Journal of Philosophy: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry

Volume 8, Issue 20, Fall 2015

Charley Ejede Mejame
Pages 49-68

The Question of Alterity and the Problem of Encounters, Communication, and Dialogue

Contemporary philosophers, humanists, and social scientists have been wrestling with the difficulties mankind has in living together, with the problem of alterity, the problem of the other, the conundrum of the damnation of hell (as Jean-Paul Sartre terms it), its torture or agony and sufferings in the modern world. It is mentioned that we are nothing without others, that we are strongly interdependent, and that it is beyond the bounds of possibility avoiding their presence, which is basic to what we are. Yet living together with them is complex and difficult. Sundry problems, torments are, as it were, caused by their behaviors and judgments. We are sent negative images as well as deterministic plans to wrestle with. For Jean-Paul Sartre our relation with others is per se conflictual. The problem of alterity has all along presented serious problems to philosophers and humanists; they have not only found themselves powerless in the face of these manifestations but even seems foster them. This article identifies and examines the function and the devastating repercussions of this conflict, the representation, which we every one of us can have of himself in terms of identity in contemporary society. The paper also establishes significant points of convergence and contrast between contemporary Western thinkers (Levinas, Derrida etc.) and the healing wisdom of Africa implicit in its yet to be explored linguistic and literary corpus in addressing contemporary problems in humans living together, the problematic of an ethical life. According to Edgar Morin, we are in the prehistory of the human mind, meaning that the human mental capacities are yet to be explored, especially at the level of our relations with others.

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