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I ROBERT BERNASCONI 9. Levinas and Derrida: The Question ofthe Closure ofMetaphysicsl The notion of the end of philosophy underlies all of Derrida's writings . This is never more explicit than at the beginning of the essay "Violence and Metaphysics: An Essay on the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas," where he announces the questions he brings to his reading of Levinas.2 First, did philosophy die a sudden death or is it suffering a lingering one? Notice that, although the first thought is that philosophy is dead, the possibility remains that it is still dying and perhaps has always been dying. The mortality of philosophy is not in question; that question is no longer a question. Second, how is the future of thinking related to philosophy? For Derrida, these are the only questions now capable of establishing a fruitful dialogue among thinkers. Or, in his own rather more cautious formulation: These should be the only questions capable of founding the community , within the world, of those who are still called philosophers; and called such in remembrance, at very least, of the fact that these questions must be examined unrelentingly, despite the diaspora of institutes and languages, despite the publications and techniques that follow on each other . . . .3 The fact that the first question is not philosophical, "is not philosophy's question;' already makes the second more pressing. I wrote that Derrida brings these questions to his reading of Levinas, but throughout the essay Derrida is concerned to show that his questions are "questions put to us by Levinas."4 Does Levinas ask such 181 182 ROBERT BERNASCONI questions? What is Levinas' relation to philosophy, particularly to the thinkers who have announced the end of philosophy? Derrida names four of them at the beginning of "Violence and Metaphysics" - Hegel and Marx, Nietzsche and Heidegger - and the first and last mentioned play an important part in Derrida's study of Levinas, not least because Levinas' debt to them is enormous. First, how do Hegel and Heidegger think the end of philosophy? "The end of philosophy" does not mean the same for Hegel and Heidegger, but it has the same source for both of them - the experience of the historical nature of philosophy. The insight into philosophy 's historical nature is the end of philosophy's naivete about itself, particularly that naivete expressed in the presumption of a Descartes or a Husserl that we have within our own resources a procedure for making a fresh start. The connotation of being freed from the tradition , which often now accompanies the phrase "end of philosophy;' is quite foreign to the thinking that gave rise to it. Heidegger's own phrases, "the destruction of the history of ontology;' "overcoming metaphysics;' and "leaving metaphysics to itself:' may perhaps be partly responsible for the idea that we can turn our backs on the history of philosophy and ignore it. But closer attention to what he wrote shows a continued insistence that "whatever and however we may try to think, we think within the sphere of the tradition:'5 Nevertheless, to experience the history of thought means much more than simply to recognize the dominating power of the philosophical tradition. For both Hegel and Heidegger, it means that the true subject matter of philosophy, which has hitherto remained hidden , is now accessible in the history of philosophy. For Hegel this subject matter is the absolute; for Heidegger it is being. The remembrance (Erinnerung) of the previously hidden subject matter of philosophy brings about a transformation in the manner of thinking, particularly in respect of the thinker's relation to language and his conception of truth, so that following the old procedures (for example , analysis or argument) no longer seems to the point. And it is because the concealed subject matter of previous thinking has now been brought to remembrance that this transformation of thinking may now be recognized as the t:nd of philosophy. For Hegel, now that thinking has attained its element - "pure self-recognition in absolute otherness" - it becomes possible to apprehend the whole, hence the true, as system. It is only in the completion (Vollendung) of truth in the system that the absolute is attained. The end of philosophy Levinas and Derrida 18.3 means its completion as a fulfilment, a perfection. For Heidegger, by contrast, it is when the thinker finds himself in anxiety, at a loss for words, that he comes to recognize for the first time that his vocation as a thinker within the...


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