- Paperback: 219 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (April 12, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415902398
- ISBN-13: 978-0415902397
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,778,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Philosophy of the Limit 1st Edition
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"This book is a major intellectual event. Nothing is more necessary and timely today than thinking through the possibility of a nonviolent relationship to the Other. "The Philosophy of the Limit does just that. Learned, eloquent, passionate, rigorous, this book is not just a brilliantly original appropriation of Levinas, Lacan, and Derrida for legal studies, feminism, and frontier work in ethics. It also turns back from the perspective of legal theory to make a signal intervention in the domains of philosophy, literary theory, and cultural studies."
-J. Hillis Miller, University of California, Irvine
"The book constitutes an important intervention in contemporary intellectual debates by showing the ethical and juridical relevance of trends which are often dismissed as amoral or destructive. By rephrasing Derridian deconstruction as "philosophy of the limit," Cornell draws attention to what eludes our grasp: to alterity and the "Other" who is not at our disposal but demands our recognition and respect. Forging an innovative vista, Cornell integrates insights of Derrida, Adorno, Lacan, and Levinas (as well as recent jurisprudence), underscoring their significance for a transformative moral and legal practice. Splendidly argued and lucidly written, the book helps to refocus and reorient ongoing discussions about modernity and postmodernity."
-Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame
""The Philosophy of the Limit is a brilliant exercise in thinking through major themes of deconstruction. In her encounter with the representative critical thinkers of today, Drucilla Cornell challenges us to follow her complex arguments and powerful rhetoric up to the limits of thinkingfinitude."
-Agnes Heller, Hannah Arendt Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research
Top customer reviews
But, having cleared herself of the usual impediments like 'relativism' vs. 'absolutism' she persists in developing a serious critical attitude and method of approaching ethical and legal public controversies.
Chapter Five is particularly good - Cornell really hits her stride here, and rewards the reader for persisting with the first three chapters which are pretty heavy going at times unless you're already familiar with Hegel, Adorno and Levinas.
And the quality holds up right through to the end - on 'law dressed up as justice' and a final one on the relation of ethics, politics and jurisprudence.
I resonate with Derrida's and Cornell's elaboration of the inherent violence of "totalizing" systems, such as Hegel's, or ideals of community, and applaud, as someone in many ways an "Other" to various presumptuous and imperialist systems, the space increasingly being made in philosophy for the "Other."
However I think both of them miss something that may be more obvious to an outsider, namely, that the "Other" which they express so much concern about, can be seen in many ways to be none other than the "messy" but rich, juicy stuff of human emotion itself, which they continue to marginalize by philosophizing in a way that continues the same old, same old extreme bias towards "reason" and against emotion. Cornell may be more accessible than Derrida, but why express oneself in such a way that is difficult for anyone but professional philsophers to follow? If you are so concerned about "the Other", why not write FOR "the Other", meaning the outsider to the stultifying realm of dry, narrow, lifeless modern philosophy, who is still in touch with the actual substance matter of vital life? I'd suggest that it's only RATIONAL, concept-based systems can be "totalizing", and thus imperialist and exclusive: systems which inherently contain mystery, such as symbolic systems, mythical systems which allow room for the imagination to continue to create, are numinous, open, allow space for new forms to emerge, are not closed like dead concepts. We can solve the problem of the exclusion of the "Other" by ceasing to privilege reason above all other ways of knowing.
I was eager to see what Cornell had to say about the application of the Philosophy of the LImit to law. I found myself disappointed. Her commentary addresses a relatively high-level, abstract and theoretical aspect of the legal system, that of "legal interpretation", which may benefit by her thinking, but which is somewhat irrelevant to the ways that many "little people" suffer under the legal system. As the "folk" who suffer under the system can tell you, tHere are many problems with the legal system that have nothing to do with legal interpretation at high levels. There are all too obvious problems of law which have not to do with legal hair-splitting, but simply have to do, again, with leaving out "the OTher", namely emotions and intuitions and, in fact, the whole SPIRIT of the law, while enforcing the dead LETTER of the LAW. Combing through the archives of the innocent who have suffered under the injurious and idiotic letter of the law, some manifestations of which include the "nanny state" laws that attempt to protect people from themselves, the plethora of frivolous lawsuits and the seeming complete inability of the legal system to stop these idiot cases (how about a judge who had the guts to just dismiss idiot cases?) I submit that no legal system can EVER be just which can only function under the dead "letter of the law." Just like a philosophy based exclusively in reason, which leaves out all the emotions of human life, is fated from the start to be meaningless and dead, so also any attempt to articulate justice using reason only, and to enforce it systematically with the letter of the law, allowing no room for human emotion and intuition, is bound to be injust.
Well do those speak who would argue that they are "above the law": in fact, EVERYONE is "above the law" when "the law" is constituted of dead matter, and is wholly literalistic, legalistic, impersonal, in essence, a machine without a human being at the controls. No human being can be reduced to that which is justified to be subjected to such a dead machine. Therefore, if the law be literal and applied by the letter, it follows that every human being, constituted of a numinous and remarkable complexity and uniqueness which far exceeds such idiocy, is above the law. Until the law can accomodate context and individual uniqueness, we are all "above the law."
People suffer under the law in many ways other than through insufficiency of high levels of subtle argument and abstract, philosophical pondering, and I would argue that it is somewhat offensive, as well as suggestive of privilege, and replicative of the continuing Western Imperialist arrogance extreme bias towards dead "reason", not to notice this, to be thus oblivious to the plight of the "folk" of the world.