Postdeconstructive necrophilia, by floyd dunphy


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Postdeconstructive necrophilia, by floyd dunphy

  1. 1. University of OregonPostdeconstructive Necrophilia: Grave Spaces in Aristotle, Augustine, and Blanchot and theQuestion of the DecisionAuthor(s): Floyd DunphyReviewed work(s):Source: Comparative Literature, Vol. 56, No. 2 (Spring, 2004), pp. 147-167Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of the University of OregonStable URL: .Accessed: 23/09/2012 12:20Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact University of Oregon and Duke University Press are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Comparative Literature.
  2. 2. FLOYD DUNPHY Postdeconstructive Necrophilia: Grave Spaces in Aristotle, Augustine, andBlanchot and the Question of the DecisionT HIS INQUIRY SEEKSTO TRACE the sight-line from a critique of existential voluntarism towards a radical analytic of death, where the articulation of theself is reconfigured in terms of a postdeconstructive subjectivity. Section onenotes the failure of Existentialisms radical self-authentication to say anythingsignificant and enduring about human subjectivity and draws upon Iris Murdochand Martin Heidegger to suggest a place within the following discussion of ethicsfor the continuous self and private intention. Section two seeks to outline theboundaries of the subject, its ghostlydemarcations, and its movement from Daseinto Mitsein. This movement is analyzed in terms of a sustained meditation upondeath and leads into notions of phenomenological space. This will help us gainentry into the delicate texture of necrophiliaand will function as the conceptualframework that we will use to examine the type of subject Derrida is seeking toestablish after Heidegger. Section three applies this conceptual framework topassages in Aristotle, Augustine, and Blanchot that involve subjectivityand friend-ship. Section four then examines the structure and content of the decision thatissues from the postdeconstructive subject and follows the decisions migrationoutward into the political realm. An example of this outward migration will takeus into a consideration of the "New International"-Derrida and Critchleys glo-bally deconstructed political community-a consideration that will investigatethe complex reciprocity between ethics and politics and subjectivity as a reinvi-sioning of a possible humanism, a neohumanism. 1. The Critique of the Essential Subject:The Problem of Existential Voluntarism Martin Heidegger and Iris Murdoch offer two challenging critiques to SartreanExistentialism. In his LetterOn Humanism,Heidegger charges Sartre with merelyinverting the Platonic order of essenceand existence:
  3. 3. COMPARATIVE LITERATURE148 /Bywayof contrast,Sartreexpressesthe basic tenet of existentialism this way:Existenceprecedes inessence. In this statementhe is takingexistentia essentia and accordingto their metaphysical mean-ing, which from Platostime on has said that essentia precedes existentia. Sartrereversesthis state-ment. But the reversalof a metaphysical statementremainsa metaphysical statement.With it hestayswithmetaphysics oblivionof the truthof Being. (Basic208) inThis is the Existentialists move, a move that, according to Heidegger, kept Sartreimprisoned within the history of metaphysics. Heideggers dasein, on the otherhand, as an instantiation of the continuous historical self, suggests a self that isinvolved in an ongoing process. "Being-there,"hereness, consciousness folded intotemporality, becomes Heideggers account of a postmetaphysical selfhood. Iris Murdoch critiques Sartres Existentialist move for a different reason-namely, that it privileges an omnipotent will. In order to resist the Existentialistsreduction of everything to decisionism, Murdoch suggests instead a subjectivitythat has the continuous ongoing texture of the metaphor of vision. In his viewthe Existentialists overemphasize will and action-especially publicly observableaction-and so valorize the individual within the public domain, the world ofordinary facts. According to the Existentialists, it is the decision to act that actualizes oneselfin the public sphere: only public decisions count as politics. This approach pro-hibits the taking up of a contemplative attitude towards an introspective subjec-tivity; it also delimits the possibilities for self-reflexivity and for all of thoseinteresting moments that come before the decision. For the Existentialist, "self-knowledge is something which shows overtly"and is seen only once it is too late:"Moralityresides at the point of action," at the brink of haste (Murdoch 311).The self becomes a point of pure will. For Murdoch, subjectivity (and, following from that, ethics and politics) is notthe will breaking free, authenticating itself in a fleeting public instant. Rather,approaching subjectivity in relation to the metaphor of vision helps us to resistutilitarianism and to understand intention as an interior struggle, as an actionthat can only be performed privately:But if we consider what the work of attention is like, how continuously it goes on, and how imper-ceptibly it builds up structures of value round about us, we shall not be surprised that at crucialmoments of choice most of the business of choosing is already over... But it implies that the exer-cise of our freedom is a smallpiecemeal businesswhich goes on all the time and not a grandioseleaping about unimpeded at importantmoments. The moral life, on this view,is something thatgoes on continually, somethingthat is switchedoff in betweenthe occurrenceof explicit moral notchoices. (329)For Murdoch, the "exercise of freedom" is an activity that takes place sometimesquietly, sometimes violently, but alwayswithin the deep caverns of interiority whereall of the significant struggles for good and evil take place. This notion of vision,"of a patient, loving regard, directed upon a person, a thing, a situation," en-gages the will in an act of sustained attention, rather than unimpeded freedom(Murdoch 331). 2. Postdeconstructive Subjectivity:Being-Toward Death from Dasein to Mitsein Derrida and Simon Critchley,spurred on by the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel
  4. 4. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/ 149Levinas, likewise endeavor to go beyond the Existentialist essentialisms critiquedby Heidegger and Murdoch by offering up a postdeconstructive subjectivity. But intheir insistence on the political decision-it is in this totality, or not-their post-deconstructive subjectivity may also finally soften into a postdeconstructive voluntar-ism. Indeed, it is within the nostalgic traces of existentialism that Critchley andDerrida and Levinas emerge with some of their most interesting and provocativeinsights. It remains to be seen, however, whether the texture of the political deci-sion-new and singular each time-is enough convincingly to suspend the weightof the ethical life that emerges within friendship-political or otherwise. Derrida weaves his discussion of inter-subjectivitywithin the historical fibers ofthe ancient texts on friendship. He begins with the vocative attributed to Aristotleby Montaigne and others: "O my friends, there are no friends!" It is this hauntingmaxim that shapes Derridas thinking on the destablization of "friendship"throughout his Politics of Friendship. This destabilization becomes a porthole forthe political, and it is through this that we will be transported to the decision ofthe political moment. Following the Levinasian subject, a being who empties itself of its Being,Derridian friendship begins with a sense of loss. The conditions of possibility forfriendship are to be found in the idea of a de-distanced, dissymmetrical topol-ogy. Philia begins in survivance.Philia survives to love the inanimate. The belovedsurvives in the hopes of being loved in life, as well as in death:I do not survive the friend, I cannot and must not survive him, except to the extent to which healready bearsmydeathand inheritsit as the lastsurvivor. bearsmyowndeathand,in a certainway, He inhe is the only one to bear it-this properdeath of myselfthus expropriated advance.(Politics 13)Mourning is the grieved act of possible loving in friendship. It is the mourningbefore mourning that is the proper death before death. It is only in full view ofthe grave that friendship may begin. The anguish of loss within friendship issuspended and becomes the radical possibility for the condition of fraternity.Thelover is plunged into anticipated mourning for the beloved: this is the very breathof friendship, that love may presence itself in the absence of death:Friendship for the deceased thus carries this philia to the limit of its possibility. But at the same time,it uncovers the ultimate spring of this possibility: I could not love friendship without projecting itsimpetus towards the horizon of this death. (12) There are two very important things to notice about this statement: first, thatthe death is of someone else,and second, that it is a particular death. The death ofthe Other,like friendship with the deceased, decenters my own subjectivity andcalls it outward into radical suspension towards the Otherin the grieved act of lov-ing. This is the meaning of beloved: love someone even past the point of death: to"loving belongs only to a being gifted with life or with breath ... being loved, onthe other hand, alwaysremains possible on the side of the inanimate" (12). That the extreme delimitations of the possibilities of friendship are to be un-derstood in proximity to the horizon of death in the Otheris a fundamental inver-sion of Dasein, the Heideggerian subject who can only experience its own death.For Heidegger, when Dasein experiences death, it experiences the simple move-ment from the state of "being-there" to "no-longer-being-there." However, be-cause Dasein is the subjective consciousness of "being-there," it is incapable of
  5. 5. COMPARATIVELITERATURE/ 150experiencing death as a transition from the moment it is "no-longer-being-there."The very brilliance of Heideggers fundamental move-Dasein as consciousnessfolded into temporality (being there)-delimits Heideggerian subjectivity fromexperiencing and understanding what it would mean no longerto behere.It cannotexperience its own death as a transition. This is why the death of others, forHeidegger, becomes all the more extraordinary, for it is through the analytic ofMitda-sein that Dasein possesses a being-with-one-another that allows it to gain ac-cess to an experience of death. Although the experience of death through Mitda-sein seems, from the outset, a concession that is to some extent commensurablewith the view of Derrida, Levinas, and others, Heidegger also introduces a dis-tinction that sets his view apart from that of his descendants-the differencebetween "being-with" and "being-with-the-dead":In such being-with with the dead, the deceased himselfis no longer factically "there."However, be- meansbeing-with-one-another the sameworld.The deceasedhas abandonedouring-withalways in"world"and left it behind. It is in termsof this worldthat those remaining can still be with him. Themore appropriately no-longer-being-there the deceased is graspedphenomenally,the more the ofclearlyit can be seen that in such being-withwith the dead, the real having-come-to-an-end the ofdeceasedis preciselynotexperienced.Death does revealitself as a loss, but as a loss experienced bythose remainingbehind. However,in sufferingthe loss, the loss of being as such which the dyingperson "suffers"does not become accessible. We do not experience the dying of others in a genuinesense;we are at best alwaysjust "there" (222) too. Implicit in this excerpt from Beingand Timeis the phenomenological differencebetween absence and presence. In rough language, the dead are not able to bewith us the way living people are able to be with us-and yet they are still with us.This is the significance of Heideggers distinction between Mitda-sein, "being-with," and "being-with-the-dead."It seems as though we cannot experience thedeath of the Otherin the same way that we are able to experience our own deaths.In the death of the Otherwe do not experience death as a direct loss, but only asthose who remain behind, experiencing the death-loss through proxy. Althoughit would appear that our only access to the experience of death is through ourbeing together with the dead, our necrophilia, our fraternity with the deceased-or those about to be deceased-does not grant us sufficient purchase on thedeath experience: we are at best alwaysjust "there."We are thus caught in a pecu-liar catch-22 scenario in which Dasein is able to experience neither its own deathnor the death of others in such a way that it may register the impress of its ownmortality in a meaningful fashion. But what is Heidegger driving at when he saysthat "every Da-sein must itself actually take dying upon itself. Insofar as it is,death is always essentially my own?" (Being 223), or that "in dying, it becomesevident that death is ontologically constituted by mineness and existence?" (223).Perhaps his next statement will serve as a clue: "Dying is not an event, but aphenomenon to be understood existentially" (223). If "being-there"requires the consciousness of a Dasein, a subjective presence,then "no-longer-being-there" can only be experienced by the one who was firstconscious of "being-there."Thus, Heidegger can say that death is always essen-tially my own. Death in this sense finds our subjectivity heavily weighted with ourown eventual finitude. Viewed properly, the Heideggerian concept of death isour being-toward finitude. It is a fundamental posture that we take in the face this
  6. 6. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/151of our own mortality knowing that what it means to be human, to be conscious ofbeing here, will one day end: it is the last and most significant thing that we willdo without knowing it. But does this preoccupation with temporal consciousness- being-there--hintof the leftover traces of the modern subject? Is Heideggers painting a palimp-sest, the residual image of a Cartesian ego emerging through the thickly tex-tured existential analytic of Heideggers Dasein? From this perspective, deathbecomes an ontology, a totality that tries to take in the whole scope and horizonof death. This is the death universal, and Heideggers analysis becomes a meta-physics of death, albeit abundantly nuanced. According to Simon Critchley, there has always been a strained idiosyncraticfissure interrupting the flow of Heideggers (and I hesitate to use the word)logic. "Ifone were to push this claim a little further, one might say that there is astraightforward incoherence, in Heideggers Being and Time,between the analy-sis of Mitsein in Division I and the determination of Mitsein as das Volk Division inII" (247). This is the abstruse tension between Dasein and Mitsein. Everythingthat Heidegger tries to accomplish in disclosureseems to be best served in themiddle of the contextual particularities of everydayness, but it seems as thoughHeidegger still suffers from a modern Cartesian complex: an utter flight fromthe sensibilities of things, back into ontology and, reluctantly, the pre-imminentcogito. For Critchley this is the disturbing pathos of Heideggers authenticitythat so desperately needs to be avoided. In his view:the genuine philosophical radicality of Being and Timelies in the existential analytic of inauthenticity.Whathas to be recoveredfrom the wreckageof Heideggerspoliticalcommitmentis his phenom-enology of everyday life, the sheer banality of our contact (cotoiment) with the world and with others.(240)Being and Time must be rewritten from the perspective of the inauthenticity ofthe Mitsein-analyticand reconfigured as a social ontology. Saying we, the us thatwe are, is a recognition that the existential analytic of Dasein was too limiting aproject. What is needed instead is a broadening of our gaze outward to allow forour social being to emerge, and, having done so, to announce the death of meta-physics as a privileged science. But this realization does not mean that we need abandon Heidegger altogether.Heidegger remains ready-at-hand, armed with all of the conceptual tools to suffi-ciently rearticulate this new position. There is no going beyond Heidegger un-less we go forward with him. To overcome him will mean that he will always beour companion.2 "The senses do not enable us to know any being in its being; they merely make known theusefulnessand harmfulnessof externalinner worldlythings for human beings encumberedwithbodies..,. they tell us nothing at all about beings in their being" (Heidegger, Being 90). Heideggerscommentary on his analysis of Descartes contempt for sensibility is ironic, however, because subjec-tivity, for Heidegger, is a matter to be thought within the structure of Dasein. This is the very thingthat Levinas and Derrida will define themselves against. For them, subjectivity (or more to thepoint: ethics as first philosophy) begins with the sensation in the face of the Other. Against Heidegger,theface is not a matter to be thought at all; it is not an object of our understanding. Rather, weapprehend the Otherin proximity. 2 "Myview, broadly stated, is that the ambiguity of thinking the subject after Heidegger must begoverned by the double bind of a double affirmation: firstly, by the need-ethically, politically,
  7. 7. COMPARATIVE LITERATURE152 / For Heidegger, Dasein always encounters others and other things (things ex-tended)3 from within the given world, things that are "athand." Being in is alwaysa beingwith (Being 112). As Dasein surfaces to its own awareness through Mitsein-worldness-it does so through the phenomenology of care, that is, "in terms ofa totality of the interconnected places of the context of useful things at hand inthe surrounding world" (Being 95). Heideggerian subjectivity goes from "beingthere" to "being with" to belongingthere.The positional belonging of beings andthings is gathered into the nearness of a region.This is what constitutes Heideggersnotion of aroundness,which is "the being around us of beings encountered ini-tially in the surrounding world," "the spatiality of what is at hand" (Being 96).These everyday associations,the spatiality of what is at hand, are not "cataloguedby the observational measurement of space"; rather, they are apprehended intheir giveness through a taking care of things (Being 96). It is through this mode ofdiscovery that Dasein, by being-in-the-world, encounters the regional spatiality ofthings-at-hand. This, in turn, could be said to describe the primordial natureof disclosure:Space, which is discovered in circumspect being-in-the-world as the spatiality of a totality of usefulthings, belongs to beings themselves as their place ... But this spatiality has its own unity by virtueof the worldlike totality of relevance of what is spatially at hand. The "surrounding world" does notarrange itself in a previously given space, but rather its specific worldliness articulates in its signifi-cance the relevant context of an actual totality of places circumspectly referred to each other. Theactual world discovers the spatiality of space belonging to it. The fact that what is at hand can beencountered in its space of the surrounding world is ontically possible only because Da-sein itself is"spatial"with regard to its being-in-the-world. (Being96-97) Implicit within this notion of spatiality is the concept of de-distancing,whichremoves the alienation of space and time that exists between corporeal beingsand objects:De-distancing means making distance disappear, making the being at a distance of something dis-appear, bringing it near. Dasein is essentially de-distancing. As the being that it is, it lets beings beencountered in nearness ... De-distancing ... must be kept in mind as an existential. (Being97)This de-distancing for the most part, a bringingnear, and it is the essential ten- is,dencies of Mitsein that gather things together in the overcoming of distance.Remoteness or nearness should not be understood in terms of objective distance,but as powers and capabilities of human subjectivity.That is why the presence ofan absent lover can seem closer to us than the very object that we hold in ourown hand:On those paths Dasein does not traverse, like an objectively present corporeal thing, a stretch ofspace, it does not "eat up kilometres"; nearing and de-distancing are always a heedful being towardwhat is approached and de-distanced. An "objectively" long path can be shorter than an "objec-metaphysically---to leave the climate of Heideggers thinking; and secondly, by the conviction that wecannot leave it for a philosophy that would be pre-Heideggerian. That is, there is no going back behindHeidegger and no going forward without him; the break or paradigm shift occasioned by Sein undZeit is, in my view, philosophically decisive" (Critchley 62). Critchley will likewise divide L~vinassZionism from his ethical thought, thereby removing the primary thrust from Levinass writings. 3 In one sense, we have never left behind Descartes, who articulated the ontological differencebetween self and world that led to epistemology, the logic of positivism, the linguistic turn, herme-neutics, and, most recently, the ethical turn. Whatever new reconfigurations of subjectivity we artic-ulate, we will alwaysfeel the ebbs and flows of consonance and dissonance between self and world.
  8. 8. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/153 muchshorterpathwhichis perhapsan "oneroustively" one"and strikes as infinitely one long ... Theobjective distances of objectively present things do not co-incide with the remoteness and nearnessof whatis at hand in the world.(Being99) On Heideggers account it is clear that de-distancingoperates as a principle ofphenomenology,4 and in order for it to be understood in meaningful ways it mustbe approached existentially through the phenomenon of care.For Heidegger careis the only "logic" (or "anti-logic")that can account for the relational ontology of Mitsein,and it will prove to be indispensable in our coming to an understanding The circumspect de-distancing of everyday Da-sein discovers the of life together. being-in-itself of the "true"world, of beings with which Da-sein as existing is al-ways already together (Being 99, italics mine). Taking care, then, creates the conditions of possibilities for an encounter with the Other."The other is encountered in his Mitda-Sein in the world" (Being 113). Moreover, the ongoing texture of carecontours the subjectivity of Dasein to the point where "being-with-others belongs to the being of Dasein" (Being 115). In this, we are beginning to see the first traces of a (post) deconstructive subjectiv- ity, although one would be hard pressed to prove that Heidegger understood the full import of all of the nuances of his own thinking. In words Levinas would later use, this is the inaugural appearance of the conception of the demand of the Otherresiding in me. In Heideggers own words, "Asbeing-with, Dasein is essentially for the sake of others" (Being 116). Butjust as we seem to have touched the hem of a postdeconstructive subjectiv- ity in Heidegger, the whole thing begins to unravel-and unravel quickly. The unraveling starts with a disturbing comment that Heidegger makes after havingjust established that Dasein is "essentiallyfor the other": "Butwhen actual, factical Dasein does not turn to others and thinks that it does not need them, or misses them, it is in the mode of being-with" (Being 112, italics mine). The fibrous con-nection with the Otherproves threadbare. What previously appeared to be thecontinuous ongoing texture of worldis coming apart at the seams:This phenomenon, which is none too happily designated as "empathy," then supposed, as it were, isto provide the first ontological bridge from ones own subject, initially given by itself, to the othersubject, which is initially quite inaccessible... it remains puzzling how the relation of Dasein toitself is to disclose the other as other. (Being 117)What we are witnessing is a Cartesian flight from the world into the security ofthe cogito. For Heidegger, everydayness loses traction and fades away into thepublicness of the they.This is a form of forgetfulness and, as such, qualifies as aform of inauthenticity.The impending trauma of intersubjectivity proved to betoo great for Heidegger, and, rather than embrace the decentering that neededto take place in order for subjectivity to be released from the insular constric-tions of Dasein, Heidegger collapsed back into the familiar isolation of Dasein,and with this decisive move remains within a history of subjectivity that is closerto Descartes than it is to L~vinas.5 4 Let us remember Heideggers definition of phenomenon:"Phenomenon-the self-showing in it-self-means a distinctive way something can be encountered" (Being 27). SI am being deliberately provocative here in order to establish the view that Levinas needs to beseen as making a significant break from Heidegger, and, as such, does not define his task as solvingthe problem of self and world.
  9. 9. COMPARATIVE LITERATURE154 / There remains, however, one possible opening onto the infinite in Heideggersthought that will smooth our transmigration into Derridas thinking, a statementthat creates the preconditions for a togetherness-a togetherness can reach into thatthe beyond-a togetherness that embraces the impending finitude of the graveand yet is still a denial of death: "Being-with existentially determines Da-seineven when an other is not factically present and perceived... This being-withand the facticity of being-with-one-another are not based on the fact that severalsubjects are physically there together" (Being 113). To access the richness of thisstatement, we must read it in the inverse. My being-with-one-anothernot in terms isof this world, but it is in terms of another world, a world where the dead live onto be loved by us-an us who still occupy this world, the world of Heideggerseverydayness. There is an absence that exhibits such density that, like a blackhole, it sucks us into a death-world where the deceased may once again com-mune with us and be-loved. What Heidegger condemned as inauthentic,Derridacelebrates in luxurious morbid jubilation. Derridas togetherness, unlike Heideg-gers, is a necro-philia, friendship with the dead, a vital synergy with the grave athat demands a new estimation of subjectivity that will go beyond HeideggersDasein. The space in which friendship issues is a presencing, an ecstasy, thatcollapses the vast geography of space and time into this otherworld-into thespace of memory. The infusion of space and time into memory creates a world-space for an intersubjective opening onto the infinite. The breach between theworld of the living and of the dead is held, through the dialect of memory, intension. Until we are willing to linger in this middle space, we are not yet ready tounderstand what Heidegger should have meant by Mitsein or what Derrida isnow seeking in his new determination of the subject. 3. Necrophilia:Aristotle, Augustine, and Blanchot Friendship stretches out toward the future-and the past. Friendship beginsby one friend recalling another in proximity, temporality, and memory-evenfrom beyond the grave: "Friendshipbegins by surviving ... it is because of Friend-ship that the dead live ... the condition of possibility for friendship is memory.The dead live because they are recalled by friends, they survive after death be-cause they are not forgotten. In this sense, philia, is necro-philia"(Critchley 257-58). This precondition of memoria now reorient our thinking towards a certain willfraternal conjuration: invocation of the dead. For Derrida, this fraternalizationis anconstructed, not only spatially (from different places), but also temporally (fromdifferent times). Derrida characterizes this summoning of the dead in terms of the responsibility of the other residing in us:But this responsibility can be called for only by first of all summoning the dead. They are, after afashion, made to be bornagain; they are convoked in an invocation, once again, of their birth. Theoath of this co-engagement thus resembles of fraternal conjuration. (Politics 94)Here, I will summon across time and place three friends, who will provide us with ameditation on death and friendship. I will begin with Aristotle, who must traversethe greatest distance to presence himself with us: "In the development devoted to
  10. 10. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/155this inequality Aristotle evokes friendship with the dead, [even though now he him-self is dead-the dead invoking the dead through memory?] a friendship whichknows without being known... Hence one must not ask to be loved in return... or to be loved in like measure to ones own love" (Derrida, Politics 206-207).Loving the dead in friendship, for Aristotle, occurs in an incongruous fashion.This incongruous dissymmetry first takes place in the vocative attributed toAristotle, O myfriends, there are nofriends!-a vocative that presupposes a "saying"and an "unsaying."Aristotle utters a vocative to be heard by friends, even as helaments thereare nofriends. Because of this, Derrida assigns Aristotle to a herme-neutics of suspicion, one that destabilizes understanding into misunderstanding:Aristotle-let us call him by that name-at least asked the other to hear him, understand him, to beenough of a friend to do so, and therefore to, consider him-Aristotle-as a friend, qua the friendof a promise of friendship? And even at the very moment of saying "no friend"? This request forfriendship, this offer of friendship, this call to coming together in friendship, at least to hear, thetimeit takesto hear,at least to finally agree,the time it takes to agree on the meaning of the sentence,even if it were still saying, in the saying of its said, the worst in dialectics, is this, this saying of thesaid, not, then, the "Ilove you listen" of the "Ilove you; do you hear me?" (Politics 217, italics mine)Derridas view is that the text before him is fraught with fissures that, if agitated,will begin to deconstruct text and meaning through the process of contradic-tion. With Derrida, a more delicate approach is alwaysin order, one that appreci-ates the delicate tensions of irony:But we cannot, and we must not, exclude the fact that when someone is speaking, in private or inpublic, when someone teaches, publishes, preaches, orders, promises, prophesies, informs or com-municates, some force in him or her is also striving not to be understood, approved, accepted inconsensus-not immediately, not fully, and therefore not in the immediacy and plenitude of tomor-row. (Politics 218)Hidden somewhere in the echoes of Aristotles vocative is the desire for misun-derstanding: Aristotle is striving not to be understood even as he pleads with us tolisten. With great deconstructive energy, Aristotles vocative displays a textualincongruence that is provocative and that demands that we remain with its dia-lectical tensions for awhile in the hopes of understanding (a virtue usually con-nected with the hermeneutics of trust); by doing so, we have ventured into afriendship with the one who has uttered that there are no friends. In his Nichomachean EthicsAristotle likewise discloses the abiding commitmentsthat he holds with regard to the notion of subjectivity within friendship byproblematizing the notion of wishing the greatest good for ones friend:This raises the question whether or not we wish our friends the greatest of all goods, namely, to begods. For (if that wish were fulfilled,) they would no longer be our friends, and, since friends aresomething good, we would have lost this good. Accordingly, if our assertion is correct that a manwishes his friends good for his friends sake, the friend would have to remain the man he was.Consequently, one will wish the greatest good for his friend as a human being, but perhaps not allthe greatest goods, for each man wishes for his own good most of all. (1 159a 5-10)Here, Aristotle, with philosophical precision, identifies a core difference withinfriendship: the demarcation between human and divine good. Because he is in-tensely interested in what it would mean to be human within the category offriendship, Aristotle leaves behind all fascination with the divine. Furthermore,because all thinking on friendship must stay within the realm of the possible, wemust also remain within the domain of biology, and it is here that Derrida, pick-
  11. 11. COMPARATIVE LITERATURE156 /ing up on Aristotles ironic lyric, locates the central tension within this passage:Perfect friendship destroys itself. It is contradictory in its very essence. On the one hand, in effect, onemustwantthe greatestgood for the friend-hence one wantshim to become a god. But one cannotwantthat,one cannotwantwhatwouldthen be wantedfor at leastthree reasons.(Politics 222)First, friendship with a god would not be possible due to a remoteness that wouldexhaust the possibilities for friendship:Theenergy draws force presence fromproximity. absenceand remotenessdo not offriendship its from or Ifdestroyfriendship,theyattenuateor exhaustit, theyenervateit. The proverbon this subjectquotedbyAristotleindeed makesthe point thatfor him, absenceor remotenessis synonymous withsilence:friendsare separatedwhen theycannot speakto one another.(Politics 222) It is at this point that we are able to diagnose a cardinal distinction betweenAristotle and Derrida, between more classical configurations of friendship andDerridas necrophilia. Aristotle stayswith the more conventional configurations offriendship, while Derrida, not bound by such overt constraints of the sentient,moves into the poetic mysteries of necrophilia. For Aristotle, "friendship can stillremain even when much is taken away,but when one partner is quite separatedfrom the other, as in the case of divinity, it can remain no longer" (1 159a 25). ForDerrida, the physical absence of a friend-in another place, or even in death-does not stop the beloved from presencing himself in a type of de-distancedproximity: the miracle of memory that raises the dead (or gods) to life. Second, in Derridas reading of Aristotle we are prohibited from violating thenatural order; namely, we must love the Otheras they naturally are in their hu-man nature. Friendship is a distinctive feature of human finitude, and, as such,the deification of a man lies outside the purview of this kind of relationship. Third, the gods have no need of friendship. The self-sufficiency of a deity-albeit in terms of absolute being or knowledge-has no need to go outside ofitself. In contrast, philia demands that thought go outside of itself: this is whyhuman friendship, as a finite fraternity, is friendship par excellence. The gaze offriendship is continually directed towards the finitude of the Other. Thus, Aristotleconfirms the following:Friendship is present to the extent that men share something in common, for that is also the extentto which they share a view of what is just. And the proverb "friends hold in common what they have"is correct,for friendshipconsistsin community.(1159a25) Indeed, philia, in its originary Greek construction, was thought to constitute abond that held the members of any association together, whether that associa- This idea of philia,tion be natural or conventional: it was primarily inter-subjective.the idea of having something in common, approaches the conception of concord.The proximity of these two notions likely underlies the Homeric adage when twogo together, more alluringly, Derridas fragmented saying, "He who accompa- or,nies me" (see, especially, Politics 171-93). This deconstructed fraternity-this inspirited philia-is characterized by a soli-darity that is achieved in soul-sharing.In keeping with ghosts and their texts,Derrida, in an obscure footnote, quotes a passage from the Eudemian Ethics(7.1240b2-15), a ghostlike text whose authorship has often been questioned:Further, sayaboutfriendshipsuch thingsas thatfriendshipis equality, we and true friendshavebuta single soul. All such phrasespoint back to the single individual; a man wishesgood to himself forin this fashion. [. . .] And wishing the existence above all of the friend, living with him, sharing his
  12. 12. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/157joy and his grief, unity of soul with the friend, the impossibility of even living without one another,and the dyingtogetherare characteristic a singleindividual.(Politics 5 190) of n This speaks to us of a life together that, through phenomenology, witnesses thecompression of two souls into the space of one. True friends, then, have but asingle soul, and it is by dwelling in this intersubjective space that the shareddynamics of joy, grief, and a life together become possible. But this inevitablyleads to the problem of locating the exact place of subjectivity.In Derridas words,"Buthow is this topology of habitat in friendship to be thought? What is a friend?Response: one soul in twin bodies" (Politics177). If we agree with Derrida andAristotle on this provisional, if not historical, definition of intersubjectivity, thenwe find that the dispossession that surfaces to consciousness within this configu-ration of intersubjectivity succumbs to an uncanny unhomeliness:A friend, havingmore than one place [twinbodies], wouldneverhavea place of his own. He couldnever count on the sleep or nourishmentof the economic intimacyof some "home." body of Thethe friend, his body proper,could always become the body of the other. This other body could livein his body proper like a guest, a visitor,a traveler,a temporaryoccupant, Friendshipwould beunheimlich.How would unheimlich, uncanny, translate into Greek? Why not translate it by atopos:outside of all place or placeless,without familyor familiarity, outside of self, expatriate,extra[-]ordinary,extravagant, absurdor mad,weird,unsuitable, strange,but also "astranger (Politics to." 178)With this unhomeliness comes the demand that the subject reside outside of itself.Outside of allplace. Unsuitable. We are always in the place of the Other,and, as such,feel the impending demand that we must always move within a dialectics of hos-pitality. I am outsideof myselfWe are alwaysa guest, or we are alwaysencounteringa guest. This is the fundamental posturing that will contour Derridas postdecon-structive(inter) subjectivity. host, and we are hosted-our place is always the Weplace of the Other.We never feel at home when we are at home-like cominghome as an adult after many years away.This is likewise the meaning of Levinassbeing that empties itself of its Being. With Derrida, then, singularity is displaced into duplicity. the one soul half-twinned into two bodies. This absolute intercommunity of souls problematizesthe impending separation that death will enact. The promise of finitude is thepromise of a tear,of one soul being ripped in half, resulting in a death trauma, theact of death,for both lover and beloved. Augustine knew something of the trauma of this half-souled separation, and itis here that we will pause to consider a meditation of Book 4 of the Confessions.Augustine crosses the folds of history to presence himself, inviting us into hiseconomy of tears for a departed friend. Augustine is seized by what Derrida glossesas a double horror,That of survivingand not surviving,of survivingwith half his soul amputated-the ineluctablearithmeticalconsequenceof the Aristotelianaxiom-but alsothatof not surviving, is, of perhaps that(forte)not keepingwithinhimself,in whatis left of self, at leasta little of the beloved. (Politics 186)This double terror leads Augustine to a haunting question: Do we survive forourselves or for the Otherin us? The union of friendship, especially after death, isa necro-magnetism pulls us into the still warm grave of the friend: it pulls us thattowards the other half of ourselves. We enter a fraternity with the grave, and wecovenant with the inevitable destiny of rejoining our friend, and ourselves.Augus-tine, steeped in the deep interiority of a half-souled suspension, pauses and re-
  13. 13. COMPARATIVE LITERATURE158 /calls (re-members) us his act of mourning: forBut there had sprung up in me some kind of feeling, too, contrary to this, for both exceedinglywearisome was it to me to live and dreadful to die. I suppose, the more I loved him, so much themore did I hate and fear, as a most cruel enemy, that death which had robbed me of him ... For Iwas astonished that other mortals lived, since he whom I loved, as if he would never die, was dead;and I wondered still more that I, who was to him a second self, could live when he was dead. Well didone say of his friend, "Thou half of my soul," for I felt that my soul and his soul were but one soul intwo bodies; and, consequently, my life was a horror to me, because I would not live in half. Andtherefore, perchance, was I afraid to die, lest he should die wholly whom I had so greatly loved.(4.6.11)I would not live in half Torn asunder. Divided. Augustine enters into an abyssalcalculation: does he survive for himself or for the one for whom he is in mourn-ing. The asymmetrical density of this decision weighs heavily upon Augustine:"for self or for the other, for the other in self, in a narcissism which is neverrelated to itself except in the mourning of the other.., the others survival inself" (Derrida, Politics187). The Othersurvives in me through an absence. This isthe unalterable asymmetry that calls me into a continual stream of questioning.This, for Augustine, is the "relation of friendship to originary finitude and thequestion of sur-vivance"(Critchley 270). Perhaps this is what Augustine is tryingto articulate a little later when he says that "sweetness turned into bitterness, andupon the loss of the life of the dying, the death of the living" (4.9.14), or, inDerridas words, "This is why we mourn their death ... and life becomes a livingdeath because a friend is lost" (Politics187). But in the midst of this loss, there is an advent; there is a comingof the Other.Itbegins in a speaking to the one who is no longer here. This address, this speaking-a hospitality for the dead-welcomes the Otherto be present for me. Derridacontinues:I presupposehis presence, if only at the end of my sentence, on the other end of the line, .... at theintentional pole of my allocution ... But in another respect, my very sentence simultaneously putshim at a distance or retards his arrival, since it must always ask or presuppose the question "areyouthere?" (Politics173)In this instance, although the address objectifies the Other, appeal to a presence thenonetheless invokes his advent. The Otheris made to come, to be welcomed, sothat his orphan soul may rejoin, if only for an instant, the living part of him inwhomhe survives. But this appeal to the Other,this hospitality of the dead, is agesture yet to come,in an ad-vent, an appearing. Consistent with Derridas herme-neutic of suspicion is the conception that within every advent is a deference,which clears a space for Derridassecularized eschaton of a democracy alwaysyet tocome. This is the fundamental undoing that accompanies every facet of Derridasthought (see Politics 174). With this move, Derrida takes flight from the particu-lar intimacies of a necro-memoria the abstract fascinations of deconstruction. intoIn one fell swoop, we have moved from the highly personalized localities of thedead Otherto a globally deconstructed eschatological politics, from the messi-ness of finding intersubjectivity in the death of the Otherto a metaphysics of thepolitical eschaton. It is in this vein that Derrida still appeals to a Nietzscheanfuturity-indeed, perhaps to a syncretism between Neitszche and a deconstructedJudaic eschatology-of a democratization to come in a series of eternal returns.
  14. 14. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/159 We will more fully entertain the possible connections between a Nietzscheannihilism and a deconstructedJudaic repossession of the land, after the death ofGod, when we consider the particularities of the decision,and of the decisionsmigration outward into the public realm in terms of the "New International."But we must first turn from Derridas metaphysic to The Instant of My Death,Blanchots three-page meditation, which inspired a short philosophical novellaon the part of Derrida. There is a mirroring effect that occurs between Blanchotsshort meditation on death and the passivityof the decision that Levinas, Derrida,and Critchley want more fully to articulate. The texture of the decision, and thisis the quandary that Augustine faced, will take us into the hiatus of a delayedcontingency: "One thus finds oneself in a fatal and double impossibility: the im-possibility of deciding, but the impossibility of remaining [demeurer] the unde- incidable" (Derrida, Demeure16). For Augustine, it is the decision as to Whois tosurvive, for Blanchot it is the question Why Me?There remained,however, the momentwhen the shootingwasno longer but to come, the feeling atof lightness that I would not know how to translate: freed from life? The infinite opening up? Nei-ther happiness, nor unhappiness.Nor the absence of fear and perhaps already thestepbeyond. Iknow,I imagine that this unanalyzable feeling changedwhat there remainedfor him of existence.As if the death outside of him could only hence forth collide with the death in him. "Iam alive.""No,you are dead." (9) For Blanchot the step beyond betrays to us the ultimate texture of the instantof death: an instant that is always coming and yet never comes. This can be artic-ulated as a posturing before our finitude, and even greater than that, before ourimpending graveside. To dwell in the instant of death is to escape from the vul-gar conception of time that Heidegger spurned. The measure of time fades awayand is reabsorbed into the phenomenology of the moment. All that remains isthe feeling of lightness that is death itself or, to put it more precisely, the instantof my death henceforth alwaysin abeyance" (Blanchot 11). Derrida glosses thus:I am dead, or I will be dead in an instant, or an instant ago I was going to be dead. Someone intendsto speak, to speak to us, not only of his death, but of his death in the sense of the Latin, de, in thesense of from his death ... from my death, from the place and from the taking place, better yet, fromthe having-taken-place, already of my death. (Demeure 45)We must not think of the instant in terms of the measurement of time. The instant,rather, is a way of being before a trauma, a tragedy, or even more profoundly,death. The instant possesses an immemorial elasticity that defies quantitativediagnosis. With Blanchot, there is a remembering-of a young man perhaps-and theinfinite density of a moment. The Germans (vanquished Visigoths) were retreat-ing homeward away from the pursuing Allies. A knock ushers in an instant, anindescribable duration, which would warp time and place into a spinning vortex.One man, in a family of women, proceeds, almost priest-like, to take his placebefore the firing squad. His pace, increments of half-lives, a denial of his execu-tion, is a vindication of his innocence. Men are shouting (in French, German,Russian?). In the midst of this immeasurable density, he experiences "a light-ness, a sort of beatitude" (5): the death of death? I am already dead, therefore Iam immortal. Hence, he is bound to death in an inescapable friendship. Butjust"at that instant, an abrupt return to the world" (5): comrades appear on the
  15. 15. COMPARATIVE LITERATURE160 /horizon-on the horizon of death-to deliver the young man. The firing squadstands, frozen in formation, "prepared to remain, thus in an immobility thatarrested time" (5). Next, in a fleeting moment the young man was dismissed andreleased from his covenant with death. He moved, with a sense of lightness, andfled to a distant forest where he regained a sense of the real. He moved withinthe space of a surreal imaging, a movement extended, as he sat, absorbing themagnitude of what had just taken place. He lingers now, in death, before death,indeed, on the other side of death. A substitution has occurred, but not the one that the young man has thought:"Three young men, sons of farmers ... had been slaughtered" (7). The termina-tion of the instant is followed by an impenetrable question: Whyme?Releasedfrom death only to embrace death more fully. Whyme?The illogic of tragedy:"Strangersto all combat whose only fault was their youth" (7). And now the recon-ciliation-life on the other side of the instant. Someinstants can last a wholelife-time: Why me? What follows is the torment of a mis-placed injustice: "Thereremained, however, at the moment when the shooting was no longer to come,the feeling of lightness that I would not know how to translate: freedom fromlife? The infinite opening up?" (7). This is the other side, the infinite opening up, freed from life to embracedeath. His confession, like his existence, is mixed, confused. "Iam alive. No, youare dead" (9). He is living a borrowed life, a haunted life, a life no longer his-he lingers in a debt he could never pay. The demandof the Otherin me. He relin-quishes his right to subjectivity and enters an infinite deference: The Otherin me.He now lives to find himself in others-dwelling in an intersubjectivity:"All thatremains is the feeling of lightness that is death itself, or, to put it more precisely,the instant of my death, alwaysin abeyance" (11). All of the most fundamental insights of this narrative are imploded into themoment of the decisionthat experiences an eternal deference. To understandthis more vividly,we must enter the central labyrinthine confusion of the instantwhereby a great exchange takes place: three young mens lives for Blanchots. "Iam alive, No you are dead." The unexpected substitution fractures our subjectiv-ity.6I am living a borrowed This is the theater of the decision. Dreamlike and life.surreal, the infinity of the Othercomes upon us and we enter into play, alwaysdeferred, infinitely perfectible. The decision does not originate within us, butrather circumvents our own subjectivity.It apprehends us in utter astonishment,takes us hostage, and invites us into an eternal hospitality that contours all of thesignificant structures of our subjectivity. There is no surviving on the other sideof the instant: modern subjectivity expires. The decision is an indescribable mag-nitude: it almost requires everything of us and then lets us off the hook to live in 6 Our subjectivity becomes a split infinitive, a divided subjectivity. I am two witnesses. I am onlyhalf myselfand my subjectivity delayed:"Oneof the two saysto the other, I am alive,and would isthus be the one who has survived. But it is the other, the one who has survived, who responds tohim: No you are dead.And this is the colloquium,this is the dialoguebetweentwowitnesses,whoare, moreover[audemeurant], same, aliveand dead, living-dead,and both of whom in abidance the[endemourance] claimor allege thatone is alive,the other dead, as if life went only to an I and deathto a you"(Derrida,Politics97). We experience our being-toward-death fissure that opens us up as aonto the infinity of the Other.
  16. 16. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/161the vacuum of an insatiable hospitality. We now look for ourselves in others andothers within ourselves. But this decision is also accompanied with an impend-ing sense of injustice that obligates us to the alterity within us:The decision is not something taken by a subject, but rather the subject (insofar as one can stillemploy this word post-deconstructively) is taken by the decisionthat is made without its volition. Inthis sense, the moment of the decision is the subjects relation to an alterity within itself, somethingwhich corresponds to the structure of the Lbvinasian subject. (Critchley 263) 4. The Nature of the Decision and the New International In an unpublished lecture delivered at Green College in Vancouver, British Columbia, on 11 April, 2000, Simon Critchley suggested that the way ahead for conceiving of an ethical self was a postdeconstructive echoing Levinass subjectivity,formulation of substitutionas the phenomenological thrust "tofound ethical sub-jectivity in sensibility and to describe sensibility as a proximity to the other, a proximity whose basis is found in what Levinas calls substitution." In Ethics,Poli- Critchley describes substitution as "the deep structure of subjec- tics, Subjectivity, tive experience... structured in a relation of responsibility or responsivity to the other" (64). Ethics, in this way, is a moment of self-negation, borne out of a desire for the other that can in no way be reduced to a recovery of the self (65). Speaking more specifically to the question of a postdeconstructive subjectivity, Critchley cites Jacques Derrida as the first to use the term "postdeconstructive" to describe new determinations of subjectivity that must come only after feelings of duty. Critchleys thesis in his book thus becomes clear: "Myclaim here is that the Levinasian account of subjectivity as responsibility to the other provides theframework for the kind of new determination of the subject by Derrida" (71).Thus, a postdeconstructive subjectivity moves beyond the selfs autonomousgrounding as a self to Levinass formulation of the self as a substitution towardsthe responsibility of the Other. On Levinass account, it is the theological notion of expiation that providespossibilities for thinking about this new determination of subjectivity.Levinas de-theologizes the origin and content of expiation while allowing the general im-port of the word to remain and inform the richness of his thought. Speaking ofthe origins of this word expiation, Levinas problematizes the two streams ofconfluence that flow together to provide this word with its robust magnitude:On the one hand, the problem of the Man-God includes the idea of a self-inflicted humiliation onthe part of the Supreme Being, of a descent of the Creator to the level of the Creature; that is to say,an absorption of the most active activity into the most passive passivity. On the other hand theproblem includes, as if brought about by this passivity pushed to its ultimate degree in the Passion,the idea of expiation for others, that is, of a substitution. The identical par excellence, thenoninterchangeable, the unique par excellence, would be substitution itself. (EntreNous53-54)More than a new determination of the subject, this construal of substitutionemerges as almost a complete denial of the subject by suggesting that the self isperpetually suspended toward the Otherin an ongoing self-negation. The sensethat we have of ourselves, and this is the lie of the Enlightenment, is really thedemand of the Otherresiding within us, calling us outside of ourselves:
  17. 17. COMPARATIVELITERATURE/ 162The passivedecision, condition of the event, is always me, structurally, other decision, a ren- in andering decision as the decision of the other. Of the absolutelyother in me, of the other as theabsolutewho decidesof me in me. (Critchley 263) The only possible critique of this position, following Iris Murdoch, is thatCritchleys point is truer than he (or Derrida) could ever have imagined: whenthe "crisis"finally arrives the businessof decidingis mostlyover.Why is this? Becausethe texture of the ethical life features an ongoing registry, almost unnoticeable,where smaller, insignificant decisions build up into the higher emergences ofthe ethical life; the moral life is a web of existential affirmations that are spuntogether to form a nonintentional consciousness. Murdochs private intention isreally a Levinasian non-intention. But if this designation of self seems to annihilate subjectivitycompletely, L6vinasreminds us that it was the anti-essentialism of modernism that cleared a space forthe self-emptying subject:Modernantihumanism, denyingthe primacyof the person, an end in itself,in being, consequentlyseeking that meaning in a pure and simple configurationof elements, may have left a place forsubjectivity substitution. is not that the self isjust a being endowedwith certainqualitiescalled as Itmoral,whichit wouldbearas attributes. is the infinitepassivity passionor patience of the me- It orits self-the exceptional uniquenessto which it is reduced that is that incessantevent of substitu- Nous59)tion, the factfor being of emptyingitselfof its being. (EntreIt is within this vacuum that Levinas suggests a reconstruction of subjectivity thatresides in the demand of the Other. Thus, when considering Heideggers notionof Dasein, Levinas asks whether "the Da of my Dasein is not already the usurpa-tion of someones place?" (EntreNous 148). We are not even at home in our ownplace, our own being;the Da of our Dasein may prove to be, on Levinass account,the high-jacked subjectivityof someone else. And so the inevitable question: whatjustifies my occupying myplace, this place, as a self? Why Me? Just as Heidegger turned Descartes fundamental maxim against him,7 so Levinas turns Heideggers Dasein into a question, indeed, a questioning."Dasein in Heidegger is never hungry" (Totality134), Levinas argues, because Dasein is not human enough to feel its own impinging presence in the place of the Other, and the Heideggerian subject dis-places (usurps) the position of the Other.For L6vinas, our relation to the Other,like our relation to the world, is not ontologi- cal: "Position, absolutely without transcendence, does not resemble the compre- hension of the world by the Heideggerian Da. It is not a care for Being, nor a relation with existents, nor even a negation of the world, but its accessibility in enjoyment" (Totality138). "Enjoyment": L6vinas, is another word for what for occurs within the space of proximity to the Other,that is, when one encounters the face of the Other. In his Vancouver lecture, Simon Critchley attempts to imagine what it would mean for this kind of subject to "get on" in the real world by talking about the hyper-contingency of the decision.He posits that each decision is elicited as a singularityvia the relentless demand of the Other.That is to say, the decision is 7 Descartes fundamental fascination concerned [the] thinking [the cogitoof the subject],whereasHeidegger, in antithesis, emphasizes being [the sum of the subject]. Levinas, in one ironic strokethat paralyzesHeidegger, questionswhether the being-there HeideggersDaseinisnt really the ofexpropriation someone elseslocale. of
  18. 18. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/ 163conjured by the demand that the Otherplaces upon me, or, in other words, thematerial particularityof each decision, as a spontaneous ethical enactment, hingesupon the ineffable universal ephiphany of the revelation of the Otherwithin me.This revelation is not imparted from outside the subject, nor from another world,but its demand is universal inasmuch as one human can begin to recognize an-other human beings presence, and possibly, suffering. Thus, for Critchley, trueethical decisions can only occur when brought face-to-face within the proximityof the Other. The situational contingency of this kind of decisionism deconstructsany modernist notions of what it would mean to be political, or even how onewould legislate such ethical activity. On the basis of this account of the decision, Critchley argues for a non-statebased democratization, to put it differently, a globally deconstructed politics. or,The rearticulation of the decision-in its deconstuctionist algorithm-becomesthe link between Derridas conception of friendship and Critchleys political de-cision. This decision, to be rethought outside of the old orthodoxy ofvoluntarism,springs from a new formulation of subjectivity: "This concept of friendship ...cuts across the public-private distinction, or the division between friendship andcamaraderie, whilst informing both dimensions" (Critchley, Ethics267). For Critchley (as it is for Derrida), the political finds its originary genesis inthe hypercontingency of the moment of the decision; in this way, the political isan emergent property springing from the energy of deciding.But Derridas viewof the political does not concern itself with the political subject of Western liber-alism. His is a fascination with the human yet to come, indeed, a neohumanismor, more radically, an unconditional hospitality. Hospitality can be thought of asbeing put into the place of a radical reversal where the "Da"of my Dasein comesunder questioning: the hospitality-to come-suspends itself toward the Other-the Otherin me-in utter subjective dis-place-ment. Thus the imagined link be-tween the decision and hospitality is made apparent in the moment when I mustdecide to give myself up, must decide to become a hostage to the Other, realizingthat my place, my beinghere,has already become the site of disenfranchisment ofan Other. must decide against myself andfor the one for whom my being is always Ialready a dislocation. This is the act of granting asylum to the accused, relief tothe afflicted, homeland to the foreigner. This is how the revelation of the de-mand of the Othercomes to me in the form of a decision,in the form of a face andof a hospitality yet to come. We remember with Critchley that the responsibility of ethical involvement un-dergoes continual renovation; that is, the risk of making decisions is taken in theabsence of normativity. In other words, politics is found in the face of the Otherand in the unanticipated apprehension of such a face. Ethics is alwaysa surprise.Owing to the constant performance of the decision, Critchley holds that his ap-plied Levinasian ethic does not collapse into a "vapid formalism" or an "emptyuniversalism" (275). Rather, it is the indeterminacy of the passage from ethics topolitics that insures that the political decision is inherently destabilized and there-fore alwaysa singular response made over against the manifold difference of thecontext in which one finds oneself. In this way politics, and the ethics from whichit issues, is always a fresh encounter with the Otherin terms of the decision. This
  19. 19. LITERATURE164COMPARATIVE /instability, the singular context in which the decision takes place, shelters thepossibility of any one ethical practice or custom setting itself up as a totality. Thissingular context can be thought of in terms of a spatial encounter with the Other,one that guards against the myopic particularities of the decision. The labor toharmonize the demandwith the decisionmirrors a struggle that finds its locus inmedieval epistemology: the problem of universals, of the one and the many. However, if we stay with only the decision, like Heidegger we will stay with aform of the subject-postdeconstructive or not-and, whether we like it or not,will bear the mark of the last metaphysician. Dasein has been sentenced-he, orrather it, must die the death toward the Other.8 Instead, we must move outward,past the intimate boundaries between the one and the Otherand explore thedangerous but interesting territory of political community. As we move towards a discussion of politics, we reaffirm the Levinasian maximthat politics is ultimately deduced from ethics. We also understand that ethics isthought of in terms of the demand of the Other,or as an immanent ethic thatcomes to us in the face of the Otherand, as such, is prior to all ontology. Theinfinite demand of the Otheris actualized in terms of the decision, and decon-structive polity is nothing more than the singularity of each new decision, issu-ing, not from the Kantian subject, but from the residual presence of the Otherinus, from our everyday dealings with the particularity of the world. Thus, forCritchley,ethical response finds its genesis in the demand of the Otherand throughthe richness of a shared space and the singular finite context which gathers around the decision. In other words, ethics is found in the everyday matrix of the world,for the L6vinasian Otheris not a matter to be thought but a face to behold. Fit-tingly, the "singularity of the context" provides the detail for ethical particular-ization, while the demand of the Otherremains the locus of universal demand. In this way, Levinasian ethics is essentially spatial with reference to its framing ofboth demand and decision. The decision is not merely an artifact of human subjectivity;indeed, it receives its real thrust from the demand of the Other. This makes the decision a dynamic and unique extension, or mediation, of the phe- nomenological space between the ethical subject and the Levinasian Otherthat in an advent demanding hospitality comes to me and elicits my ethical response. Because of this dynamic, every ethical decision is a new norm,though it is diffi- cult at times to know how Critchley understands its possible function as a norm of universal criterion. Perhaps his emphasis on the impossibility of normativitywithin the ethical encounter illustrates how, for Critchley, the universal criterion is nothing else but the infinite demand of the Other,which calls forth and pro- vokes in me the moment of political decision. Thus, "the others decision is made in me, a decision made but with regard to which I am passive"(276). Critchley maintains that with each new decision a new norm is enacted in response to the utter singularity of the existential setting within which the ethi- 8 Though dying a death toward the Othermight be reminiscent (and perhaps a reactivation) of a structure(as evincedin such thinkersas Girardand Calasso),this death towardthe Othersacrificialand its necessity not entirelyseparatefromLevinass is debt to debt toJudaism,and his own sacrificialNational Socialism:he was detained in a Nazi labor camp for five yearsduring the Second WorldWar. is also an issue I will takeup with Derridaand Critchley their "Messianic-Cleansing"the It in ofJudaicimpulsewithinLevinass ethicalphilosophy.
  20. 20. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/165cal subject encounters the insatiable demand of the Levinasian Other(277). Thatevery decision is a leap of faith, a singular political invention, overwrites thecriterion of ethical normativity with the criterion of performance. Against ethi-cists of every Kantian stripe, Critchleys L6vinasian ethic is not a response by asubject to an ineffable moral law; rather, the contingency of the political deci-sion displays a performative instability resisting any theoretical tendencies thatwould otherwise render it a totalizing ontology. For Critchley, the quality of the decision closely mirrors the ethical experienceof which it is a hegemonization. If the passage from ethics to politics were to bethought of in terms of the decision, then Critchleys challenge is "to think thedecision outside of its traditionally voluntaristic and decisionistic determina-tions," for that would only affirm the consciousness of the liberal subject (262).Instead, Critchley wants to think the decision as passive or unconscious: "thedecision is not something taken by a subject, but rather the subject (in so far asone can still employ this word postdeconstructively) is taken by the decision thatis made without its volition" (263). That is, the decision is the momentary experi-ence of an alteritywithin me, which decides me and which then vanishes awayleav-ing no transcendental guarantees that might found a normative ethic. Levinasianethics-what Derrida calls la democratie venir-is jarring, destablizing, still al- aways to come. Politics must be continually performed, "a responsible decisionmust be taken-here and now, again and again" (275), and the comfort andcertitude of any transcendental ethical guarantees is alleviated by the ceaselessdemand for political invention:Derridaemphasizeshow the very indeterminacy the passagefrom ethics to politics entails that ofthe taking of a political decision must be a response to the utter singularityof a particularandinexhaustiblecontext. The infinite ethical demand of deconstructionarisesas a responseto a sin-gular context and callsforth the inventionof a politicaldecision. Politicsitself can here be thoughtof as theart of response thesingular demandof the other,a demand that arises in a particular context- toalthoughthe infinite demandcannot simplybe reducedto its context-and callsfor politicalinven-tion, for creation. (276)Because every momentary performance of the political-what Derrida has calledthe "madness" of the decision-is always already a return to an originary en-counter with the Other,politics cannot be thought of as apart from aesthetics: itis always a performance of the irreducible trace of the LUvinasian Other.Theradical contingency of the decision-its mad, unceasing, inexhaustible perfection-calls for the continual invention and artistry of new norms and rules, insur-ing that no ethic, polity, or form of democratization ever establish itself as atotality.Derridean politicization continually undermines itself: it enacts an unceas-ing deconstruction. The decision, writ large throughout the public realm, becomes the radicalpossibility for Derridas and Critchleys "New International"-a world-wide prac-tice of an inexhaustible number of transnational decisions that are enacted andwhich ultimately build up into the larger and more significant movement of aglobally deconstructed politics that denies the sovereignty of nation states whilenonetheless working within these nation states. With this concept Critchley and Derrida both acknowledge the structural formof Levinass ethics (of the other,for them always in the lower case) and at the
  21. 21. LITERATURE166COMPARATIVE /same time deconstruct hisJewish political context (his Messianic Zionism). Thatis, they accept "theformal notion of the ethical relation to the other in Levinas-what Derrida calls here and elsewhere a structural or apriori notion of themessianic-while refusing the specific political contentthat Levinasian ethics seemto entail, namely the vexed question of Levinas Zionism" (Critchley 278). A greatexchange thus takes place: Levinass Zionism for Critchleys and Derridas Neo-Marxism. Critchley and Derrida negate the political/ideological-even the theo-logical-content of Levinass work in order to shelter their secular rendition ofthe "New International" from what they have termed the "political fate" of hisethical philosophy, namely, the vexed question of Levinass Zionism. In their hands,the "New International" becomes a clinically sterile humanitarian politics, onethat has its impulse outside of nation states and yet cuts itself off from one of itsmost striking possibilities. Consistent with their Marxism, there can be no politics without an enemy, nofriend without a foe. In Marxs case the foe is bourgeois Christianity; in Derridasand Critchleys it is liberal humanism in the form of capitalist nation states. Theenemy of the "NewInternational" proves to be any nationalism that endeavors tototalize-to hold that justice can be incarnated within the ethnic or geograph-ical borders of some state, nation, or tribe. On this account, modern liberal pol-ity (democracy) is a form of foundationalism: it affirms an essential subject andan essential view of the nation state. As a result, this nonfoundational politics, issuing from a decentered subjectiv-ity (externalized in the form of the postdeconstructive decision), takes its formas a democracy come-a sort of secular Nietzschean eschaton, defined as the toradical immanence of the political rather than an opening onto a future utopia.The democracy comeis coming and is always arriving-it is the arrival of the toarriving--and because of this is inherently unstable and therefore antagonisticto any totalizing ideologies. This is Critchleys deterritorialized democritization:a democracy to come that works outside the state but never against the state. It is"the democracy to come" not in terms of futurity, but in terms of instability; thatis, it is structurally performative. The goal, then, of this ethicalanarchismis not tofunction without the state, but to put pressure on the state. "Ethical anarchism"resists political foundationalism: it resists setting up one ideology (anarchy) inplace of another (nationalism).9 What, then, is the glue that holds the "New In-ternational" together? What is the ultimate (or penultimate) catalyst behind thethickness of the political decision, a phenomenon that is made to do the work ofa metaphysic without itself being a metaphysic? This is not a question of what isbehind the decision and, more profoundly, the face (and this is where theirthought leans most heavily upon the brilliance of Heideggerian disclosure), butof what is in the decision and, more interestingly, what is in the face. The en-chantment with humanity, through an encounter with the face of the Other, the isglue that holds the "New International" together beyondnation states-beyond even the hypercontingency of the decision. This is the essence of Critchleys uni- versal criterion: there were no face, no demand of the Other,there would cer- if tainly be no decision. Enchantment with the Other the condition of possibility is 9 Except in the case of Levinass displaced Judaism.
  22. 22. POSTDECONSTRUCTIVE NECROPHILIA/167for the decision and hence of ethics for politics. The decision only comes after private intention-after the face of the Otherhas registered itself within our sub-jectivity. This is the insight to which Iris Murdoch has so penetratingly drawn attention. And yet we must decide.Without decisions there would be no politics, only interesting speculation. This is the insight that finally led Simon Critchley to his hauntingly provocative avowal: "If ethics without politics is empty, then politics without ethics is blind" (283). But is the price too high to pay for Critchleys formulation of subjectivity to get a purchase on a "globally deconstructed politics"? His recasting of subjectivity, albeit in nonessentialized terms, still looks back to the voluntarism of Existential-ism. Does Critchleys postdeconstructive voluntarismstill fall prey to Iris Murdochscritique of the Existentialists? Does the reduction of Critchleys ethical self to thedecision only show up within the public margin? Is there room, and this is theidea that Murdoch wants to articulate, for the internal struggles that go on pri-vately? Is there really no politics without a decision? Does Critchleys view fall down as a soft form of utilitarianism, surrendering value (private intention) to the brute arena of fact (the decision)? Whatever the outcome of these questions, Critchley goes a long way towards making possible a postdeconstructive human-ism, perhaps even a neo-humanism:The subjectis no longer the self-positingorigin of the world;it is a hostageto the other.Humanismshould not begin from the datumof the humanbeing as an end-in-itself the foundationfor all andknowledge,certainty, value:rather,the humanityof the human is defined by its serviceto the andother.Levinasian ethics is a humanism,but it is a humanismof the other being. (67)If this holds, then perhaps we can also entertain discussions about the possibili-ties of ethics in a new light, one also sheltered from predictable conversationsabout morality and normativity. On this provisional nonfoundational account,Levinasian ethics may provide a way of getting on with others in the larger struc-tures that make up our political and ethical institutions. University of British Columbia Works CitedAristotle.Nichomachean Ethics. Trans.MartinOswald. NewYork: Macmillan,1962. 1890. Trans.J.G. Pilkington.The Nicene and Post-NiceneFathers1. Ed.Augustine. Confessions. PhillipSchaff.Edinburgh: and T.Clark,1994. T.Blanchot, Maurice. TheInstant of MyDeath. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994. Simon.Ethics,Critchley, Politics, London:Verso,1999. Subjectivity.Derrida,Jacques. DemeureFiction Testimony. and Stanford: Stanford Press,1998. University - . The Politics Friendship. of London:Verso,1997.Heidegger,Martin.BasicWritings. Francisco: San HarperCollins,1977. . BeingandTime. 1927.Trans.J.Stambaugh. NewYork: SUNY, 1996.LUvinas,Emmanuel. Entre Nous:Thinking theOther. York: of New Columbia UniversityPress,1998. -. Totality Infinity. and Pittsburg: DuquesneUniversity Press,1969.Murdoch,Iris.Existentialists Mystics. York: and New Penguin,1999.