Life Death

Jacques Derrida

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The University of Chicago Press
19 June 2023
ISBN: 9780226826448
328 pages

From the publisher

The seventh in our series of Derrida's seminars, Life Death provides interdisciplinary reflections on the relationship of life and death-now in paperback.

One of Jacques Derrida's most provocative works, Life Death deconstructs a deeply rooted dichotomy of Western thought: life and death. In rethinking the relationship between life and death, Derrida undertakes a multi-disciplinary analysis of a range of topics across philosophy, linguistics, and the life sciences. Derrida gave this seminar over fourteen sessions between 1975 and 1976 at the Ecole normale superieure in Paris to prepare students for the agregation, a notoriously competitive exam. The theme for the exam that year was "Life and Death," but Derrida made a critical modification to the title by dropping the coordinating conjunction. The resulting title of Life Death poses a philosophical question about the close relationship between life and death. Through close readings of Freudian psychoanalysis, the philosophy of Nietzsche and Heidegger, French geneticist Francois Jacob, and epistemologist Georges Canguilhem, Derrida argues that death must be considered neither as the opposite of life nor as the truth or fulfillment of it, but rather as that which both limits life and makes it possible. Derrida thus not only questions traditional understandings of the relationship between life and death but also ultimately develops a new way of thinking about what he calls "life death."