The death of the other
: paradoxes of subjectivity in Derrida’s autobiographical thought

  • Andrew Clark

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This project analyses some of the key texts from Jacques Derrida's autobiographical thought and organizes these texts chronologically in terms of their relation to other figures who are part of the history of autobiographical thought itself. The five chapters of the main body consider Derrida's relation to five such figures: Augustine, Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. The central argument of this project is that Derrida's conceptualization of autobiography provokes the reconceptualization of human subjectivity. The central aim of this project is thus to set the groundwork for this reconceptualization. Derrida is known for inventing lots of new words (neologisms) as a way both of circumventing traditional philosophical problems and of renaming them by highlighting their fundamental gaps. One of the many neologisms that he invents around autobiography is "heterothanatography‟. Where autobiography designates the life of the self, in contrast heterothanatography designates the opposite: namely, the death of the other. In Derrida's thought more generally, it is characteristic of his deconstructive philosophy that an opposite of a metaphysical concept becomes that concept‟s condition of possibility. This juxtaposes the opposites in such a way that develops an undecidable impasse, thereby opening them up to the differences of degree between them. Hence, the introduction to this project, "The Death of the Other‟, sets up heterothanatography as the condition of possibility of autobiography. After the analysis of the main body, the conclusion to this project, "Paradoxes of Subjectivity‟, provides clues to the groundwork for the deconstructive reconceptualization of subjectivity. This occurs primarily by taking the opposites at work in the deconstruction of autobiography itself: that is, self/other and life/death. The central outcome of this project is a deconstructive deepening of the existential understanding of human subjectivity, based on the difficulties surrounding the actual experiences and events of people‟s lives. The overall contribution to knowledge is thus in the original interpretation of this project concerning the radical psychological insight that Derrida's thought possesses for the philosophical understanding of human subjectivity.
Date of AwardJan 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBran Nicol (Supervisor) & Simon Morgan-Wortham (Supervisor)

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