Returning the gift of death: violence and history in Derrida and Levinas

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 67 (1):1-15 (2010)
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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to establish a proper context for reading Jacques Derrida’s The Gift of Death, which, I contend, can only be understood fully against the backdrop of “Violence and Metaphysics.” The later work cannot be fully understood unless the reader appreciates the fact that Derrida returns to “a certain Abraham” not only in the name of Kierkegaard but also in the name of Levinas himself. The hypothesis of the reading that follows therefore would be that Derrida writes The Gift of Death not as an attempt to re-present Kierkegaard’s Abraham either rightly or wrongly but as an effort to do with Kierkegaard’s Abraham what is possible with his thought in a broadly Levinasian/derridean framework. That the reading he provides of the Abraham story would not be recognizable to Kierkegaard is not the principal point of Derrida’s effort; his aim is to demonstrate that Levinas should not have been so hasty to dismiss Kierkegaard but could have recovered his interpretation of Abraham for purposes that Derrida and Levinas both share.

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References found in this work

Otherwise Than Being, or, Beyond Essence.Emmanuel Levinas - 1974 - Pittsburgh, Pa.: Duquesne University Press.
The Gift of Death.Jacques Derrida - 1996 - University of Chicago Press.
Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence.Emmanuel Levinas & Alphonso Lingis - 1981 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 17 (4):245-246.
Acts of religion.Jacques Derrida - 2002 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Gil Anidjar.
Violence and Metaphysics.”.Jacques Derrida - 1967 - In Claire Elise Katz & Lara Trout (eds.), Emmanuel Levinas. Routledge. pp. 1--88.

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