• Is There a Politics to Friendship? Derrida’s Critique of the Couple in Montaigne, Kant and Levinas

    Cillian Ó Fathaigh (see profile)
    Philosophy, Continental, Lévinas, Emmanuel, France, Area studies, Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804, Derrida, Jacques, Political science
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Continental philosophy, Emmanuel Levinas, French studies, Immanuel Kant, Jacques Derrida, Political theory
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    In this paper, I consider the figure of the couple of friends in Jacques Derrida’s Politics of Friendship (1997/1994). I propose that Derrida’s critique of fraternity as a model of friendship and political community is also intimately tied to a conception of friendship as between two (male) people. Derrida brings forward the prominence of this figure in Michel de Montaigne and Immanuel Kant. In both, Derrida shows how this presentation of the couple is motivated by a double and contradictory desire: on the one hand, a wish to represent the couple as an apolitical or pre-political moment of friendship, and on the other, a view that it should serve as a ground for and guide to politics. Derrida conceives of this problem via a Levinasian framework of the face-to-face and third-party. Looking closely at the way Derrida deploys this framework, I propose that Derrida sees something of this problem in Levinas’s own conception of the face-to-face, whereby the relation to the other still holds some possibility of a pre-political relation (before the arrival of the third-party). This can help illuminate Derrida’s response to Levinas’s later work, as well as show once again the importance of the couple. I propose across all three philosophers, therefore, we see an appeal to some form of apolitical moment between two and suggest that this is a constant target in Derrida’s work. Indeed, through this, we come to see that Derrida’s view every relation to the other, and every potential moment of friendship and community, as fundamentally and inescapably political.
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    Last Updated:
    2 years ago


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