More readings from “The Gift of Death”

Patocka seems to be an interesting thinker.  On page 30 Derrida is discussing Patocka’s idea of responsibility.  He suggests that Christianity is unknowingly based on Platonic philosophy with which I agree.  He goes on to state that Platonism wants to distinguish the “orgiastic” from responsibility.  For Plato responsibility was for The Good.  However, Patocka wants to suggest that Plato’s responsibility is still orgiastic.  He thinks that Platonic knowledge still sensationalizes The Good.  Christianity’s mysterium tremendum, the unsymmetrical gaze of God is grasped by dread, faith or a ‘relation’ to God.  Because of this, responsibility is mediated, muted or resolved.  Derrida brings up the question of knowledge.  How can one have responsibility without knowledge?  Isn’t that an aporia, a conundrum or a riddle…a paradox for Christianity?   

Perhaps the question could be placed in another setting.  When responsibility is directed towards ‘knowledge” it is directed towards neutrality, the Idea, the Forms, Truth, God, Revelation, etc..  The ‘personal’ relationship to God uses terms of person but the ‘person’ never appears.  The faith appears, the ‘truth’, the ecstatic, orgiastic communion with the Holy Spirit but the Revelation is always deferred, mediated into an economy; the economy of faith.  Therefore, ‘knowledge’ has once again shown itself in the Platonic tradition of light, presence, aletheia. 

In the Hegelian tradition perhaps knowledge could be thought as terminating in the darkness of the ‘Not’, at least, as an intermediate stage before the transformation of synthesis, sublation, aufhebung.  Yet, here again, the tradition of light and the orgiastic prevail.

In Levinas the termination, the telos, is directed towards the face of the other.  Here responsibility does not end in an ‘it’ but a he or a she.  In Levinas knowledge fails in the face of the other.  Light turns in on itself as the tradition of narcissism, totality not because it takes up its own self limiting viz. self-determination but because the other faces me.  The time of the other is not my time, the anachrony of the saying that always stands before the said.  Neutrality as self knowledge, as universal logos, logic, that is always orgiastic cannot answer to the other.  Responsibility has become a he or a she and Ethics is not supplanted by reason but centered by his or her face.  Violence, the primordial retreat from the other into the totality of light, of orgiastic, can never again be rationalized, justified, ethnic-sized as the criterion is no longer a relative construct but the unique singularity of the other, the irrecoverable distance of the one that faces me.

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