The Ethical possibilities of the subject as play

in Nietzsche & Derrida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In "The Ends of Man," when talking about a deconstructive process of writing, Jacques Derrida says that "what we need, perhaps, as Nietzsche said, is a change of "style," and if there is style, Nietzsche reminds us, it must be plural" (in Margins: Of Philosophy, 135). On his debt to Nietzsche, Derrida remains elusive, although it is obvious that there are many manifestations of Nietzsche's presence throughout Derrida's writings. As this quote suggests, if there is not a similarity in style between Nietzsche and Derrida, there are some definite similarities of approach and intent. While their arguments are far more intricate than the similarities on which this article will focus can communicate, I will argue that Nietzsche's concept of 'perspectivism' could perhaps be seen as a paradigm for Derrida's concept of 'différance.' The aim of this article, then, will be to argue that in 'perspectivism' and 'différance,' a notion of "play" problematizes the traditional concept of the subject, but in doing so it allows for ethical possibilities. These issues will be explored in two parts. The first section, "The Subject as Play," argues that in Nietzsche's 'perspectivism' and Derrida's 'différance' there is a refusal to hypostasise the subject, and this refusal is evidenced in both Nietzsche's and Derrida's playing with the "proper name." In the second section, "Ethical Possibilities," in contradistinction to critical readings of Nietzsche and Derrida that label their writings—because of their switching of styles and their manipulation of the subject—irresponsible and nihilistic, I will argue that it is precisely because of their subversive techniques that ethical possibilities are generated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-90
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Nietzsche Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Derrida
  • ethics
  • subjectivity
  • differance
  • deconstruction

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