DERRIDA’S ANIMALISM a free thought of the machine

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This article focuses on Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive re-elaboration of the tradition of mechanicism, from the Cartesian animal–machine to contemporary scientism. It shows that Derrida does not counter this tradition by resorting to the metaphysical presupposition of Freedom–as sovereign independence from the machine–which secures the traditional oppositions of Man and the Machine and of the biological and the psychical. Rather, since his interpretation of the cybernetic concept of programme, he had been concerned with a conception of machines that takes account of their hypercomplexity–that is, of the semiotic and grammatological element implicit in them. According to Derrida, this element provides us with the analogical and general code of the biological and the cultural and thus with the protocol for telling a nonhumanist and differential history of life. In particular, this article explains that the grammatological conception of the cybernetic programme undergirds the re-elaboration of the relation between the biological and the psychical as well as of the Cartesian legacy underpinning the modern thought of the Animal, which Derrida develops in his unpublished seminar La Vie la mort and in his late essays on animality, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalAngelaki - Journal of the Theoretical Humanities
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2 Sep 2020


  • Derrida
  • Descartes
  • Jacob
  • cybernetics
  • mechanicism
  • semiotics


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