Article Title

The Immense Rumor


Peter Goodrich


The immense rumor is surprisingly academic. It is a quotation of a quotation of a fragment that may or may not have been authored, in those or similar words, by Aristotle. The rumor is immense because - and this is perhaps its academic attraction - it is obscure. In one translation, it states, "O my friends, there is no friend," and suggests a certain absence or impossibility. Like many fragments, it appears paradoxical or enigmatic, but I will argue that in fact it is not. Its origins can be traced to a rumor drawn from law. It describes the long-term of a practice, and it enacts a prohibition. Most significantly, the rumor marks a historical incapacity or debility, the absence of a public language of amity, and thus a practice of the unspoken. It is with that practice that I will begin.

The most recent exposition of the immense rumor comes in Derrida's monumental study of the politics of friendship, a work which traces the history of the immense rumor from the classics to the contemporary in the texts of the Western political tradition. His theory is that the immense rumor dictates a law of the same: plural friends or political comrades take priority over an individual friend, and thus, "oh my friends, there is no friend." One implication of this theory is that there is no singular or individual and nominate friend; there is a void at the heart of friendship because the political prerequisites of amity dictate an endless postponement of the time of the friend: living friendship is consigned to an outside or elsewhere, a heterotopia that is never present. The initial proof of this premise has to be specific and a question of practice. For this reason I will turn initially to a precursor of Derrida's treatise on amity. It comes in a more or less unguarded conversation about friendship that took place in honor of the death of Louis Althusser, Derrida's long-term colleague at the Collège de France and, if the immense rumor is true, his very distant friend.