Love according to Derrida: a plea

On October 8, 2004, Jacques Derrida, one of France’s greatest philosophers died. His grey hair, weatherworn face and pensive look were iconic. The documentary that was filmed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman in 2002 depicts Derrida and his theory of deconstructionism beautifully.

Together with Derrida, deconstructionism died, because no other philosopher truly succeeded in unraveling, let alone applying this theory. Explaining deconstructionism is an oxymoron, nevertheless I will attempt in vain: deconstructionism is a kind of literary criticism that claims a text is never a whole, a unity and words can never be impartial. Texts contain endless series of interpretations and meanings, it is impossible to define and reach the truth. Findings about or interpretations of texts will inevitably undermine their own meaning. In other words: meaning and logic destroy themselves during the process.

Unfortunately not only deconstructionism, but also his contemplations on love faded with Derrida’s death. Derrida’s conception of love was also based on his theory of deconstructionism. This conception never reached John Doe. The average human being keeps applying a conflictual and unrealistic concept of love instead: love as an incurable cancer cell that is growing in people’s minds.

Consider this text as a plea to breathe new life into the ‘Derridaian love’.

I love you’ is about everything or nothing. Behind this phrase is a tough economic model that leads to great profit or disastrous loss. With these words the speaker addresses the ego of the beloved one, every fiber of that human. ‘If I love you diligently, I expect the same in return.’ The pressure and expectations linked to this love are enormous. A burn-out is constantly lurking.

This kind of love is very similar to ‘le droit divin’, the ‘divine right’, as drafted by Louis XIV.

Furthermore, the words ‘I love you’ contain endless amounts of meanings and will be interpreted differently by different people in various situations. Confusion and incomprehension are inevitable. One could say that this is a totalitarian love, based on an economic model that leads to disappointment and betrayal.

Disappointment, because sooner or later the lover will discover unfavorable aspects in the beloved one. A feeling of betrayal, since the lover does not live up to the expectations and does not keep her or his promises. The endeavor to maintain this concept of love leads to conflict and is extremely unrealistic.

I love you’ is an impossible concept, says Derrida. He destroys the ‘divine right’ by shifting from ‘I love who you are’ to ‘I love the way you are’.

I love your humor.

I love the way you listen so attentively.

I love your green eyes.

The act of love is fragmentary and points towards aspects of one or more individuals. This kind of love is a precise and well-considered choice and not based on a totalitarian model. In this model, disappointment is impossible, unless a miscalculation has been made. For example when the beloved one does not seem to have a sense of humor, an assumption that was made at the start.

Also, betrayal is impossible, since the act of love is fragmentary instead of totalitarian. No false promises nor a complete devotion.

This model is based on freedom and does not require a unique and lifelong commitment, a requirement that is part of the current widespread love model.

Derrida’s concept of love leads to love and respect in freedom, love for the way someone is, by appreciating the specific characteristics in different individuals.

Derridaian love advocates freedom, respect and independency.

Leave exclusive and totalitarian relationships to the Sun Kings of this world.

Documentary ‘Derrida’ by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman

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