Reading derrida’s own conscience: From the question to the call

Philosophy and Social Criticism 30 (3):283-301 (2004)
This paper explores two different methods of reading ‘Derrida’s own conscience’ – that is, of raising the question of ethics and obligation in deconstruction. The two readings under discussion here are staged by Jean-Luc Nancy in his seminal essay ‘The Free Voice of Man’. In the first half of the paper, I engage in a reading of Nancy’s essay in which I seek not only to highlight Nancy’s double formulation of the place of ethics in deconstruction, but also to re-mark the transition in Derrida’s writings from the priority of the question to an emphasis on a call that precedes the question. In order to further explore this displacement of the priority of the question, the second half of the essay takes up an analysis of Derrida’s employment of the motif of ‘ Viens ’ (‘Come’) in his essay ‘On a Newly Arisen Apocalyptic Tone in Philosophy’. I suggest that ‘ Viens ’ should be read as Derrida’s formulation of: (1) another response, beyond questioning, to a call that precedes any question; (2) another thought of conscience and obligation; and (3) a thought of the trace of alterity at the very heart of conscience that signals the impossibility of any form of good conscience. Key Words: apocalypse • call • conscience • ethics • question • Viens.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453704042215
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