The Curiosity at Work in Deconstruction


  • Perry Zurn American University



Jacques Derrida, Sarah Kofman, curiosity, deconstruction


Beginning with Jacques Derrida’s Beast and the Sovereign, I identify two forms of curiosity: 1) scientific curiosity, which proceeds through objective dissection and 2) therapeutic curiosity, which proceeds through observational confinement. Through an analysis of Derrida’s treatment of both sorts of curiosity, I notice and develop a third, deconstructive form of curiosity. Through repeated turn to the work of Sarah Kofman, I characterize this third curiosity as, by turns, linguistic, animal, and critical. As linguistic, this curiosity is a penchant for wordplay and a keenness for the unsteady reservoirs of signification, resisting any clean dissection of meaning or the confinement of terms. As animal, it tracks a scent, regularly suspending its paw, as if to emphasize the meandering and precarious quality of knowledge. And as critical, it combats the illusions of pure revelation and instead draws attention to the conjuring trick, the systematic substitution of signs, undergirding it. Finally, I consider in what way Derrida’s resistance to philosophy may be read on the grounds not of a singular wonder but of multiple curiosities.

Author Biography

Perry Zurn, American University

Perry Zurn is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at American University and Center for Curiosity Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.