Abstract

This presentation is part of an ongoing book project on violence and reactions to violence. The project, on which I have been engaged for the last eight years, has led me to the question of friendship and love as way to conceive a “least violent” reaction to violence. Previous studies have taken me from Merleau-Ponty to Deleuze, to Foucault, and now Derrida. The current text was written during the summer of 2014 and based on a graduate seminar I taught on Derrida’s Politics of Friendship in fall 2013. So the text concerns only this one very long and complicated book by Derrida (published in 1994). The presentation is primarily expository, but I hope you’ll be able to see how the ideas here might lead us to a new conception of a least violent reaction to violence. The thesis of the presentation is both anti-Kantian and hyper-Kantian. On the one hand, (through Derrida), I hope to show that true friendship or love breaks with the teleology that Kant calls the “humanization of man,” in which friendship has a moral goal. Love must break with the moral goal, because loved aimed at the moral goal uses the beloved as a means to an end. In fact, it breaks Kant’s moral imperative. It is hyper-Kantian because the only way to break with means-ends relations lies in making the beloved as distant from me as possible. This is a strange and troubling conclusion, but it saves the beloved from violence. If this “unusable friendship” is possible, it will appear “