Semester of Graduation

Spring 2010


Master of Arts (MA)


Philosophy and Religious Studies

Document Type



Much recent work on the philosophical import of gifts comes in the wake of Jacques Derrida’s work Given Time I: Counterfeit Money, in which he claims that the gift is aporetic. This essay is an attempt to work out whether the gift is genuinely aporetic and, if it is not, to explore what this means for the gift. In the first chapter I will give an account of Derrida’s aporia as he presents it in Given Time. This will carefully lay out his reasons for thinking that the gift is im-possible, introduce the models of desire and duty, and explain why the presence of the ego is what is most problematic for the gift in Derrida’s account. The second chapter will explore the moral philosophies of two thinkers, Immanuel Kant and Emmanuel Levinas, in order to better understand why the models of desire and duty are insufficient for thinking through the gift. In particular, I will give a criticism of Kant’s theory of moral emotions in order to demonstrate that, although he claims duty is the sole source of the good, he seems to recognize that such a philosophy ignores another source of the good that finds its origin in the other. Levinas has such a notion of the other, but my analysis will show that he is just as incapable of thinking through the gift as Kant, as his moral philosophy revolves around a kind of radical, particular duty. The third chapter will explore what the insights of the previous chapter reveal about the nature of the gift. By the end of this new account of the gift, Derrida’s aporia will be shown to have been correct but misguided, as the gift event works differently than he originally supposed. Finally, the fourth chapter will examine the ontological implications for the world if we are shot through with an otherness. This exploration will be done in conjunction with an account of Marion’s phenomenology and Heidegger’s essay "On the Essence of Truth."



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Schufreider, Gregory