The impossible diagram of history: ‘History’ in Derrida’s Of Grammatology
Derrida Today, Volume 8 Issue 2, Page 193-214 (Oct 2015).
This article presents Derrida as a philosopher of history by reinterpreting his De la Grammatologie. In particular, it provides a schematic reconstruction of Part II of that book from the perspective of the problem of history. My account extends work on historicity in Derrida by privileging the themes of ‘history’ and ‘diagram’ in the Rousseau part. I thereby establish a Derridean concept of history which aims at accounting for the continuities and discontinuities of the past. This is in contrast to some criticism that Derrida leaves behind, or inadequately accounts for history. Derrida describes a necessarily contorted condition of relating any historical event or development to itself or to another. This historicity informs other well-known aspects of Derrida’s work, like the ‘quasi-transcendental’ terms he developed. I conclude that ‘history’ is a critical element in any understanding of deconstruction, and that deconstruction entails new kinds of history, but that some axioms of current historical thought require reformation.
The Journal of the History of Ideas Blog: Book Forum on Jeffrey Andrew Barash’s book Collective Memory and the Historical Past (University of Chicago, 2016).
Symbols, Collective Memory, and Political Principles
April 21, 2017
Barash bases his argument on a formal analysis of memory, symbols, and temporal intentionality. Finitude for him is a matter of logical form: living memory can only extend a certain length; the selection of what we remember is secondary for him. Finitude itself supplies no clear ethical principle, however. Which normative struggles, which injustices breathe life into “living memory”?
“Doing Justice to the Past: Critical Theory and the Problems of Historicism”
With Jean-Philippe Deranty. Philosophy & Social Criticism, Online First Jan 12, 2017.
In this article, we argue that the usual restriction of critical theory to ‘modern’ norms is subject to problems of coherence, historical accuracy and moral obligation. First, we illustrate how critical theory opposes itself to societies designated as pre-modern, through a summary of Honneth’s recognition theory. We then show how an over-emphasis on modernity’s normative novelty obscures counter-currents in ethical life that threaten the unity of the modern era. Those two steps prepare the main analysis: that the ‘exceptionalist’ modernism of critical theory distorts our view of history and ignores normative dimensions of the past. We show how medieval and early-modern societies in Europe experienced many conflicts and possessed institutions that create illuminating configurations with modern norms. As a result, we articulate several kinds of moral and political link to the past that should lead critical theorists to expand the historical reach of their analyses.