Jacques Derrida’s Response When Asked “Do You Like Eggs?”

“First, we must observe the nature of the question and the unnaturalness of the situation in which the question is posed. Sitting here, on this barstool, recorder between us, a lightly greased frying pan on the stovetop, your asking questions and me having to answer them, much too quickly I might add, gives the illusion of a natural conversation. It is anything but.

“Now, to your question. To like eggs or not like eggs is predicated that ‘eggs’ have a universalized meaning, which is clearly absurd. Can one equate poached eggs, a problematic term we simply do not have time to address, scrambled eggs, eggs sunny side up, eggs benedict, the list goes on, to each other? That these eggs, for some reason, must be connected because of their originary structures that is yoke, shell, and white?

“If the ‘egg’ existed, we wouldn’t need to look for it; it would already be there in front of us, shelled, awaiting external intervention. Perhaps the only element of commonality we can find between these bound ‘eggs’ is in the traces of the chicken, or perhaps a trace of the trace of the chicken having been removed through processing and separation several times over. To eat an egg is to ingest what is no longer there, to eat what is not present at all, but rather eat what is in fact absent.

“I will go quickly, but this impossibility of the eating of the egg is the foundation on which the infamous question can be asked. Did the chicken come first? Did the egg? Meaningless! The very nature of a pure egg is that it is both a part of and separate from the chicken. It cannot be what it is without its origin, and yet it  must be unequivocally separate. I don’t know if I can eat a pure egg, if anyone can, if it even exists, but the egg cannot occur without  the chicken, and yet it must exist outside of it. But I’m getting ahead  of myself…

“To the question of ‘liking’ you push me into a conditionality, the egg and the ability to be liked, its likeness, and thus its ‘likingness’ by whom or what purpose? Is it possible to ‘like,’ in your words, without excluding, deleting, or silencing the very thing we aim to ‘like’? The egg, therefore, cannot remain an egg, a pure egg, assuming it is worthy of its name in that it is unconditionally likeable, if it is made likable because of the conditionality placed upon it, making it silent, mute, unspoken. But we must go back to the question of egg and chicken, the secret that has always been hidden, yet appropriated, reappropriated, and exappropriated.

“Even then, however, we must look at the relation of this word ‘egg’ and the differánce at play, not only the difference of the chicken and egg, but the deferral of meaning at the same moment. In thinking of Heidegger, as one must in analyzing a question of this sort, Dasein is ever present. I may have simplified it to ‘exists’ previously, a mistake of moving too quickly, but it is larger than that. The egg ‘is,’ in fact, to the degree in which ‘is’ can be used at all, a becoming-chicken yet neutered in a way entirely unique to the egg. Here, again, we see the phallogocentrism of text at play, the feminine egg becoming sterilized and sanitized in order to become consumed. The becoming-chicken is thus rendered outside of time, outside of its being-in-time as an inert, aporetic structure in the flesh.

“In this way, we find the word ‘egg,’ a word with substantial contextual and historical differences in my own French ‘oeuf,’ tied to the Latin exempli gratia, often simplified in meaning to ‘for example,’ e.g., or phonetically pronounced as ‘egg.’ What this example, this e.g. of an aporia, this neutered becoming-chicken points beyond is simply unknown. In the egg, we find the heart of what it means as a being-in-time and yet find the meaning slip from under us, a yolk under foot perhaps, into something both conditionalized and unconditionalized, both possible and impossible, both and neither, something unique.

“Does that answer your question?”

Jake Zawlacki is currently an MFA candidate at Louisiana State University. His work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Two Hawks Quarterly, and The Citron Review.