The Ethics of Deconstruction

Simon Critchley, The Ethics of Deconstruction (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999).

The Ethics of Deconstruction, Simon Critchley’s first book, was originally published to great acclaim in 1992. It was the first book to argue for the ethical turn in Derrida’s work and to show as powerfully as possible how deconstruction has persuasive ethical consequences that are vital to our thinking through of questions of politics and democracy. Rather than being concerned with deconstruction in terms of the contradictions inherent in any text – an approach typical of the early Derrida and those in literary criticism aiming to extract a critical method for an application to literature – Critchley concerns himself with the philosophical context necessary for an understanding of the ethics of deconstructive reading. Far from being some sort of value-free nihilism or textual free-play, Critchley showed the ethical impetus that was driving Derrida’s work. His claim was that Derrida’s understanding of ethics has to be understood in relation to his engagement with the work of Levinas and the book lays out the details of their philosophical confrontation.