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The seventh in our series of Derrida's seminars, Life Death provides interdisciplinary reflections on the relationship of life and death—now in paperback.

One of Jacques Derrida’s most provocative works, Life Death deconstructs a deeply rooted dichotomy of Western thought: life and death. In rethinking the relationship between life and death, Derrida undertakes a multi-disciplinary analysis of a range of topics across philosophy, linguistics, and the life sciences. Derrida gave this seminar over fourteen sessions between 1975 and 1976 at the École normale supérieure in Paris to prepare students for the agrégation, a notoriously competitive exam. The theme for the exam that year was “Life and Death,” but Derrida made a critical modification to the title by dropping the coordinating conjunction. The resulting title of Life Death poses a philosophical question about the close relationship between life and death. Through close readings of Freudian psychoanalysis, the philosophy of Nietzsche and Heidegger, French geneticist François Jacob, and epistemologist Georges Canguilhem, Derrida argues that death must be considered neither as the opposite of life nor as the truth or fulfillment of it, but rather as that which both limits life and makes it possible. Derrida thus not only questions traditional understandings of the relationship between life and death but also ultimately develops a new way of thinking about what he calls “life death.”


"In these exceptionally complex, wide-ranging lectures written for a 1975–76 course, Derrida takes very seriously Nietzsche's warning to 'beware . . . saying that death is opposed to life' . . . . Essential."


"Translated . . . with unparalleled grace and rigor.”

Philosophy Today

"One of Derrida’s most challenging and urgently relevant seminars.”


"Daring and wide-ranging.”

Research in Phenomenology

“Derrida’s 1975-76 seminar, Life Death, is surely one of his greatest achievements. It begins with a deconstructive reading of François Jacob’s Logic of the Living, advancing to a critique of scientific ‘models’ in general. It then takes up Nietzsche’s notions of life and the living in terms of both biography and biology. Finally, it reads Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle in an exciting and challenging way. The translation by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas is reliable and eminently readable.”

David Farrell Krell, author of The Sea: A Philosophical Encounter

“This is a splendid translation of one of Derrida’s most challenging seminars, one that relates, in unprecedented ways, the vocabulary and concepts of historical and contemporary biology and genetics with selected and relevant works of Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Freud.”

Dawne McCance, author of The Reproduction of Life Death: Derrida's La Vie la Mort

Table of Contents

Foreword to the English Edition
General Introduction to the French Edition
Editorial Note
Translators’ Note

First Session: Programs

Second Session: Logic of the Living (She the Living)

Third Session: Transition (Oedipus’s Faux Pas)

Fourth Session: The Logic of the Supplement: The Supplement of the Other, of Death, of Meaning, of Life

Fifth Session: The Indefatigable

Sixth Session: The “Limping” Model: The Story of the Colossus

Seventh Session

Eighth Session: Cause (“Nietzsche”)

Ninth Session: Of Interpretation

Tenth Session: Thinking the Division of Labor—and the Contagion of the Proper Name

Eleventh Session: The Escalade—of the Devil in Person

Twelfth Session: Freud’s Leg(acies)

Thirteenth Session: Sidestep Detour: Thesis, Hypothesis, Prosthesis

Fourteenth Session: Tightenings
Index of Proper Names

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