Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy)
John D. Caputo
Responding to questions put to him at a Roundtable held at Villanova University in 1994, Jacques Derrida leads the reader through an illuminating discussion of the central themes of deconstruction. Speaking in English and extemporaneously, Derrida takes up with unusual clarity and great eloquence such topics as the task of philosophy, the Greeks, justice, responsibility, the gift, the community, the distinction between the messianic and the concrete messianisms, and his interpretation of James Joyce. Derrida convincingly refutes the charges of relativism and nihilism that are often leveled at deconstruction by its critics and sets forth the profoundly affirmative and ethico-political thrust of his work. The Roundtableis marked by the unusual clarity of Derrida's presentation and by the deep respect for the great works of the philosophical and literary tradition with which he characterizes his philosophical work. The Roundtable is annotated by John D. Caputo, the David R. Cook Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University, who has supplied cross references to Derrida's writings where the reader may find further discussion on these topics. Professor Caputo has also supplied a commentary which elaborates the principal issues raised in the Roundtable. In all, this volume represents one of the most lucid, compact and reliable introductions to Derrida and deconstruction available in any language. An ideal volume for students approaching Derrida for the first time, Deconstruction in a Nutshell will prove instructive and illuminating as well for those already familiar with Derrida's work.
started out as a discussion article on three books published in the early 1960s. 14 His texts thus embody the very occasionalism, chance, and openness to the coming of something unforeseeable that he loves so much as a theorist. Each work wrestles anew, de novo, with the idiosyncrasies of ever shifting singularities. His works reflect the ability, to be described below, to keep his head without having a heading (cap), to forge ahead in another way than with a heading, to move ahead without having
does not go far enough, is not affirmative enough: It [deconstruction] is possible as an experience of the impossible, there where, even if it does not exist (or does not yet exist, or never does exist), there is (il y a) justice. Deconstruction does not set its sights on justice as the goal or telos within a positive horizon of foreseeability--like a Platonic eidos or a Kantian regulative idea--which for Derrida is what constitutes the horizon of "possibility," or possibility as a "horizon," a
partly because Derrida is -138- bringing them up himself, but also because I want to point to another genealogy besides the Nietzschean one for deconstruction. I want to underline a line that runs from Kierkegaard to Levinas to Derrida, which opens up another line on deconstruction. All this talk of decision as a "leap" in an "instant of madness," as an aporia ("paradox") which passes through an "ordeal" of undecidability, which turns on the exception that the "single individual" makes of
point of a deconstructive, postcritical, postsecularizing analysis of what is called reason--that is, the point of a New Enlightenment--would be to show the extent to which reason is woven from the very fabric of faith. The "promise" that Derrida has in mind is the very structure of ____________________ 9 Jacques Derrida, Foi et savoir: Les deux sources de la 'religion' aux limites de la simple raison, in Jacques Derrida and Gianni Vattimo, La Religion ( Paris: Seuil, 1996). See Caputo, Prayers
the name of one of the poles of deconstruction, the name of one of its tropics, the name of a body of texts in which the chance, the contingency, the associative powers, the mobility, the energy, and the "joy" of the trace are almost perfectly summoned. The aim of deconstruction is not to dissolve everything in Joycean excess and let it go up in the smoke of disseminative plurivocity. Derrida expressly warns us against mistaking this talk of the "play of signifiers," which too often results in