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Recognition and the Other
Unformatted Document Text:  Recognition and the Other, p. 2 notions of alterity allow for the decentering the subject/ego. Buber’s notion of the relation as primary and Levinas’ idea of ethics as first philosophy both serve to replace questions of monologic or monadic ontology that lie the center of much Hellenic philosophical inquiry with the distinctly Hebrew centrality of ethics and question of the relation. In Levinas this move is taken to the extreme of giving all to the other, being purely for the other and surrendering the self for the other. In Buber the move is mitigated – the self stands in relation to the other’s otherness, but does not surrender to the other but to the presence of the intersubjective. Here the notion of the between reigns. In both cases, however, the centrality of the subject/ego is displaced. The relation precedes the self and ego is, if not tamed, at least tethered. A second point relates to how alterity, by its very nature, enables us speakers to acknowledge radical differences in political and social location, communicative, symbolic, and social capital, etc. Unlike Habermasian discourse ethics of the ideal speech situation, who interlocutors to “bracket status differentials and deliberate as if they were social equals,” or a Rawlsian theory of justice, which asks interlocutors to deliberate behind a veil of ignorance with respect to social location, alterity in discourse ethics deliberately invites and acknowledges difference. We are called upon to never lose sight of the otherness of the other. That is we are asked to never mistake our understanding of the other for the other, to impose our meaning and understanding upon the other, to absorb/assimilate/appropriate the other into ourselves. To not absorb your difference into my same. The third contribution alterity makes to democratic discourse ethics relates what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. named the “call to conscience” – the sense of my ethical obligation to the other. Buber terms this the response inherent in responsibility. Drawing on the Biblical injunction to “love thy neighbor as thyself” alterity in discourse contains a tacit reminder to give

Authors: Lipari, Lisbeth.
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Recognition and the Other, p. 2
notions of alterity allow for the decentering the subject/ego. Buber’s notion of the relation as
primary and Levinas’ idea of ethics as first philosophy both serve to replace questions of
monologic or monadic ontology that lie the center of much Hellenic philosophical inquiry with
the distinctly Hebrew centrality of ethics and question of the relation. In Levinas this move is
taken to the extreme of giving all to the other, being purely for the other and surrendering the self
for the other. In Buber the move is mitigated – the self stands in relation to the other’s otherness,
but does not surrender to the other but to the presence of the intersubjective. Here the notion of
the between reigns. In both cases, however, the centrality of the subject/ego is displaced. The
relation precedes the self and ego is, if not tamed, at least tethered.
A second point relates to how alterity, by its very nature, enables us speakers to acknowledge
radical differences in political and social location, communicative, symbolic, and social capital,
etc. Unlike Habermasian discourse ethics of the ideal speech situation, who interlocutors to
“bracket status differentials and deliberate as if they were social equals,” or a Rawlsian theory of
justice, which asks interlocutors to deliberate behind a veil of ignorance with respect to social
location, alterity in discourse ethics deliberately invites and acknowledges difference. We are
called upon to never lose sight of the otherness of the other. That is we are asked to never
mistake our understanding of the other for the other, to impose our meaning and understanding
upon the other, to absorb/assimilate/appropriate the other into ourselves. To not absorb your
difference into my same.
The third contribution alterity makes to democratic discourse ethics relates what the Rev.
Martin Luther King Jr. named the “call to conscience” – the sense of my ethical obligation to the
other. Buber terms this the response inherent in responsibility. Drawing on the Biblical
injunction to “love thy neighbor as thyself” alterity in discourse contains a tacit reminder to give


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