Jacques Derrida's project: aporetology

Manuel Reinhard

For starters, when Jacques Derrida (French philosopher, 1930-2004) talks about aporias (Ancient Greek: ἀπορία: "impasse") he means the indissolubable emeshment of seemingly separate problems that withstand every effort to disjoin them. Unfortunately, exactly this dissolution is necessary to succesfully cope with them. For people used to a philosophical vocabulary, Derrida means the triumph of indeterminate negation and thus the ultimate convertibility of being and becoming, identity and difference, id and aliud. Yet as he tries to show, the collapse of belief in the disentanglement of this convertibility also entails the dissolution of belief in the desirability of any such disentanglement. This non-subscription to the possibility of dissolving aporias, however, cannot be equated with their simple acceptance, especially those of an ethical or political orientation. Aporias, indeed, force us into a never-ending pursuit of the means by which to handle them. For Derrida, this necessarily interminable process makes aporias the best available mechanism for protecting us from ourselves: from a wrong sense of righteousness. Thus, Derrida considered it a goal in itself to describe aporias because in his perspective they force us to be open-minded regarding the one-sidedness of our scientific models and ethical decisions.

But how does Derrida suit the action to the word? Derrida's concept "aporia" is based on the topological topos of the "limit". Due to the transgressivity of limits (they separate and connect what they separate at the same time), the labeling of various phenomenons/ situations/ structures as aporias shapes them as inverse relations, as entanglements. Thus, a meaningful disjunction between rigor and itself begins to set in: Derrida never tires in insisting that he refuses to jump to a meta-level when reconstructing poetic, historic or philosophical aporias, and yet this claim is subverted by his persistent use of topological topoi to describe aporias. And it is here, indeed, where Derrida's use of topological models is in play, that strategic problems in Derrida's thinking begin to present themselves. Ultimately, then, my purpose is to investigate this disjunction in association with the topological models that lie at its heart. The misalignment within rigor itself seems to point to a self-referential act of autoimmunity – and this thus tells us something about the vulnerability of theory and the unscalable power of rhetoric.

Based on a reconstruction of Derridas use of topological topoi, of topology as technology, I try to challenge the rhetorical preconditions of constative judgments as well as the constative preconditions of rhetoric. I try to reach out for an understanding of the hidden prospects of seemingly self-destructive and self-referential theory. Given the deconstruction of traditional ways of thinking about semiotics and technology (if we think of Derrida's use of topological models in a broader sense as a technology of writing), you might find them at a place where traditional theories of scientific modellation and competency would not expect them. Derrida's aporetic texts and lectures have their value in demonstrating the entanglement of performativity and constativity, because the only similarity between all of them is the reiteration of this entanglement in different constellations; because (not although!) Derrida's aporetic manifestations are not able to overcome this performativity-constativity entanglement. But remember: This value does not emerge because Derrida states it in one of the aporetic texts. It emerges because Derrida's aporetic texts demonstrate it continously when their articulation unfolds. There is no way to decide if Derrida's aporetic writings and lectures are really worth it. But this impossibility first of all opens up the possibility to estimate their relevance without automatically going back to well-conditioned schemata; to become aware at this very moment of at least some of our semi-conscious apparatus of theoretical and praxeological justification mechanisms.


"Topologie der Technik"
Technische Universität Darmstadt

Dolivostr. 15
64293 Darmstadt

Prof. Dr. Petra Gehring
Institut für Philosophie
Telefon: +49 (0)6151 16-57333

Prof. Dr. Mikael Hård
Institut für Geschichte
Telefon: +49 (0)6151 16-57316

Besucheradresse Koordination
Landwehrstr. 54
S4|24 117
Telefon: +49 (0)6151 16-57365
Fax: +49 (0)6151 16-57456

Anne Batsche
Di-Fr 10-15 Uhr

Marcel Endres
Mo-Mi 8.30-15.30 Uhr

Besucheradresse Stipendiaten
Landwehrstr. 54
S4|24 106–112

+49 (0)6151 16-57444


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