The idea for Philosophy in a Time of Terror was born hours after the attacks on 9/11 and was realized just weeks later when Giovanna Borradori sat down with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida in New York City, in separate interviews, to evaluate the significance of the most destructive terrorist act ever perpetrated. This book marks an unprecedented encounter between two of the most influential thinkers of our age as here, for the first time, Habermas and Derrida overcome their mutual antagonism and agree to appear side by side. As the two philosophers disassemble and reassemble what we think we know about terrorism, they break from the familiar social and political rhetoric increasingly polarized between good and evil. In this process, we watch two of the greatest intellects of the century at work.
Many assumptions about politics were destroyed along with the World Trade Center, and Borradori (philosophy, Vassar) seized the opportunity to ask Habermas and Derrida how their theories fared. These men represent two central strands of European philosophy-the one building on Enlightenment notions of universal rationality, the other suspicious of the commitments often hidden in its language. Borradori thinks their past writings show that both philosophers regard freedom as dependent on a caring society that provides the necessary conditions for action and oppose the tradition that sees freedom as dependent only on philosophical clarity and the absence of restraint. In these interviews, Habermas and Derrida do mention the underlying economic issues-globalization and the search for mastery over the world's oil supplies. But Habermas sees the outbreak of terror mainly as a failure of communications, and Derrida sees it above all as a failure to develop a concept of world hospitality to replace what he thinks is the outmoded Christian notion of a toleration that is really only charity. Despite their theoretical convictions, they seem here to see the problems more as philosophical than as a failure to integrate economics and the social sciences or develop a strategy against misery and poverty. This is a book without jargon or technicalities that should have a place in all large collections.-Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.