The Flipside of Violence, or Beyond the Thought of Good Enough

Leonard Lawlor


This essay attempts to answer three types of question concerning the images of violence found in deconstructive discourse. First, there is the question of confusion between real violence and transcendental violence. Second, there is the question of a lack of vigilance in regard to real violence. And finally, third, there is the question of the need for a moral principle of non-violence. The response to the first type of question lies in the recognition that the violence Derrida attributes to the transcendental level of experience (in “Violence and Metaphysics” for example) lies in the openness of experience. This openness amounts only to the potential for real or factual violence. The response to the second type of question lies in the recognition that more vigilance is needed since the transcendental level cannot be characterized in mundane terms, and that resistance to the mundane means no images of factual violence. Finally, the response to the third and most difficult question lies in an examination of Derrida’s statement that “tout autre est tout autre.” Through this statement we approach something like a principle, even a moral principle. The statement presents us with an imperative to respect every single other as if he, she, or it were absolutely other.

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