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Recognition and the Other
Unformatted Document Text:  Otherness is an important aspect of plurality – Hannah Arendt As a queer reader I am sensitive to places of silence, of erasure, of misrecognition. I notice gaps and fissures, the painful elisions that occur when one voice speaks in place of another or when another is silenced. Who speaks? Who is heard? Whose voice rendered unintelligible? These are questions of discourse ethics, and they center on the fulcrum of the peculiarly democractic tensions between liberalism and pluralism. The notion of alterity, or radical otherness, as presented in the works of philosophers Emmanuel Levinas and Martin Buber provides some insight to the tensions that emerge at this interface of ethics and politics . In writing of the relation to the Other, Levinas reminds me that my interlocutor, my other, is always more than she appears to me, always more than I can ever comprehend. “The face of the Other at each moment destroys and overflows the plastic image it in leaves me” (Levinas, 1969, p. 51). Similarly, dialogic philosopher Martin Buber points to importance of my interlocutor’s alterity when he writes: “Genuine conversation, and therefore every actual fulfillment of relation between men, means acceptance of otherness. When two men inform one another of their basically different views about an object, each aiming to convince the other of the rightness of his own way of looking at the matter, everything depends so far as human life is concerned, on whether each thinks of the other as the one he is, whether each, that is, with all his desire to influence the other, nevertheless unreservedly accepts and confirms him in his being this man and in his being made in this particular way” (1998, p. 59). Before turning to the primary focus of this paper, I would like to summarize broadly three points that the notion of alterity provides to the theory of discourse ethics: 1) decentering the subject, 2) acknowledging difference, and 3) acknowledging the ethical obligation to listen. First,

Authors: Lipari, Lisbeth.
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Otherness is an important aspect of plurality – Hannah Arendt
As a queer reader I am sensitive to places of silence, of erasure, of misrecognition. I
notice gaps and fissures, the painful elisions that occur when one voice speaks in place of another
or when another is silenced. Who speaks? Who is heard? Whose voice rendered unintelligible?
These are questions of discourse ethics, and they center on the fulcrum of the peculiarly
democractic tensions between liberalism and pluralism. The notion of alterity, or radical
otherness, as presented in the works of philosophers Emmanuel Levinas and Martin Buber
provides some insight to the tensions that emerge at this interface of ethics and politics . In
writing of the relation to the Other, Levinas reminds me that my interlocutor, my other, is always
more than she appears to me, always more than I can ever comprehend. “The face of the Other at
each moment destroys and overflows the plastic image it in leaves me” (Levinas, 1969, p. 51).
Similarly, dialogic philosopher Martin Buber points to importance of my interlocutor’s alterity
when he writes: “Genuine conversation, and therefore every actual fulfillment of relation
between men, means acceptance of otherness. When two men inform one another of their
basically different views about an object, each aiming to convince the other of the rightness of
his own way of looking at the matter, everything depends so far as human life is concerned, on
whether each thinks of the other as the one he is, whether each, that is, with all his desire to
influence the other, nevertheless unreservedly accepts and confirms him in his being this man
and in his being made in this particular way” (1998, p. 59).
Before turning to the primary focus of this paper, I would like to summarize broadly three
points that the notion of alterity provides to the theory of discourse ethics: 1) decentering the
subject, 2) acknowledging difference, and 3) acknowledging the ethical obligation to listen. First,


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