On Violence, Justice and Deconstruction

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Chung-hsiung Lai

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Department of English, NTNU


In this paper, I will first explore the chiasmus relation between violence and metaphysics in the thought of Levinas1 and Derrida. Then, I will move to examine “the aporia2 of justice” in Derrida’s reinterpretation of Benjamin’s critique of violence with respect to law-making and law-preserving. Finally, by problematizing the aporia of deconstruction, I will attempt to provide a critique of Derrida’s “Plato’s Pharmacy” in order to place Derrida’s ethical account of deconstruction under erasure. My core contention is: if de- construction is, as Derrida claims, ethical and just, it must be unethical and unjust in the first place in what he calls an “economy of violence.” Violence per se lies at the heart of both deconstructive justice and injustice. Yet, to achieve the former, the latter paradoxi- cally must be accomplished first—a betrayal which functions as the condition of possibility and thus of impossibility of deconstructive justice—thereby making the very moment of deconstructive decision an anxious and painful experience of aporia, or in Kierkegaard’s phrase, “a moment of madness.”