The Beast and the Sovereign: Three Footnotes to Derrida

Geoffrey Bennington

Based on the original entanglement between the concepts of sovereignty and bestiality developed by Jacques Derrida in the seminars of The Beast and the Sovereign, this paper investigates the ways in which such entanglement is thought by three philosophers who have studied the subject. In Aristotle, the point is the tension in the concept of ideal man, who, being ideal, is not naturally political - politikon zoon - and therefore, as a god or beast, is above or below the polis. Being superior, he is the one who will do justice and his own laws, and may not, therefore, be part of a state. In Bataille, it must be evaluated how the philosopher develops the association between sovereignty and death, in a logic of self-perversion or autoimmunity, what will touch on the inhumanity of the sovereign and make sovereignty a constant risk of death to the sovereign. In Heidegger, it is possible to see how the philosopher, from his reading of Antigone, proposes and thinks the original violence of the concept of sovereignty in the figure of hupsipolis apolis, i.e., the one who, in honor and obeying to the laws of the state, will break these laws and be banned from the polis, demonstrating the inseparability of the concepts of sovereignty and bestiality.

Derrida; sovereign; beast; Aristotle; Bataille; Heidegger


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