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Thursday, 28 April 2016

The appeal of the Other and the ontology of a monad

Been in a superficial contact with Løgstrup's The Ethical Demand and relating his ethical claims with Levinas'. Thinking about the space opened by the appeal of the Other (or the demand of the Other) as the source of something like moral perception, the connection between action and reward and even ethical virtues. Løgstrup seems to try to understand some moral attitudes in terms of a demand that makes one open to the Other. The appeal of the Other, importantly, doesn't get its force either from inclinations or from obligations. It is neither a psychological passion nor a duty. It is something else, something that doesn't involve necessities at all and something that displays a vulnerability, the vulnerability of the appeal from a vulnerable Other. The appeal opens up a space of co-existence, where the Same is touched by the Other in such a way that it cannot be a all-assimilating unity. It also makes the Other permeate the Same, in a sort of scission inside being where the Same is a stage for the Other, the Other both alien and present, stranger and yet shaping the native character of the Same. The appeal is not made of necessity, but of vulnerabilities. (Maybe because as Jabès writes somewhere in the Book of Questions, necessities always give way to further necessities). The appeal deal in vulnerabilities: the vulnerability of the Other that appeals and the vulnerability of the Same disclosed by the force of the appeal. From the point of view of the Same, which is always the point of view of the appeal - it is always the perspective-laden viewpoint - the Other doesn't compel, doesn't impinge, doesn't force anything, but it insists. It is an insistence - the insistence of the foreigner. The insistence of the appeal is its only power and it involves being a neighbor, asking for hospitality, begging for refuge. Begging is a good approximation, perhaps, of the appeal - it is something that calls in without enlisting. Hospitality is the state of the Ego appealed by the Other - the Same that lodges something else while not making it into its house.

To be sure, my moves are maybe turning into general ontology what was meant to be irreducibly ethical - and about the personal relation to me, concerning the I-You relation, the personal ground. There is a dimension of the personal that is always lost in ontological claims. But still, let me carry on by saying provisionally that the ontological will have to turn personal.

If we take hospitality to be in the centre of the appeal and the response to the scission and co-existence within Being, we can say that it is at the very kernel of what is actual. I was wondering if I can then consider the ontic as composed by a multiplicity of actualities interconnected (like monads) and the ontological as this structure of hospitality. In fact, Leibniz's monads (or anyone else's) are fundamentally open to its relations to the others. A monad is what it is because it has the relation it has with the other monads - and this is also true of actual entities experiencing other actual entities in Whitehead. Now, Whitehead (in Modes of Thought) claims that actualities are like organisms endowed with creativity, purpose and a sense of self-satisfaction. Here he's putting forward a theory about what is inside an actual entity, how is it constituted. What is interesting is that we can think of these three features in terms of the appeal of the Other. Self-satisfaction, in contrast with self-concern, is about finding a place around one's life that is fitting and conducive to oneself and to what is around - it can be linked with hospitality. Creativity and purpose have to do with making things happen in the world in such a way that respond to an ongoing friction between Same and Other. In any case, if the internal structure of the actual entity can be understood in terms of the appeal of the Other, we can then have a intra-agent account of hospitality that would push both obligations and inclination to the ontic, inter-agent side of things. What would then be in the centre of agency is neither a spontaneity understood as self-determination nor a natural necessity but an appeal in all its vulnerability.

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