Volume 21, Issue 1, Spring 2017
“La justice doit porter au-delà de la vie présente”
Derrida on Ethics Between Generations
While it is generally accepted that deconstruction’s principal target is the “metaphysics of presence” and thus a presentist conception of time and being, it is less well known that Derrida connected the deconstruction of presence to an idea of justice that is from the beginning intergenerational, that is, concerned with the dead and the unborn. The first section of this paper re-inscribes the idea of “my life” or “our life” in Derrida’s concept of life as “living-on” to show that justice arises with a disjointed time that began before me and is already in the process of outstripping my life toward a future without me. In the second section, I sketch a concept of indirect intergenerational reciprocity in conversation with Derrida as well as with extant work on reciprocity in normative theory and economics. While Derrida’s ideas can be operationalized and fleshed out with the help of this other literature, the disjointed time pertaining to living-on permits new responses to some common objections to intergenerational reciprocity.