Biodeconstruction: Jacques Derrida and the Life Sciences

SUNY Press
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 Analyzes Derrida’s 1975 seminar “La vie la mort” as a deconstruction of biology with relevance to his work more broadly.
In Biodeconstruction,Francesco Vitale demonstrates the key role that the question of life plays in Jacques Derrida’s work. In the seminar La vie la mort (1975), Derrida engages closely with the life sciences, especially biology and evolution theory. Connecting this line of thought to his analysis of cybernetics in Of Grammatology, Vitale shows how Derrida develops a notion of biological life as itself a sort of text that is necessarily open onto further articulations and grafts. This sets the stage for the deconstruction of the traditional opposition between life and death, conceiving of death as an internal condition of the constitution of the living rather than being the opposite of life. It also provides the basis for the deconstruction of the rigidly deterministic concept of the genetic program, an insight that anticipates recent achievements of biological research in epigenetics and sexual reproduction. Finally, Vitaleargues that this framework can enrich our understanding of Derrida’s late work devoted to political issues, connecting his use of the autoimmunitarian lexicon to the theory of cellular suicide in biology.

“This book is extremely interesting and engaging, and provides a very original and timely perspective on Derrida’s work. Its greatest strength is bringing together Derrida’s ‘deconstruction’ in his analysis of the life sciences under the heading of ‘biodeconstruction.’ This term is simple but ingenious, and captures beautifully the material dimension of Derrida’s work.” — Nicole Anderson, author of Derrida: Ethics Under Erasure
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About the author

 Francesco Vitale is Professor of Aesthetics at the University of Salerno, Italy. He is the author of The Last Fortress of Metaphysics: Jacques Derrida and the Deconstruction of Architecture, also published by SUNY Press, and the author and editor of several books in Italian on Derrida and contemporary French philosophy. Mauro Senatore is a British Academy Fellow at Durham University in the United Kingdom and Adjunct Professor of Contemporary French Philosophy at the Instituto de Humanidades, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile. He is the author of Germs of Death: The Problem of Genesis in Jacques Derrida, also published by SUNY Press.

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SUNY Press
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Published on
Feb 20, 2018
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PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Modern
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 Examines the relationship of Derrida’s writings on architecture to his methodology of deconstruction and to deconstrutivism in architecture.
Between 1984 and 1994 Jacques Derrida wrote and spoke a great deal about architecture both in his academic work and in connection with a number of particular building projects around the world. He engaged significantly with the work of architects such as Bernard Tschumi, Peter Eisenman, and Daniel Libeskind. Derrida conceived of architecture as an example of the kind of multidimensional writing that he had theorized in Of Grammatology, identifying a rich common ground between architecture and philosophy in relation to ideas about political community and the concept of dwelling. In this book, Francesco Vitale analyzes Derrida’s writings and demonstrates how Derrida’s work on this topic provides a richer understanding of his approach to deconstruction, highlighting the connections and differences between philosophical deconstruction and architectural deconstrutivism.

“Although there has been some discussion of the intersection of deconstruction and architecture in the past, mostly among architects and architectural critics, Vitale’s work is distinguished by the fact that it is written by a true philosopher who has a much more acute sense than has usually been the case of the philosophical underpinnings of Derrida’s exchanges with Tschumi, Eisenman, and others. Vitale is throughout concise, precise, insightful, and often brilliant.” — Geoffrey Bennington, author of Interrupting Derrida
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