Volume 22, Issue 2, Autumn 2017
Thinking with Paul Ricoeur
Who is the Other?
The Levinas–Ricoeur Debate
This paper deals with the problem of what otherness consists in, and what its foundation is, within the I–Other relation. In this way, the study also explores the limits of ethics and of a quasi-religious attitude, in order to establish what is required to shape interpersonal relations in a non-violent way, when faced with the radical otherness of another human being. Such an investigation also intersects with a broader ethical discussion that aims to take account of glorious or heroic acts, focused on the issue of supererogation. The aim of the present study is to demonstrate the degree to which a neglect of reciprocity and justice in the context of such philosophical research constitutes a risky step. To this end, the main aspects of the debate between Emmanuel Levinas and Paul Ricoeur are introduced. After examining the position of Levinas, and how Ricoeur interprets the I–Other relation in Levinas, an attempt is made to assess whether the latter’s line of criticism is pertinent and helpful for attempts to arrive at the core of the disagreement between the two thinkers.