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Derrida and the Heidegger Controversy: Global Friendship Against Racism

Abstract

This essay explores the ethical import of deconstruction through a reading of Derrida on Heidegger. In Of Spirit, Derrida traces through Heidegger’s writings the interplay of “spirit” and spirit. Spirit denotes an involvement with the question of Being, and in thus pointing towards a positive content, it embodies a metaphysical gesture in which a spiritual mission becomes the human essence. In Heidegger’s entanglement with National Socialism, he tied this spiritual mission to German self-assertion. “Spirit” is a concept under erasure that calls our attention to the absent Other. It reminds us of an ethical responsibility that is prior to ontology; it sets up a “cosmopolitanism” that precedes all particular identifications and so avoids spiritual racism. Derridean “cosmopolitanism” differs importantly from liberal universalism. From a Derridean perspective, liberal universalism remains insufficiently attune to the Other; it retains a metaphysical gesture, and so imperialistic and exclusionary tendency, akin to that found in Heidegger.

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