Derrida’s essay “Racism’s Last Word” was written for the catalog for the Paris 1983 exhibition Art Against Apartheid. He begins the piece with a single word: “apartheid.” Apartheid, the word and the thing itself, is shrouded in negativity: “by itself the word occupies the terrain like a concentration camp. Systems of partition, barbed wire, crowds of mapped out solitudes” (Derrida 292). By appending a single word to this “ultimate racism,” he makes it tenable, not easily forgotten. In fact, this special form of racism has, until now, defied definition, “as if all the languages of the world were defending themselves […] Here, then, is an immediate response to the obsessiveness of this racism, to the compulsive terror which, above all, forbids contact” (Derrida 292). For the sake of his essay and its audience, concentrating on this one word is effective. As if cornering an opponent, he separates the word apartheid from all others, enabling him to focus his efforts on deconstructing both its history and its future. Derrida, however, is caught between two identities in this essay: first, as a political observer, one who has an emotional investment in the eradication of racism; and second, as a philosopher who by necessity analyzes that which appears to be beyond reason.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s Preface to Genealogy of Morals provides an outline of the philosopher’s view of morality and how our moral values have been accepted blindly over the course of history. The individual is important in the overall scope of this critique; for how can one deconstruct morality without first identifying the effects of those morals on oneself? In discussing self-reflection, the first two sections of the Preface give a glimpse of what might be interpreted as the separation of ideas from the individual. Although ideas may stem from a person’s will to knowledge, they seem to develop beyond the will of the individual after their genesis.
Giambattista Vico’s New Science is, in part, “a rational civil theology of divine providence” (NS 385). It is a rational civil theology because it seeks to interpret the poetic theology conceived by the theological poets, and because it understands the theology of the poets as a civil history unto itself, recording the acts of men under the guise of deities. Still, as Vico indicates, the Science is balanced on divine providence, the definition of which is seemingly unclear throughout the text. Using Vico’s descriptions of divine providence from the text, this essay will show that providence, though it appears to exist on a higher plane of existence from human beings, exists within all humans and expresses itself in the creation of religions and societies throughout history. It will also expose an apparent anomaly in Vico’s conception of divine providence, and how this anomaly ultimately aligns with the overall message of the New Science.
Ernst Cassirer’s chapter in An Essay on Man, “The Crisis of Man’s Knowledge of Himself,” is focused on exploring a fundamental question: What is man? The first answer he produces is this: Man is, in the classical sense, is a being that is in search of itself (5). He divides human knowledge into four paradigms, four different ways of understanding self-knowledge: Biology, Religion, Mathematics and Philosophy. I am looking at two of these paradigms of understanding, Religion and Science. These two paradigms are traditionally painted as opposites; they are in tension because they seem to provide dissenting views of the world and human nature. The fact that there are four different paradigms indicates that any one of them is insufficient in describing the human experience by itself. Religion and science, then, represent two essential aspects of self-knowledge.