I finally read Chapter one: “Cogito and the History of the Passions.” Terada begins this chapter by pointing out how deconstructionists are unknown for passionate writing. She points out, however, that Derrida’s writing produces emotions–emotions that overflow and “burst the bounds of his thought” (16). She further posits that emotions fail verbal representation.

Terada examines Derrida’s view of Descartes, Husserl, and Rousseau: “Their awareness that emotion is an interpretative act and that positions on representation influence positions on emotion” (17), and for Derrida, experience includes repeatability–I think of the past and past experiences while I anticipate the future–experience has always-alread just passed; I’ve always just missed it. Since experience cannot be understood outside of language, I can only realize emotions in reflection, which is always-alread a supplement to the experience. Rousseau finds this reflection theatrical; he posits that we need representation in order to have emotions.

Terada then compares Derrida to analytic philosophers, looking first at the “content approach to emotion,” where the content gives the emotion. Emotions are physical and chemical–in the body–and conceptual, so emotions stem from individual beliefs and desires. Stemming from Huuserl’s intention (perception is always the perception of something), emotions work the same way, always about something. In content approach, emotions alway depend on context. Husserl and Rousseau contribute to this thinking; whereas, Derrida:

“describes a surprising consequence: if one does accept that duality [emotions rising to the level of concepts– a connection between the conceptual and the empirical], then our own emotions emerge only through the acts of interpretation and identification by means of which we feel for other . … We are not ourselves without representations that mediate us, and it is through those representations that emotions get felt. Emotions are niether intentional nor expressive… wether they are directed at objects or not, wether we feel them on purpose or not, [emotions[ take place on what must seem to be a mental stage peopled by virtual entities” (21).

The cogito that feels these emotions, can only feel the emotion when it represents itself to itself and reads the self representation.

Terada then discusses Derrida’s deconstruction of emotions. We only feel experiences that are not immediate, and only feel other’s experience to the extent that it reminds us of our own.

The cogito, for Derrida, represents the fictive place of emotions, encouraging a “textualist stance toward life” (22). Furthermore, the cogito’s auto-affection reveals how feeling emerges in my announcing feeling to myself (23). Terada then jumps to look at how other philosophers have critiqued Derrida, claiming that Derrida’s subject differs only in terms from classic views of the subject; however, these critiques of Derrida fail to account for the phenomenological description Derrida provides. Derrida looks at “self-difference–falsely resolved in the Cartesian tradition, rejected as nonsense in the realist tradition–is experience itself, nonsubjective experience” (24). In Derrida, experiencing incompleteness is an experience, itself, and he notes that we shouldn’t confuse mental life with subjectivity. Our mental life is confused with “something else” precisely because of the incompleteness of subjectivity. We would have no emotions, Derrida contends, if there was a subject. (24)

When Husserl descrobes lived-experience, he speaks of interior monologue speaking of interior monologue, with no outside. This experience creates an immediacy, but Derrida deconstructs Husserl, point out that Husserl descrines the living present as delayed. A perception approaching future of retention–both present and different, perception and non-perception. So when I speak to myself (even in Husserl’s interior monolgue that feels immediate), there is always delay. Therefore, consciousness “in the present” is always delayed. Even “the self-enclosure of auto-affection upsets the distinction between conceptual emotion and mere empirical affect” (26).


Terada goes on the analyze Derrida’s deconstruction further. Auto-affection (addressing self) is less immediate that addressing an other. When I address myself in my head, I create a distance that is not there since I am me–I shouldn’t need to address myself; but addressing someone else reduces the distance that is there.

Terada argues that Derrida’s erasure of self makes lived-experience possible. Since immediate experience is impossible, since I have to address myself, represent the experience to myself, illustrates the lack of subject that can immediately have an emotions without filtering the emotion through representation. As Terada contends “Fright and reassurance spring from the Cartesian ego’s inability to complete its project of subjectivity. The similarity of these narratives lies not only in their movement from anxiety to reassurance but in their implication that the very existence of emotive experience assumes the incompleteness of subjectivity” (30).

The analysis then turns to Rousseau and moments of the dangerous supplement (voice, masturbation), where a substitution is needed. The analysis turns to aesthetics and the emotions that arise in fictive situations. A play, for instance, can cause emotions. Then Terada turns to her own critique of the content approach of emotions, claiming “The content approach often looks like a shell game of concepts that clams to establish a subject actually given from the beginning” (39). Mostly, content approach fails to account for aesthetics and imaginary objects. A good deal of our lives are imagined/fictive, and one can hardly deny the “fake” emotions produced by art–also a fiction.

Our words represent the idea of the emotion. For instance, looking at the example of people encountering people in the jungle and calling the people “giants.” Once actually encountering the people–of normal size– the word can change. The word “giant” represents the representation of my fear. Derrida looks at this and posits that “gaint” expresses an idea even if the word fails to indicate the actual person. Emotion is not expressed in the same manner as the idea is. The expression “is the difference between sunjective ideality and the external world, appearing with experience” (44).

Emotion falls outside of representation: “Fear itself exists in the world no more than an idea does” (44). Emotions appear to follow the Derridian trace, failing any actual, present represntation.

I would argue that all of this emotion talk is in language. Wether the experience is immediate or not, in order to understand what I feel about the experience, I have to put the experience in words. Since words only mean through diffårnce, then experience and emotions are always caught up in language and can never be directly experienced nor explained in a manner other than phenomenologically.