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To Die a Living Death: Phantasms of Burial and Cremation in Derrida’s Final Seminar


  • Michael Naas

    () (Department of Philosophy, DePaul University, 2352 N. Clifton Ave., Chicago, IL 60614, USA)


In the Third Session of his seminar The Beast and the Sovereign , Volume 2, Jacques Derrida turns from a close reading of Heidegger’s 1929–1930 seminar on The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe —the two books at the center of the seminar—to the question of what it means for a large and growing number of people in the Western world to have to decide, in a seemingly sovereign fashion, about how their bodies are to be treated after their deaths, that is, whether they are to be buried or cremated. This question marks a rather surprising turn to the present—even the autobiographical—in the seminar. This essay follows Derrida’s treatment of the question in the rest of the seminar. It considers, first, what Derrida calls the phantasms attendant upon all speculations regarding this supposedly binary alternative between inhumation and creation and then what this alternative might tell us about Greco-European modernity and certain modern conceptions of the subject and the subject’s putative autonomy and sovereignty over its life, its body, and its remains.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Naas, 2012. "To Die a Living Death: Phantasms of Burial and Cremation in Derrida’s Final Seminar," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(4), pages 1-15, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsoctx:v:2:y:2012:i:4:p:317-331:d:21594

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    More about this item


    Derrida; deconstruction; burial; cremation; onto-theology; Heidegger; Robinson Crusoe; mourning;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • P - Economic Systems
    • P0 - Economic Systems - - General
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems
    • P2 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies
    • P3 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions
    • P4 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics


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