A new philosophical reflection on the secret and its importance to our contemporary political experience The Snowden Affair, Wikileaks, the ‘lone wolf’ terrorist, Clinton’s private email account – the secret is arguably the central element of our contemporary political experience. Now, Charles Barbour looks at the basic ontological question ‘what is a secret?’ Organised as a reflection on Jacques Derrida’s later writings on secrecy, four chapters each look at a separate problematic: society and the oath, literature and testimony, philosophy and deception, and time and death. Barbour shows that secrecy is not a negation of our relations with others, but a necessary condition of those relations. We can only reveal ourselves to one another (and, indeed, to anything other) insofar as we conceal as well. Key Features Provides a new philosophical reflection on the question of the secret, and its importance to contemporary political experience Develops a unique reading of the later work of the philosopher Jacques Derrida, and of his largely overlooked discussions of the secret in his later writings and seminars Initiates a new method of approaching Derrida’s work – one that rejects obscurity and reveals the lucidity of his thought Compares Derrida’s work with that of the German sociologist Georg Simmel, and thus argues for the significance of Derrida’s work for sociology Connects Derrida’s work to a series of philosophical debates in the Analytic tradition, such as the problems of consciousness, self-deception, and other minds Compares Derrida’s work on the secret with a series of other important political thinkers, including Deleuze, Schmitt, Arendt, Bataille and Agamben. Keywords: Secrecy, Law, Oath, Testimony, Jacques Derrida, Georg Simmel Subject: philosophy ; What is a secret? Barbour argues that it is the central element of our contemporary political experience. Reflecting on Jacques Derrida’s later works on secrecy, each chapter looks at a separate problematic: society and the oath, literature and testimony, philosophy and deception, and time and death. ; Dedication; Table of Contents; Acknowledgments; List of Abbreviations; Introduction: Cauernosis Anfractibus; Under Oath: Secrecy, Perjury, and the Social Bond; Open Secrets: Literature, Politics, and Testimonial Truth; Between Two Solitudes: Self-Deception, Consciousness, and the Other Mind; Being Alone: Death, Solitude, and the End of the World; Conclusion: Secretions; Bibliography; Notes. ; AcknowledgmentsList of AbbreviationsIntroduction: Cauernosis Anfractibus Under Oath: Secrecy, Perjury, and the Social Bond Open Secrets: Literature, Politics, and Testimonial Truth Between Two Solitudes: Self-Deception, Consciousness, and the Other Mind Being Alone: Death, Solitude, and the End of the World Conclusion: SecretionsBibliographyIndex
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Derrida’s Secret is a major and critical innovation. It shows how Derrida’s concerns are both explicitly political as well as how they are central and vital for thinking about agency, subjectivity and the relationship to truth. What emerges in this reading is a Derrida who is concerned with the everyday, with the ordinary and with the very human dilemmas about truth and life and death.
Charles Barbour is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Western Sydney University. He is the author of The Marx Machine: Politics, Polemics, Ideology (Lexington Books, 2012). He is co-editor of Action and Appearance: Ethics and the Politics of Writing in Hannah Arendt (Continuum, 2011) and After Sovereignty (Routledge, 2009). He has written numerous book chapters and journal articles on social and political theory, with a special emphasis on Karl Marx.