The civic religion of social hope: A reply to Simon Critchley

Philosophy and Social Criticism 27 (5):35-58 (2001)
Abstract
This article attempts to respond to Simon Critchley's claim in a recent debate with Richard Rorty, that the latter, by not fully recognizing its indebtedness to Levinas, misunderstands the political import of the work of Jacques Derrida. I maintain, pace Critchley, that trying to push the Derrida-Levinas connection too far will not only further compound Rorty's view of Derrida as a thinker devoid of political efficacy, but that it will moreover serve to obscure the significant differences which exist between Levinas and Derrida - differences which cannot be overlooked in any serious discussion of the two thinkers in question. In the second half, I try to convince Critchley that what separates Derrida from Levinas is precisely what hooks him up with Rorty at a political level. Both, I argue, are committed to a civic religion of social hope. In so doing, I try to convince Rorty that his caricature of Derrida as a private writer without political consequence, ought now to be seriously reconsidered. Key Words: community • Critchley • democracy • Derrida • ethics • justice • law • Levinas • politics • religion • Rorty • sentiment • singularity • social hope.
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