Some leftover thoughts on Derrida’s Death Penalty Lectures

Some very interesting discussion of Derrida’s The Death Penalty seminar, including some thoughts on his relation to Foucault.


I submitted my review for Berfoison Derrida’s 1999-2000 lectures on the death penalty. For reasons of keeping the review as accessible as possible for a broader readership, I had to leave out certain discussions.

1. First, I wasn’t able to take up or challenge Derrida’s claim that no one “philosophically” has genuinely countered the death penalty. On the one hand this claim is straightforward: he thinks Western metaphysics is structured in part by a sacrificial politics and that even opponents of the death penalty use this logic. As such a truly philosophical answer to the death penalty would require—wait for it!–a deconstruction of this logic. But I find the claim off putting. One, it reveals a limitation of Derrida’s, taken over from Heidegger, that I’ll just call philosophical determinism: everything historical is reducible to a problem in Western philosophy. Moreover, Derrida himself would be the first to question–you…

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