I am not referring to philosophy when it is dedicated to silly humor, let’s say as in the case of Žižek. No. Rather, I think of a soft smile, of criticism at the moment that borders on mockery or, further, with irony. I found something like that in Derrida’s January 16, 2002 lecture, published in Seminario. The beast and the sovereign. Volume 1, 2001-2002 (Manantial, Buenos Aires, 2018, translation by Cristina de Peretti and Delmiro Rocha). There Derrida spreads sarcasm about Homo sacer I. The sovereign power and the bare life, by Agamben. Derrida begins by saying that there are “valuable references” in this book and invites students to read it “carefully”. But then he reproaches Agamben for his reading of Rousseau, especially for forgetting about the place of wolves (let’s remember that it is a seminar on beasts, animals and their relationship with the sovereign) as it appears in Rousseau. Then, Derrida advances on Agamben’s text to point out that the same author who forgets something key, that is, Agamben, is the same one who in his text indicates that such and such philosophers “are the ones who did things first, first inaugural events, events that they were overlooked (…) that they would have been ignored, so that the author of Homo sacer would be the first to say who would have been first”. And then he follows this phrase from Derrida: “I underline it with a smile.”
In the following paragraphs that smile unfolds. Derrida begins to quote Agamben’s phrases such as “Hegel was the first to understand until the end”, to which Derrida adds: “Of course it remains to be known what he means, what the author means by ‘until the end’”. Derrida immediately quotes Agamben again: “Pindar, the first great thinker of sovereignty.” And Derrida adds: “The same thing happens with ‘great’: from what height does one become ‘great’?”. Here Derrida already enters the field of cachada, which does not stop: “Page 153 (of Agamben’s book), again, later (…) we get ‘Karl Löwith, who first defined the fundamental character of politics of the United States as ‘politicization of life’”. And then another sarcastic phrase about Agamben’s compulsion to decree “firsts” in philosophy, with a new quote from Homo sacer: “Lévinas was the first…”. But here things begin to change: Agamben no longer messes with Pindar or Löwith, but with Lévinas, someone very close to Derrida, someone “his”. And then Derrida loses his smile and begins to get angry: “Homo sacer claims to discover for the first time ‘the true meaning of the relationship between Heidegger and Nazism, which (Heidegger’s defenders) have forgotten to do’”. Derrida continues: “Here we also smile, not only because we would have so much evidence to the contrary, but because the concept of negligence is one of the most overloaded, multiple in its different logics, necessarily obscure and dogmatic when it is handled as an accusation, vague by definition. in their uses”. Derrida here no longer smiles or, in any case, hers is a bitter, irritated smile. And he concludes, addressing Agamben: “One is always careless a priori, especially in the accusation of carelessness. What is neglect? (…) Neglecting is an abysmal word that should not be used carelessly or negligently, and that should not be constantly neglected to be analyzed”.
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