Styles of Piety: Practicing Philosophy after the Death of God

By S. Clark Buckner; Matthew Statler | Go to book overview

13
Derrida and Dante

The Promise of Writing and the Piety of
Broken Promises

Francis J. Ambrosio

In The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida,1 John Caputo argues convincingly that in Derrida's more recent writings we discover, to our surprise, that he has "gotten religion" or, more accurately, that it has gotten him; indeed, that it already had him in the beginning. The "cut" that deconstruction traces copies the style of the cut of the circumcision made by the mohel in Derrida's flesh. As a mark, Derrida reads this cut as a shibboleth, the mark of a two-edged sword that cuts both ways, that is, ambivalently. The ambivalent mark of the cut is the "bind" of a promise destined always to be broken, a covenant that always requires keeping. "Piety" means being caught in this bind; prayers and tears are the style, prefigured by the cut, of its expression, which for Derrida and all of his tribe, is writing. Writing is the mark of promises made, broken and kept with style: Yes! Come!

The argument made in this essay is that Caputo's reading of Derrida's piety is not only a thoroughly believable thesis, but one that we should have been expecting for a long time now because it is strictly necessary; though, of course, necessity is always one of the most surprising of recognitions. Anyone who sustains a commitment with enough style to become identified with it, has by that very fact "got religion" in the most primitive and important sense of the word (Socrates is a good example, relevant to Augustine, who Caputo thinks is particularly relevant to Derrida). Derrida's commitment to deconstruction, certainly stylish enough for him to be identified with it and

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