The Impossibility of Ethics: On Mount Moriah

Derek Attridge

in Reading and Responsibility

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780748640089
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652112 | DOI:
The Impossibility of Ethics: On Mount Moriah

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This chapter reflects Jacques Derrida's growing attention to ethical questions in the 1990s, at a time when the author was beginning to study the work of Emmanuel Levinas. For Søren Kierkegaard, Abraham is the prime exemplar of the knight of faith. Like Kierkegaard, Derrida is horrified by the story of Abraham and Isaac. There is a long way from the terrible encounter with the almighty on Mount Moriah, and Derrida might seem to risk accusations of trivialising the Biblical narrative in translating it into this common domestic scene. David Wood's response does point to the extravagance of Derrida's depiction of responsible choice and resultant sacrifice as everyday, in fact second-by-second, occurrences. Kierkegaard's writing in Fear and Trembling and Derrida's in The Gift of Death stress that the responsibility to the other which concerns them cannot be explained or conveyed in philosophical language.

Keywords: Jacques Derrida; Mount Moriah; Emmanuel Levinas; ethical questions; David Wood; Søren Kierkegaard; Fear and Trembling; Gift of Death

Chapter.  9717 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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