2nd Question: I'd like to ask you a question that's very much related to the material that you've just been discussing. It's a question really also about beginnings and inauguration. Specifically, I wanted to ask you about the relationship between your work and the Greeks as the inaugurators of the western tradition. This semester we're reading your essay on Plato [Plato's Pharmacy] in our class on Greek philosophy, and as a matter of fact this program in Continental philosophy is very much also a program in the history of philosophy, so I wonder how you might characterize the connection between your work, or the work of deconstruction which is a task of reading inherited texts from the tradition already established. Specifically, postmodernism is often situated at the end of this tradition and is often characterized as having the task of dismantling the founding texts such as those of Plato and Aristotle, yet in many ways your reading of the Phaedrus is so attentive to the structural integrity and composition; so I would like to ask you whether this is characteristic of your philosophy, this tension between disruption on the one hand and attentiveness on the other. How would you suggest to us as people of this age, what strategies would you suggest we employ in reading these texts?

Derrida: Thank you. First of all I will say yes, this tension as a tension is characteristic of the work I try to do. Now, at risk of being, let's say, a little oversimplifying - and we have to be simple simply for lack of time - at the risk of being too simple I will say I will take this opportunity to really reject, criticize a commonplace prejudice which has widely surfaced about deconstruction that is not only among journalists, you know, bad journalists, but among, let's say, the people of the academy who behave like... not much like journalists, for I have the deepest respect for good journalists, but like bad journalists, always repeating, repeating stereotypes without reading the texts. That's really something... perhaps we'll come back to this problem later on. This has been from the beginning a terrible problem for me; not only for me - the caricature, the lack of respect for reading and so on and so forth... because as soon as you approach a text - not only mine, but many of the texts of people close to me - you see that of course the respect for these great texts, not only the Greek ones but especially the Greek ones, is the condition of our work. We are constantly trying to read and understand Plato and Aristotle and I have devoted a number of texts to them and...if you will allow me this self-reference, the book which will appear tomorrow or the day after tomorrow in France on friendship is mainly a book on Plato and Aristotle on friendship. So I think we have to read them again and again and I feel however old I am, I feel that I am on the threshold of reading Plato and Aristotle. I love them and I feel that I have to start again and again and again; it is something, it is a task which is in front of me, before me.

Now, nevertheless, the way that I try to read Plato, Aristotle and others is not a way of, let's say, commending or repeating or conserving this heritage. It is an analysis which tries to find out how their thinking works or doesn't work, [an analysis] of the tensions, the contradictions, the heterogeneity within their own corpus, as well as the law of this self-deconstruction. Deconstruction is not a method or a tool that you apply from the outside to something, deconstruction is something which happens, which happens inside. There is a deconstruction at work within Plato's work, for instance. As my colleagues know, each time I study Plato I find, I try to find some heterogeneity in his own corpus, and to see how, for instance, the Timaeus - within the Timaeus the theme of the chora is incompatible with his so-called 'system'. So to be true to Plato, and that is a sign of love, of respect, I have to analyze the functioning, this functioning of his work, and I would say the same for the whole of Greek philosophy. Now, of course the Greek tradition is essential to philosophy; 'philosophy' is a Greek word and its legacy is reflexive. But as soon as philosophy as such appeared under this name in Greece there was a potential opening, a potential force which was ready to, let's say, cross the borders of Greek language, Greek culture, and I would say the same for democracy, although the concept of democracy is inherent in the Greek heritage.

This heritage is the heritage of a model, not simply a model, but a model which self-deconstructs, deconstructs itself so as to uproot, to become independent of its own ground, so to speak, so that today philosophy is Greek and is not Greek. In this book on friendship I try to analyze what happened to the Greek thought with the Christian event, the Christian happening; it has to do especially with the concept of brotherhood. The way the Christian concept of brotherhood transformed the Greek concept of brotherhood was at the same time something new, an integration, a mutation, a break, but this break at the same time was developing, was something which was potentially inscribed in the Greek tradition. So we have to go back to the Greek origin, not in order to cultivate the origin or in order to protect the etymology, the etymon, the philological purity of the origin, but in order first of all to understand where it comes from and then to analyze the history, the historicity of the breaks which have produced our current world out of Greek tradition, out of Christianity, out of the Greeks meaning out of this origin, and thanking or transforming this origin at the same time. So there it is, this tension. Speaking of or going back to my own, let's say, tendency of taste or idiosyncratic 'style', I love reading Greek. It is difficult, this thing, a very difficult task, and when I read Plato I enjoy it, and I feel, if anything, it's difficult; I think it's an infinite task. The project is not behind me, Plato is in front of me. That's why today among so many stereotypes and prejudices that circulate about deconstruction I feel it's painful to see that many people about the question of the canon think they have to make a choice between reading Plato or the 'great white males' and so on and so forth and reading Black Woman writers. Why should we choose? Even before the question of the canon became so visible, even before then, no one in the university could be simultaneously a great specialist in Plato and in Aristotle and in Shakespeare; the choices have to be made and that is the distinction of our conditions. Nobody can at the same time be an expert in Plato and in Milton, for instance, and we accepted this, it was commonsensical. Why, today, should we choose between 'the great canon', i.e., Plato, Shakespeare or several texts of Shakespeare and Hegel, and others on the other hand?

The academic field is a differential field. Everyone can find his or her way and make choices and a program as such of course can become, let's say, specialized, but this doesn't mean that there cannot be other programs with no exclusivity which would specialize in other fields, and that is why I don't understand what's going on with 'the question of the canon'. At least as regards deconstruction, deconstruction at the same time is interested in what is considered 'the great canon' - the study of great works, western works - and open to new work, new objects, new fields, new cultures, new languages, and I see no reason why we should choose between the two. That is the tension in deconstruction.

3rd Question: If I might, I'd like to follow up on the remark you made about international philosophy in the sense of your founding of the International College of Philosophy and also what I take to be in your book Specters of Marx perhaps a new call for a new form of internationalism. Recently a distinguished American historian said apropos of the American motto 'E Pluribus Unum' that today in the United States we have "too much pluribus and not enough unum''. Now I've always considered deconstruction to be on the side of the 'pluribus', that is, as deconstructing totalities, identities in favor of loosening them up in terms of diversity, disruptions, fissures. I think that's a lesson we've all learned from deconstruction. What I'd like to ask regards any deconstructive salvaging of the 'unum'; that is, can the 'pluribus', can the diversity itself become too dangerous? What does deconstruction say, if anything, in favor of the 'unum' of community? Is there a place for unity in deconstruction? What might it look like?

Derrida: Thank you for your question. Let me say a word first about this 'internationality' you referred to at the beginning. The internationality I referred to in this book, it was, since Marx was the main reference of the book - this internationality was supposed to be different from what was called in the Marxist tradition internationality or internationalism. I think that today there are wars through a number of classes in the world upon which the international organizations such as the United Nations for instance have to intervene and cannot intervene in the way they should. That is, international rights, international law - which is a good thing - nevertheless is still on the one hand rooted - in its mission, in its axiom, in its languages - rooted in the western concept of philosophy, the western concept of state, of sovereignty, and this is a limit. That is, we have to deconstruct the foundations of this international law not in order to destroy the international organization - I think it is something good, something perfectible and something necessary - but we have to think, to rethink the foundations, the philosophical foundations of this international law and these international organizations. That's one limit.

The other limit, which is connected to the first one, has to do with the fact that these international organizations are in fact, in fact governed by a number of particular states which are the only which provide these international organizations with the means to intervene - the military power, the economic power - and of course the United States plays a major role in this. Sometimes it's a good thing but it is at the same time a limit. So, that is, the universality of this international law is in fact in the hands of a number of powerful, rich states, and this has to change and it is in the process of changing through a number of disasters, crises, economic inequalities, injustices, so on and so forth. The 'international' I think is looking for its own place, its own figure; it is something which would go beyond the current stage of internationality, perhaps beyond citizenship, beyond the belonging to a state, the belonging to a given nation-state. And I think that today in the world a number of human beings are secretly allying in their suffering against the hegemonic powers which protect what is called 'the new world order'. So that is what I meant by 'the new international', not a new way of, let's say, associating citizens belonging to given nation-states, but a new concept of citizenship, of hospitality, a new concept of a state of democracy - in fact, it's a new concept of democracy, a new determination of the concept, the given concept of democracy in the tradition of the concept of democracy. Now, having said this - again, very simply, in words which are too simple - I think we don't have to choose between unity and multiplicity. Of course, deconstruction - that was its strategy up to now - insisted on not multiplicity for itself but insisted on the, let's say the heterogeneity, the difference, the dissociation which is absolutely necessary for the relation to the other but disrupts the totality.

What disrupts the totality is the condition for the relation to the other. The privilege granted to unity, to totality, to organic ensembles, to community as a homogenized whole - this is the danger for responsibility, for decision, for ethics, for politics. That is why I insisted upon what prevents the unity to close itself, to be closed up. And this is not only a matter of description, of saying what is, the way it is, it's a matter of accounting for the possibility of responsibility, of a decision, of ethical commitment. For this you have to pay attention to what I would call similarity, and similarity is not unity simply, it is not multiplicity. Now this does not mean that we have to destroy unity, all forms of unity wherever they occur. I have never said anything like that. Of course we need unity, some gathering, some configuration and so on and so forth. You see, the pure unity or the pure multiplicity are synonyms of death. There is only death when there is only totality or unity and when there is only multiplicity or dissociation. What interests me is the limit which every attempt to totalize, to gather, versammeln - and I'll come to this German word in a moment because it's important for me - to this unifying, uniting movement, the limit that it had to encounter because the relationship of the unity to itself implies some difference.

To be more concrete, let's take the example of a person of a culture. We often insist nowadays on cultural identity, for instance national identity, linguistic identity and so on and so forth and sometimes the struggles under the banner of cultural identity, national identity, linguistic identity are noble fights, but at the same time if the people who fight for their identity don't pay attention that the identity is not the self-identity of a thing - a glass for instance, or this microphone - but implies a difference within the identity, that is, the identity of a culture is a way of being different from itself... a culture is different from itself, a language is different from itself, a person is different from itself; once you take into account this inner and other difference, then you refer, you pay attention to the other and you understand that fighting for your own identity is not exclusive of another identity, it is open to the identity of the other and it prevents totalitarianism, nationalism, ethnocentrism and so on and so forth. That is what I tried to demonstrate in a book called The Other Heading, that the identity in the case of cultures, persons, nations, languages is a set different item, it is identity as différance from itself, that is, within an opening within itself, a gap within itself. That's not only a fact, a structure, but it's a duty, it's an ethical and political duty to take into account this impossibility of unifying, of being one with oneself. It is because I am not one with myself that I can speak for the other, that I can address the other, which is not a way of avoiding responsibility; on the contrary, it is the only way for me to take responsibility and to make decisions... [One] recurrent critique of deconstructive questions has to do with the privilege Heidegger grants to what he calls, for example, this gathering; gathering is always more powerful than dissociation. I would say exactly the opposite. Once you grant some privilege to gathering and not to dissociating then you leave no room for the other, for the radical otherness of the other, for the radical similarity of the other. I think that separation, dissociation is not an obstacle to society or to community, it is the condition.

This dissociation, the separation is the condition of my relation to the other. I can address the other only to the extent that there is a separation, there is a dissociation, that the other is not the other, that I cannot replace the other and vice versa. That's what some French-speaking philosophers such as Blanchot and Levinas call the rapport sans rapport, relationless relation... that's the structure of my relation to the other; it's a relation without relation - it's a relation in which the other remains absolutely transcendent. I can't reach the other, I cannot know the other from the inside. That is not an obstacle, that is the condition of love, of friendship - of war too - it's a condition of the relation to the other. This dissociation is the condition of community, the condition of any unity as such. So a state - to come back to the state - a state in which there will be only 'unum' will be a terrible catastrophe, and we have unfortunately had a number of such experiences. So a state without 'pluribus', without plurality and the respect for plurality, would be first either a totalitarian state... it's a terrible thing, it doesn't work, we know that it doesn't work, it's a terrible thing and doesn't work; and finally it wouldn't even be a state, it would be like... a what... a stone, if you like, a rock. So a state as such must be attentive as much as possible to the plurality... of what... of people, languages, cultures, ethnic groups, persons and so on and so forth, and that's the condition for a state.
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