Toward the Name of the Other

Quaestiones Disputatae 10 (1):82-109 (2019)
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In recent decades, Western philosophy, including personalism, has had to face the question of how to respect the otherness of the personal Other, a challenge issued most famously by Emmanuel Levinas. In his Totality and Infinity, Levinas's conclusions about alterity are stark. The Other is beyond all conceptualization and precedes my activity as a subject. It is the Other who founds my own independent subjectivity as an "I."1 These are indeed radical conclusions, but they raise the question, Does the very term Other itself fully capture the alterity Levinas wishes to do justice to? The term Other (autrui) has a certain unavoidable generality and abstractness to it. Any person who is not myself, the world's population minus one, can be referred to by this term. Yet the Other is always richly distinguished in each case, for each Other is unique. I will argue that the personalist philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand reveals that the alterity of the Other rests on the more fundamental uniqueness of the content of our personhood. This content, which is a value, is disclosed in love, and it is indicated in the personal name. It is the name that, better than the term Other, captures the alterity of the personal Other.
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