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Derridean Europe from Pakistan

Ruminations of Jacques Derrida (on Europe) understood by a Pakistani

Derrida’s Other: Difference of Europe

‘Other’ is an important concept in Derrida’s metaphysics which makes him unique from other philosophers. Mustapha Chérif, an Algerian former diplomat who shared only the love for Algeria with Jacques Derrida, talked highly of Jacques Derrida. He propagated that Derrida is the only scholar who has assimilated the others, other than secular West or Christian Europe in the philosophical discourses, only scholar who had through his philosophical paradigms created an affinity among the West and it’s other –the non-westerners. He believed Derrida has saved the others from distress.

In the fourth chapter of his book The Gift of Death, Derrida explicated the notion of other. The French title of the chapter is translated by David Wills as “every other (one) is every (bit) other.” Wills in another place elucidates Derrida’s French phrase “tout autre est tout autre” and gives two other translations too. They are “every other is every other” and “every other is wholly other,” these can represent an array of others like the other in me which is completely different than me and also that each person is of distinct stature than other. Looking at these aspects there is a possibility that a correspondence between humans can be on their distinctness and alterity rather than race or fraternity. The concept of other is important in the way that only if we believe that the other person is different in every way and we respect that; than we are less likely to favor people on the basis of our relationship to them.

Derrida owes his idea of other to the philosophy of Levinas. But he said that Levinas while developing an ethics for other does not distinguish between the God and Man, for him both others are wholly other. This ethics of every other is other would halt us in distinguishing between the wholly other the God than others; because in the domain of faith and sacrifice when one has to be responsible towards God he has to sacrifice his responsibility towards lesser other. Like the case of Abraham sacrificing Isaac as God commanded, to be responsible towards God, Abraham had to be irresponsible towards his son Isaac, who is ‘other’ than Abraham.

Derrida also gave the example of the war in Iraq that was going on at the time his book The Gift of Death was published. The International coalition was fighting against Iraq after Iraq invaded Kuwait and Iraq had skirmishes with other border countries. He said that there have been sufferers of attacks by the Iraq and equally by the international coalition. The coalition condemned Iraq on not respecting the law, but they were also killing those who got nothing to do with it. Similarly as Levinas philosophy on other hand had a religious bent, Derrida mentioned that every party involved in the war was religious, and every party had a version of their own. So Derrida altered the religious aspect of Levinas’ notion of other for which every other is wholly other be it God or man and said that the respect to every other will be on the scale of wholly other, for whom others are neglected, only if the other is like God “an infinitely other”.

On the Derridean notion that other should be other in every other sense, John D. Caputo argued that the other needs to be moderately different than our expectations. If the other is other in a sense that we absolutely know nothing of them, then our response to the other will be indifferent.

Jacques Derrida in The Other Heading used his theme of other to characterize the responsibility of Europe towards its others. Derrida emphasized that Europeans have a responsibility to create a new discourse for Europe’s identity, without any choice for taking or not taking that responsibility. The responsibility is imposed “upon [Europeans] and in an even more imperative way, in that it is, as other, and from the other, the language of our language.”

This responsibility according to Derrida entitles the Europeans to create a discourse, not only on the conceptualization of Europe but also about the other of Europe –the non-European. He insisted that Europeans should essentially make themselves custodian of idea of Europe, of a difference of Europe. Not only such a difference of Europe but a Europe that will not be contended in its own self. Europe should be able to expand itself “in an exemplary way toward what it is not, toward the other heading or the heading of the other.”

Derrida believed Europe needs to be responsible for the others and does not simply turn the communication of Europe in a “discourse of the same,” the other should remain intact with his complete otherness. Derrida’s paradigm suggests that Europe should take in consideration the otherness of other countries when it is dealing on the political matters. A former European colony like Pakistan should be dealt by Europe as a complete other which owes nothing to Europe, for instance.

But there is a sort of hierarchy present in the concept of Derrida’s others of Europe. In Specters of Marx, Derrida mentioned Europe’s responsibility towards its past colonies, against the violence and atrocities done by Europe. In the same book he fixedly writes about the supremacy of United States. In this lieu we can say that according to Derrida the former colonies are Europe’s lesser other that Europe needs to look down to and help. While US is Europe’s significant other Europe looks up to.

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