"In place of the clear and rigid ancient law, You made man decide about good and evil for himself, with no other guidance than Your example."In response to criticisms that deconstruction is ethically "relativist" and "nihilist," Jacques Derrida in his recent book The Gift of Death skeptically questions the very intelligibility of the notion of responsibility (85). Derrida polemically attacks and seeks to undermine what he calls the "good conscience" (85) of modernity, the illusory confidence that we can ever justify our actions rationally. Responsibility, for Derrida, can never actually be responsible, for it preserves "within itself a nucleus of irresponsibility or absolute unconsciousness" (20). Furthermore, any particular instance of responsibility necessarily involves the scandalous "betrayal" and "absolute sacrifice" of all other possible responsibilities (68-69). In the hyperbolic language of deconstruction, the exercise of responsibility is "absolute treachery" (68), an incomprehensible and monstrous "gift of death" (96).
("The Grand Inquisitor," The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, p. 307)
Derrida approaches the idea of responsibility historically, proposing nothing less than a history of responsibility and the self from Platonism to Christianity to the modern world. The "irresponsibility" of modernity can be traced to Christianity, specifically, Christianity's unacknowledged and repressed core of the demonic sacred (24-26). Derrida understands Christian respons