Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 439–468 | Cite as

Deconstructive aporias: quasi-transcendental and normative

  • Matthias Fritsch


This paper argues that Derrida’s aporetic conclusions regarding moral and political concepts, from hospitality to democracy, can only be understood and accepted if the notion of différance and similar infrastructures are taken into account. This is because it is the infrastructures that expose and commit moral and political practices to a double and conflictual (thus aporetic) future: the conditional future that projects horizonal limits and conditions upon the relation to others, and the unconditional future without horizons of anticipation. The argument thus turns against two kinds of interpretation: The first accepts normative unconditionality in ethics but misses its support by the infrastructures. The second rejects unconditionality as a normative commitment precisely because the infrastructural support for unconditionality seems to rule out that it is normatively required. In conclusion, the article thus reconsiders the relation between a quasi-transcendental argument and its normative implications, suggesting that Derrida avoids the naturalistic fallacy.


Derrida Deconstruction Ethics Morality Politics Aporia 



I am grateful to Samir Haddad, who commented on an earlier version of this paper, and to an anonymous reviewer for this journal. For institutional support during the time of completing the manuscript, I thank the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, Germany.


  1. Alexy, Robert. 1978. Eine Theorie des praktischen Diskurses. In Normenbegründung, Normendurchsetzung, ed. W. Oelmueller. Paderborn: Schöningh.Google Scholar
  2. Beardsworth, Robert. 1996. Derrida and the political. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bennington, Geoffrey. 1993. Derridabase. In Jacques Derrida, ed. G. Bennington, and J. Derrida. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bernasconi, Robert. 1988. The trace of Levinas in Derrida. In Derrida and difference, ed. David Wood, and R. Bernasconi. Coventry: Parousia.Google Scholar
  5. Bernasconi, Robert. 1997. What goes around comes around: Derrida and Levinas on the economy of the gift and the gift of genealogy. In The logic of the gift: Towards and ethics of generosity, ed. Alan D. Schrift. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bernasconi, Robert. 1998. Different styles of eschatology: Derrida’s take on Levinas’s political messianism. Research in Phenomenology 28: 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bertram, Georg. 2002. Hermeneutik und Dekonstruktion. Konturen einer Auseinandersetzung der Gegenwartsphilosophie. München: Fink Verlag.Google Scholar
  8. Bertram, Georg. 2006. Der Zusammenhang von Sprache und Objektivität im semantischen Holismus oder Wie überlebt der Empirismus unter den Bedingungen des Holismus? In Die Artikulation der Welt. Die Rolle der Sprache für das menschliche Denken, Wahrnehmen und Erkennen, ed. Georg W. Bertram, et al., 187–207. Frankfurt/M: Humanities.Google Scholar
  9. Bonacker, Thorsten. 2002. Die Gemeinschaft der Dekonstruktion. Zum normativen Gehalt liberaler Gemeinschaften. In Philosophie der Dekonstruktion, ed. Andrea Kern, and Christoph Menke. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  10. Caputo, John D. 1997. A commentary. In Deconstruction in a nutshell, ed. Jacques Derrida. New York: Fordham University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Caputo, John D. 1998. The prayers and tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Cassam, Quassim. 1999. Self-directed transcendental arguments. In Transcendental arguments: Problems and prospects, ed. Robert Stern. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Derrida, Jacques. 1976. Of grammatology (trans: Spivak, G.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Derrida, Jacques. 1978. Writing and difference (trans: Bass, A.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Derrida, Jacques. 1979. Living on: Borderlines. In Deconstruction, criticism, ed. Harold Bloom, et al. New York: Seabury.Google Scholar
  16. Derrida, Jacques. 1981. Positions (trans: Bass, A.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  17. Derrida, Jacques. 1982. Différance. In Margins of philosophy (trans: Bass, A.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  18. Derrida, Jacques. 1988. Limited inc (trans: Weber, S.). Evanston: North Western University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Derrida, Jacques. 1991. Given time: 1 Counterfeit money (trans: Kamuf, P.) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (French original: Donner le temps. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1991).Google Scholar
  20. Derrida, Jacques. 1992a. The force of law: The ‘mystical foundation of authority’. In Deconstruction and the possibility of justice, ed. Drucilla Cornell, Michel Rosenfeld, and David Gray Carlson. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Derrida, Jacques. 1992b. The other heading: Reflections on today’s Europe (trans: Brault, P.-A., Naas, M.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Derrida, Jacques. 1992c. Interview with Derrida. In Logomachia: The conflict of the faculties, ed. R. Rand. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  23. Derrida, Jacques. 1992d. Acts of literature. In ed. Derek Attridge. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Derrida, Jacques. 1993. Aporias: Dyingawaiting (one another at) the “limits of truth (trans: Dutoit, T.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Derrida, Jacques. 1994. Specters of Marx (trans: Kamuf, P.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Derrida, Jacques. 1995a. Points…interviews, 197494, ed. Elisabeth Weber (trans: Kamuf, P. et al.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Derrida, Jacques. 1995b. The gift of death (trans: Wells, D.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  28. Derrida, Jacques. 1996a. Remarks on deconstruction and pragmatism. In Deconstruction and pragmatism, ed. Chantal Mouffe. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Derrida, Jacques. 1996b. Archive fever. A Freudian impression (trans: Prenowitz, E.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  30. Derrida, Jacques. 1997. The politics of friendship (trans: Collins, G.). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  31. Derrida, Jacques. 1998. Faith and knowledge: The two sources of ‘religion’ at the limits of reason alone. In Religion, ed. J. Derrida, and G. Vattimo. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Derrida, Jacques. 1999. Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas (trans: Brault, P.A., Naas, M.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Derrida, Jacques. 2001. On cosmopolitanism and forgiveness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Derrida, Jacques. 2002a. Negotiations. Interventions and interviews 19712001 ed. (trans: Rottenberg, E.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Derrida, Jacques. 2002b. Echographies of television: Filmed interviews, with Bernard Stiegler (trans: Bajorek, J.). Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  36. Derrida, Jacques. 2004. For what tomorrow…a dialogue, with Elisabeth Roudinesco (trans: Fort, J.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Derrida, Jacques. 2005. Rogues. Two essays on reason (trans: Brault, P.-A., Naas, M.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Derrida, Jacques. 2008. Psyche: Inventions of the other, Vol II, ed. Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth. Rottenberg. Stanford: Stanford University Press. (French original Psyché: Inventions del’autre, tomes I et II, Paris: Galilée, 2003).Google Scholar
  39. Fritsch, Matthias. 2005. The promise of memory. History and politics in Marx, Benjamin, and Derrida. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  40. Fritsch, Matthias. 2008. Antagonism and democratic citizenship (Schmitt, Mouffe, Derrida). Research in Phenomenology 38(2): 174–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Fritsch, Matthias. 2010. Equality and singularity in justification and application discourses. European Journal of Political Theory 9(4): 328–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gasché, Rodolphe. 1986. The tain of the mirror. Derrida and the philosophy of reflection. Cambridge: University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Habermas, Jürgen. 2000. Actions, speech acts, linguistically mediated interactions, and the lifeworld. In On the pragmatics of communication, ed. Maeve Cooke. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  44. Habermas, Jürgen. 1987. Theory of communicative action, 2 vols. (trans: McCarthy, T.). Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  45. Habermas, Jürgen. 1990. Moral consciousness and communicative action (trans: Lenhardt, C., Nicholsen Weber, S.). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  46. Haddad, Samir. 2008. A genealogy of violence, from light to the autoimmune. Diacritics 38(1–2): 121–142.Google Scholar
  47. Hägglund, Martin. 2008. Radical atheism: Derrida and the time of life. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Heath, Joseph. 2001. Communicative action and rational choice. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  49. Heath, Joseph. 2003. The transcendental necessity of morality. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67(2): 378–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Heath, Joseph. 2008. Following the rules. Practical reasoning and deontic constraint. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Heidegger, Martin. 1962. Being and time (trans: Macquarrie, J., Robinson, E.). New York: Harper and Row (translation of Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1984).Google Scholar
  52. Hénaff, Marcel. 2009. The aporia of pure giving and the aim of reciprocity: On Derrida’s given time. In Derrida and the time of the political, ed. Pheng Cheah, and Suzanne Guerlac. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Hénaff, Marcel. 2010. The price of truth: Gift, money, and philosophy (trans: Morhange, J.-L.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Hitz, Thorsten. 2005. Jacques Derridas praktische Philosophie. München: Wilhelm Fink.Google Scholar
  55. Laclau, Ernesto. 1996. Emancipation(s). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  56. Luhmann, Norbert. 1993. “Die Paradoxie des Entscheides” Verwaltungs-Archiv: Zeitschrift für Verwaltungslehre. Verwaltungsrecht und Verwaltungspolitik 84: 287–310.Google Scholar
  57. Menke, Christoph. 2000. Spiegelungen der Gleichheit. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.Google Scholar
  58. Menke, Christoph. 2002. Können und Glauben. Die Möglichkeit der Gerechtigkeit. In Philosophie der Dekonstruktion, ed. Andrea Kern, and Christoph Menke. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  59. Odenstedt, Anders. 2003. Gadamer on context-dependence. The Review of Metaphysics 57(1): 75–104.Google Scholar
  60. Patton, Paul. 2004. Politics. In Understanding Derrida, ed. Jack Reynolds, and Jonathan Roffe. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  61. Raffoul, François. 2010. The origins of responsibility. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Rancière, Jacques. 2009. Should democracy come? Ethics and politics in Derrida. In Derrida and the time of the political, ed. Pheng Cheah, and Suzanne Guerlac. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Rawls, John. 1996. Political liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Teubner, Gunther (ed.). 2008. Nach Jacques Derrida und Niklas Luhmann. Zur (Un)Möglichkeit einer Gesellschaftstheorie der Gerechtigkeit. Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius.Google Scholar
  65. von Foerster, Heinz. 1992. Ethics and second-order cybernetics. Cybernetics and Human Knowing 1(1): 9–19.Google Scholar
  66. Waniek, Eva L., and Erik M. Vogt (eds.). 2008. Derrida und Adorno. Wien: Turia & Kant.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyConcordia UniversityMontréalCanada

Personalised recommendations