In the night of nonknowledge: Derrida on freedom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jacques Derrida had never written a book on "freedom." This word occurs very rarely in his writings until the late '80s; since then, he had increasingly employed it, but with circumspection. In this article, I aim to show that we can trace a thinking of freedom throughout Derrida's work and that this thinking describes a singular trajectory from the subjective freedom of the humanist history of life to the presubjective freedom of symbolic life. To this end, first, I shall explore Derrida's early deconstructive reading of the conception of subjective freedom that underpins modern philosophical and biological accounts of the living. Second, I shall focus on the conception of the other's freedom that Derrida finds at work in the symbolic machine of sovereign decision. The turning point of this trajectory, I shall argue, is the elaboration, proposed by Derrida in the late '80s, of an experience of freedom as nonknowledge that is neutralized by and yet exceeds subjective and sovereign freedom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-70
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Contingency
  • Decision
  • Jacob
  • Kant
  • Machine
  • Madness
  • Nature
  • Nietzsche
  • Sovereignty
  • Unconditionality


Dive into the research topics of 'In the night of nonknowledge: Derrida on freedom'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this