Translating nature

I’m currently grappling with an article I’d like to finish off. It compares the accounts of nature in Merleau-Ponty and Derrida. I’m arguing that Derrida tacitly relies upon some Merleau-Pontyian theses, and ends up proposing a similar kind of interleaved and articulated description of the being of nature to that of his predecessor. M-P’s interest in the philosophy of nature is now well known, but the connections have yet to be well recognised in Derrida’s thought, despite a rash of hasty interpretations 10-15 years ago.

Questions about nature, physis, are clearly caught up, for both of these philosophers, in their attempts to develop something new in relation to the philosophical tradition. It’s a matter of inheriting the tradition, idealism and phenomenology. Ultimately the phenomenon for both is life, le vivant. A life always productive of meaning, expressive. A life to which we respond.

One of the tasks I think is important here is the effort to translate between these two, Merleau-Ponty and Derrida. A proximity, and yet significant differences. It seems to me that this effort can have a clarifying effect for both authors. To make them speak to each other – and they almost never spoke – is also to make them speak beyond the confines of specialisations and autobiographical narrowness.


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