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Jacques Derrida and the necessity of chance

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posted on 2023-06-08, 14:04 authored by Christoforos Diakoulakis
Chance, in the sense of the incalculable, the indeterminable, names the limit of every estimation of the truth. Whereas traditional philosophical discourses aspire to transcend this limit, deconstruction affirms on the contrary its necessity; not as a higher principle that relativizes truth and renders all our calculations futile, as is commonly suggested by flippant appropriations of Derrida’s work, but as a structural property within every event and every concept, every mark. Rather than a mere impediment to the pursuit of truth then, the incalculable forms a necessary correlative of the pursuit itself. Deconstruction effectively attests to and exemplifies the dependence of every philosophical discourse on its irreducible, inherent limitation. With reference to numerous commentaries on Derrida’s work, Chapter 1 shows that the unconditional indeterminability of a deconstructive, methodological identity is indissociable from deconstruction’s critical import. And as Chapter 2 verifies in turn, focusing now primarily on Derrida’s lecture ‘My Chances/Mes Chances’ and the performative aspects of his writing, deconstruction’s appeal to the accidental and the idiomatic is not a call to irresponsibility and a turning away from theory; it is what ensures its remarkable theoretical consistency. Through close readings of Aristotle, Freud, Richard Rorty and William James, Chapter 3 demonstrates that any attempt to regulate chance cannot help but put chance to work instead. Not even fiction can arrest its contaminating force. Reading Derrida alongside Edgar Allan Poe, Chapter 4 posits that the commonsensical conception of chance as a deviation from the truth is bound up with an uncritical notion of literary writing as sheer untruthfulness, and hence as the site of pure chance. The constitutive pervasiveness of chance bears out, in the first place and above all, the instability of the limit that separates fiction from non-fiction, truth from non-truth.


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