Monday, August 08, 2011

Villa-Ignacio, Teresa. Review of Patrick O'Connor, DERRIDA: PROFANATIONS. NDPR (July 2011).

O'Connor, Patrick.  Derrida: Profanations.  London: Continuum, 2010.

In this volume, Patrick O'Connor makes the compelling argument that Derrida's fifty-year writing career was dedicated to a philosophy of profanation. As the key operation of deconstruction, profanation entails both a laying bare of the constructedness or profane character of anything deemed sacred and enables an exploration of the significance of profanation as a ubiquitous existential and relational condition. O'Connor engages with an impressive range of texts by Derrida and the philosophers who have come before and after him. He argues that Derrida's critiques of Husserlian phenomenology, Hegelian temporality, Heideggarian ontology, Levinasian alterity, and Christian charity, as well as Derrida's own ethical and political philosophies, are all articulations of ubiquitous profanation, finitization, contingency, and the potential contamination of any identity by all other identities. The book also includes relevant comparisons of Derridean arguments with those of his contemporaries, including Agamben, Žižek, and Badiou, among others.  

The author notes that his book shares many affinities with Leonard Lawlor's Derrida and Husserl: The Basic Problem of Phenomonology and Martin Hägglund's Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life, and he candidly situates his work as a critique of the ethical, religious, and messianic turns in Derridean studies. While students of religious studies, ethical philosophy, and political philosophy may be most interested in the chapters specifically addressing their fields, those interested in Derridean studies and continental philosophy in general will be intrigued by O'Connor's tracing of profanation as an argumentative thread running from the early to the late Derrida.

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