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Authors: Baron-Raiffe, Alexander
Advisors: Nesbitt, F. Nick
Contributors: French and Italian Department
Keywords: Death
Jacques Derrida
Jan Patocka
Martin Heidegger
Melete Thanatou
Subjects: Philosophy
European studies
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Although he is commonly held to be a thinker of life, this dissertation argues that it is essential to read Jacques Derrida primarily as a thinker of death. Indeed, Derrida’s work displays an ongoing engagement with Plato’s definition of philosophy as a meletē thanatou, or careful reflection upon death. Reading Derrida’s work on death in this way foregrounds its enacted dimension, through which the reader is drawn into an aporia which itself is constitutive of a meletē thanatou. The first chapter of this dissertation frames deconstruction’s key concepts around an understanding of death and the legacy of meletē thanatou. It places some of Derrida’s earlier work into dialogue with his contemporary Jacques Lacan regarding the centrality of Sigmund Freud’s death drive to the generation of meaning. It also critiques the neglect of the Platonic legacy in certain contemporary readings of Derrida’s work on apophasis and metaphysics. The second chapter consists of close readings of Derrida’s 1975-1976 seminar La vie la mort and on Aporias, which show the extent to which Derrida’s reception of the Platonic legacy of meletē thanatou is mediated by his engagement with the work of Martin Heidegger, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The third and final chapter discusses Derrida’s work on meletē thanatou in relation to that of his French contemporaries, Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault. However, this chapter also places special emphasis on the heretofore neglected parallels between Czech philosopher Jan Patočka and Derrida, namely in the way that their reception of Heidegger enables us to understand the centrality of a thinking of death to their thought on questions related to being, truth, and the European project. This dissertation contends that it is necessary to read Derrida as a philosopher of death in order to qualify him as a philosopher of life, and that the thus far unexplored correspondences between his thinking and that of Jan Patočka are a rich and vital source for reinterpreting and understanding Derrida’s philosophical inheritance from Plato to Heidegger and his place within that tradition.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:French and Italian

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