Evil Derrida and Holy Baudrillard

I once read someone express the opinion that Baudrillard is just “evil Derrida.” I think they’re right – and I think Conor Cunningham is “holy Baudrillard.”

I think the critique of nihilism expressed in Cunningham’s “holocaust/ice cream cone” section [1] is a pretty basic expression of the impetus that I first detected in Derrida and in the differentiation Baudrillard marks between difference and radical alterity.

All of them appear concerned with the possibility of radical alterity – the value (if we can call it value – Baudrillard) or significance (again, Baudrillard shakes his head) or importance (?) of mystery or enigma. This was how I originally understood Derrida – “difference” was sort of a pathway to this element of otherness, because it suggested the trace or slippage that inhered in every structural claim – i.e. that the other exceeded the structural calculations of the self. The term “condition of possibility” resonates here – as if nothing would matter if there wasn’t something more. I think that basic claim appears in Derrida (“the trace” or “the supplement” as only possible foundation to meaning), in Baudrillard (radical alterity/”reversibility”/”seduction”?? – as the sort of radical position), and in Cunningham (God/transcendence as ‘the meaning of it all’). This ethical concept provides the ultimate impact to their arguments.

Transcendence – how they come down on it (to some degree, only semantically different) – is an important point of distinction between all of them. All obviously write after the death of God. Cunningham takes up the difficult task of resuscitation, by asserting the importance of faith beyond all speculation or realism (in my opinion, this is an underrated critique of “OOO”) – faith as pure anti-calculative assertion, perhaps axiom. The Eucharist, presumably, is used to resolve all the philosophical problems of substance/matter, and grace resolves problems of free will/destiny/causality/etc.

At some level, it’s hard to differentiate Derrida from anyone. Cunningham, however, says the logic of the trace is an atheistic (at best agnostic) transferal of God’s grace into immanent and thus valueless confines. I can think about this, following Laruelle, in terms of where they locate their philosophical decisions. Derrida does it all over, but generally at levels of text and time. Cunningham does it at the point of the decision of faith in God. Baudrillard is by far the most complex, I think, or rather the most systematic – the various formulations of symbolic exchange, simulation and simulacra, Good and Evil, and so on, elaborate all these stages of imagery, libidinal and material economy, and so on. He is clearly the academic of the three.


[1] Conor Cunningham, Genealogy of Nihilism: Philosophies of nothing and the difference of theology, Routledge: London, 2002.

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