Germs of Death

The Problem of Genesis in Jacques Derrida

By Mauro Senatore

Subjects: Philosophy And Biology, Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Philosophy Of Science, Ethics
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary French Thought
Hardcover : 9781438468471, 202 pages, March 2018
Paperback : 9781438468488, 202 pages, January 2019

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Table of contents


The Inaugural Inscription
The Scene of Divine Creation
The Legacy of Husserl’s Origin
The Most General Geneticism
The Generation of Consciousness
The Origin of Forms

1. Platonism I: The Paternal Thesis
A Problem of Syntax
The Origin and Power of the Logos
The Textuality of Plato’s Text
The Natural Tendency to Dissemination
The Science of the Disseminated Trace

2. Platonism II: Kho¯ra
The Earth of Fathers
The Boldness of Timaeus
The Dynamis of Kho¯ra
The Concept of History

3. Hegelianism I: Tropic Movements
The Philosophical Introjection of Ordinary Language
The Life of the Concept
The Hegelian Treatment of Equivocity
The Negation of Consciousness
The Two Deaths of the Metaphor

4. Hegelianism II: The Book of Life
The Systematic Figure of the Germ
The Tree of Life
The Circulation of Singular Germs
A Note on Classification

5. Hegelianism III: The Genetic Programme
This Is a Protocol
The Logic Text
The Two Deaths of the Preface
The Preface Is the Nature of the Logos
The Tain of the Mirror
A Non-genetic Thinking of Genesis


An analysis of Derrida’s early work engaging Plato, Hegel, and the life sciences.


Germs of Death explores the idea of genesis, or dissemination, in the early work of Jacques Derrida. Looking at Derrida's published and unpublished work from "Force and Signification" in 1963 to Glas in 1974, Mauro Senatore traces the development of Derrida's understanding of genesis both linguistically and biologically, and argues that this topic is an overlooked thread that draws together Derrida's readings of Plato and Hegel. Demonstrating how Derrida's analysis liberates the understanding of genesis from Platonic and Hegelian presupposition, Senatore also highlights Derrida's engagement with the biological thought of his day. Senatore also shows that the implications of Derrida's insights extend into contemporary ethical and political questions relating to postgenomic conceptions of life.

Mauro Senatore is a British Academy Fellow at Durham University, United Kingdom, and Adjunct Professor of Contemporary French Philosophy at the Instituto de Humanidades, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile. He is the author and editor of several books, including Performatives After Deconstruction.


"…a compact and ambitious reading of a significant portion of Jacques Derrida's philosophical work … what makes Senatore's book so valuable is its insistence on Derrida's thinking of a general or minimal structure of genesis." — Phenomenological Reviews

"Senatore here demonstrates with stunning insight, clarity, and economy that Derrida's work of the 1960s and '70s needs to be understood as a radical critique or deconstruction of both the philosophical concept of life (from Plato to Hegel) and the prevailing biological model of heredity as a 'genetic program.' It will be impossible henceforth to read Derrida on questions of the trace, dissemination, life, and so on, without coming to terms with 'the germs of death.'" — Michael Naas, author of The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments: Jacques Derrida's Final Seminar

"The book represents a major contribution to the field of Derrida studies and phenomenology, particularly its attention to the concept of genesis that formed the basis of Derrida's earliest study of Husserl and the origin of his concept of writing. The unique contribution is the inclusion of the works from the periods of the mid-1970s, which have been neglected in the mainstream scholarship on Derrida." — Gregg Lambert, author of Philosophy after Friendship: Deleuze's Conceptual Personae