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Sunday, October 10, 2004
In our self-righteous indignation, he will always live:

Jonathan Kandell's vitriolic and disparaging obituary of
Jacques Derrida takes the occasion of this accomplished
philosopher's death to re-wage a culture war that has surely passed
its time. Why would the New York Times assign the obituary to
someone whose polemics are so unrestrained and intellectual
limitations so obvious? There are reasonable disagreements to have
with Derrida's work, but there were none to be found in Kandell's
obituary. If Derrida's contributions to philosophy, literary
criticism, the theory of painting, communications, ethics, and
politics made him into the most internationally renown European
intellectual during these times, it is because of the precision of
his thought, the way his thinking always took a brilliant and
unanticipated turn, and because of the constant effort to reflect
on moral and political responsibility. Kandell reports that Derrida
disparaged the classics and jettisoned notions of truth, but
Derrida made his name through reading Plato and Rousseau, among
others, and anyone who has read his work in the last years know
that questions of truth, of meaning, of life and death - the
perennial questions of philosophy - are the ones that claimed him
most. This most outrageous obituary fails to demean Derrida only
because his work will continue to be read unabated, but it does
cast a shadow on those who wrote and published it. Why would the
NY Times want to join ranks with American reactionary
anti-intellectualism precisely at a time when critical thinking is
most urgently required?

Judith Butler
Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature
University of California at Berkeley

Yeah, maybe professors of Comparative Literature need to start their own cable channel where they can give us fair and accurate, no-spin news on the death of major European intellectual figures.