Michael Naas : Grace and the Machine:Jacques Derrida’s Perjury and Pardon I (Seminar of 1997-1998)

Michael Naas

Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University

Grace and the Machine:Jacques Derrida’s Perjury and Pardon I (Seminar of 1997-1998)

Tuesday, October 20th 6:00 PM CDT

“This paper focuses on the first volume of Derrida’s seminar Perjury and Pardon (1997- 1998), where Derrida returns, more than a quarter of a century after “Signature Event Context,” to questions of contingency and the speech act and, especially, the possibility of a speech act in writing. After demonstrating that what Derrida means in this seminar by “perjury” (parjure) is not just a lying under oath but a much more general “breach of faith,” I argue that every successful performative is haunted by just such a breach of faith and that writing turns out to be the paradigm for understanding this breach. I go on to show how this displacement of “acts of perjury” from speech to writing, this move to a “speech act” in writing, to what Derrida here often calls an oeuvre, ends up challenging many of the assumptions of speech act theory as articulated by John Austin and those (such as John Searle) who followed him. For such a work or “act” in writing would have to be, for example, essentially detached or detachable from its context, severed right from the start from anything like the intention or the living presence of the author or actor of the act, in a word, severed from the life that would have supposedly produced it. Hence the emphasis here on the “machine,” and thus the question of whether the text or the oeuvre as machine can “produce” something like a speech act and whether this can lead—beyond life—to a sort of grace.”

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