Category Archives: Derrida

This question of survival

Are we hearing from Derrida again, does he still live, or is this what is left of him in the words we read and speak? A certain haunting or spectrality is induced through this equivocation, and this equivocation, he tells us, is structural, even originary. We expect survival to come later, as a concept that follows a life, as a predicament we face upon the death of the author, but Derrida tells us, here, at the end of his life, that the predicament was always there and that this equivocation, this question of survival, even this imperative to affirm survival, is there from the outset, built into the language that precedes us.

— Judith Butler (via here)

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Hopeless prayer

When I pray I think, I try to think. And this thinking prayer is not simply negative. It’s a way of asking questions […] When I pray I am thinking about negative theology, the unnameable, the possibility [that I am] totally deceived about my belief and so on. It’s a very sceptical – I don’t like this word – but it can be interpreted as a very sceptical prayer. And this scepticism is part of the prayer. […] Instead of scepticism I would call it a suspension of certainty, and this is part of the prayer. And then I consider that this suspension of certainty, this suspension of knowledge, the inability to answer your question, ‘Who do you expect to answer these prayers?’ is part of what a prayer has to be in order to be authentic. If I knew, if I were simply expecting an answer, that would be the end of the prayer. That would be an order, the way I order a pizza. No, I am not expecting anything. And my assumption is that I must give up any expectation, any certainty as to the one, or more than one, to whom I address this prayer, if this is still a prayer. […] It’s a hopeless prayer on the one hand, and I think this hopelessness is part of what a prayer should be. On the other hand I know that there is hope, there is calculation, there is economy. But what sort of economy? […] I know that praying in that way, even if there is no one God, mother or father receiving my prayer, I know that by this act of praying in the desert – out of love, because I wouldn’t pray otherwise – something might already be good in myself. […] By doing this I try to affirm and to accept something in myself which won’t to any harm to anyone, especially to me. […] If I give up any calculation, because of this calculation around the incalculable I can become better for myself, narcissistically, but to become better narcissistically is a way of loving in a better way, of being more loveable for our loved ones. So that’s a calculation. It’s a calculation which tries to integrate the incalculable. When I pray it’s a mixture of all these things in the same instant, in the same words, in the same gestures. [Then I have] a strange experience in which the Judaism of my childhood, my experience as a philosopher, as a quasi-theologian, all the texts I’ve read, from Plato to St Augustine to Heidegger, are there, they are my world, the world in which my prayer prays. That’s the way I pray, sometimes in a given and fixed moment during the day, sometimes anywhere, at any moment, for instance now.

Derrida

Take it back!

Nothing intimidates me when I write. I say what I think must be said. [But] when I don’t write, there is a very strange moment when I go to sleep. When I have a nap and I fall asleep. At that moment, in a sort of half-sleep, all of a sudden I’m terrified by what I’m doing. And I tell myself: ‘You’re crazy to write this!’ […] And there is a sort of panic in my subconscious, as if… what can I compare it to? Imagine a child who does something horrible. […] In this half-sleep I have the impression that I’ve done something criminal, disgraceful, unavowable that I shouldn’t have done. And someone is telling me: ‘You’re mad to have done that!” And this is something I truly believe in my half-sleep. And the implied command in this is: ‘Stop everything! Take it back! Burn your papers! What you are doing is inadmissible!’ But once I wake up, it’s over. What this means or how I interpret this is that when I’m awake, conscious, working, in a certain way I’m more unconscious than in my half-sleep. When I’m in that half-sleep there’s a kind of vigilance that tells me the truth. First of all it tells me that what I’m doing is very serious. But when I’m awake and working, this vigilance is actually asleep. It’s not the stronger of the two. And so I do what must be done.

Derrida

Hopeless prayer

When I pray I think, I try to think. And this thinking prayer is not simply negative. It’s a way of asking questions […] When I pray I am thinking about negative theology, the unnameable, the possibility [that I am] totally deceived about my belief and so on. It’s a very sceptical – I don’t like this word – but it can be interpreted as a very sceptical prayer. And this scepticism is part of the prayer. […] Instead of scepticism I would call it a suspension of certainty, and this is part of the prayer. And then I consider that this suspension of certainty, this suspension of knowledge, the inability to answer your question, ‘Who do you expect to answer these prayers?’ is part of what a prayer has to be in order to be authentic. If I knew, if I were simply expecting an answer, that would be the end of the prayer. That would be an order, the way I order a pizza. No, I am not expecting anything. And my assumption is that I must give up any expectation, any certainty as to the one, or more than one, to whom I address this prayer, if this is still a prayer. […] It’s a hopeless prayer on the one hand, and I think this hopelessness is part of what a prayer should be. On the other hand I know that there is hope, there is calculation, there is economy. But what sort of economy?  […] I know that praying in that way, even if there is no one God, mother or father receiving my prayer, I know that by this act of praying in the desert – out of love, because I wouldn’t pray otherwise – something might already be good in myself. […] By doing this I try to affirm and to accept something in myself which won’t to any harm to anyone, especially to me. […] If I give up any calculation, because of this calculation around the incalculable I can become better for myself, narcissistically, but to become better narcissistically is a way of loving in a better way, of being more loveable for our loved ones. So that’s a calculation. It’s a calculation which tries to integrate the incalculable. When I pray it’s a mixture of all these things in the same instant, in the same words, in the same gestures. [Then I have] a strange experience in which the Judaism of my childhood, my experience as a philosopher, as a quasi-theologian, all the texts I’ve read, from Plato to St. Augustine to Heidegger, are there, they are my world, the world in which my prayer prays. That’s the way I pray, sometimes in a given and fixed moment during the day, sometimes anywhere, at any moment, for instance now.

Derrida