Derrida, Rushdie and the Ethics of Mortality

  • Chris McNab


Jacques Derrida’s The Gift of Death offers both a distinctive moment in the genealogy of his thought on responsibility, and a potential groundwork for a postmodern ethics of mortality. The exact nature of the allegiance between Derrida and postmodernism has always been a hazy connection; one which tends to be resolved in an acceptance of their de facto relationship within contemporary theoretical discourse. I shall claim that a more definite link can be made between Derrida and postmodern fiction in the ethical preoccupation with mortality. This focus, however, manifests some distinct problems for the plurality and play central to the postmodern theoretical canon. For postmodern writing and Derridean deconstruction lead us not to the recognition of irreducible alterity or unending difference, but instead produce a distinctly metaphysical and rather questionable attempt to generate an ethics on the basis of our own inevitable death.


Ethical Demand Inevitable Death Ethical Strategy Distinctive Moment Possessive Relation 
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    Derrida, Jacques, The Gift of Death, trans. by David Wills (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995) 21. Hereafter quotations from this edition will be cited in the text.Google Scholar
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    Zygmunt Baumann gives a similar description of postmodern morality as ‘incurably aporetic’, where ‘few choices […] are unambiguously good’ (Zygmunt Baumann, Postmodern Ethics [Oxford: Blackwell, 1992] 11).Google Scholar
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    Salman Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995) 3. Hereafter, quotations from this edition will be cited in the text.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

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  • Chris McNab

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