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Historical undecidability: The Kantian background to Derrida's politics 1

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This paper deals with Derrida's analysis of Kant's Critique of Judgment in his essay 'Economimesis'. I argue that Derrida's analysis of Kant's aesthetics can be used to describe the aporia within Kantian politics between rebellion and progressive revolutionary acts. The focus of my argument falls on examining how the recent debate over Derrida's ethics can be usefully considered from the background of this treatment of Kant. In particular, the analysis Derrida gives of Kant's aesthetics commits him to a series of conceptual constraints that can be detected in his recent commentaries on 'forgiveness' and 'hospitality'. I suggest that these recent commentaries on political topics also depart from his earlier practice of ethics in 'Economimesis' as a 'witnessing' of the particular. This departure can be clearly seen once the Kantian background to Derrida's recent writing is set out.

Keywords: Derrida; Kant; aesthetics; historical progress; political rebellion; spectatorship

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2004

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