Addendum to my post on Derrida, Nancy, and the measurelessness of friendship

I am re-reading some of Maurice Blanchot’s essays on Marx, Marxism and communism; partly prompted by Derrida’s own reading of these texts in Specters of Marx, but also as part of my ongoing thinking about the work of Georges Bataille and the forms of sociality and being-together that find their structure in what I refer to as “the intimacy of the outside.”

At the very end of “Slow Obsequies” (Friendship), Blanchot’s review essay of Henri Lefebvre’s La Somme et la reste (1959), M.B. says something about “measurelessness” that immediately brought me back to a blog post of mine from last summer, around the question of fraternity in and for Derrida and Nancy, prompted by my engaging with some recent work by my friend Philip Armstrong. Specifically, my having taken issue with Derrida’s inability (in his book Rogues) to understand how Nancy can argue that the incommensurable is the only measure that we share in common.

For Blanchot, philosophy’s claim of the end, including the end of philosophy (as by Lefebvre, but so many others in France in the 1950s), is always a claim for a measureless end. As he goes on to say, it is through this claim that philosophy reintroduces “the exigency in it for a new measure beyond all measure. In this way, measurelessness [his emphasis] would be the last word of a philosophy ready to be silent but still continuing to say to us: Measurelessness is the measure of all philosophical wisdom.”

What is all the more remarkable however, is that as I might want to rush back with this in order to further indict Derrida, Blanchot’s very last sentence, quoted above, carries a footnote which reads: “It must be said here, even in a very brief note, that in his writings Jacques Derrida poses the question of the ‘end of philosophy’ in a new—different (posing it without exposing it)—way.” This in and around 1959!

Derrida was of course completely aware of this text, especially at the time that he was writing about Nancy in Rogues (2003), a book that follows Specters by ten years (1993). So it is curious that Derrida does not draw upon this passage from Blanchot on the measureless, when he grapples with this concept in his reading of—and friendship with–Nancy. Is the measureless what Derrida will refer to (in Specters) as the “undeconstructible”? And as I tried to suggest awhile back, is Nancy’s assertion of this measurelessness (or incommensurabilty) as that which we share in common, the way in which we might say that he deconstructs deconstruction AND radically re-thinks friendship?For as Blanchot asserts in the quoted passage above, measurelessness is the measure of all philosophical wisdom, but it may also be the wisdom that is experienced as friendship.

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