any feedback, though of course these are written more loosely than a fixed chapter or essay.

Lecture 1: The New Derrida:

Readings: The Animal that Therefore I am

Jacques Derrida, “Learning to Live Finally” (2004)

Jacques Derrida, “Choosing One’s Heritage,” in For What Tomorrow… (Stanford UP, 2005)


  1. SEP, Jacques Derrida
  2. Mauro Senatore, “Jacques Derrida: A Biographical Note,” in Derrida: Key Concepts, ed. Claire Colebrook (Routledge, 2015).
  3. Elisabeth Weber, “Derrida’s Urgency, Today,” Los Angeles Review of Books
  4. Simon Critchley, “No Exit,” Los Angeles Review of Books (I will refer specifically to this interview)
  5. Philosophy Talk, Podcast on Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction.

This semester, we look not just to study the works of Jacques Derrida, but to introduce and think through a supposedly new Derrida, to quote the title of a book project I have with Rick Elmore, but also something I believe necessary given the recent attacks on his writings. It is presumptuous, is it not, to think one has found something new in a figure whose most famous writings were published 50 years ago this year (Of Grammatology, Writing and Difference, Speech and Phenomena) and who died some unlucky thirteen years ago? And who has been the subject of endless journal articles and books? Many know the rumour of a man who stood for nihilism, for the idea that words can mean anything, and should be openly mocked by those who stand for anything—literally anything, since Derrida would have stood for nothing. His work is said to be passée, to be as dead as he is, not just because we have a firm grasp on the a priori or some given foundation (materiality, nature, God, and so on) outside a metaphysics and its history that gives these words their meaning but because we just don’t have time for his patient readings of various writers, for his high conceptualism and high theory, as it was often called in his Anglo-American reception, given the crises we face (and seemingly always do). For a long time now, at least since Luc Ferry and Alain Renault’s La pensée 68 some thirty years ago in France and such works as Richard Wolin’s laughably titled The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (2006) in the Anglo-American context, Derrida and his generation’s attunement to difference, historicity, and contingency are said to give us nothing but a “fashionable non-sense,” to quote from another notorious theory-bashing text, a “non-sense” that undermines liberal values such as the autonomy of the person and the sovereignty of reason especially in the public space, in short a form of “unreason” that all those with good sense would see as illiberal and thus not able to make distinctions between, say, Trumpist authoritarianism and its leftist critics.

Derrida’s most infamous phrase comes from one of his earliest and best known work, written at the early age (for a philosopher) of 37, smack dab in the middle of Of Grammatology: “il n’y a pas de hors-texte,” which has been taken to mean that there is nothing outside texts, no reality out there, and thus Derrida is guilty of the crime of a linguistic idealism that denies an extra-linguistic world. Was deconstruction in the end, or beyond its end, then about nothing? The accusations facings Derrida’s writings have been multiple, but central to his critics has been the view that his “readings” of texts and textuality leave nothing behind in contradictory but related ways: either he simply destroys the texts he reads, ranging from Plato to Foucault and beyond, leaving nothing of them recognizable behind, or he merely is a reader, perhaps a fruitful one, of these texts but can say nothing positive beyond them. Deconstruction in the former is merely a destruction of the Western tradition, one that must be protected and made safe from the barbarous hordes outside and within our shores. On the other hand, deconstruction is merely a reconstruction of this tradition; it can’t but speak in its modes and can’t say anything new, can’t speak except as a sort of ventriloquism of the texts it reads. Here’s how Simon Critchley, one of his most prominent readers, puts it:

I just don’t see Derrida as offering any kind of positive transcendental philosophy. What Derrida offers is a practice of reading, a practice of reading which is imitable. And that practice of reading is really a practice of double reading: reading with the intentions of the text, reading against the intentions of the text; reading systematically, reading always in terms of the whole structure, or architectonics, in which a text is articulated. So I think Derrida offers a number of exemplary protocols in the manner of proceedings as a reader. Does that mean that there’s a positive content to it in terms of a series of terms, like archi-writing, trace, and so on and so forth, these “nicknames,” as Derrida called them? I see those as incidental, and I’ve never really been persuaded by them….There was a deep ontological unwillingness to be pinned down, or positioned, that I don’t really know the reasons for. It was often irritating. It meant a lot of the text would be: it’s neither this nor that, not this nor the other. And it would be: What do you think! Where does the spade turn for you?

In short, Derrida can’t offer anything beyond a certain reading of texts, even as, oddly enough, Critchley later remarks in the same interview about a certain responsibility at the heart of Derrida’s writings, and therefore one wonders to what or whom its responds and is responsible for. The context for Derrida’s early claim “il n’y a pas de hors-texte,” is key here: this line occurs in a paragraph discussing the fact that meaning and sense always arrive in a context, that there is no “outside” to this contextualization, no position from which any thinking, living, and acting could appear independent from contextual framing, and, thus, independent from some ongoing discourse or history, in short, from some “text.” It is this insistence on context that in a general sense guides the new of this course, for it is easy to argue that the context in which we now read Derrida has changed from deconstruction’s heyday in the 1980s and 90s, given new movements in naturalism, Continental realisms, and the new materialisms, as well as the prominence of such philosophical positions as the Platonism of Alain Badiou, the egalitarianism of Jacques Rancière, the psychoanalytic theories of Julia Kristeva, the non-philosophy of François Laruelle, the Spinozist Marxism of Etienne Balibar, the network theories of Bruno Latour, not to mention the various banalities on display in the contemporary French scene found in works by the Western triumphalist Alain Finkielkraut, the dubious neo-Republicanism of Bernard Stiegler, the ubiquitous and awful Bernard-Henri Lévy, the tepid tea that is Michel Onfray, and the increasingly bland histories and liberalism of Marcel Gauchet. In short, then, the new Derrida would be the one we read from within the very new context we find ourselves in today: the era of Trump, the discovery or invention of the anthropocene, the new technologies that seem to mean that some of us really don’t live outside our texts and texting, Black Lives Matter, and all that has happened in music, the arts, film, television, the internet, forms of communication, geopolitics, colonialism and its various “post” phases that appear more like alibis of its continued existence under other names than any true moving beyond, and so on.

In this context, we can’t help but read Derrida differently and anew; his texts do not provide a set of Platonic ideas set off from the ways they are taken up, read or not read, line by line, or book by book, as if there was something behind them, some ideas that are unchanging and eternal–which would be the worst for some, an eternal Derrida that goes on forever, like some of his lectures seem to do. No, as we will see, Derrida’s emphasis on finitude, death, and the limits of the human is not some existentialist emphasis on the absurd but an affirmation of life and its temporality. This won’t be a reactionary course that gives you some “Standard Derrida” because there is no such thing–not least on his own terms, which we guess would be a standard thing to say. No, we will argue that some of the central insights of his writings have never been more relevant, never more new to us, than in this context, in this place, in this world that faces the end of it all. Derrida himself, in his last interview, given two months before his death to Le Monde, worried that his work will have left nothing behind:

I have the double feeling that, on the one hand, to put it playfully and with a certain immodesty, one has not yet begun to read me, that even though there are, to be sure many good readers…in the end it is later on that all this [his works] have a chance of appearing; but also, on the other hand, and thus simultaneously, I have the feeling that two weeks or a month after my death there will be nothing left. Nothing except what has been copyrighted and deposited in libraries.

That is, his books will have had no effectivity, they will have left nothing behind, as his greatest critics have always wished. But let’s take Derrida at his word, that beyond the Derrida of legend and thus a phantasmatic apparition whose haunting is said to have cursed us for too long, the one who could never get beyond texts and textuality, is one that is new and yet to arrive. The claim made Ferry, Wolin, and even Critchley is that Derrida follows all too closely the work of Martin Heidegger, who argues that we are in the “closure” of metaphysics, an interminable ending in which we endlessly rearrange the concepts of metaphysics without ever escaping them. No doubt, the naïve suggestions in the years since Derrida that mathematics via set or category theory or materialism or an attunement to objects can break us free of what Heidegger dubbed onto-theology, the reduction of the becoming of being to a given substance or substrate (God, matter, will, etc.) beneath or beyond this becoming, lends much credence to this suggestion. However, it would seem to lock us within that closure and therefore within a tradition that Derrida often said repeated somnambulantly a privileging of identity over difference, unity over multiplicity, not to mention the human over the animal, the European over its other, and so forth. In this case, to think a new Derrida we would have to think how he could arrive at the new himself beyond or within this closure. In an interview with Elizabeth Roudinesco, “Choosing One’s Heritage,” Derrida sets out well the perplexities of belonging to a tradition to which one must necessarily belong. No doubt, he has in mind something like Heidegger’s notion of “thrownness” and Nietzsche’s affirmation or “yes” to the eternal return: our finitude means that we can’t just shuffle of the tradition the way a snake shuffles off its coil. Derrida writes:

Only a finite being inherits, and his finitude obliges him. It obliges him to receive what is larger and older and more powerful and more durable than he. But the same finitude obliges one to choose, to prefer, to sacrifice, to exclude, to let go and leave behind. Precisely in order to respond to the call that preceded him, to answer it and to answer for it—in one’s name as in the name of the other. The concept of responsibility has no sense outside an experience of inheritance.

The claims are clear and all but unbearable: the weight of a given tradition, like thrownness (Geworfenheit) in Heidegger, throws us inexorably towards a future that we, each of us, will have been responsible for. We will need to tuck this reference to sacrifice away for the coming weeks, since I want to examine Derrida’s given and take with sacrifice, whether he is willing to sacrifice it from his own work, give its last rites and thus avoid a whole theological lineage that puts sacrifice at the heart of the political. He certainly critiques it in The Death Penalty Lectures and wherever he discusses the question of the animal. In any event, in dealing with a heritage, Derrida goes on, there is “a reaffirmation and a double injunction, but at every moment, in a different context, a filtering, a choice, a strategy.” And that is what propose for this course: to think a Derrida not as a simple textualist but one who never gave up on the idea that texts can be read otherwise, but also never gave up the thinking of that which arrives otherwise and that for which we are nevertheless responsible, as survivors inheriting his work and the tradition to which he bore inexorable witness. To write of a new Derrida is a choice, a strategy, a way forming alliances as inheritors that combat the somnabulant repetition of a Western metaphysics that never seems to grow tired or too old, but is reborn in different ways wherever one wants to find what is hiding beneath beyond the materiality of texts and their contexts, meaning this or that place, milieu, or a time. That is the legacy we must take on, while recognizing our responsibility for thinking Derrida otherwise–one who takes positions, comes up what he says is undeniable, and is not just a “reader” who gives us great readings of different canonical figures and nothing more. To read him anew means, for now, jettisoning that Derrida for now.