Environmental Philosophy

Volume 16, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Reading Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign

Annabelle Dufourcq
Pages 57-88

Who/What is Bête? From an Uncanny Word to an Interanimal Ethics

The deconstruction of stupidity [in French bêtise] plays a crucial role in Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign. Through the concept of stupidity/bêtise the violence of our relationship with others, as inseparable from our relation to animality comes into view. “Stupidity” is deeply political, but also directly connected to the trace and, thus, cannot be simply overcome. While Sartre claimed that there are no fools, but just wicked men, Derrida embraces an uncanny version of stupidity. In this paper, guided by Derrida’s reflections, we will examine the many paradoxes that undermine the pseudo-concept of stupidity, as well as several key moments of its history in Schelling’s, Nietzsche’s, Sartre’s, and Deleuze’s philosophies. Eventually our purpose will be to display the ethical statements which can be extrapolated from Derrida’s perspective: when the world is gone, how can we carry stupidity?