Thinking ‘Between and Beyond’

Emanuel Kant’s thinking aims to reach the ultimate condition of possibility of everything. It is called as a transcendental method of doing philosophy. Although Kant asserts the dynamism of the mind in knowledge production, he is seeking the conditions of possibilities that are largely static and fixed. We know that he proposed the stable 16 forms of three faculties of the mind. Therefore, comes a question: what if the condition of possibility is not found in a self-present being but in the play of difference and deferral. What if this play of difference belongs to the economy of the excess which gives without seeking any return as in a pure gift. What if the quasi condition that simultaneously conditions and ruins everything turns out to be differance ? This means Kant transcendental thinking is ruined but not destroyed in the quasi-transcendental thinking of Jacques Derrida. That is, we have to qualify Kant’s position: It is always the case that the conditions of possibility on one thing are also simultaneously the very condition that makes the thing impossible as absolute. This thinking is called quasi-transcendental thinking and associated with Jacques Derrida. Quasi-transcendental thinking is parasitic on Kantian transcendental thinking but is a weak form of transcendental thinking. There is no escape, no turning back, no restitution, no remedy to the ruined form of transcendental thinking.

We may need to demonstrate the way quasi-transcendental thinking works. We can try to examine its work in our striving to do justice. Derrida takes us to the logic of excess that does not operate on the basis of our either/or thinking. In this frame of thinking, one faces an aporia/impasse. This means where justice has to be delivered, one feels that it is simultaneously deprived. It seems to suggest that a just and responsible decision is regulated and is without regulation at the same time. To render our decision just it has to be regulated by the law. A just decision cannot be an impulsive, instinctual and affective act. But can we ask, what is it to be just? Does it mean that we are just by means of the law? Is enough to be merely legal to be just? Hence, it appears that regulation by law alone is not enough. Therefore, it appears that the decision has also to be unregulated. We have to suspend existing rules/ laws enough to oblige us to address them anew. This means the general always falls short of the singular. Hence, every case where we have to make a just decision is unique and is also different. This is why it is impossible to find the existing rule/ law as the basis of correct interpretation or action. We do have the need to reinterpret or even re-legislate to give justice to a singular person. This means we have to do the paradoxical. We have to work within the law but there is justice only when we suspend the law and reinterpret it to address the singular. Thus the very condition that makes justice possible ( following the law) becomes the condition of impossibility of justice and requires us to suspend the law.

We can say it also differently. A decision to be just must belong to the realm of the decidable and has also to go through the ordeal of the undecidable. For the sake of justice, the decision has to be made. This means it has to be a decision and not blind application of laws/ rules or mere abdication of responsibility/ refusal of decision. Hence, for there to be justice, the decision has to be made and for this reason, issues have to be viewed as decidable as well as have to go through the ordeal of the undecidable. Hence decision is not merely blind obedience to the law. If it was so it cannot be a decision. This means we will not have to make a decision. One has to decide because not deciding amounts to a suspension of justice and therefore is injustice. Hence to be just we have to make a decision. But whichever it turns to make his/her decision, it won’t be just because one is forced to decide the undecidable. Once again we can say that the decision that is the very condition of possibility of justice becomes simultaneously the very condition that makes true justice impossible. This means true justice always remains in the coming. Justice that is coming opens a gap in the law and demands that it has to be recast or transformed. Real justice therefore will remain in the coming and cannot be fully delivered. Justice remains haunted by the inadequacy of the condition of its possibility.

Having examined justice we may have to view how quasi-transcendental thinking works. It manifests to us how the conditions of possibility are simultaneously the condition of impossibility in an absolute sense. Since nothing can be self-present in the absolute sense, the absolute presence of everything remains in a deferral mode. Such presence, therefore, is both given and not fully given to us. It is given in a quasi-transcendental mode. Hence, absolute presence remains in the mode of coming ever coming never fully coming. This is why justice is also in the mode of coming. There is more justice to come. we can also think similarly that there is love to come. There is democracy to come. There is more life to come. This means everything stays in the mode of giving/ coming. Everything is giving without giving. This recognition is required to overcome the metaphysics of presence. This mode of thinking can ignite our hope and give us new ethics to live for. To come to the depths of this mode of thinking, we have to give up our habitual either/or thinking. We cannot also rely on the closures of ‘and both ‘ thinking. We need thinking that opens both the poles of our thinking and does not close them. We may describe this mode of thinking as a ‘between and beyond’ way of thinking. Quasi-transcendental thinking is thinking between the poles of our thought and moves beyond them. This is why it can give without giving. It is unescapingly moving between and stays beyond.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao