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Página inicial > Fenomenologia > Ruin (2019:18-20) – lembrança do morto

Ruin (2019:18-20) – lembrança do morto

quinta-feira 8 de fevereiro de 2024


Enquanto trabalho filosófico de luto, o esboço de Patocka   [“Phénoménologie de la vie après la mort”] antecipa as reflexões de Jacques Derrida   sobre o funcionamento da memória em relação aos mortos nas suas Mémoirs for Paul de Man (1987). Aí, Derrida também tenta articular a experiência peculiar e, em última análise, paradoxal do que significa preservar alguém na memória. Quando sofremos uma perda dolorosa, escreve, dizemos a nós próprios que o falecido não partiu totalmente, mas que, de alguma forma, ele ou ela continua vivo na nossa memória. No entanto, ao mesmo tempo, é claro que a memória não pode manter ou preservar o outro, que se foi irrevogavelmente. Deveremos então, pergunta ele, com uma referência implícita a Freud  , encarar esta ambição de preservar o outro morto apenas como uma "recusa narcísica" de reconhecer a perda inevitável? A sua resposta é não, porque a estrutura desta relação entre a subjetividade e o outro morto e a memória é mais complexa. A presença do outro no eu é a experiência de algo que é "maior" do que o eu. E a possibilidade de fazer o luto por alguém é, em última análise, uma dimensão e até mesmo co-constitutiva do que significa ser um eu.


As a philosophical work of mourning Patocka’s sketch anticipates Jacques Derrida’s thoughts on the workings of memory in relation to the dead in his Mémoirs for Paul de Man (1987). There Derrida also tries to articulate the peculiar and ultimately paradoxical experience of what it means to preserve someone in memory. [1] When we experience painful loss, he writes, we say to ourselves that the departed is not   fully departed but that somehow he or she lives on in our memory. [2] Yet at the same time it is clear that memory cannot keep or preserve the other, who is irrevocably gone. Should we then, he asks, with an implicit reference to Freud, look upon this ambition to preserve the dead other as only a “narcissistic refusal” to recognize inevitable loss? His answer is no, because the structure of this relation between subjectivity and the dead other and memory is more complex. The presence of the other in the self is the experience of something that is “greater” than the self. And the possibility of mourning someone is ultimately a dimension of and even co-constitutive of what it means to be a self.

“Memory” thus becomes a name not just for an inner trace of the other in the self but also for the possibility of subjectivity as such. It is by being outside itself, in a continued relation to what is other than oneself, that human existence is what it is. Patocka never found the opportunity to develop these ideas further, but in the case of Derrida it would gradually emerge as a central theme in his later work, notably in Specters of Marx   (1993), Aporias (1993), and The Gift of Death (1995). In Specters of Marx he recalls that the existential imperative to live also implies an imperative to address death. [3] Learning to live is learning to exist between life and death, in the existential stretch constituted by one’s own life span, from not yet being born to no longer existing, but also to learn to live in relation to those no longer there. In order to describe this existential in-between, he suggests that we think of it in terms of “the phantom” (le fantôme). Unlike in Patocka’s text  , the phantomatic here is not simply the name [19] of an illusion   to be overcome by a rational work of mourning. Instead it is presented as a positive   phenomenological category in its own right, as designating a mode of being shared between the living and the dead.

Even though Derrida does not address it explicitly in the book on Marx, the idea   of the phantom and the phantomatic had first come to him through his collaboration with the Romanian-French psychoanalysts Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok. [4] In Abraham and Torok, the “psychic phantom” is the name of a sealed remnant of a traumatic event that exists as a separate and ultimately inaccessible “crypt” within a psyche  , manifested only indirectly through its somatic and psychic effects. It is a structure that can be inherited and passed from generation to generation while becoming increasingly inaccessible, moving from the silenced to the unthinkable. At the center of this theory are the experience of death and the challenge of having to handle the loss of close kin. In Abraham and Torok the basic difference in ways of mourning is between “introjection” and “incorporation” (concepts that they take over and elaborate from Ferenczi and Freud). To normal mourning belongs the “introjecting” not only of the person   but also of the realization of the loss as such. An incomplete work of mourning, however, can take the form of an “incorporation” where the survivors believe themselves to somehow be capable of “saving” the dead by interiorizing the lost other within themselves as the other’s keeper. The refusal to let the loss have its way can result in the other being hidden in an interior as something to return to in a secret, forbidden, and even possibly lustful communion. Opposed to this inner and perverse death rite, Abraham and Torok see the supposedly more authentic and introjective mourning as characterized by the ability to accept, contain, and hold absence and loss. [5]

While being inspired by Abraham’s and Torok’s work, from which he inherited the concepts of the “phantom” and the “crypt” as ways to depict phenomena of survival and continuity, Derrida also distanced himself from their thinking on some points. This is true in particular of what he found to be their too-rigid distinction between introjection and incorporation. He asks if it is not the case that also “normal” grief in a certain sense preserves the other precisely as other (a living dead person) inside the self. The question could always be asked, he writes, “whether or not ‘normal’ mourning preserves the object as other (a living person dead) [20] inside me.” [6] While being loyal to the overall way of analyzing the process of grieving in its complex affective and semantic vicissitudes, he senses something more in these concepts that take them and the whole problem beyond the more strictly defined psychological-psychoanalytical context. For Derrida, the phantomatic becomes a way of reaching into an absent presence, an ontological shadow zone where the living and the dead cross, or rather from the point where the separation between them can be thought differently, not just as an affliction but as an ontological-ethical category in its own right.

[RUIN, Hans. Being with the dead : burial, ancestral politics, and the roots of historical consciousness. Stanford, California : Stanford University Press, 2019]

Ver online : Jacques Derrida

[1Jacques Derrida, Memoires for Paul de Man, trans. C. Lindsay, J. Culler, E. Cadava, and P. Kamuf (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986).

[2Ibid., 32.

[3Specters of Marx, trans. P. Kamuf (New York: Routledge, 1994).

[4In 1976 he published a long preface to their analysis of Freud’s Wolfman case: “Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok,” trans. B. Johnson, in The Wolf Man’s Magic Word: A Cryptonomy, by Abraham and Torok, trans. N. Rand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986).

[5For a more extensive presentation of their theories, see the collection of articles in Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok, The Shell and the Kernel, trans. N. Rand (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), especially the last essay.

[6Derrida, “Fors,” xvi.