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Idealistic Studies

Volume 33, Issue 1, Spring 2003

James Mensch
Pages 1-7

Givenness and Alterity

One of the most difficult problems faced by phenomenology is the mystery of our self-showing. How do we show ourselves to be what we are? How do we manifest our selfhood to one another? In this article, I examine what we intend when we direct ourselves to another person. I also look at what sort of fulfillment—i.e., what kind of givenness—satisfies this intention. I will defend the claim that to intend another person is, paradoxically, to intend the other as exceeding our intentions. As such, the showing which manifests the presence of the other is a kind of “excessive givenness.” It is a givenness that makes us aware that more is being given than we can formulate in our intentions. This awareness points to the other’s freedom. It is also a moral awareness. I conclude by arguing that our awareness of this type of givenness is our entrance into morality.

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