- Hegel and Derrida on the Subject, Derrida Today, Volume 10, Issue 2 2017: 243-251.
A review essay on Simon Lumsden’s (UNSW) Self-Consciousness and the Critique of the Subject (Columbia University Press, 2014), assessing Lumsden’s Hegelian account of Self-Consciousness in comparison with Derrida’s in “The Pit and the Pyramid” (in Margins of Philosophy). Lumsden de-emphasises the teleology of presence in Hegel’s work, especially the Phenomenology of Spirit. Instead, he concentrates on how processes of intuition and concept for Hegel demonstrate the continued change of historical meaning. The result is an account that is very close to Derrida’s work, fulfilling several of Derrida’s own comments of how close his work is to Hegel’s.
- Symbols, collective memory, and political principles, Journal of the History of Ideas Blog book forum, April 2017.
Contribution to a book forum on Jeffrey Andrew Barash, Collective Memory and the Historical Past (University of Chicago, 2016). Barash recounts the emergence of the concept of collective memory, and argues for its critical importance intersubjective experience. Barash argues for a public role of historical work to hold collective memory to account, especially by insisting on the finitude of memory. I question if finitude is enough to ground a normative principle for public historical criticism.
- Doing justice to the past: Critical theory and the problems of historicism, Philosophy & Social Criticism, Volume 43, Issue 8, 2017: pp.812-836
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.
- The impossible diagram of history: ‘History’ in Derrida’s Of Grammatology, Derrida Today, Volume 8 Issue 2, 2015: pp.193-214.
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.