Oxford Literary Review 39 (2):189-209 (2017)

Abstract
This essay tracks the place of Descartes in Derrida's writing, from ‘Cogito et histoire de la folie’ to the late seminars on the beast and the sovereign. Through a heterodox reading of the Cogito, privileging its negative moment, Derrida's Descartes plays an important role in unsettling narratives of philosophical lineage, as well as complicating deconstruction's relationship with method, and with the questions of mastery which haunt Derrida's later work with particular emphasis. What is at stake is not just the mastery of method, but also the mastery that would be involved in escaping or undoing it. Although the aim is not simply to rescue the honour of Descartes, it is suggested that a response to the problems of mastery cannot go without a certain respect for the complexities and uncertainties of an œuvre that is often too easily discarded as the already-read par excellence.
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DOI 10.3366/olr.2017.0221
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