Silent prayers : Derridean negativity and negative theology

Abstract
Jacques Derrida's lecture entitled "How to Avoid Speaking: Denials", given in Jerusalem in 1986, responds both to those who subsume his project within negative theology and to those that ignore their interrelation. The former fail to see that while negative theology is oriented towards ineffable union with the divine, deconstruction radically denies the possibility of this union. The latter, however, read negative theology solely in the context of this ineffable union, ignoring the possibility of a second apophatic language whose critique of language is itself so radical that it engages in a paradoxcical self-critique that denies, if not union itself, at least the possibility of speaking about union. This second, concurrent language has a distinct family resemblance to Derrida's own deconstructive project, for it embraces the radically negative denials of differance. This study will first present a critique of those who offer either an affirmative or negative answer to the question "Is deconstruction a form of negative theology?", arguing instead that Derrida denies all answers. Its final step will analyze the similarities between negative theology's escape from the silence of pure denial--prayer--and Derrida's own means of escaping the silence summoned when he asks: "How to avoid speaking?"
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