JACQUES DERRIDA’S greatest virtue was his tenacious literalism. He wanted to capture everything in his net. About his adolescence and the continuity of some of his obsessions into maturity, he said to Derek Attridge in Acts of Literature (1992): “Still today there remains in me an obsessive desire to save in uninterrupted inscription . . . what happens—or fails to happen. What I should be tempted to denounce as a lure—i.e., totalization or gathering up—isn’t this what keeps me going?”
In a German newspaper article appearing after Derrida’s death in October, Jürgen Habermas wrote that he had come to understand, at last, that “deconstruction is essentially praxis.” Earlier, in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1987), he had thought that Derrida “dulled the sword of the critique of reason itself.” Did he understand, working more closely with Derrida toward the end, that the French
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