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Otherwise than ontology: Derrida, Levinas, Heidegger

Hodge, Joanna (2010) Otherwise than ontology: Derrida, Levinas, Heidegger. Derrida Today, 3 (1). pp. 37-56. ISSN 1754-8519

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Abstract

In the interview conducted with Giovanna Borradori, after the attack on the World Trade Centre, in September 2001, Jacques Derrida is pressed to specify connections between his own thinking, Heidegger's deployment of the term ‘event’, and the use of the term ‘event’ to pick out the unprecedented character of that attack. Derrida intimates that the attack is, perhaps, not as unprecedented, not the ‘wholly other’ which it has been framed as being. His reading of that event is to move it from a naive status, as ‘wholly other’, to a philosophically inflected thinking of the political, in the mode of the ‘wholly otherwise’, that is, in a sense to be made out here, whereby politics takes precedence over physics, as the originator of the basic components to be thought, and whereby the future takes precedence over the past, as the site at which what is arrives. The principal aim of this article is to consider how to think this counter-factual ontology, in the mode of a future anteriority. The article will set out Heidegger's move from affirming a fundamental ontology, of Dasein, to an ontology in parentheses (vom Ereignis) but will show how both of these are objectionable, on different counts, to Derrida and to Levinas. Derrida explores the options of supplementing an inadmissible thetic stance, with respect to the future, and therefore with respect to what there is, by developing the notion of the prosthetic, that which stands in for the impossible, timelessly asserted thesis. Levinas invents a new mode of phenomenology which opens a route into this ‘wholly otherwise’. These two strands of enquiry contribute to an analysis displacing these versions of ontology, in favour of a reformulation of political ontology. A subsidiary aim is to clarify Derrida's reservations with respect to the Heideggerian notion of the event. These reservations about Heidegger's usage throw light on his reluctance to deploy the term, within an analysis of the destruction of the World Trade Centre.

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