zaterdag 24 mei 2008

The Same and the Other

The same and the other can not enter into a cognition that would encompass them.

And another one:
Metaphysics, transcendence, the welcoming of the other by the same, of the Other by me, is concretely produced as the calling into question of the same by the other, that is, as the ethics that accomplishes the critical essence of knowledge.

Could it be more abstract?
Yes, with Levinas it can sound much more abstract. But nicer is to point to a scientific report that all of a sudden concretizes what Levinas describes. On the basis of that report it appears that Levinas managed to use age-old concepts, stemming from Plato, for expressing an insight which a scientific experiment can elucidate now in understandable terms.

The experiment that was reported about was neurologic and it showed that the braincells with which we think about ourselves are the same as those we use to think about people who resemble us. About people who do not resemble us we think with another part of the brain.

So it becomes clear that refractory Platonic terms as The Same and The Other reappear in an acceptable way in neurological surveys. Even at the level of the grammatical forms that are being used. It can look like being unnecessarily abstract when Levinas speaks about The Same and The Other in stead of about the Self and the Other.

But with a better look, this is exactly what happens in the report of the experiment. The crucial distinction we can make here doesn’t lie primarily between my self and the other, but between me and the people who resemble me – so: the same – on the one hand, and the rest – the other – on the other hand. So it’s exactly the most abstract wording which connects with the neurological experiment.

This is interesting in itself. But apart from that it has consequences for the way in which we interpret Levinas. The findings offer support for an interpretation of the Other as referring certainly not to each other person. For to the group of all other persons belong people who feel as likes. Rather the Other refers to others who, at a certain moment, feel as truly different. So, they form a selection from within the group of all others.

I want to add that also the confrontation with those other others does not always produce the encounter with the Other that Levinas discusses. This remains unpredictable.

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