Love / Ghosts / Language / Ethics / Context / Neither/Νor | Jacques Derrida, 1930-2004

Jacques Derrida, 1949-50


“The difference between the who and the what at the heart of love, separates the heart. It is often said that love is the movement of the heart. Does my heart move because I love someone who is an absolute singularity, or because I love the way that someone is? Often love starts with some type of seduction. One is attracted because the other is like this or like that. Inversely, love is disappointed and dies when one comes to realize the other person doesn’t merit our love. The other person isn’t like this or that. So at the death of love, it appears that one stops loving another not because of who they are but because they are such and such. That is to say, the history of love, the heart of love, is divided between the who and what.
The question of being, to return to philosophy, because the first question of philosophy is: What is it to be? What is “being”? The question of being is itself always already divided between who and what. Is “Being” someone or something? I speak of it abstractly, but I think that whoever starts to love, is in love or stops loving, is caught between this division of the who and the what. One wants to be true to someone—singularly, irreplaceably—and one perceives that this someone isn’t x or y. They didn’t have the properties, the images, that I thought I’d loved. So fidelity is threatened by the difference between the who and the what.”

“How can I say ‘I love you’, if I know the love is you .. the word ‘love’ either as a verb or a noun would be destroyed in front of you”

“The wound can have just one proper name. I recognize that I love— you — by this: you leave in me a wound I do not want to replace.” *

“I cannot respond to the call, the request, the obligation, or even the love of another, without sacrificing the other other, the other others”

“To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend.”

“I would like to write you so simply, so simply, so simply. Without having anything ever catch the eye, excepting yours alone, … so that above all the language remains self-evidently secret, as if it were being invented at every step, and as if it were burning immediately” *


“Contrary to what phenomenology—which is always phenomenology of perception—has tried to make us believe, contrary to what our desire cannot fail to be tempted into believing, the thing itself always escapes.”

“Peace is only possible when one of the warring sides takes the first step, the hazardous initiative, the risk of opening up dialogue, and decides to make the gesture that will lead not only to an armistice but to peace.”

“Such a caring for death, an awakening that keeps vigil over death, a conscience that looks death in the face, is another name for freedom.”

“Psychoanalysis has taught that the dead – a dead parent, for example – can be more alive for us, more powerful, more scary, than the living. It is the question of ghosts.”

“Surviving – that is the other name of a mourning whose possibility is never to be awaited.”

“Monsters cannot be announced. One cannot say: ‘Here are our monsters,’ without immediately turning the monsters into pets.”

“Cinema plus Psychoanalysis equals the Science of Ghosts.”


”A secret doesn’t belong, it can never be said to be at home or in its place.”

“I believe in the value of the book, which keeps something irreplaceable, and in the necessity of fighting to secure its respect.”

“No one gets angry at a mathematician or a physicist whom he or she doesn’t understand, or at someone who speaks a foreign language, but rather at someone who tampers with your own language.”

“I speak only one language, and it is not my own.”

“What cannot be said above all must not be silenced but written.”

“The traditional statement about language is that it is in itself living, and that writing is the dead part of language.”

“The poet…is the man of metaphor: while the philosopher is interested only in the truth of meaning, beyond even signs and names, and the sophist manipulates empty signs…the poet plays on the multiplicity of signifieds.”


”Beyond the death, or dying nature, of philosophy, perhaps even because of it, thought still has a future, or even, as is said today, is still entirely to come because of what philosophy has held in store; or, more strangely still, that the future itself has a future—”

“The lie is the future, one may venture to say [ ]. To tell the truth is, on the contrary, to say what is or what will have been and it would instead prefer the past.” {

“The Ethical can therefore end up making us irresponsible.” _

“It is just that there be law, but law is not justice” }

“What historical and strategic function should henceforth be assigned to the quotation marks, whether visible or invisible, which transform this into a “book,” or which still make the deconstruction of philosophy into a “philosophical discourse”?” <


”What we need, perhaps, as Nietzsche said, is a change of “style”; and if there is style, Nietzsche reminded us, it must be plural.” ~

“If this work seems so threatening, this is because it isn’t simply eccentric or strange, but competent, rigorously argued, and carrying conviction”

“I know a sentence that is still more terrifying, more terribly ambiguous than “I am alone,” and it is, isolated from any other determining context, the sentence that would say to the other: “I am alone with you.” Meditate on the abyss of such a sentence: I am alone with you, with you I am alone, alone in all the world.” >

“There are things like reflecting pools, and images, an infinite reference from one to the other, but no longer a source, a spring. There is no longer any simple origin. For what is reflected it split in itself and not only as an addition to itself of its image. The reflection, the image, the double, splits what it doubles. The origin of the speculation becomes a difference. What can look at itself is not one; and the law of the addition of the origin to its representation, or the thing to its image, is that one plus one makes at least three.” +

Neither / Νor

“The pharmakon is neither remedy now poison, neither good nor evil, neither the inside nor the outside, neither speech nor writing; the supplement is neither a plus nor a minus, neither an outside nor the complement of an inside, neither accident nor essence, etc.; the hymen is neither confusion nor distinction, neither identity nor difference, neither consummation nor virginity, neither the veil nor unveiling, neither the inside nor the outside, etc.; the gram is neither a signifier nor a signified, neither a sign nor a thing, neither a presence nor an absence, neither a position nor a negation, etc.; spacing is neither space nor time; the incision is neither the incised integrity of a beginning, or of a simple cutting into, nor simple secondarity. Neither/nor, that is, simultaneously either or; the mark is also the marginal limit, the march, etc.” #

”Glue of the pool milk of my death drowned”

“You always return to the water…” ^

Jacques Derrida, 1930-2004

} Heidegger: The Question of Being and History,1964-65 / + Of Grammatology, 1967 / # Positions, 1972 / ~ Margins of Philosophy, 1972 / < Dissemination, 1972 / ^ Parages, 1986  / * The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, 1980 / _  The Gift of Death, 1991 / { Without Alibi, 2002 / > The Beast and the Sovereign, Vol. II, 2002-03

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Juan Gris, Bowl and Book, 1926-27

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