The Gift of Death

Jacques Derrida, Author, David Wills, Translator
Jacques Derrida, Author, David Wills, Translator University of Chicago Press $26 (124p) ISBN 978-0-226-14305-7
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
Paperback - 124 pages - 978-0-226-14306-4
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French philosopher Derrida stares death in the face in this dense but rewarding inquiry. Beginning with an analysis of an essay on the sacred by Czech philosopher/human rights activist Jan Patocka, Derrida follows the development of moral and ethical responsibility, and the concept of the soul's immortality, in the transition from Platonism to Christianity. He then ponders the self's anticipation of death in sacrifice, war, orgiastic mystery cults, murder and execution, with reference to Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, Nietzsche, Heidegger's thought (a ``constant attempt to separate itself from Christianity'') and the biblical story of Abraham's contemplated sacrifice of his son, Isaac, at God's behest. In the most provocative section, Derrida links religious injunctions of sacrifice to the ``monotonous complacency'' of modern society, which allows tens of millions of children to die of hunger and disease. (May)
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