Alter Ego: Toward a Response Ethics of Self-Relation Open Access

Anderson, Ellie (2016)

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Operating at the intersection of response ethics and the study of selfhood , my dissertation defends an account of the self according to which the self is constructed through otherness. Influenced by twentieth-century French philosophy, particularly response ethics, deconstruction, and phenomenology, I claim that internal otherness is the basis of ethical responsiveness to oneself and others. I argue that our internal otherness exceeds the bounds of consciousness, knowledge, and representation: it cannot be captured by something like self-knowledge. Rather, our conscious understanding of ourselves relies on more originary modes of self-relation that demonstrate internal otherness. I show that modes of self-relation such as decision making, auto-affection, and the first-person perspective attest to internal otherness and suggest that selfhood and otherness are constituted through their relation to one another. I argue that this relation is one of contamination, such that selfhood and otherness are never pure or absolutely separate from one another. I then claim that, just as self-relation is not primarily a matter of knowledge, neither is the relation to other beings. Rather, we relate to others as other because we are other to ourselves. This culminates in an ethic of reciprocity that foregrounds the difference between oneself and other beings. My account of selfhood and otherness draws primarily on the work of Jacques Derrida, while also employing the theories of Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The dissertation critiques the model of the self-other relation offered by Emmanuel Levinas, which dominates discourses in response ethics today. It shows that Derrida's deconstruction is a rich but frequently overlooked resource for an account of selfhood that foregrounds internal otherness and renders coherent the relation to other beings in and through their otherness.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: Self-Relation Beyond the Play of the Same 28

1. Levinas on Interior Life

2. The Infinitely Other is the Same

3. Possibilities of ‘True Alterity' within the Self in Totality and Infinity

4. Beyond Totality and Infinity: Why Substitution is Not the Answer

5. Conclusion

Chapter 2: Deconstructing Selfhood 82

1. Différance and the trace

a. Différance

b. Trace

2. Other ‘Quasi-Transcendental' Terms for the Otherness of the Same

3. Auto-Affection and the Decision

a. Auto-Affection

b. Decision

4. Conclusion

Chapter 3: Deconstructing the First-Person Perspective 152

1. Deconstruction and the First-Person Perspective

a. Zahavi's Critique of Derrida

b. Contamination of the First-Person Perspective

2. Merleau-Ponty on the First-Person Perspective

a. The Contaminated First-Person Perspective in the Phenomenology of Perception

b. A Defense of Merleau-Ponty on Reversibility

3. Conclusion

Chapter 4: Deconstructing Intersubjectivity 202

1. Same Difference?

2. The Intersubjectivity of Analogical Appresentation

a. Husserl on analogical appresentation

b. Derrida's defense of Husserlian analogical appresentation

3. The More You Know, the Less You Know

a. More (identification) is less (identification)

b. Symmetrical asymmetry of the self and the alter ego

4. The Undecidability Between Oneself and Others

5. Conclusion

Chapter 5: An Ethic of Nonreciprocal Reciprocity 253

1. Levinasian Alterity and the Rejection of Reciprocity

a. Levinas's rejection of reciprocity

b. Eros in Levinas

2. Beauvoir's Affirmation of Alterity in Reciprocity

a. Beauvoir's Account of Reciprocity

b. Eros in Beauvoir

3. Conclusion

Conclusion 300

Works Cited 308

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