Thoughts from a Forest of Fallen Trees : The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Side of Existence

(If a philosopher falls in the forest who really cares?) Critical Theory, Deconstruction, Ethics, Religion and other such Things.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Prefacing the Antiphon: Towards an Animal Theology

(The Preface to my book, Derrida's Aporetic Ethics)

Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares
There is no speech, nor are there
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through
all the earth,
and their words to the end of
the world.
Psalm 19

Antiphon: 1. A devotional composition sung responsively as part of a liturgy. 2a. A short liturgical text chanted or sung responsively preceding or following a psalm, psalm verse, or canticle.

Your story, please.
Plato, Phaedrus

We do not wish to be spared by our best enemies, nor by those whom we love from the very heart. So let me tell you the truth!
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, ‘Of War and Warriors’

A foreword is not necessarily provoked or provocative, to be sure. But a provocation will always resemble a foreword.
Jacques Derrida, Without Alibi

In For What Tomorrow Derrida speaks of “the compulsive and often pathetic efforts, desperate or fearful to discredit at any cost- and not only my work, of course, but an entire configuration to which it belongs”. How is this violence to be addressed? Why have so many of Derrida’s disciples remained timid and silent for so long? What is to be done?
One very good answer comes from John R. Searle who appears to have recognized the earlier pathology of his own efforts to discredit Derrida’s work. Searle writes, “When it comes to intellectual pathologies, once you can accu-rately name them you are a long way toward understanding them, and once you understand them, you are well on the way to overcoming them”. Searle also adds that such intellectual pathologies are, “self-refuting, and simply quoting them is often refutation enough”. For the sake of analytic rigor and responsibil-ity, I wish to push past what is enough. Following Searle’s advice I will not only quote, I will also name, describe and analyze some of these intellectual pathologies that have chosen to attach themselves to Derrida’s work.
Stated clearly, the criticisms against Derrida’s work are ill informed, ignorant, and pathetic. For example, Johann Hari, writing for the Independent (London) writes:

The popularity of Jacques Derrida's philosophy among aca-demics is hard to understand except as a symptom of deca-dence. Western intellectuals have never been more safe, more comfortable or more free - so they have turned to a wild, often absurd philosopher who trashes the humanities (and any coher-ent political project) in a search for intellectual stimulation. As he is buried this week, it is time to ask whether his ideas - and the long, agonising postmodern intellectual spasm - should be buried with him….Derrida was, in short, the mad axeman of Western philosophy. He tried to hack apart the very basis of our thought - language, reason and the attempt to tell big sto-ries about how we became as we are. All we are left with - if we accept Derrida's conclusions - is puzzled silence and irony.

I can find no finer example of journalistic ignorance and incompetence. Hari’s article is full of falsehoods, rhetorical banalities, and culture dope metaphors.
Derrida’s vocation of patiently and closely reading the canonical texts of our tradition is described as ‘trashing’ the humanities by Hari. He could have easily consulted the recent collection of essays published by his alma mater entitled, Jacques Derrida and the Humanities. Hari could have also read Der-rida’s essay Of the Humanities and the Philosophical Discipline. The Right to Philosophy from the Cosmopolitical Point of View (the Example of an Interna-tional Institution). One would expect someone with a first class degree from Cambridge to produce better work, but Hari (once again) exhibits his own philosophical illiteracy. Has Cambridge become a diploma mill? Is it in need of yet another Wittgensteinian rescue? What conclusions can be drawn from this?
Hari shows that journalists can say whatever they wish about subjects they know nothing about, while believing themselves to be educating their public. Hari criticizes Derrida’s supposed relativism only to reveal his own relativism and ignorance on full display in the pages of the Independent. The problem can be formulated as follows : journalists who know nothing about the subject matter they are writing about disseminate their views with the help of newspapers with a massive and international distribution. Derrida has already informed us what is at stake. He writes,

Hegel was right to remind the philosophers of his time to read the newspapers every day. Today, the same responsibility also requires us to find out how the newspapers are made, and who makes them, the dailies, the weeklies, and the television news. We would need to look at them from the other side: from the side of the news agencies as well as that of the teleprompter. And let us never forget what such a statement implies: when-ever a journalist or a politician appears to be addressing us di-rectly, in our homes and looking us straight in the eye, he (or she) is actually reading a text that was produced elsewhere at another moment, possibly by other people or even by a whole network of anonymous writers.

Journalists who cannot decipher, evaluate or support their claims will not be able to understand the call to responsibility and vigilance that Derrida evokes here.
Following Hari in another massive display of journalistic aberration and irrational prose is Mark Goldblatt who in his review of the documentary film Derrida writes, “ Derrida is not now, nor has he ever been, a philosopher in any recognizable sense of the word, nor even a trafficker in significant ideas; he is rather an intellectual con artist”. Goldblatt continues, “Jacques Derrida, has made a career out of playing whiffle ball in his own backyard, with half the humanities professors in the United States watching and doing color commen-tary.” Goldblatt displays an attitude that is harmful to the spirit of philosophy and truth. I would expect someone steeped in historical and philosophical analysis to define their terminology. Such rigor should be expected from an assistant professor of Educational Skills who teaches “Religion and Religious Dissent in American History to the Civil War” and “Ancient Greek Philosophy” courses at The Fashion Institute of Technology. Simply put, Goldblatt is not qualified to comment on Derrida’s writings. Indeed, those with little knowledge of Derida’s works and writings are often the first to make fashionable noise concerning Derrida’s so called “relativism”. To use Kant’s language, such individuals engage in “quibblings about things they do not understand” .
To counter this slide into error and to be vigilant against journalistic mendacio perhaps a new itinerary could be constructed for those wishing to become journalists. I propose that journalists declare an unlimited commitment to the pursuit of truth rather than an unlimited commitment to fraud and simplic-ity. This would require a rigourous education, first of all, in philosophy, history, literature and science so that they could, with a public promise, make a pledge of responsiblility. As if this is going to happen. Philosophers then, must reclaim their role. They have fallen into a slumber so deep that they have forgotten their commitment to action, resistance and dissidence.
Notice how Goldblatt’s writing reveals a failure to follow institutional mandates. In other words, he destroys his own position. We read,

So what exactly are educational skills? Essentially, they are the skills you need to get the most out of college courses. Reading comprehension, grammatical correctness, language fluency, listening and note-taking - these are the foundations of a liberal arts education. Educational skills are also life skills - the ability to gather ideas from what you read and hear, to express your own thoughts in clear, effective speech, to write crisp, compe-tent sentences. It's difficult to overestimate how crucial these skills are to leading a well-rounded, intellectually rewarding life.

This is not the first case of a professor, who fails to follow the educa-tional guidelines they set up for their students. How can someone teach the essential skills of reading, writing and argumentation only to engage in a jour-nalistic drivel that breaks all the rules of critical thinking? The simple answer is that such individuals are incapable of reading philosophically demanding texts. Rather than stating this obvious fact, Derrida’s critics resort to play ground name calling. Rather than blame themselves for not being able to understand Der-rida’work they blame Derrida for not being understandable. The latter game is far easier as it avoids knocking up against the problems and aporias that Derrida has located.
Goldblatt could have first defined the meaning of the words, intellectual, con and artist while attempting to show us how the three words fit together. He could have informed us that a con-artist is a person who uses dishonesty for financial gain. A con artist often works with one or more conspirators called shills, who try to assure the “mark” by pretending to believe the trickster. How has Derrida exactly “swindled” Goldblatt? How has Derrida used deception and fraud? I find Goldblatt’s comments to be offensive in their self-evident ridicu-lousness. Goldblatt’s mistake is not only verbal to use Ayer’s language, it is a factual error as well.
The issues raised by Derrida cannot be swept under the analytic carpet simply because one is incapable of understanding them. Hari, Goldblatt, Smith and Hagen have not tried to meet the arguments put forth by Derrida. Instead they insist on the superiority of their own non-positions. In Hegel’s words from his famous preface, “ not everyone who has eyes and fingers, and is given leather and last, is at once in a position to make shoes”. Reading and under-standing Derrida’s writings require work, labor and intimate knowledge of the history of philosophy. Those who criticize Derrida’s work are lacking in all these areas and yet they continue to defend their ingenious ignorance.
For example, L. Kirk Hagen proclaims, “ Derrida never made any ef-fort to improve his prose. And yet, over the years hordes of converts took to aping his impenetrable rodomontade’s in article after article, dissertation after dissertation, book after book…..Derrida was no great shakes as a writer or philosopher. (my emphasis) Hagen’s attack is simply preposterous bluster and outright untruth. If Derrida’s prose is “impenetrable” how can Hagen even say a word or stage a proper critique? Indeed how can he even begin to write any-thing about Derrida’s work? Hagen has simply shown his inability to read and to understand Derrida’s writings while adding one more entry to his list of “published works”.
Having spent many years of my life immersed in Derrida’s work I can-not allow such comments to pass without a proper Swiftean response. I do not know if they will be understood by Derrida’s critics. Are they capable of under-standing especially when they are caught in a vicious and strange auto-immune response? Derrida’s worst critics remind me of the seekers of fame on the Next American Idol, unable to sing Madonna’s Like a Virgin, or Led Zeppelin‘s “Going To California” they complain the loudest when they are not chosen to proceed further. Not swayed by the truth of the instant replay they criticize those who really do know how to sing opera and hold a credible note.
In the spirit of charity, I would like to follow Barry Smith’s own criteria on what constitutes a meaningful life. Barry Smith spear-headed a smear cam-paign against Derrida when he found out that Cambridge wanted to grant him an honorary degree. In an essay entitled, “Luck, Responsibility and the Meaning of Life”, he writes, “Whether a person leads a meaningful life depends in every case not on that person’s, or other people’s beliefs or feelings, but on what the person did as a consequence of his or her own decisions, as evaluated (actually or potentially) against the relevant public measures of success.” From his own admission, Derrida did lead a meaningful life and Smith’s criticism is null. Here is the proof. I quote Smith again: “Whether a person leads a meaningful life depends on every case ( my emphasis) not on that person’s (Derrida) or other people’s beliefs or feelings (Smith) but on what the person did as a consequence of his or her own decisions ( please refer to Derrida’s CV). One can only conclude that Smith’s vicious reaction against Derrida’s work rests on a founda-tion of jealousy or to borrow Smith’s words this jealousy could be considered to be “a pathological continuant entity”. I do not recall Derrida writing a letter to the editor when Smith was awarded the Volkswagen prize. On the other hand, perhaps Smith is angered because Derrida never quoted his work or devoted a long footnote to one of his papers. Citing jus in bello, I have taken on the task of defending my teacher and wish to remedy the injustice by devoting a very long endnote within a endnote that was converted from a footnote to Barry Smith as I continue with my analysis of other matters.
What is to be done?
Socrates had an easy time explaining geometry to the enslaved boy of the Meno. At least he was willing to be lead by the Socratic maietuic as Plato looked on and took careful footnotes.
What is to be done with those individuals not fully trained in the history of philosophy and theology, who display an inability to analyze, understand, elucidate, discuss, give evidence and read? Such learned ignorance coupled with extreme arrogance and an inability to detect or appreciate irony and humor is a deadly combination.
What is to be done as one reads the mountains of papers criticizing Der-rida’s work, other than rub one’s eyes in disbelief while waiting for an answer to arrive from the non-human world. Rather than evoke Hagen’s ape or Kant’s billy goat, I will defer to Leopold Bloom’s cat.
Reading James Joyce’s Ulysses together with Hegel’s Phenomenology, while waiting for Canada’s Next Top Model to return and wondering why the Maple Leafs never win the cup, I happened upon the following paragraphs. The first is from Joyce, the second is from Hegel:

O, there you are, Mr. Bloom said, turning from the fire. The cat mewed in answer and stalked again stiffly round a leg of the table, mewing. Just how she stalks over my writing table. Prr. Scratch my head. Prrr….They call them stupid. They un-derstand what we say better than we understand them. She un-derstands all she wants to.

Even the animals are not shut out from this wisdom, but, on the contrary, show themselves to be most profoundly initiated into it.

Following this Joycean/Hegelian wisdom, the question I posed to my cats was as follows: “How do individuals educated at the best schools, manage to obtain degrees and doctorates- become journalists or professors, publish books and articles, write plays, obtain grants and prizes yet criticize Derrida’s work and the history to which it belongs without offering a rational discussion or valid arguments about a specific topic, sentence, word or text?” Maggie, Gilles and Ellie meow in unison. Is this ad bestia permissible? I can only imagine how smart Derrida’s cat must be.
What is to be done?
How do I retrieve an answer? Can I use the same tactics used by Der-rida’s esteemed critics from the journalistic academy? I continue wondering what Aristotle really meant by his phrase “rational animal” as I pose further questions to various cats from the neighborhood: Spartacus, Guy, Marat, Mao, Lenin, and Che. I carefully listen for their response. ME-OW! they cry in unison. Now I understand! Derrida’s critics feel wounded and hurt. His writings have caused them pain. Imagine spending a lifetime researching whether Achilles really had a heel or whether mountains really exist; imagine devoting one’s career to answering the question, “Did Confucius read Nietzsche?”, only to have someone state very clearly, “Nietzsche was born in the 19th century”. Imagine working for thirty years attempting to unravel the real meaning of the word “and” only to be told by Google that “the "AND" operator is unnecessary -- we include all search terms by default”. Such a revelation must be earth shattering. In Nietzsche’s words, such scholars “ were playing on the sea-shore- then came a wave and swept their playthings into the deep: now they cry”.
Is it best then, not to speak, especially when a logical explanation of Derrida’s work will not be understood? I have struggled with this question like Jacob wrestling the angel, as I read and interpret the words of Jesus’ animal theology in the Gospel of Matthew: “Do not throw your pearls before swine or they will trample them under foot and maul you”. The “swine” is the con-temptible person who would take more than his or her share. Of course, it is not a literal description but a quality of mind. For example, the Buddhist tradition makes use of animal imagery in its psychology. Chogyam Trungpa in Tran-scending Madness states,

The animal quality is one of purely looking directly ahead, as if we had blinkers. We look straight directly ahead, never looking right or left, very sincerely…the animal realm is asso-ciated with ignorance….Whenever there is falseness or some devious way of relating to things, you begin by convincing yourself that it is the right thing…..the idea behind that is that the pig supposedly does not look to the right or to the left or turn around, but it just sniffs along….it goes on and on , with-out any kind of discrimination, a very sincere pig…..We may be dealing with all kinds of extremely sophisticated topics and intellectual concepts of the highest standards- but still, our style of working with that sophisticated world is that of a pig….you are not able to look at yourself, you are unable to relate with the mirroring quality of the realms and of your life. There is no sense of humor. There is no way of being willing to surren-der, willing to open, or willing to give, at all.

What can be said to the omnivorous animal that cannot read but makes paper? A hog according to the OED is “an agitator for mixing and stirring pulp in paper making”. A hog is also a machine with a revolving cutter for reducing bulk materials as waste lumber. Critics of Derrida’s work would like it to disap-pear. The task here is not as simple as the prodigal son leaving the swinesty to rush back into the protective arms of his father.
To throw from the Latin terere means to rub and to grind. To throw is to propel, to cast, to get rid of, and to unseat. To throw is to make oneself dependent upon some thing or other. It is to give oneself up without resistance. To throw is to allow an opponent to win by losing intentionally. Throw is an undertaking that requires risk, danger and dislocation. To throw away is to discard and squander what is precious, rare, relevant and reverent. In being thrown there must never be a throwback, a reversal or backward deviation from the path or course, however aporetic. The soccer ball like the idea must be thrown-in after it has gone into touch.
What must be done?
How to throw off; to free oneself as Derrida writes, from “ a more stubborn aggression” without throwing up or admitting defeat even as one is thrown out and abandoned? What would be a through road in this ethics of resistance that must learn how to protect and yet at the same time share with an unconditional hospitality the pearl, that which is precious, fine, noble, rare; a small round globule that forms from the infinite tear drops that come from learning how to live and navigate this one life.
Jesus alerts us to the trample- the heavy repeated tread of many feet. To tread is to follow a habitual course of action while learning to be like a machine. The treadmill first used in prison discipline was a device that allowed for the continuation of a wearisome routine. Somehow, this treadmill found its way into the University system. To trample is to tyrannize. How to stop the tyranny of the Absolute Rule that stultifies, represses and suppresses the liberty of the question? This is the work of deconstruction which as Derrida reminds us, never proceeds without love?
The risk of being mauled will always be present. Maul from the Latin molere relates to the word meal and means to grind. The cannibalism within that which is called human being is never far away. To grind is to reduce something to powder. Recall Nietzsche’s characterization of scholars as those who grind. To grind down is to repress harshly, to keep rigidly under control or in a state of submission, much like the archives of electronic records. Against such grind-ing down that often takes place within the University that proclaims its support of academic freedom while doing otherwise, a singular response will always be necessary if only to not allow these forces of repression to proceed unchecked.
I had wanted to talk to you about grounding and being-grounded and what takes place in the grind of work; in the process of being ground down though never run aground. The groundwork for this project began in one institu-tion, where certain members of the department of philosophy attempted to ground it to a halt like the Avro Arrow almost sending it into an abyss without hope of return. It was finished at another institution which allowed it space to breathe and grow to completion. I am grateful to both institutions for different reasons.
After having completed coursework in Aristotle, Kant, Wittgenstein, Rawls and Kymlicka and after having successfully passed comprehensive exami-nations in the history of philosophy, I submitted a thirty page thesis proposal under the title “Jacques Derrida’s Aporetic Ethics”. I was not allowed to even defend the proposal. Judged without a trial by those not competent to judge, I experienced first hand what is meant by intellectual censorship and administrative violence, along with the pettiness, anti-democratic nature and small-mindedness of departmental politics. At that moment, I finally understood what Derrida meant by repressive structures growing out of intellectual traditions.
What can be done?
What proposal would make sense as I dream of organizing a Derridean Council of Nicea? Proposal is a rich word. It relates to the orchestral overture or opening. Propose means to put forth; to make an offer of marriage. What I put forth here is hardly an offer of marriage even if it resembles a declaration of love for that which I call philosophy. Many in the academic tower had wanted to throw it out and to keep it in the projects. Perhaps it provoked and issued a challenge while evoking what was at stake in terms of ethics, much like a Catho-lic and Franciscan Luther nailing his theses to the church door in Wittenberg, “Ich kann nicht anders”.
What will be done?
Here are a few snap-shots, some film stills resembling a work still in progress. I do not pretend to be able to analyze these issues fully but I can point out things that might count as a fragment to an answer. You are invited to sift through the memories as ghosts gather to embed themselves in these inherited archives as I attempt to avoid the Hegelian preface.
The scene is staged. You are in a courtroom or a theatre of law. You have come to visit Kafka’s man from the country that is waiting for the door-keeper. You want to ask him: “Why do you continue to wait?” I manage to go past the other sentry, after-all this door belongs to me and no one else. Final arguments are being presented. The jury is sleeping. The judge is dis-ceased. Someone is speaking. Perhaps it could be me: “If physicians were as negligent as interpreters of Derrida’s work have been, they would be subject to malpractice suits. Some would even lose their license to dispense healing. No such fate awaits the negligent “philosopher” trained in the vulgarity of ignorant responses, which are often times published in respectable academic journals.” Does the lawyer win the case to emerge triumphant on the balcony of a Boston penthouse smoking a cigar and drinking cognac? What would win here exactly mean? Who would be convinced? Would the conviction stand or would the hemlock once again be mixed and dispensed?
What should be done?
More than ever, deconstruction is required in order to save the humani-ties from the dogmatists and keep philosophy alive and accessible to all. Here are Derrida’s words:

Philosophical teaching must continue to develop, one must con-tinue to read, the relation to tradition must be as cultivated as pos-sible: from this point of view, let it be said in passing, those who see deconstruction as a threat to culture and even to academic cul-ture and to its canon, those who try to denounce its “barbarism” are the barbarians: most often, you know, it is they who have not read enough, especially of the so called deconstructive texts. De-construction presupposes the most intensely cultivated, literate re-lation to the tradition. Thus, it is a matter of keeping the field of tradition open, of making things such that the access to philosophy remains open to the greatest number of people: one must pursue the critical project of philosophy as far as possible.

Notice Derrida’s emphasis on philosophical teaching, reading and culti-vating the tradition. Who would find this stance objectionable, if not those who do not know how to teach philosophy, how to read and cultivate the tradition? In addition to being an exemplary philosopher, a generous and kind man, Derrida was a distinguished teacher who related thinking to action. He writes, “I have always thought that thinking is acting….there is no thought of the future that is not at the same time an engagement with the question, “What should I do”.” I am sure that posthumous texts will emerge from the archives that will continue to teach us.
What have I done?
The intellectual risks involved in defending Derrida’s work, especially in the inhospitable and dominantly analytic environment that is called “North American philosophy” has been high, personally and financially but I could not have proceeded otherwise. It never occurred to me that I should ‘play it safe’ and betray what was so evident, namely that Derrida did have an ethic and that this ethic was in place from the beginning of his authorship. Here are Derrida’s words. Please read them carefully:

But what I am proposing here is not meant to suggest any more than were my earlier allusions to responsibility, hospitality, the gift, forgiveness, testimony etc.—some “ethical turn” as some have said. I am simply trying to pursue with some consequence the thinking that for years has been engaged with the same apo-rias. The question of ethics, of rights and politics has not sprung forth unexpectedly, as from a bend in the road.

In other words, Derrida did not make an ethical turn. He was always al-ready dealing with the ethical aporia.
What has been done here?
The work I have written brings out the aporias that Derrida has been dealing with since the beginning of his authorship. In it I explore the traditional areas of philosophy such as Metaphysics, Logic, Epistemology and Ethics and show how Derrida re-reads the tradition for the sake of a responsible decision.
I was drawn to Derrida’s work because it displayed a search for wisdom that was credible. I believe that his work exemplifies a passion and a courage that is rarely practiced by intellectuals. His idea that “deconstruction never proceeds without love.” is exemplary. Derrida’s work transformed my thinking and gave me a new appreciation for the history of philosophy, literature, poetry, architecture, aesthetics and psychoanalysis. Unlike others, I did not want to begin my career by writing books on Kant or Aquinas (however necessary and worthwhile), only to sneak Derrida in the back door twenty years later when it would be safe to do so and no one would take much notice. What I have been outlining here leads to the question of the role of the university and the role of philosophy within the university. Derrida has devoted considerable effort to making philosophy accessible to all those who wish to study it. This is one reason his work has done so well and reached so many people. He released philosophy from its unnatural academic restrictions.
The university writes Derrida, ‘professes the truth, and that is its pro-fession. It declares and promises and unlimited commitment to the truth”. One would think that this would be the case especially in departments of philosophy where wisdom, truth, knowledge and enlightenment are said to be valued. At least this is what their brochures claim. Derrida continues, “ This university without condition does not in fact exist, as we know only too well.” If this university without condition which will have been founded on the “unconditional right to ask critical questions…. in which nothing is beyond question” does not exist what stands in its place? The answer according to Derrida is “research institutions that are in the service of economic goals and interests of all sorts”. What is required writes Derrida “ is not only a principle of resistance, but a force of resistance- and of dissidence”. I would like to think that this work has taken Derrida’s insights to heart.
What is still to be done?
I have often asked myself; why there is so much hostility to Derrida’s works? One simple answer is that detractors of Derrida’s work have failed to follow their own methods. . Adherents of the analytical, phenomenological and hermeneutic schools of philosophy have failed in their task to uphold their own methodological procedures. Following Plato, we could ask, how can these experts engage in discourses full of error unless they are in a state of ignorance? Or, is it the case that these guardians of morals really know what Derrida is saying and cannot accept the consequences? Is one scenario worse than the other? Perhaps another answer is that detractors of Derrida’s works have finally realized the restrictive and reductive nature of their methods and instead of abandoning their paradigms and procedures, they have no other recourse than to recoil in resentment and attack everything Derrida stands for.
Derrida has shown that “to lie one must know what the truth is and distort it intentionally”. The lies against Derrida have been increasing since his death. Is it a case of simple negligence: of hurrying to a judgement in order to affirm at all costs that Derrida is a nihilist? What is the excuse? What alibi do these thinkers, theorists, academic philosophers and scholars have to offer us? Perhaps the simplest answer, that would of course, require at least one book for each infraction would be: incompetence, lack of analytical lucidity, ignorance, error, lies, jealousy, thoughtlessness, journalistic simplicity.
I find it disconcerting that philosophy professors still insist that Derrida has nothing to say about ethics or responsibility when the evidence is clear and distinct. To profess writes Derrida,

is to make a pledge while committing one’s responsibility… Philosophiam profiteri is to profess philosophy: not simply to be a philosopher, to practice or to teach philosophy in some pertinent fashion, but to pledge oneself, with a public promise, to devote oneself publicly, to give oneself over to philosophy, to bear witness, or even to fight for it. And what matters here is this promise, this pledge of responsibility.

I hope I have produced a rigorous inquiry. At the same time, I ask my-self; in the end what is the point? Derrida has been defending himself for many decades. Many of the best Continental philosophers and thinkers to whom I remain infinitely indebted have been defending Derrida. and still the chorus of negligence continues to sing on without respite.
In answering the question, “What’s the most widely held misconception about you and your work?”, Derrida responds,

That I’m a skeptical nihilist who doesn’t believe in anything, who thinks nothing has meaning, and text has no meaning. That’s stu-pid and utterly wrong, and only people who haven’t read me say this. It’s a misreading of my work that began 35 years ago, and it’s difficult to destroy. I never said everything is linguistic and we’re enclosed in language. In fact, I say the opposite, and the de-construction of logocentrism was conceived to dismantle precisely this philosophy for which everything is language. Anyone who reads my work with attention understands that I insist on affirma-tion and faith, and that I’m full of respect for the texts I read.

I must stop here (jus ad bellum) out of compassion for my opponents. I am reminded here of Joseph Beuys' most famous performance work “How To Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare” (1965), in which he walked around a gallery with his face smeared with honey and covered in gold leaf, carrying a dead hare to whom he talked, explaining the pictures. If Beuys could explain pictures to a dead hare perhaps there is hope in explaining Derrida to those illiterate in the history of philosophy, critical theory and theology while nonetheless teaching in departments of philosophy. Is it too much to hope that patient analysis and the display of evidence can counter obtuseness?”