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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.

 

Not only is existentialism a humanism, but the ground and horizon of what Sartre then called his “phenomenological ontology” […] remains the unity of human-reality. In so far as it describes the structures of human-reality, phenomenological ontology is a philosophical anthropology. (35)

 

Whatever decisive breaks from classical anthropologies may be indicated by this Hegelian-Husserlian-Heideggerian anthropology, there is no interruption in a metaphysical familiarity which so naturally relates the we of the philosopher to “we-men”, to the we of the total horizon of humanity. (35)

 

[…] under the auspices of the founding concepts of meta-physics, 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. It could be shown that, at every stage of phenomenology, and notably every time that recourse to “the Idea in the Kantian sense” is necessary, the infinity of telos, the infinity of end, regulates the power of phenomenology. 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)

 

Let me recall that the formal structure of the question, of any question according to Heidegger, should include three necessary elements: the Gefragte, that which is asked, here the sense of Being; the Erfragte, which is the asked inasmuch as it is properly aimed at by a question; the sense of Being as questioned; and finally, the Befragte, the interrogated, the being which will be interrogated, to which the question of the sense of Being will be posed. It is thus a matter of choosing or of recognizing the paradigm being which is interrogated with a view to the sense of Being: “Into what being should the sense of Being be read (abgelesen) from what being will the opening of Being take its departure? Is this point of  departure arbitrary, or has some being privilege (Vorrang) in  the  elaboration of  the  question of Being? What is this exemplary being and in what sense has it a privilege?” (46)

 

The proximity to himself of the questioner authorizes the identity of the questioner and of the interrogator. We, who are near to ourselves, interrogate ourselves concerning the sense of Being. (47)

 

[…] 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. (48)

 

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)

 

Humanist interpretations of man as rational animal, as ‘person,’  as spiritual-being-endowed-with-a-soul-and-a-body, are not held as false by this essential determination of man, nor are they rejected by it. The sole purpose is rather that the highest humanist determinations of the essence of man do not yet experience the dignity characteristic of man (die eigentliche Wurde des Menschen). In this sense, the thought expressed in Sein und Zeit is against humanism. But this oppositioa does not mean that such thought is directed in opposition to man, that  it pleads for the inhuman, defends barbarism and lowers man’s dignity. If we think against humanism it is because humanism does not value highly enough the humanitas of man. . . (52)

 

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. (54)

 

In the thought and the language of Being, the end of man has always been prescribed, and this prescription has never served except to modulate the equivocality of the end, in the interplay of telos and death. 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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