Geoffrey Bennington is Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Modern French Thought at Emory University where he is also Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature. He is the author of fifteen books and many articles and chapters on philosophical and literary-theoretical topics. His books include Lyotard: Writing the Event (Manchester University Press, 1988), Jacques Derrida (written with Derrida; University of Chicago Press, 2003), Interrupting Derrida (Routledge, 2000), Frontières kantiennes (Galilée, 2000), and, most recently, Not Half No End: Militantly Melancholic Essays in Memory of Jacques Derrida (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) and Géographie et autres lectures (Hermann, 2011). He is translator of a number of works by Derrida and Lyotard, and is General Editor, with Peggy Kamuf, of the English language edition of the Seminars of Jacques Derrida at the University of Chicago Press. His translation of the first volumes of the seminars to appear, The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume I and Volume II, appeared in 2009 and 2011. He is currently working on a book of deconstructive political philosophy tentatively entitled Scatter.
RIGOR; OR, STUPID USELESSNESS
Article first published online: 9 AUG 2012
© 2012 The University of Memphis
The Southern Journal of Philosophy
Special Issue: Spindel Supplement: Derrida and the Theologico-Political: From Sovereignty to the Death Penalty
Volume 50, Issue Supplement s1, pages 20–38, September 2012
How to Cite
BENNINGTON, G. (2012), RIGOR; OR, STUPID USELESSNESS. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 50: 20–38. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-6962.2012.00116.x
- Issue published online: 9 AUG 2012
- Article first published online: 9 AUG 2012
In his seminars on the death penalty, Derrida consistently describes Kant's arguments in favor of capital punishment as “rigorous” and explicitly relates that rigor to the mechanisms of execution and the subsequent rigor mortis of the corpse. ‘Rigor’ has also often been a contested term in descriptions of deconstruction: different commentators have either deplored or celebrated the presence or the absence of rigor in Derrida's work. Derrida himself uses the term a good deal throughout his career, usually in a positive sense, although he also at least once, in passing, suggests the need to question the rigor of the concept of rigor itself. In this paper, I will outline the place of Kant in the Death Penalty Seminars and suggest that it is the very rigor attributed to Kant that makes him (rather than some other writers—whether supporters or opponents of the death penalty—whose arguments seem less rigorous to Derrida) an exemplary object for deconstructive attention, not for the first time in Derrida's work. Broadening the focus beyond the texts Derrida explicitly analyzes, I suggest that this kind of attention can also be fruitfully brought to bear on some more general arguments in Kant about right and justice. In conclusion, I suggest some implications of this situation for the still difficult issue of the more general relation between deconstruction and critique in the Kantian sense.