Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Derrida on 9/11

This interview with Habermas and Derrida on 9/11 is old, but astonishing if you have not seen it. This is a small excerpt of the late Jacques Derrida trying to figure out what happened on 9/11:

"Something" took place, we have the feeling of not having seen it coming, and certain consequences undeniably follow upon the "thing." But this very thing, the place and meaning of this "event," remains ineffable, like an intuition without concept, like a unicity with no generality on the horizon or with no horizon at all, out of range for a language that admits its powerlessness and so is reduced to pronouncing mechanically a date, repeating it endlessly, as a kind of ritual incantation, a conjuring poem, a journalistic litany or rhetorical refrain that admits to not knowing what it's talking about. We do not in fact know what we are saying or naming in this way: September 11, le 11 septembre, September 11. The brevity of the appellation (September 11, 9/11) stems not only from an economic or rhetorical necessity. The telegram of this metonymy—a name, a number—points out the unqualifiable by recognizing that we do not recognize or even cognize that we do not yet know how to qualify, that we do not know what we are talking about.

Being a philosopher should make one more intelligent than the average man. It should give one the ability to make integrations most people cannot imagine. The philosophy of Jacques Derrida, maybe the most famous philosopher of the late 20th century, made him less intelligent than the average man. He could not understand what happened on September 11, 2001. The fact that people use the date to refer to what happened on that day seems to have baffled the man.