Derrida, Deleuze and Haptic Aesthetics

Derrida Today 2 (1):22-43 (2009)
In On Touching Derrida locates Jean-Luc Nancy (and, briefly, Gilles Deleuze) within a tradition of haptic ethics and aesthetics that runs from Aristotle to the present. In his early work on Husserl, Derrida had already claimed that phenomenology's commitment to the genesis of sense and the sensible is at one and the same time a commitment to pure and rigorous philosophy at the same time as it threatens to over-turn the primacy of conceptuality and cognition.Whereas Nancy (and those other figures whom Derrida cites, such as Merleau-Ponty) express a faith in a return to the sensibility of flesh, Derrida presents his own work as manifestly more cognisant of the necessary distance between flesh and sense. Another ‘approach’ to the haptic is suggested by Gilles Deleuze, whose work Derrida locates within phenomenological presence, despite Deleuze and Guattari's trenchant rejection of ‘the lived’ and the human organism that inevitably subtends any discussion of the relation between sensibility and sense. Rather than decide for or against this border between flesh and cognition, between post-deconstruction and deconstructive rigour, this essay examines this curious border of touch between philosophy and sensibility, and does so by referring to William Blake's problem of returning the signs of sense to the sensibility of the hand
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DOI 10.3366/E1754850009000360
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