Tango, ergo sum
Descartes in Jean-Luc Nancy's Deconstruction of Christianity
This paper shows the importance of Jean-Luc Nancy’s interpretations of René Descartes in Nancy’s deconstruction of Christianity, especially in the notions of bodily exposition and the impossibility of intactness. I argue that Nancy’s deconstruction of Christianity is prefigured and developed in his readings of the Cartesian ego as an ex-posited and intangible body. I then turn to Jacques Derrida’s critique of Nancy’s deconstruction of Christian intactness: Derrida argues that Nancy appeals to a key Christian trope of the proper or tactful touch and thus affirms a Christian metaphysics of presence. I propose the importance of historicizing the understandings bodily presence and intactness at stake in the difference between Derrida and Nancy, and turn to Descartes’ treatments of transubstantiation as an example. I argue that attending to the seventeenth-century debates concerning Cartesianism’s threat to the material and theological intactness of Eucharistic real presence historically situates the question of deconstructing Christianity. In response to Nancy and Derrida, I suggest that the question is not if Christianity is or is not intact, but rather how historically specific understandings of the nature and perception of bodies differently conceive bodily presence and intactness.
Keywords: Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Derrida, René Descartes, deconstruction, Christianity, immanence, incarnation, haptics, transubstantiation