Jacques Derrida on Religion and Universalizing Faith: A Critical Appraisal

Camil Ungureanu


This article examines critically Jacques Derrida’s paradoxical view of religion and sacrificial ethics as placed between Immanuel Kant’s and Søren Kierkegaard’s conceptions of rational and unconditional faith. To overcome their one-sidedness, Derrida advances a paradoxical view of religion and ethics that entails the undialecticizable tension between a universalizing (Kantian) “moment” and a singularizing (Kierkegaardian) one. I will propose, first, a reading of Derrida’s conception that is neither atheist nor religious. Second, I will argue that Derrida’s transformative deconstruction of religion and ethics is suggestive but not persuasive: in particular, Derrida’s quasi-transcendental argumentative strategy in favor of a universalizing faith replaces the “essence” with a unique paradox. The resulting paradoxology remains metaphysical and ahistorical: disregarding the historical evolution of religious imagination (Bellah, 2017), Derrida monothematically injects philosophical abstractions into the heart of communicative practices. Moreover, I argue that, Derrida’s concern with otherness not withstanding, it is parochial and at odds with ethical and religious pluralism.


religion, faith, ethics, paradox, Jacques Derrida, Immanuel Kant, Soren Kierkeegard

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