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Derrida and the 18th century

Derrida et le XVIIIe siècle

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Published on Tuesday, June 07, 2022


Le colloque international « Derrida et le XVIIIe siècle », organisé à l’école nationale supérieure (ENS) de Lyon en mai 2023 avec le soutien de l’Institut d’histoire des représentations et des idées dans les modernités (IHRIM), se veut un événement transdisciplinaire. Il invite littéraires et philosophes, dix-huitiémistes et derridiens à penser la question de ce double rapport, jusqu’à présent rarement appréhendé comme tel : celui qu’entretenait hier la pensée derridienne avec le corpus dix-huitiémiste, et celui qu’entretiennent aujourd’hui les recherches dix-huitiémistes avec la pensée derridienne.



With the exception of some derridian readers of Rousseau, few eighteenth-centuryists continue to pay attention to the contributions of Derrida’s thought. Even fewer are the derridians who refer to Derrida as an eighteenth-centuryist, a reader of the 18th century literature and philosophy, a philosopher or intellectual for whom the 18th century or the Enlightenment counted, made sense as a moment of thought, or as a moment of rupture in thought. 

Yet references abound in his works, both famous and lesser known. There are, of course, Rousseau, Kant and Condillac ; but also, and among many others, Helvétius at the beginning of Of spirit, Voltaire in Faith and knowledge and in The post card, Beccaria in the first seminar The death penalty, Diderot at the beginning and Sade in the middle of Aporias. We also encounter Savary's Letters on Egypt in The truth in paintingRobinson Crusoe in the second seminar The beast and the sovereign, a fable by Florian in Politics of friendship, a letter to Sophie Volland and the Letter on the blind in Memoirs of the blind. Not any less important, though more diffuse, are the general allusions to the French Revolution and the ghostly references. Thus, we can recognise the spectre of D'Alembert's dream behind The logic of life in the seminar Life death, or that of Rameau's nephew behind the History of madness in Writing and difference.

The impressive eighteenth-century culture which Derrida has at his disposal and uses thus raises questions of at least three kinds for the contemporary reader.

  • Philological questions, to begin with : what were the meaning, the stake and the nature of this Enlightenment heritage in Derrida's thought ?
  • Secondly, hermeneutic ones : can the method developed by Derrida in reading 18th century texts be exported, and reshape our understanding of the Enlightenment ? Can the general scope of the theses he formulates in his eighteenth-century readings be linked to a particular knowledge of this historical period ?
  • Lastly, philosophical and practical ones : what use can and should we make of the derridian heritage of the Enlightenment as regards the crises we are experiencing today ?

The stakes of this questioning nowadays appear to be innumerable, involving, within and beyond the philosophical field, a considerable number of disciplines : 

1. Linguistics and anthropology, the foundations and territory of which Derrida not only questions from Rousseau in On grammatology, but which writing he also rethinks from a grammar of language and a geography of travel that could actually be those of the Enlightenment.

2. History, because although he is sometimes careful to dehistoricise them, Derrida formulates many judgements that refer to the Enlightenment as a singular and coherent event, a turning point or a breaking point.

3. Politics, which in Derrida's case involves both the recurrent evocation of the French Revolution and the questioning, in all its forms, of the political project that underlies it.

4. Aesthetics, which Derrida also approaches and surpasses from the 18th century, and with the 18th century in mind, from Economimesis to Memoirs of the blind via The truth in painting.

5. Finally, literature, which Derrida never ceases to call upon in the exercise of philosophy. In what way does this practice derive from that of the Enlightenment ? How does it allow us to take a new interest in the literary margins of the Enlightenment philosophy ?

Calendar and submission guidelines

Proposals should be no longer than 500 words.

They should be accompanied by a bio-bibliographical note.

They should be sent to the following two addresses

  • nassif.farhat@ens-lyon.fr
  • susana.seguin@ens-lyon.fr

by 30 September 2022 at the latest.

The decisions of the Scientific Committee will be communicated from 1 November 2022.

Scientific Committee

  • Jacques-Olivier Bégot - University of Rennes 1 / Archives Husserl (UMR 8547)
  • Marion Chottin - École Normale Supérieure de Lyon / Hiphimo (EA 1451), IHRIM (UMR 5317)
  • Danielle Cohen-Levinas - University of Paris 4-Sorbonne / Centre Emmanuel Levinas (EA 3552), Archives Husserl (UMR 8547)
  • Stéphane Lojkine - University of Aix-Marseille / CIELAM (EA 4235)
  • Élise Pavy-Guilbert - University of Bordeaux Montaigne, University Institute of France / Plurielles (UR 24142)
  • Jacob Rogozinski - University of Strasbourg / CREPHAC (UR 2326)
  • Alain Sandrier - University of Caen Normandy / LASLAR (UR 4256)
  • Mathilde Vallespir – Sorbonne Université / STIH (EA 4509)

Organising Committee

Maria Susana Seguin - University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Institut Universitaire de France / IHRIM (UMR 5317) Nassif Farhat - École Normale Supérieure de Lyon / IHRIM (UMR 5317)


  • ENS de Lyon - 15 parvis René Descartes
    Lyon, France (69)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Friday, September 30, 2022


  • Derrida, dix-huitième siècle, déconstruction, Lumières, littérature, philosophie, linguistique, esthétique, herméneutique, histoire, anthropologie, politique


  • Maria Susana Seguin
    courriel : susana [dot] seguin [at] ens-lyon [dot] fr
  • Nassif Farhat
    courriel : nassif [dot] farhat [at] ens-lyon [dot] fr

Information source

  • Nassif Farhat
    courriel : nassif [dot] farhat [at] ens-lyon [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Derrida and the 18th century », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, June 07, 2022, https://doi.org/10.58079/191a

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