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Jacques Derrida “The Ends of Man”

Derrida, Jacques 1969. The Ends of Man. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 30(1): 31-57.

And yet, in spite of this supposed neutralizing of metaphysical presuppositions, we have to admit that the unity of man is not in itself called into question. Not only is existentialism a humanism, but the ground and horizon of what Sartre then called his “phenomenological ontology” (this is the subtitle of Being and Nothingness) remains the unity of human-reality. In so far as it describes the structures of human-reality, phenomenological ontology is a philosophical anthropology. (35)

Sartre’s attempt is a remarkable example verifying Heidegger’s propsition according to which “all humanism remains metaphysical,” metaphysics being the other name for onto-theology. (36)

The transcendental structures described after the phenomenological reduction are not those of that intra-mundane being called “man.” They are not essentially linked with society, culture or language, or even with man’s “soul” or his “psyche.” And just as, according to Husserl, a consciousness can be imagined without soul (seelenloses), so can -and a fortiori -a consciousness be imagined without man. (38)

[…] what authorizes us today to consider as essentially anthropic or anthropocentric all that which, in metaphysics or at the limits of metaphysics, has presumed to criticize or to delimit anthropologism? What remains of the “relève,” of man in the thought df Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger? (40)

Phenomenology is no longer but it is still a science of man. In this sense all of the structure described in the Phenomenology of Mind -just as everything which links them with Logic -are the structures of what has taken over for man. Man remains there in his “relbve”. His essence lies in the phenomenology. This equivocality of the relation of “relbve” undoubtedly marks the end of man, of man past, but at the same time it marks the completion of man, the appropriation of his essence. This is the end of finite man, the end of the finitude of man, the unity of the finite and the infinite, the finite as surpassing of oneself; these essential themes of Hegel are recognized at the end of the Anthropology when consciousness is finally designated as “infinite relation with oneself.” The “relbve” of man is his telos or his eschaton. (41)

Despite the criticism of anthropologism, “humanity” is still, here, the name of the being to which transcendental telos, determined as Idea (in the Kantian sense), or as Reason, is announced. It is man as rational animal which, in its most classical metaphysical determination, designates the place of deployment of teleological reason; that is, history. For Husserl as for Hegel, reason is history and there is no history except that of reason. The latter functions in every man, no matter how primitive he may still be, in that he is “the rational animal” (Origin of Geometry). (43)

Thus, under the auspices of the founding concepts of metaphysics, which Husserl revives and restores, assigning them if necessary an index or phenomenological quotation marks, criticism of empirical anthropologism is but the affirmation of a transcendental humanism. And among these metaphysical concepts which form the essential resources of Husserl’s discourse, that of end, or telos, plays a decisive role. (44)

The end of man (as factual anthropological limit) is announced to thought with the end of man. Man is that which is relative to his end, in the fundamentally equivocal sense of the word. This has always been so. The transcendental end can appear to itself and unfold before itself only in the condition of mortality, of relation to finitude as the origin of ideality. The name of man has always been inscribed in metaphysics between these two ends. It has meaning only in this eschato-teleological situation. (44)

[…] just as the Dasein -the being which we are ourselves -serves as the exemplary text, as the good “lesson” for the explicitation of the sense of Being, so the name of man remains the link or the leading thread which joins the analytics of Dasein with the totality of the traditional discourse of metaphysics. Hence the strange status of phrases or of parentheses such as these: As different behaviours of man, sciences have the style of Being of this being (man). We assign to this being the term “Dasein” (Dieses Seiende fassen wir terminologisch als Dasein).” Again, “The problematics of Greek ontology, just as that of any ontology, should take its leading thread from the Dasein itself. Dasein, that is, the Being of man, is understood (umgrentz) in its vulgar “definition” as well as in its philosophical “definition” as that living whose Being is essentially determined by the power of speech” (of the discourse: Redenkonnen). In the same way, a “complete ontology of Dasein” is posited as the prerequisite to a “philosophical anthropology.” We see, then, that Dasein, if it is not man, is not, however, other than man. It is, as we shall see, a repetition of the essence of man permitting to go back beyond metaphysical concepts of humanitas. (48)

[…] that Dasein “which we are” constituted the exemplary being for the hermeneutics of the sense of Being due to its proximity to itself, to our proximity to ourselves and to this being which we are. Heidegger thus notes that this proximity is ontic. On the contrary, ontologically, that is, as regards the Being of this being which we are, the distance, is as great as it can be. “The Dasein in truth is not merely that which is ontically (ontisch)near or even nearest us -we are it ourselves. However, in spite of, or rather because of this, it is ontologically (ontologisch) the farthest.” (48)

What is the orientation of the “concern,” if not to re-establish man in his essence (den Menschen wieder in sein Wesen zuriickzubringen)? Can this mean other than making man (homo) human (humanus)? humanitas remains at the heart of such thought, for humanism consists of this: to reflect and to see that man be human and not inhuman (unmenschlich); that is, outside of his essence. Of what, then, does man’s humanity consist? It resides in his essence.” (50)

The ontological distance from Dasein to what it is as eksistence and to the Da of Sein; this distance which was given as first ontic proximity, must be reduced by the thought of the truth of Being. Hence, the pre-dominance, in Heidegger’s discourse, of a whole metaphorics of proximity,
simple and immediate presence, associating with the proximity of Being the values of neighborhood, shelter, house, service, guard, voice and listening. (51)

Consequently, the prevalence accorded to the phenomenological metaphor, to all of the varieties of phainesthai, of brilliance, of illumination, of clearing, of Lichtung, etc., opens on the space of presence and the presence of space, understood in the opposition of the near and the far. In the same way, the privilege accorded not only to language, but to spoken language (voice, listening, etc.) is in harmony with the motif of presence as presence to itself. (53)

If, then, “Being is farther removed than every being and yet nearer to man than every being,” if “Being is that which is nearest,” we should consequently be able to say that Being is the near of man and that man is the near of Being. The near is the proper; the proper is the nearest (prop, proprius). Man is that which is proper to Being, which speaks into his ear from very near. Being is that which is proper to man. Such is the truth, such is the proposition which gives the there to the truth of Being and the truth of man. This proposition of the proper must certainly not be taken in a metaphysical sense: the proper of man is not here an essential attribute, the predicate of a substance, one feature, as fundamental as it may be, among the others which constitute a being, object or subject, called man. Neither can we talk, in this same sense, of man as the proper of Being. The propriety, the co-propriety of Being and man, is proximity as inseparability. It is as inseparability, furthermore, that the relations of being (substance or res) with its essential predicate were conceived in metaphysics. Since this co-propriety of man and Being, such as it is conceived in Heidegger’s discourse, is not ontic, it does not relate two “beings” to one another but rather, in language, relates the sense of Being with the sense of man. (54)

In the reading of this interplay, the following chain of events can be taken in all of its senses: the end of man is the thought of Being, man is the end of the thought of Being, the end of man is the end of the thought of Being. Man has always been his proper end; that is, the end of what is proper to him. The being has always been its proper end; that is, the end of what is proper to it. (55)

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