The Disadvantages of Radical Alterity for a Comparative Methodology

The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 7:125-130 (2007)
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The idea of a philosophical Other as comparativists have often historically used it to signify radical alterity, although sometimes a remedy and correction for the erroneous generalizations which originate from a presupposition of human sameness, merely shifts the center of philosophy's unchallenged assumptions in at least two ways. First, the notion of a philosophical Other avoids an explicit characterization of how one recognizes that one is philosophizing in the sphere of this Other and of what "otherness" is philosophically interesting. Second, the notion of a philosophical Other is unable to capture and describe the dynamic, ever-changing relations that serve to demarcate philosophical traditions or spatio-temporal webs of thinkers in the first place. For the sake of the comparative project of exposing the comparativist's own culturally-embedded assumptions, comparative methodology should allow for the possibility of analyzing more than one place where similarities and differences can present themselves at the same time. In short, comparativists would serve their own interests better if they began to approach their projects in recognition of a complex, limitless, and dynamic array of sameness and difference, instead of with premature assumptions of radical alterity.

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Jennifer McWeeny
Worcester Polytechnic Institute


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