Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Derrida-De-Distancing-Heidegger: On the Spatiality of Woman in Spurs

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Derrida-De-Distancing-Heidegger: On the Spatiality of Woman in Spurs

Article excerpt

The human being is a creature of distance! And only by way of the real primordial distance that the human in his transcendence establishes toward all beings does the true nearness to things begin to grow in him.

-Heidegger, Metaphysical Foundations of Logic

Commentaries on Martin Heidegger's Being and Time focus almost exclusively on time. The focus is understandable since Heidegger announces, even before the introduction proper, that the book's "provisional aim is the interpretation of time as the possible horizon for any understanding whatsoever of being."1 As a result, the short sections on Dasein's spatiality (§§22-24) are easily ignored. Yet, seven issues of Critique from December 1972 to June 1973 (numbers 307-313) announced a forthcoming article by Jacques Derrida entitled, "The De-distancing of Heidegger [L'é-loignement de Heidegger]." The article never appeared.2 Spurs: Styles of Nietzsche, originally presented as "The Question of Style" in July of 1972, that is, shortly before the article on de-distancing is first announced, offers an elliptic but decisive clue to Derrida's interest in the problematic of Dasein's spatiality. In a discussion of the way in which woman operates a certain 'action at a distance' in the text of Friedrich Nietzsche, Derrida writes:

Perhaps she is... the abyss of distance, the distancing of distance [ le distancemerit de la distance], the cut of spacing, distance itself [elle-même] if one could still say, which is impossible, distance itself. / Distance distances itself; the far moves farther away [La distance se distance, le loin s'éloigne] .Recourse to the Heideggerian usage of the word Entfernungwould be necessary here.3

What, exactly, is the nature of this recourse to de-distancing and why should it be necessary in a discussion of woman?

Style, the Work of Deconstruction

To understand Derrida's recourse to de-distancing in the context of a discussion of woman, one must first understand his recourse to woman in the context of a discussion of style. The question of style, Derrida says, must be measured (se mesurer) with the Heideggerian reading of Nietzsche.4 At the time "The Question of Style" was presented, Heidegger's Nietzsche lectures had just been translated into French by Pierre Klossowski (1971), which is in part why Heidegger was at the center of so many contemporary discussions of Nietzsche, but he provides the measure,beyond historical circumstances, for at least two essential reasons. (1) If Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche reaches "the thought that Nietzsche most intrinsically willed,"5 then it comprehends Nietzsche himself, without remainder, such that to interpret Nietzsche would require passage through Heidegger. (2) If Heidegger's "confrontation with Nietzsche becomes one with all Western thought hitherto,"6 then the Heideggerian interpretation consolidates the entire history of metaphysics and would therefore be at work, whether critically engaged or naively ignored, in any philosophical reading of Nietzsche. Heidegger, in other words, will have already taken Nietzsche further than any future interpretation.

The Grammatology specifies the way in which this 'measure' must be taken and, in the same stroke, provides the program of Spurs. On the one hand, Derrida holds that Nietzsche is "far from remaining simply (... as Heidegger would want) within metaphysics."7 Specifying the "reassuring evidence" at the foundation of the occidental tradition as the derivation and derision of the signifier in relation to the signified, Derrida writes that Nietzsche, by radicalizing "interpretation, perspective, evaluation, difference," contributed to the "liberation of the signifier" and therefore cannot be reduced entirely to that tradition.8 On the other hand, Derrida holds that it is not a question of withdrawing (soustraire) Nietzsche from the Heideggerian reading. For at least two reasons that, strangely, come down to the same. ( 1 ) Heidegger's reading is "irrefutable"; the Nietzschean reversal remains captive to the "metaphysical edifice" that it seeks to overturn. …

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