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Miracle and Machine:Jacques Derrida and the Two Sources of Religion, Science, and the Media

Jacques Derrida and the Two Sources of Religion, Science, and the Media

Michael Naas

Publication Year: 2012

Miracle and Machine is a sort of "reader's guide" to Jacques Derrida's 1994 essay "faith and knowledge," his most important work on the nature of religion in general and on the unprecedented forms it is taking today through science and the media. It provides essential background for understanding Derrida's essay, commentary on its unique style and its central figures (e.g., Kant, Hegel, Bergson, and Heidegger), and assessment of its principal philosophical claims about the fundamental duplicity of religion and the ineluctably autoimmune relationship among religion, science, and the media. Along the way it offers in-depth analysis of Derrida's treatment of everything from the nature of religious revelation, faith, prayer, sacrifice, testimony, messianicity, fundamentalism, and secularism to the way religion is today being transformed by globalization, technoscience, and worldwide telecommunications networks.But Miracle and Machine is much more than a commentary on a single Derrida text. Through references to scores of other works by Derrida, both early and late, it also provides a unique introduction to Derrida's work in general. It demonstrates that one of the very best ways to understand the terms, themes, claims, strategies, and motivations of Derridean deconstruction from the early 1960s through 2004 is to read critically and patiently, in its spirit and in its letter, an exemplary text such as "Faith and Knowledge." Finally, Miracle and Machine attempts to put Derrida's ideasabout religion to the test by reading alongside "Faith and Knowledge" an already classic work of American fiction that is more or less contemporaneous with it, Don DeLillo's 1997 Underworld, a novel that explores the same relationship between faith and knowledge, religion and science, religious revelation and the World Wide Web,messianicity, and weapons of mass destruction in a word, in two words, miracles and machines.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

This work grew out a series of three lectures delivered at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum in Citta` di Castello, Italy, during the summer of 2008. Invited by my friend and former colleague at DePaul University Paul Davies, now at the University of Sussex, to speak on the subject ‘‘Belief...

Abbreviations of Works by Jacques Derrida

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pp. xi-xxiv

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pp. 1-12

In February 1994, Jacques Derrida participated in a small conference on the island of Capri devoted to the question of the nature and role of religion in the world today. Derrida’s essay ‘‘Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of ‘Religion’ at the Limits of Reason Alone,’’ first published in...

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Prologue: Miracle and Mass Destruction (Underworld I)

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pp. 13-18

Because there is—as I believe—no proper place to begin reading Derrida on religion or anything else, because all one can do is prepare, calculate, strategize, and then give it a shot, I would like to begin with a religious tale that is rather far away from Derrida’s interests, idiom, and culture, an...

PART I The Island and the Starry Skies Above

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pp. 19-20

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1 Context Event Signature

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pp. 21-38

If ‘‘Faith and Knowledge’’ is Derrida’s most direct and ambitious attempt to answer the question of the nature of religion in general and its relationship with science and the media, it is hardly the first text in which Derrida treats themes and topics related directly to religion or religious discourse....

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2 Duplicity, Definition, Deracination

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pp. 39-64

All of the conditions we have looked at thus far form the context for Derrida’s choice of theme and for his treatment of it in ‘‘Faith and Knowledge.’’ These conditions must be constantly borne in mind as we see how Derrida on this day, in this place, with this background, for this audience,...

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3 Three Theses on the Two Sources and Their One Common Element

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pp. 65-100

In the previous two chapters I have tried to describe and analyze the various conditions of the essay ‘‘Faith and Knowledge’’ and of the Capri conference where a first version of the essay was presented. We saw how Derrida approaches the question of religion today by means of the essential...

PART II The Religion(s) of the World

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pp. 101-102

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Interlude I

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pp. 103-106

As we have seen, Derrida demonstrates throughout ‘‘Faith and Knowledge’’ the irreducible relationship between religion and science, that is, between the miracle and the machine. I would like to begin this second part of...

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4 La religion soufflée The Genesis of ‘‘Faith and Knowledge’

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pp. 107-124

As I argued in the Introduction, one must always try to understand how the form, style, and even the format of Derrida’s texts reflect the theses within them. ‘‘Faith and Knowledge’’ would be a truly exemplary text in this regard. The three theses developed in the previous chapter concerning...

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5 The Telegenic Voice The Religion of the Media

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pp. 125-151

As we have seen in previous chapters, religion must always—and especially today—be thought in relationship to the machine, to science and technology, and, particularly, to the teletechnology that has overtaken our world and transformed our very understanding of the world. Even when...

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6 ‘‘Jewgreek is greekjew’’ Messianicity—Khōra—Democracy

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pp. 152-196

In Chapter 3 we claimed that Derrida identifies two sources of religion, one of which is the common source of both religion and science, namely, a kind of originary or elementary faith, the ‘‘barest foundation’’ of every social bond. This reading of ‘‘Faith and Knowledge’’ is justified by just...

PART III Underworlds and Afterlives

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pp. 197-198

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Interlude II Cyberspace and the Unconscious (Underworld III)

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pp. 199-201

I suggested at the outset of Part II that Don DeLillo’s Underworld is a great contemporary novel about the relationship between waste, weapons, and faith, the environmental crisis, the weapons industry, and religion. This network of associations or connections is sometimes explicit, conscious...

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7 Mary and the Marionettes Life, Sacrifice, and the Sexual Thing

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pp. 202-226

As we saw back in Chapter 3, when we were developing the three principal theses of ‘‘Faith and Knowledge,’’ religion attempts to indemnify the first of its two sources by appropriating in an autoimmune fashion the powers of technoscience. While it has done this from time immemorial,...

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8 Pomegranate Seeds and Scattered Ashes From n 1 to the One n

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pp. 227-242

Though the name Persephone is never pronounced in ‘‘Faith and Knowledge,’’ her story might nonetheless be heard, or her figure seen, lurking in the background of the essay, from the various references to rape and sexual assault to, perhaps, Jensen’s story of Gradiva, where we read of ‘‘a...

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9 The Passion of Literature Genet in Laguna, Gide in Algiers

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pp. 243-276

Derrida thus ends ‘‘Faith and Knowledge’’ with a reference to the ‘‘dispersion of ashes’’ and to ‘‘death given.’’ He concludes with what sounds like a testimony or a testament or, better, a signature that would come to punctuate, endorse, or sign a text that is now complete. As noted earlier,...

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Epilogue Miracle and Mass Delusion (Underworld IV)

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pp. 277-284

As we have seen, Derrida’s ‘‘Faith and Knowledge’’ ends and then ends again. The first twenty-six sections, presumably presented by Derrida at the conference in Capri, seem to have called for a long post-scriptum, and that post-scriptum, at the moment of the signature, seems to have called...

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pp. 285-330

Derrida begins §36: ‘‘In the beginning, the title will have been my first aphorism. It condenses two traditional titles, entering into a contract with them. We are committed to deforming them, dragging them elsewhere while developing if not their negative or their unconscious, at least the...

Reference Matter

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pp. 331-332

Timeline of Selected Derrida Publications,Conferences, and Interviews: 1993–95

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pp. 333-336


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pp. 337-392

Index to Sections of ‘‘Faith and Knowledge’’

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pp. 393-394

Name and Subject Index

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pp. 395-408

E-ISBN-13: 9780823249411
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823239979
Print-ISBN-10: 0823239977

Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy