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Monday

Otherness


There have been a number of critical responses to the aforementioned accounts of subjectivity. We will consider two of them in particular.

The first concerns the priority that these accounts (and not only these accounts) give to our epistemological relations to the world over our ethical relations. Emmanuel Levinas argues that subjectivity does not originate in our capacity to know the world, but in our capacity to respond ethically to the other. Our ethical relation to the other, Levinas argues, is foundational to our other relations.

The second critique comes from Jacques Derrida. There are at least two important points which he makes. Firstly, along with the phenomenologist and the hermeneuticist, he maintains that knowledge requires language. But against them, he maintains that language can never really be adequate to the phenomenon which it is meant to express. The thing will always differ from the sign which we use to refer to it. This has interesting implications for the way we think about knowledge. Continuing in a similar vein, Derrida maintains, secondly, that the various systems that we develop to organize and structure knowledge cannot simply be said to be "out there" in the world, and that we will need to examine more thoroughly other considerations which may inform or influence the development of these structures and systems.