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The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation Paperback – December 1, 1988
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Text: English, French (translation)
From the Back Cover
'No writer has probed the riddle of the Other with more patience and insight than Jacques Derrida....By rigorously interrogating the writings of major Western figures, Derrida not only forces a rethinking of the nature of reading and writing but calls into question basic assumptions about ourselves and our world.
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Top Customer Reviews
In the text on Nietzsche, Derrida says, “I shall not read Nietzsche as a philosopher… or as a scholar or scientist, if these three types can be said to share the abstraction of the bio-graphical and the claim to leave their lives and names out of their writings. For the moment, I shall read Nietzsche beginning with the scene from ‘Ecce Homo’ where his puts his body and his name out front even though he advances behind masks or pseudonyms without proper names.” (Pg. 7)
Derrida says in his first statement during the roundtable, ‘I should not have to reply right away to such fully elaborated and serious questions---and by improvising no less. Our agreement for this exchange is that I should try to improvise a response even when I am not sure that I can do so adequately. Well, I am aware that in a few sentences I will not be able to meet the demands of a question whose elaborations and presuppositions are of such a vast scope. Nevertheless, I’ll take my chances with an answer.” (Pg. 49)
He continues, “I speak myself to myself in a certain manner, and my ear is thus immediately plugged into my discourse and my writing. But the necessity of passing onto and by way of the ear is not just this. Nor is it just the necessity of labyrinth motif which, in Nietzsche, plays an altogether decisive role … To be more precise, it is, in the context that interested me yesterday, the difference in the ear. First of all, the difference in the ear is, clearly, the difference in the size of ears. There are smaller or larger ears. The larger the ear, the more it is bent toward the pavilion… the more finesse it lacks in its attention to difference… The ear of the other says me to me and constitutes the ‘autos’ of my autobiography. When, much later, the other will have perceived with a keen-enough ear what I will have addressed or destined to him or her, then my signature will have taken place.” (Pg. 51)
Derrida points out, “As for me, I’m no fan of modernity. I have no simple belief in the irreducible specificity of ‘modernity.’ I even wonder if I have ever used that word. In any case, I am very mistrustful whenever people identify historical breaks or when they say, ‘This begins there.’” (Pg. 84)
He explains, “When I made use of this word [“deconstruction”], I had the sense of translating two words from Heidegger at a point where I needed them in the context. These two words are ‘Destruktion,’ which Heidegger uses, explaining the Desgtruktion is not a destruction but precisely a destructuring that dismantles the structural layers in the system, and so on. The other word is ‘Abbau,’ which has a similar meaning: to take apart an edifice in order to see how it is constituted or deconstituted. This is classic. What was not so classic, however, was what this force… was applied to: the whole of classical ontology, the whole history of Western philosophy. The word got highlighted in the context of the period, which was more or less dominated by structuralism.” (Pg. 86-87)
He states, “What does philosophy say? Let’s imagine that it’s possible to ask such a question: What does philosophy say? What does the philosopher say when he is being a philosopher? He says: What matters is truth or meaning, and since meaning is before or beyond language, it follows that it is translatable. Meaning has the commanding role, and consequently one must be able to fix its univocality or, in any case, to master its plurivocality.” (Pg. 120)
Derrida responds to the question, “Do you consider poetry to be subordinated finally to philosophical discourse?”: “here I would say: Neither one nor the other. And I don’t say that to evade your question easily. I think that a text like ‘Glas’ is neither philosophic nor poetic. It circulates between these two genres, trying meanwhile to produce another text which would be of another genre or without genre… Yet I myself do not read the genre of this body as either philosophic or poetic. This means that if your questions were addressed to the philosopher, I would have to say no. As for me, I talk about the philosopher, but I am not simply a philosopher. I say this even though, from an institutional point of view, I practice the trade of philosophy professor… It is in this strategic context that on occasion I have spoken of philosophy’s usefulness in translating or deciphering a certain number of things, such as what goes on in the media, and so on.” (Pg. 140-141)
This book is very helpful at clarifying a number of Derrida’s positions, and will be of great interest and value to anyone seriously studying Derrida.
Double bind: Derrida defies metaphysics, yet of course inherently fails this attempt (we are all metaphysical beings). This is where conservative thinkers and bigots claim Derrida to be a con... I think not: Derrida tries to do, to think, to operate something different... indeed an "other" reason. Either you try to follow him, or you don't.
A criticism on this book is that Derrida focuses too much on 'microphilosophy'; indeed from a rigourous point of view autobiography is impossible... Différance, dissemination, archi-écriture, griffe, trace, etc...
Yet what Derrida (willfully?) forgets is that numerous autobiographies HAVE BEEN written. Of course he can reply that his point is exactly that those are not autiobiographies, but that is a superficial retort. In my opinion this doubleness, i daresay duality renders Derrida himself a metaphysicist (to continue in the terminology).
By (no doubt partly polemically) ruling out autobiography as such, and a priori (death of the author, etc.), Derrida implicitly contradicts a reality, instead of unveiling that reality.
Though this remains, together with 'Éperons' an excellent introduction into Derrida's unusually nuanced thought.