Domenico is a PhD student in Philosophy.
Responsibility and debt. Ethics and transcendentalism beyond Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty.
Professor James Williams
Domenico's research topic for his PhD thesis is 'Responsibility and debt. Ethics and transcendentalism beyond Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty.'
Topics of interest
Among the topics of my interest there is the conceptual relation between neo-pragmatism and some Continental authors. One of the most significant features of Richard Rorty’s anti-essentialism, in fact, is how his texts deal with thinkers who apparently share his same conception of language and rationality as historically contingent relations of forces.
His comparison with Derrida and Foucault, for example, reveals all the pragmatist’s necessity to clarify why so similar views about the structure of language intrinsically carry ethical-political views - like Foucault’s (anarchist, for Rorty) care of the self and Derrida’s deconstruction of “metaphysics of presence” – which are so distant from the language of the liberal-ironist. Rorty’s claim seems to be that a certain feeling of “nostalgia” for the existence of a essential nature of human language/rationality has worked to produce, in Foucault, an univocal «connection between knowledge and power rather than that between knowledge and human solidarity». It would have also worked to produce, in Derrida, his “quasi-transcendental” obsession towards the problem of logocentrism.
A factor of destabilization and undecidability is, nevertheless, inserted in the coherence of the pragmatist’s analysis of human language once we consider that a similar o more radical criticism to Foucault has just been moved by the deconstructive practice of Derrida. Hence, the necessity to find a connection between the interests of Rortyan liberal-ironist and the Derridian quasi-transcendentalism. Derrida’s radicalization of the (non) logic of the event and of the non-metaphysical conception of history, in fact, shows that Rorty’s criticism toward Foucault and the figure of liberal-ironist are undecidable in their pragmatic effectiveness and in their anti-transcendentalism.
I am also strongly interested in connecting the theoretical theme of transcendentalism to moral topics – such as responsibility – and the outcome of their working (or non working) in topical political-economical decisions. Especially since the start of the so-called economic recession, in fact, the mainstream Western political-economical conception of an evolved community responsibility has been ineluctably linked to the ability and availability of such a community to honour its national debt and fulfil certain parameters – such as inflation rate and government budget balance – which are identified with a sort of moral duty toward the community creditors. This cultural attitude can be inscribed within a fundamental conception of responsibility whereby such a concept is working – at its everyday-life level as much as at an “macroeconomic” one – within an ontology of debt-credit dynamics. With the support of Jacques Derrida’s comment on texts by Bataille, Mauss and Pato?ka about sacrifice and gift, one can highlight that political decisions such as measures of austerity or those focused on economic competitiveness draw their sense from their being a way to “fulfil a debt” contracted toward a model of rationality or a «restricted economy». Such a «restriction» is the tendency to calculate the economic – and existential – value and meaning of an element without referring to a mere contextual calculus of the potential total happiness generated by such a element. This criticism of a «restricted economy» cannot be reduced to a simple criticism toward an ideology – like “neo-liberalism” – since the model of rationality toward which each act of responsibility behaves as a “debtor” is holistically different in each single event. Also individual moral actions, thus, according to this vision, can assume a suitable “responsibility” only once they try to dismiss the system of credit from which they acquire their authority.
It is necessary, though, to go beyond Derrida himself and his recommending an act of responsibility as a mad «hospitality of the Other» within the singularity of event. An attempt – such as this – to «dismiss the system of credit from which one acquires one’s authority» turns out to be, in fact, also typical of most of the economic reforms which try to make our system of credit more “sustainable”, like the proposal of creating a new banking regulation through an European banking union or of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. None of these, in effect – and no attempt made to simply get out of a system of credit – can avoid resting on what Zizek would call a tautological «meta-law», which legitimates the economic-existential value of their elements; none of these attempts can avoid falling back on a certain system of credit.
One of my concerns will be, therefore, the evaluation whether the new social movements – such as Occupy Wall Street, Localization Movement, Five Stars Movement, 15-M Movement –, which claim to bring a new culture of social responsibility, are able to concentrate on a mere calculus of total harm and benefit in order to assess the economic value of an ethical-political decision, instead of abstractly trying to institute a non-system-of-credit, which is impossible and counterproductive.
"Richard Rorty and the transcendental paradox", in Segni e Comprensione, August 2013
Domenico's research is funded in part by the Dundee Philosophy Programme Studentship.