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Faculty of Law | University of the Western Cape

Research Portal

Faculty of Law | University of the Western Cape


The Moral Law: Derrida reading Kant

Publication title information

De Ville, Jacques (2019). 'The Moral Law: Derrida reading Kant'. 12(1) Derrida Today 1-19

Further detail

Publication type
Academic journal articles
This essay shows how Derrida, in a variety of texts, engages directly or indirectly with the Kantian moral law, which rests on the assumption of man's autonomy vis-à-vis his natural inclinations. In the background of this analysis is Derrida's engagement with Freud, the latter having argued that the Kantian moral law is located in, and can be equated with, the superego. Derrida challenges Freud's assignation of the moral law to the superego, and suggests that what appears to Kant as the moral law and to Freud as the demands of the superego, already involve a limitation of a much more radical demand on the self: that of absolute sacrifice, and which one can understand with reference to Freud's death drive. This demand can be referred to as the law of law, that is, the law which makes of the moral law a law. Within this broader framework, the essay explores in detail Derrida's reading of Kant's notion of respect that is owed to the moral law, the notion of duty, and the formulation of the categorical imperative by Kant in terms of an ‘as if’.
About the author/s

Jacques de Ville

Prof Jacques de Ville is Dean of the Faculty of Law at UWC.

Click here for biographical detail and publications listing

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