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  • Psyche: Inventions of the Other, Volume II
  • Tarek R. Dika
Jacques Derrida. Psyche: Inventions of the Other, Volume II. Ed. Peggy Kamuf, and Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008. x + 352 pages.

This second of two volumes re-traces some of Derrida’s most celebrated late essays and interventions on a wide variety of issues, ranging from negative theology to Heideggerian phenomenology, architecture, literature, and politics, maintaining throughout that remarkable depth and subtlety that has characterized Derrida’s mode and manner ever since the early days of what has come to be called “deconstruction” shook the European and American philosophical scene. Like its precursor, this volume brings together a number of previously translated essays as well as a few new or revised translations, [End Page 1194] namely, “How to Avoid Speaking: Denials,” “Geschlecht I: Sexual Difference, Ontological Difference,” “Heidegger’s Hand (Geschlecht II),” and “Interpretations at War: Kant, the Jew, the German.”

Taken together, the two essays on Heidegger form a meticulously argued and dense meditation on the overall structure of the basic conceptual arrangements and commitments made throughout Heidegger’s oeuvre. The first essay (“Geschlecht I”), focusing primarily on Sein und Zeit (1927) and the Marburg lecture course given shortly thereafter (Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Logik im Ausgang von Leibniz; Gesamtausgabe 26), addresses problems surrounding what Heidegger understood as the ontological “neutralization” and/or “neutrality” of the term Dasein prior to every ethical, anthropological, biological, or metaphysical predetermination “so as to keep nothing but a relation to itself, a bare relation to the Being of its being ” or “the naked trait of this relation to self” (11). The essay is devoted to re-examining the logic and possibility of a “neutrality” (or, perhaps, “minimalism”) that seeks to describe what is “proper” to the essence or Being of Dasein prior to the factual concretions and determinations into which it is “thrown,” determinations which, despite their not belonging to the essence of Dasein as such, nevertheless are not merely negative, external, or accidental predicates that come to characterize or determine it from the outside, as it were. On the contrary, factual concretion or empirical determination belongs fundamentally to Dasein as one of its essential possibilities, and there neither is nor can be Dasein without the possibility and actuality of such concretion (and the “dispersion,” “multiplication,” or “dissemination” such a possibility necessitates). One might say that factual concretion belongs essentially to Dasein (as a possibility that is always already actual) without being essential or defining it essentially.

There is much to be said, Derrida remarks, about the difficulties this logic of the “without” engenders. If Dasein, despite the factual or ontic concretions and categories that are its essential possibilities without characterizing or defining it essentially, is a fundamentally “neutral” being (i.e., has this “neutrality” as an existential structure), this requires that our proper phenomenological description “neutralize” those concretions so as to gain access to, precisely, the propriety concealed by those very determinations. (One can appreciate, I hope, how incredibly delicate this logic really is.) It is here that the question regarding the “sexlessness” (Geschlechtslosigkeit) of Dasein arises: Heidegger, Derrida notes, seems to be especially concerned with determining this “neutrality” as, first and foremost, one that is fundamentally “neuter” or, perhaps, “indifferent” as regards sexuality or the binarity that constitutes sexual difference; Dasein is not reducible to human being, consciousness (or unconsciousness), the ego, the subject, the individual, or even the animal rationale—these are precisely the sort of predeterminations that are to be neutralized by a proper phenomenologico-ontological investigation. It seems, then, that there should be no uneasiness regarding its irreducibility to sexual binarity; it would seem to carry no special problem as regards Dasein, its neutrality, and the phenomenological procedure that neutralizes such predeterminations. Nevertheless, [End Page 1195] as Derrida reads the Marburg lectures—where Heidegger “more patiently qualified, explained, and evaluated” the term Dasein—he notices that, amongst the factual concretions that Heidegger seems most concerned to neutralize, sexual difference “holds a privilege and seems to belong in the first place . . . to that ‘factual concretion’ that the analytic of Dasein should begin by neutralizing” (12–13).

Hence there is a kind of precipitation or acceleration...


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