Of spirit: Heidegger and Derrida on metaphysics, ethics, and national socialism

Inquiry 39 (1):21 – 44 (1996)
Derrida's reading of Heidegger in Of Spirit provides an excellent opportunity to assess the ethical and political value of each of their works. Derrida uncovers a slippage in Heidegger during the 1930s in which Heidegger ?forgot to forget? the dangers of the ?spirit? he had disavowed in Being and Time. This reveals a substantial early investment in the National Socialist project from which Heidegger never adequately recovered. Even in his attempts to distance himself from his Nazi past, Heidegger was still caught up in a metaphysical, though not a racial?biological, gesture and while Heidegger may have written at the end of philosophy, it was an end never come. One cannot stop reading Heidegger on this account. Rather, one is all the more compelled to read him, and after him Derrida. In Derrida's reading of Heidegger, we see the ways in which Heidegger opened up for Derrida an alternative space for the ethical ? in ?The call of Being? before any decision ? in the obligation to the other. However, this ethical possibility of deconstruction is only a space of undecideabiliry and questioning, never a space for political comportment; that is, it is ontological?existential, not ontical?existentiell. In this, while deconstruction opens up a space for ethics, it is never to guide, only to expose
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DOI 10.1080/00201749608602406
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Emmanuel Levinas (1969). Totality and Infinity. Pittsburgh, Duquesne University Press.

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