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2. Once again, Derrida ably demonstrates his mastery of deconstruction.

And once
again, he illustrates why we need to be wary of those who all too easily label
him either utopian or suspicious. Likewise, we need to be wary of those who all
too easily worship him or dismiss him. As usual Derrida resists being reduced
to a formulaic spiral.
3. Derrida's first essay/speech, Cosmopolitanism provides an entry point into
traditional European and especially French social virtue. It is a tradition at play
for over twenty centuries, but Derrida questions this past in order to understand
the present state and use of cosmopolitanism. Like Walter Benjamin and
Hannah Arendt whom he quotes here, he is primarily asking about the nature of
banality and the human ability to act inhumanely to others with whom they
live. Derrida stands with these two seminal thinkers by continuing to point out
the problem of banality today, but states he desires to neither be overly
suspicious nor utopian in his critique. He questions a European Union which
opens it's internal borders only to close its external borders. Likewise the
actions of police who are allowed to control immigration and even deport legal
aliens beyond the limits of a legitimate police power. Yet there is in all of this a
certain recognition of the necessity of borders and police. The general question
becomes what kind of borders, what kind of police are appropriate
to cosmopolitanism?
4. A proposal is made for the establishment of Cities of Refuge, a proposal for the
limitation of borders and police, what I would call an internalization of a
border. Cities of Refuge are more than a traditional notion from times gone by,
but a convergence of traditions within a concept as yet unfulfilled, an opening
from which to think as well as to act without perversion of the law/right (droit)
of hospitality.
5. This is neither a call for revolution nor evolution, neither a matter of newness
nor progress, but rather a call for an opening from within which is a matter of
recognition and decision. Derrida wants cosmopolitanism to be a traditional
hospitality: more aware, more awake. If it is not, it becomes a banal
triumphalism that again divides the foreigners from fellow-citizens of the
Saints. If cosmopolitanism can gain resources for renewal it will be in the
recognition of its wrong turns -- it must be a confessing cosmopolitanism. One
such wrong turn may be Immanuel Kant's formulation of cosmopolitanism as
natural law. As always, Kant is faced with the decision between unconditional
and conditional aspects. In this case, it is cosmopolitanism. The unconditional
is the "common possession of the surface of the earth" while the conditional is
that which is "erected, constructed, or what sets itself up above the soil: habitat,
culture, institution, State, etc" (p.21). Because Kant decides upon this strictly
delimited condition he can then inscribe two paradigms, which counts in
Derrida's eyes as some progress. But it is the decision to make this split where
he does that politicizes all hospitality. The crux of the problem according to
Derrida is that hospitality is made by Kant a sign dependent upon juridical
notions of peace and thus then finally a matter of State sovereignty.
"Hospitality signifies here the public nature of public space… hospitality,
whether public or private, is dependent on and controlled by the law and the
state police" (p.22).
6. "Forgiveness"is also an essay written to expose banality and question acts of
memory with a maiutic intention. Derrida argues that forgiveness in its purest
form is an interruption of historical temporality, that it "should not be, normal,
normative, or normalizing" (p.32). Forgiveness, when normed, when subsumed
under historical time, closes history to history, in other words it is as much
manipulation as history. What is history then? It is not just an act of memory. If
history is a manifestation of any currency of meaning which can enable fair
exchanges between memories, then Derrida is calling for an organic
historiography which enables multiple types of exchanges of memory, an
embrace of our own liminality without enforcing limits on others. It is thus
necessary for forgiveness not to be normalized or economized in a final way.
>Maybe one could call this a de-eschatologization of forgiveness. In any event,
forgiveness needs be left open, aporetic, if humanity is to be given a chance to
learn from the past. To say that there is finally a correct way to forgive may
have some good effects temporarily but eventually leave others out. Derrida
considers the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa as an
object lesson here. There is unprecedented healing taking place here and yet
when forgiveness is given conditionally in the name of justice, harm is done to
justice itself. This is unavoidable anytime there is a mediation of forgiveness,
whether it is a language, a culture, or a state. The introduction of mediation is
always an introduction of a third, and that is a corruption of forgiveness itself.
But, our experience of forgiveness can still be more or less pure. In this way
forgiveness, "must remain a madness of the impossible" (p.39)
7. Perhaps one of the most interesting questions performed by this short book,
relates to the topics of cosmopolitanism and forgiveness themselves. Why were
they chosen to be bound together here? In both essays Derrida questions social
institutions politically founded upon various circumstances such as The
International Criminal Court, E.U. immigration law, and the South African
Truth and Reconciliation Commission mentioned above. It is another
unfinished project of modernity to reduce more traditional and organic
understandings of asylum and territorial rights by their placement of these
rights under conditional and economic constraints. Much of this is vintage
Derrida, who reminds us again that a society's foundations are always
privileged: violent and colonial in the sense that the founding moment is a
decision who is in, and who is outside. "The foundation is made in order to hide
it; by its essence it tends to organize amnesia, sometimes under the celebration
and sublimation of the grand beginnings" (p.57).
8. But this is not all that is contained here. Throughout both essays Derrida
describes a performance -- what is performed in the "project of making States."
These essays also describe what is performed in the project of creating
legitimacy. Elsewhere, Derrida calls this unfinished project modernity -- of
creating States and making legitimacy -- closure. And closure always calls for
us to be vigilant.
9. . Hospitality
10. It is also worth considering the aporia that Derrida associates with hospitality.
According to Derrida, genuine hospitality before any number of unknown others
is not, strictly speaking, a possible scenario (OH 135, GD 70, AEL 50, OCF 16). If
we contemplate giving up everything that we seek to possess and call our own,
then most of us can empathise with just how difficult enacting any absolute
hospitality would be. Despite this, however, Derrida insists that the whole idea of
hospitality depends upon such an altruistic concept and is inconceivable without
it (OCF 22). In fact, he argues that it is this internal tension that keeps the
concept alive.
11. As Derrida makes explicit, there is a more existential example of this tension, in
that the notion of hospitality requires one to be the 'master' of the house, country
or nation (and hence controlling). His point is relatively simple here; to be
hospitable, it is first necessary that one must have the power to host. Hospitality
hence makes claims to property ownership and it also partakes in the desire to
establish a form of self-identity. Secondly, there is the further point that in order
to be hospitable, the host must also have some kind of control over the people
who are being hosted. This is because if the guests take over a house through
force, then the host is no longer being hospitable towards them precisely because
they are no longer in control of the situation. This means, for Derrida, that any
attempt to behave hospitably is also always partly betrothed to the keeping of
guests under control, to the closing of boundaries, to nationalism, and even to the
exclusion of particular groups or ethnicities (OH 151-5). This is Derrida's
'possible’ conception of hospitality, in which our most well-intentioned
conceptions of hospitality render the "other others" as strangers and refugees (cf.
OH 135, GD 68). Whether one invokes the current international preoccupation
with border control, or simply the ubiquitous suburban fence and alarm system,
it seems that hospitality always posits some kind of limit upon where the other
can trespass, and hence has a tendency to be rather inhospitable. On the other
hand, as well as demanding some kind of mastery of house, country or nation,
there is a sense in which the notion of hospitality demands a welcoming of
whomever, or whatever, may be in need of that hospitality. It follows from this
that unconditional hospitality, or we might say 'impossible' hospitality, hence
involves a relinquishing of judgement and control in regard to who will receive
that hospitality. In other words, hospitality also requires non-mastery, and the
abandoning of all claims to property, or ownership. If that is the case, however,
the ongoing possibility of hospitality thereby becomes circumvented, as there is
no longer the possibility of hosting anyone, as again, there is no ownership or
control.
12. c. Forgiveness
13. Derrida discerns another aporia in regard to whether or not to forgive somebody
who has caused us significant suffering or pain. This particular paradox revolves
around the premise that if one forgives something that is actually forgivable, then
one simply engages in calculative reasoning and hence does not really forgive.
Most commonly in interviews, but also in his recent text On Cosmopolitanism and
Forgiveness, Derrida argues that according to its own internal logic, genuine
forgiving must involve the impossible: that is, the forgiving of an 'unforgivable'
transgression - eg. a 'mortal sin' (OCF 32, cf. OH 39). There is hence a sense in
which forgiving must be ‘mad’ and 'unconscious' (OCF 39, 49), and it must also
remain outside of, or heterogenous to, political and juridical rationality. This
unconditional 'forgiveness' explicitly precludes the necessity of an apology or
repentance by the guilty party, although Derrida acknowledges that this pure
notion of forgiveness must always exist in tension with a more conditional
forgiveness where apologies are actually demanded. However, he argues that this
conditional forgiveness amounts more to amnesty and reconciliation than to
genuine forgiveness (OCF 51). The pattern of this discussion is undoubtedly
beginning to become familiar. Derrida's discussions of forgiving are orientated
around revealing a fundamental paradox that ensures that forgiving can never be
finished or concluded - it must always be open, like a permanent rupture, or a
wound that refuses to heal.
14. This forgiveness paradox depends, in one of its dual aspects, upon a radical
disjunction between self and other. Derrida explicitly states that "genuine
forgiveness must engage two singularities: the guilty and the victim. As soon as a
third party intervenes, one can again speak of amnesty, reconciliation,
reparation, etc., but certainly not of forgiveness in the strict sense" (OCF 42).
Given that he also acknowledges that it is difficult to conceive of any such face-to-
face encounter without a third party - as language itself must serve such a
mediating function (OCF 48) – forgiveness is caught in an aporia that ensures
that its empirical actuality looks to be decidedly unlikely. To recapitulate, the
reason that Derrida's notion of forgiveness is caught in such an inextricable
paradox is because absolute forgiveness requires a radically singular
confrontation between self and other, while conditional forgiveness requires the
breaching of categories such as self and other, either by a mediating party, or
simply by the recognition of the ways in which we are always already intertwined
with the other. Indeed, Derrida explicitly argues that when we know anything of
the other, or even understand their motivation in however minimal a way, this
absolute forgiveness can no longer take place (OCF 49). Derrida can offer no
resolution in regard to the impasse that obtains between these two notions
(between possible and impossible forgiving, between an amnesty where apologies
are asked for and a more absolute forgiveness). He will only insist that an
oscillation between both sides of the aporia is necessary for responsibility (OCF
51).