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The End of the World and Other Teachable MomentsJacques Derrida's Final Seminar$
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Michael Naas

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823263288

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823263288.001.0001

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Pray Tell

Pray Tell

Derrida’s Performative Justice

(p.104) 5 Pray Tell
The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments

Michael Naas

Fordham University Press

This chapter is about the theme of prayer, where the isolation of Robinson Crusoe on the island is seen as an involvement and apprenticeship in prayer. Because of this metaphor, Derrida's “The Beast and the Sovereign” seminar can be viewed as a meditation on prayer. The special performative function of prayer and again, the question of distinction between man and animal is raised. Sovereignty is raised in the process through the person of Robinson Crusoe. If Crusoe reinvented the wheel because he needed and wanted to, there is also a relationship that praying became a turn of the wheel, an automatic response, without his full intention, toward an unknown other. Derrida surmises that if prayer is authentic, not because of some genuineness and sincerity of intention, or to some God, then it has to be authentic because of its conditions of performativity. This chapter concludes that “The Beast and the Sovereign” has not only analyzed prayer in the context of Heidegger and Crusoe but has also manifested the law of prayer.

Keywords:   prayer, Robinson Crusoe, performative function, sovereignty, Heidegger

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