Volume 82, 2008
Shall I Love You as My Brother?
Deconstruction, Friendship, and Our Shared Future
This essay begins with a perceived problem found in Maurice Blanchot’s work, namely that, while on the one hand, love as we find it in friendship is based upon the separation of two people, a distance which can never be erased; on the other hand, Blanchot makes a comment in a letter to the effect that ‘the Jews are our brothers,’ indicating a love based upon the familial bond, or closeness. This would seem (to some readers, such as Jacques Derrida) to involve a contradiction between the closeness and the distance created in a love relationship. The next section of this essay asks what ‘love of neighbor’ or ‘brotherly love’ could mean and if it can or does exist. Herein, we analyze the response of Sigmund Freud who thinks that it doesn’t exist—that I might be able to respect my neighbor, or have an ethical duty towards my neighbor, but not ‘love.’ We then take a closer look at Derrida, who does believe that there could be a love of neighbor, but that it is through understanding friendship—not brotherhood—that we arrive at this ‘democratic love.’ My conclusion (which aligns with Blanchot and Emmanuel Levinas to some degree) is that: (1) we can have a love of neighbor; and (2) brotherhood, or what I call sibial love, is the best way to understand it. The first point is in accordance with Derrida’s view, while the latter is not.