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Limited Inc is a book by Jacques Derrida, containing two essays and an interview.

In the first essay, "Signature Event Context," Derrida engages with J. L. Austin's theory of the illocutionary act outlined in his How To Do Things With Words.[1] The second essay, "Limited Inc a b c...", is Derrida's response to John Searle's "Reply to Derrida: Reiterating the Differences," which criticizes Derrida's interpretation of Austin. The book concludes with a letter by Derrida, written in response to questions posed by Gerald Graff in 1988: "Afterword: Toward an Ethic of Discussion".

Searle's essay is not itself included: he denied Northwestern University Press permission to reprint it. A summary is included between the two Derrida essays, and Derrida quotes the essay extensively.

"Signature Event Context" was originally delivered at a Montreal conference entitled "Communication," organized by the Congrès international des Sociétés de philosophie de langue francais in August 1971. It was subsequently published in the Congrès' Proceedings and then collected in Derrida's Marges de la philosophie in 1972. It first appeared in English translation in the inaugural edition of the journal Glyph in 1977. Searle's "Reply to Derrida: Reiterating the Differences" was published in Glyph's second edition in 1977, along with Derrida's reply to Searle's reply: "Limited Inc a b c..."

Signature Event Context

The essay has three section headings, beginning with: "Writing & Telecommunication" on the third page, and then followed by "Parasites. Iter, of Writing: That It Perhaps Does Not Exist", and concluding with "Signatures".
Derrida highlights Austin's theory of illocutionary acts in the "Parasites..." section because he finds it in contradiction to the definition of communication he has formulated in "Writing & Telecommunication". There he considers all communication in terms traditionally reserved for writing. Derrida lists three traits of writing. First, it subsists without the subject who inscribed it. Second, the meaning of the text is never constrained by its context. "[T]he sign", Derrida explains, "possesses the characteristic of being readable even if the moment of its production is irrevocably lost and even if I do not know what its alleged author-scriptor intended to say at the moment he wrote it".[2] Third, this possibility of rupture from its origin is provided by a text's elements (e.g. words) being separated by spacing. Derrida says that these traits "are valid not only for all orders of 'signs' and for languages in general but moreover, beyond semio-linguistic communication, for the entire field of what philosophy would call experience". [3]


  1. ^ # How to do things with Words: The William James Lectures delivered at Harvard University in 1955. Ed. J. O. Urmson. Oxford: Clarendon, 1962. ISBN 0674411528
  2. ^ Jacques Derrida, "Signature Event Context," Limited Inc, trans. Samuel Weber and Jeffrey Mehlman (Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press, 1988) p. 9.
  3. ^ Derrida, "Signature Event Context," p. 9.


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