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Norms, Interpretation, and Decision-Making: Derrida on Justice

  • Richard Amesbury

Abstract

In the previous chapter we examined Habermas’s attempt to overcome ethical parochialism and ensure agreement in judgments by grounding the validity of moral norms in terms of “what all could will.” I argued that moral norms should be conceived as constitutive of interests, rather than as contributing to their satisfaction. However, by rejecting Habermas’s principle of universalization (U), I may appear to be reinstating the thesis that we are “locked into what we happen to agree on” at a particular time and place.3 In this chapter we will examine an attempt to avoid these alternatives by distinguishing the inherent “deconstructibility” of laws from the “indeconstructibility” of justice.

Keywords

Moral Judgment Moral Norm Moral Consideration Social Criticism Moral Criticism 
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Notes

  1. 1.
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  2. 2.
    Immanuel Kant, “On the Proverb: That May Be True in Theory, But Is of No Practical Use,” Perpetual Peace and Other Essays (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1983), 62.Google Scholar
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  4. 6.
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  5. 18.
    In what follows I concentrate on theoretical concerns internal to the de-constructive enterprise. However, it should be noted that concerns of a more practical nature about the relation between deconstruction and ethics had arisen around this same time in the wake of the 1987 revelation that Paul de Man, a Yale deconstructionist and friend of Derrida, had published anti-Semitic articles in the early 1940s. Mark Lilia writes, “These might have been dismissed as youthful errors had Derrida and some of his American followers not then interpreted away the offending passages, denying their evident meaning, leaving the impression that deconstruction means you never have to say you’re sorry.” Lilia concludes, “It now appeared that deconstruction had, at the very least, a public relations problem, and that the questions of politics it so playfully left in suspension would now have to be answered.” Mark Lilia, The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics (New York: New York Review Books, 2001), 175.Google Scholar
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    Derrida, “Force of Law,” 14. Derrida’s allusion is to the final line of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness (London: Routledge, 1974), §7.Google Scholar
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  10. 30.
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    John D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 47.Google Scholar
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    Simon Glendinning, On Being With Others: Heidegger — Derrida — Wittgenstein (London: Routledge, 1998), 100. Crispin Wright interprets Wittgenstein along similar lines, arguing that “it might be preferable, in describing one’s most basic rule-governed responses, to think of them as informed not by an intuition (of the requirements of the rule) but [by] a kind of decision.”Google Scholar
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    Crispin Wright, “Wittgenstein’s rule-following considerations and the central project of theoretical linguistics,” in Reflections on Chomsky, ed. Alexander George (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 240.Google Scholar
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    Derrida, Limited Inc, 8. As John Caputo puts it in the process of developing Derrida’s line of thought, “the effects of which ‘iterability,’ the code of repeatability, is capable cannot in principle be contained, programmed, or predicted.” John D. Caputo, Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida (New York: Fordham University Press, 1997), 101.Google Scholar
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  22. 75.
    Samuel C. Wheeler, III, Deconstruction as Analytic Philosophy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 215.Google Scholar
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    See Thomas McCarthy, Ideals and Illusions: On Reconstruction and Deconstruction in Contemporary Critical Theory (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1991), 97–119.Google Scholar
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    Nancy Fraser, “The French Derrideans: Politicizing Deconstruction or Deconstructing the Political?” Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989)Google Scholar

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© Richard Amesbury 2005

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  • Richard Amesbury

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