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The care taken always to pursue if possible the prey first started, and to call off the dogs and punish them whenever they get upon a false scent, gradually accustoms them to distinguish by scent the stag they are pursuing from all others. But the stag, wearied by the pursuit, seeks to join himself to others of his own kind, and then a more acute discernment is required by the dog. In this case there is nothing to be expected from those that are young. It appertains to consummate experience to form a sure and prompt judgment in this perplexity. It is the old dogs alone who are what is called hardis dans le change; that is, who untangle without hesitation the trail of their stag from among all those of the herd he has joined. ... If the dogs, carried away for an instant by their ardour, overrun the scent, and come to lose it, the leaders of the pack will, of their own accord, adopt the only means which men could use. They try backwards and forwards, in hope of finding in the circle they traverse the trace that has escaped them. The huntsman’s industry can go no farther, and, in this respect, the experienced dog seems to attain the limits of knowledge.

— Charles Georges Leroy, The Intelligence and Perfectibility of Animals from a Philosophic Point of View (1768)

At a conference on the ethics of the gift in 1990, Jacques Derrida gave a lecture that would become Donner le temps 1. La fausse monnaie (Given Time I: Counterfeit Money [1991]). It was another text entitled Donner la mort, however, that would appear in its place in the conference proceedings. In the author’s note to Donner la mort, published in turn as a stand-alone volume some years later,2 Derrida offered this caveat: “In spite of appearances, in spite of the sign of the gift, in spite of an expected passage between time and death, in spite of the appearance, albeit furtive, of the narrator of Baudelaire’s La fausse monnaie, Donner la mort is not yet the announced sequel to Donner le temps 1.”3 In his translator’s preface to The Gift of Death, David Wills would confirm in turn that Donner la mort was neither the text of the conference nor the second volume of Donner le temps, but rather “a different reflection within a series on the question of the gift” (vii). [End Page 143]

But then what of Derrida’s pledge in a note in Given Time (20/34), to return in a second volume to Heidegger’s Being and Time? One might be tempted to locate this return in the seminars of the late 1990s and the early 2000s, namely The Animal That Therefore I Am and The Beast and the Sovereign—yet neither work represents a substantial enough sequel to the reflection on the gift to warrant being regarded as a second volume. What gives, amidst these turns and promised returns? Did Derrida run out of time? Out of breath? Unless it is another gift altogether that waits, in pieces, dispersed through the later works —and retrospectively in the earlier writings—to be recognized and reassembled. We propose here to follow this other trail to consider what haunts the gift beyond the assurances of its presumed humanity. What happens when giving is that which can be done by an animal being chased unto death?

The phrase donner le change translates literally as “to give the change.” Derrida would use it in The Postcard (91/100) and in Fors;4 it is also cited in Given Time as one of many locutionary usages of the verb donner;5 it appears at two key articulations in Specters of Marx;6 but its most arresting occurrence is arguably in a crucial passage in Of Grammatology, in which Derrida evokes the place of the supplement in the libidinal economy of Rousseau’s Confessions:

Mais ce qui n’est plus différé est aussi absolument différé. La présence qui nous est ainsi livrée au présent est une...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2095
Print ISSN
0049-2426
Pages
pp. 143-161
Launched on MUSE
2016-08-09
Open Access
No
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