Doubling Down: Doing Deconstruction During Derrida’s Death

I’m doubling down on doing deconstruction, and apparently I’m doubling down on that phrase, “doubling down,” which I already said once (too much) in the title and have now used way too much at this point. I promise not to use it again here, but the excess is part of my point: an exercise in exorbitance, a propensity for verbosity…it’s all part of what draws me to deconstruction. There is something about the double movement, speaking in two directions at the same time, writing in a way that avoids the temptation to resolve ambiguity and paradox into something easily digested by normal opinion (doxa). That is stylistically interesting, like the apophatic rhetoric used in mysticism and negative theology. But it’s not only a matter of style. It’s never merely style for mystics and theologians either. The simultaneously inventive and destructive movement of deconstruction discloses something about wisdom, about the way things really are, about the basic orientation around which philosophy takes place. But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Continue reading

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20 Days on Mercury: A Ten Year Retrospective

One year on Earth (365 days) is four years on Mercury.  Mercury revolves around the sun relatively quickly: once every eighty-eight Earth days.  While the years are relatively short on Mercury, the days are long—twice as long.  One day on Mercury takes two years on Mercury, which is to say, it takes two solar revolutions of the planet for it to rotate fully on its axis (in Earth terms: imagine the sun rising in June, reaching its noontime zenith in January, approaching dusk the following summer, and approaching midnight the following January).  In the last ten years, twenty days have transpired on Mercury.

I found some old notes of mine (perhaps even “notes” is too emphatic a word), which were written in this month ten years ago.  They are clearly under the spell of Mercury, or in Greek terms, Hermes.  I was quite taken with hermeneutics, particularly through the inflection of a Heideggerian-Aristotelian poetic philosophy.  I was interested in a hermeneutic radicalization of hermetic philosophy (not unlike Jeff Kripal’s mystical hermeneutics or Jack Caputo’s devilish hermeneutics).  Along with hermeneutics, I was also exploring the Merleau-Ponty/Whitehead alliance, anticipating current trends in hybridizing phenomenological and process thought, such as the “Whiteheadian key” to Merleau-Ponty’s ontology that Hamrick and Van Der Veken articulate (see Nature and Logos).  I can also see the beginnings of my ongoing work with a philosophical concept of sense.  With no further introduction or commentary, no apologia or proslogion, here’s a sample of what I was writing twenty mercurial days ago.  Continue reading

An Ethical Person

I’ve just started a summer semester, and I’m teaching environmental ethics.  What continues to strike me is how difficult it is to get people to recognize that they need to study ethics.  In terms of the Socratic axiom, it’s difficult to get people to realize that their ethical life needs examining.  So many people think that they already act ethically and that their current understanding of ethical relatedness is sufficient. 

If we think or feel that we’re already ethical enough, not only are we difficult students to teach, we are profoundly irresponsible.  I would simply say that the difference between an ethical and unethical person is that the ethical person knows that it’s impossible to be ethical.  This reminds me of Avital Ronell’s comments on ethics in the film Examined Life.

This is something that Derrida has taught.  If you feel that you’ve acquitted yourself honorably, then you’re not so ethical.  If you have a good conscience, then you’re kind of worthless.  […] The responsible being is one who thinks they’ve never been responsible enough, they’ve never taken care enough of the Other. 

This is “ethics under erasure,” as the new book on Derrida puts it.  The responsible person is responsible without responsibility, cultivating ethics without ethics (or ethics “against ethics,” as Jack Caputo might say).