[UTCP Juventus] Naveh FRUMER

30 December, 2008 Naveh FRUMER, UTCP Juventus

Brief introduction, summary of my activities at UTCP during Nov-Dec 2008, and my current research.

Since this is my first blog entry here, allow me to begin with a brief introduction of myself and how I came to be a research fellow at UTCP. I began my philosophy studies in my home country, Israel, at Tel-Aviv University, where I completed my BA and MA degrees. I then moved to the United States in 2006 to pursue a PhD at The New School for Social Research. In August 2008 I moved to Japan following my wife: she is a student of Japanese history at Princeton, and she came here in order to study the language and conduct her research. After our arrival I discovered UTCP quite by accident, and was happy to find that many people here share my interests in contemporary continental philosophy, and especially in political philosophy and ethics. After an initial engagement with the Center, I was given the very generous and hospitable offer to join it as a Research Fellow.

In November 2008 I gave a paper at UTCP under the title “Hermeneutical Openness and the Ethics of Mourning: Derrida on Gadamer”. The presentation was followed by what I found to be a lively discussion with prof. Kobayashi Yasuo and Dr. Nishiyama Yuji. Some of the questions that came up were:
- the limits of openness to the call or demand of an other
- the question of whether we can indeed treat the notion of “the other” in Derrida, but also in Gadamer, as referring both to other human beings and to texts. Does this not amount to an “over-textualization” of human beings? Isn’t the notion of ‘other’ here over-inclusive, and should we therefore not make some crucial distinctions within it?
- The relation between the idea of “the loss of the world” and the ethical experience, apropos Derrida’s discussion of a line from Celan, “die Welt is fort”. What does this loss of the world mean, exactly? Should we understand this as a major event that causes the complete loss of “ethical coordinates”, so to speak; an event such as—bearing in mind Celan’s biography—the Jewish holocaust? Or is it rather that the arrival, the “coming” of the other (person?) that causes my world, my orientation, perhaps even my identity, to be lost (and here “world” would mean something similar to Husserl’s Lebenswelt)?

English Instruction
During November and December 2008 I served as an English instructor for the upcoming 3rd BESETO conference, hosted by UTCP. Allow me to use this opportunity to wish all the participants good luck!

Current Research
At the moment I am mainly preoccupied with a study of the more politically-oriented works of Jacques Derrida. I am interested in asking questions both about the political implications of deconstruction as well as about its possible political limits. In this investigation I am driven by two conflicting motivations. On the one hand, I consider Derrida’s ideas to be absolutely essential: I am convinced that any philosophical work today, including political philosophy must take deconstruction into account one way or another. On the other hand, I recognize that Derrida’s work is, to put it very crudely and briefly, not “political enough”. Let me clarify that by this I do not mean that it completely lacks a political dimension: here I agree with Derrida that his work always contains a political dimension, or rather I should say, together with Derrida, an ethical-political dimension. And yet I agree with those who argue that this dimension is too latent, too implicit, too indirect; that Derrida’s work, for the most part (though not the entire corpus) lacks a headlong engagement with the locus classicus of political concepts and problems. It seems that this work always arrives at the political as a second step. It remains unclear whether the political has, for Derrida, the same kind of, shall we say, ontological quality, a quality of primary experience, that he seems to assign to such notions as responsibility, the coming of the other, hospitality, etc. Thus, in my understanding, the question of the relation of deconstruction to political thinking remains to be investigated. For instance, does deconstruction imply that we should “introduce” deconstructive “motifs” into political thinking? or that we ought to think of political philosophy as in some sense “secondary”, perhaps to ethics?

A second worry I have with respects to this potential political dimension of deconstruction has to do with the sense that there remains something too negative in deconstruction: deconstruction reacts, responds, comments; it does not propose, advance, promote. While I am aware of Derrida’s insistence that deconstruction is always motivated by an affirmation, by a “yes-saying” to justice, to the other, to his/her/its call, claim etc., I am still bothered by the intuition—and I am still struggling to match the right words to it—that this is not enough. This worry relates to another question: how exactly are we to understand Derrida’s affirmation with respect to such concrete historical-political structures as modern democracy, human rights, and the (struggling) project of international law? What exactly is affirmed when we affirm those establishments? Is it an affirmation of some “archi-ethical” experience? Of the opening of the possibility of the coming of otherness, of events, etc? Another way to read this question is to see it as the traditional question of the relation between theory (here deconstruction) and practice; or perhaps even as the question of the relation between philosophy and history, namely between deconstruction and concrete analyses of political situations. While I do not expect anything like a political program from Derrida, a program which would instruct us on how to “directly implement” deconstruction in each and every political situation, I still wonder whether the nature of the relation between Derrida’s ideas and concrete political ‘interventions’ or ‘negotiations’, to borrow his terms, is a relation that remains underdeveloped.

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