Not So Original Sin

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What is Original Sin? Meaning and Consequences of Ancestral Sin

You know, for ten thousand bucks you can even come to an enemy university. So I was neither really enemy, definitely not a deconstructer, and I think I'm in good position to do justice with Derrida. The second point will be the question why did it occur to him to formulate this antilogophonocentrism argument? It was an astonishing, it has a fantastic resonance that makes you green or yellow with envy when you look back at it, and then finally, and this is the decisive question I want to ask: whether the reasons that brought Derrida to formulate the antilogophonocentrism can still be our reason today.

Because if we embrace the argument, then this colloquium has to be immediately interrupted and suspended, as it could not have taken place in OK, part one, a reconstruction. Let me say the point is really, by the reconstruction of this argument in its context, to assess our own position intellectually.

I mean, where are we in intellectually compared to those days?

The Original View of Original Sin

I mean, does this prohibition still have any merit, any validity for us? Okay, the reconstruction. Some people say but that's always polemic that it is the only good text that Derrida ever wrote. I would disagree with that; but this is clearly the prehistory. This leads in Speech and Phenomena to a polemical position, to an aggressive position and aggressive critique of certain implications. Now, what is the starting point, what was the angle, what is the perspective of Speech and Phenomena? It is the thesis that it is absolutely humanly impossible to ever have full self-transparence of all your own mind, of your own consciousness, of your Bewusstsein , as you would say it in German.

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And is this possible in this working through a phenomenology, of Husserl's phenomenology, which was the agenda of French philosophy in the second and third quarter of the twentieth century — Derrida starts by asking the question, is it so obvious that we cannot have this full self-transparency of consciousness, so how can we explain that so many people for two and half thousand years have believed in this possibility?

Even Freud believed in this possibility. It's difficult but ultimately it is the premise of Deconstruction that this is ultimately possible, if you do a talking cure; I mean this is what the client has to [ But how have people believed that this was possible? And this leads to the polemical point in Derrida; this leads to the "Original Sin" of phonologocentrism, which are the Platonic dialogues. This is what I'm referring to in the title of my talk. Why are they the "Original Sin"?

Because they present oral communication in a written form as if it were oral communication. It is he doesn't say that but it is a lie, a fake. It isn't really oral communication; it is in reality written communication.

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But what is so evil about oral communication? And there Derrida makes an argument that everybody rushed to accept and that I find until the present day not terribly convincing but interestingly I do not know and in the seventies I was reading a lot of secondary literature from that time , I do not know anybody who took issue with that argument. The thesis is that when you are listening to yourself, you can have the illusion of being able to embrace the entire [ There is this illusion produced by listening to yourself in oral communication.

It is also not as if in written communication didn't have self-reflexivity. Of course, you see your hand going over the paper when you write; I mean, this is a different self-reflexivity. But Derrida never goes to this differentiation. He claims that listening to yourself produces the illusion and I do think it would have to be an illusion of full self-transparency.


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The good thing compared to the evilness of metaphysics was, as a friend from Berkeley continues to say, the deconstructive reading, or a rigorous deconstructive reading. It is a reading, I believe, predicated in a strange kind of philosophical realism. It says, when you observe how you read a text and I think that's a correct observation , you realize that you do not produce entire meaning, you do not produce the meaning of the entire text, but in each given moment and the metaphor is mine , you produce so-to-speak centrifugal clouds of meaning: you read something and you cannot anticipate the entire text.

This is a truthful argument: that the most microscopic and elementary level of reading indeed produces these centrifugal clouds. I could observe in my seminar with the students born after these glorious moments, and didn't know much about Deconstruction, but when they would say trace , there was a certain trembling in their voice. In those days you would not say "Derrida" if you were deconstructionist; you would say "Jacques.

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Finally, it was Derrida's secret claim to authority: he associated his own Original Sin, his narrative about the "Original Sin" of metaphysics in the Platonic dialogues, with Heidegger's attitude. He then established the difference between bad philosophy I'm exaggerating , and this was of course the Platonic dialogues and the consequences of metaphysics, and very good philosophy, and good philosophy was of course pre-Socratic philosophy, and in that he followed Heidegger, and I find it very strange — of course, he was an erudite, cultivated man, he never said that pre-Socratics were only writing, only existing in writing, but as the pre-Socratics all of a sudden turned into "the positive guys" — our late colleague Richard Rorty liked to say ironically, "good guys philosophers" and "bad guys philosophers" — so the pre-Socratics were "good guys philosophers" — they had this aura of belonging to writing, to Writing, which is very strange to think about it historically.

So, so much about the basic argument. Now, second question is the historical context and motivation; I mean: why was this argument so important to Derrida, and above all, why did it have this uncanny resonance, nationally, first in this country, and internationally? I would like to say to younger colleagues: this is very difficult for you to imagine in the relatively cool, cold, and flat-footed atmosphere of today, how passionate it was, how passionately people were deconstructers or antideconstructers; how can I explain this investment, this intellectual and emotional investment?

Just one more anecdote as a footnote, showing I was not an antideconstructer: I seemingly was the first person to persuade Derrida to have a short visiting professorship at my university, and lots of people in black silk shirts came to that small town of Siegen where I was teaching, and one day it was raining and I don't like umbrellas, and I didn't have an umbrella to accompany Derrida from my car to the restaurant, and everybody had said, this is completely impossible, how rude I was not to have an umbrella for Derrida, and I said, you know, it is not the Dalai Lama if the Dalai Lama ever gets hit by a drop of rain, he's no longer the Dalai Lama , but Derrida will continue to be Derrida.

The dominant intellectual procession [ Now, what was the dominant paradigm in France in these years?

That was something at stake to be in a tension with Louis Althusser. So there was immediately, and I think it is important to keep in mind, a polemic. Foucault did not exist yet for the youngsters. Starting in high school, I was pretending I am a university student, so I always wanted to know the names of the authors that were the current, so Foucault was not yet a name that I thought I had to remember. So it was a critique of Structuralism.


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Why is Structuralism evil? Because it's a version of metaphysics. A structuralist has presupposed that you can analyze the entire text. And from this position of reading realism, of philosophical realism, there can always only be in one moment of the text, with those centrifugal clouds, that's an impossibility, that is the consequence of the "Original Sin" of metaphysics. And that is very explicit, and nobody has ever denied that Deconstruction was explicitly and polemically anti-Structuralist. A Subject that is a collective Subject, it's a class, it's the proletariat, and it's the proletariat that is supposed to interpret correctly into one world history — I mean, if you embrace Marxism au pure de la lettre [literally].

Clearly because the point of reference was Derrida, there was also a critique of Marxism, but I think we should forgive Derrida for not mentioning that, because if you wanted to be an intellectual in France in and above all, if you wanted to have an academic career, which he unfortunately never had, I say "unfortunately" because it is ridiculous that he never had a chair, he had not arrived to the university in France, you could not profess if you were anti-Marxist or if you were critical with Marxism.

You could do that implicitly but it would have ruined in , his academic career. But the second thesis, it isn't undermining critique, if you want to use this as a word of Deconstruction of Marxism tool. In the first place of Structuralism and in the second place of Marxism, so of this point of convergence that identifies Althusser.

Consequences of Original Sin

But also, and thirdly, and people have normally taken that for granted but I don't think it's a sacred tool, Derrida embraces the position of linguistic turn. The A. Filed to: divinity original sin 2 Filed to: divinity original sin 2 divinity original sin 2 divinity original sin kotakucore larian studios. Share This Story. Recommended Stories.

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