Revisiting Plato’s Pharmacy

11 Dec 2011

In this essay, one of Derrida’s early texts, Plato’s pharmacy, is analysed in detail, more specifically in relation to its reflections on writing and its relation to law. This analysis takes place with reference to a number of Derrida’s other texts, in particular those on Freud. It is especially Freud’s texts on dream interpretation and on the dream-work which are of assistance in understanding the background to Derrida’s analysis of writing in Plato’s pharmacy. The essay shows the close relation between Derrida’s analysis of Plato’s texts and Freud’s study of the dream-work. The forces at work in dreams, it appears, are at play in all texts, which in turn explains Derrida’s contentions in relation to the pharmakon as providing the condition of possibility of Plato’s texts. The essay furthermore points to the continuity between this ‘early’ text of Derrida and his ‘later’, seemingly more politico-legal texts of the 1990s. A close reading of Plato’s pharmacy, with its investigation via ‘writing’ of the foundations of metaphysics, and thus also of the Western concept of law, is obligatory should one wish to comprehend how Derrida attempts to exceed the restricted economy of metaphysics through his analysis of concepts such as justice and hospitality.