The Other in Philosophy (Quotes, Concepts, Authors)

Others in philosophy

Others, in philosophy, is a recent concept. Until Hegel, the question of otherness had no right of city, solipsism (only the subject existed) still prevailed in Descartes and classical philosophers.

“The Other, as another, is not only my alter-ego. He is what I am not” Levinas.

Another is the one who is not me, he is the one I am not and at the same time he is the same as me (he belongs to the human condition). Similar and different, close and distant other is both the one I can not do without and the one who sometimes insults me. Others is especially the one that I have the duty to recognize as subject, but can I know it? How to get along with others?

Can we get along with others?

Like me, the other is a consciousness that thinks of the world and interprets itself. How can I have access to interiority, to the interiority of a consciousness that is not mine? Indeed, another is not an object but a subject, an identity that is not given to me in a definitive way but which is constructed, evolving. Other is elusive. How can two liberties (his and mine) be heard and not clash with each other in a perpetual confrontation?

Man is not naturally sociable Text of Hobbes P.62: “Of the citizen”

For Hobbes, man is not naturally sociable, he became sociable only by accident. The state of nature was defined by a state of permanent war of all against all: Hobbes: “man is a wolf for man”. This state of nature: the state that precedes the one that establishes that of the contract in which men will agree to limit their natural freedom in favour of civil liberty certainly limited but pacified.

The state of nature is a theoretical fiction and not a historical reality, it is a working hypothesis to think of man before and independently of any socialization.

In this state of nature, reigns the right of the strongest, reigns the natural freedom, it is synonymous with power and force. In the state of nature, men have their body and their minds without legal or ethical limits, they aspire for the same ends, hence a perpetual rivalry. Each man tries to dominate the other, the freedom is without limit, the state of war is permanent. Then the man wanted to leave this state of war: he and others agree to relinquish on the one hand their individual freedom to establish a contract between all men to access collective freedom. The contract is a product of reason and represents a state superior to that of the state of nature which was only violence.

To get along with others is not easy because this agreement implies a limitation of everyone’s freedom, an obstacle to desire. ; Others is, therefore, a limit to the self but I am also the limit to the self of others. The other is therefore unbearable but it is also indispensable and my agreement with him proceeds from “unsociable sociability”.

Kant’s “unsociable sociability” text, a universal idea from a cosmopolitan point of view

It is the opposition, the incompatibility between two principles that ensures the development of society.

Society (in Latin societas) means a group united in an organized, regulated world with exchanges of services.

Society therefore implies a state of culture, a state in which man realizes his physical and intellectual dispositions. But in this state of culture man is torn between two antagonistic things:

  • The need to associate with other men (so to participate in a collective life)
  • The desire to seek to satisfy one’s personal interest (thus living in an individualistic way)

This “unsociable sociability”, which will allow beyond the disorder and paradoxically put in place a culture, a civilization, effective sociability. It is because man is moved by a personal interest that he stands against other men, this phenomenon creates stimulation, the emulation between men. This struggle is what makes the man come out of idleness, he develops his talents and aptitudes: his thoughts go from “gross disposition” to moral discernment. It is because it resists my desires and because I resist to its own that the intellectual development of each leads to the triumph of reason: it is the natural unsociability of man that drives his cultural sociability.

If others insult me, it is less in that it differs from me than in that it resembles me: we desire the same things and what we take is necessarily lacking in the other. Another is, therefore, a threat because a rival: he is elusive, he is a conscience whose access is impossible for me. But if I can not know others, I have to get along with him beyond this inaccessibility: if I do not know them, I must recognize him.

I can not know anyone else, but I have the moral duty to recognize him. Other is necessary to the constitution of the self like subject.
The recognition of the other by me, by me by the other is what constructs us as consciousness: this reciprocity in recognition is what establishes intersubjectivity: the recognition that we are two subjects, two consciences that are say in the world from a recognition that is both confrontational and necessary.

Others and me: a reciprocal recognition (Text of Hegel Precis of the encyclopedia of philosophical sciences)

According to Hegel, the first moment of this recognition of the one by the other is that of the struggle between two consciences which affirm themselves first of all by a reciprocal negation: each one wants to be recognized by the other in order to get out of his only subjectivity, the only certainty of itself. Each conscience wants the other to recognize it in order to have objective proof of its existence. Why?

Truth implies a relationship between a subject and an object and my consciousness does not want to be an object for another consciousness. I can only be recognized as awareness by another consciousness: I can only be recognized as self-consciousness by another self-awareness. In the same way, the consciousness of others can be recognized as self-consciousness only because my conscience recognizes it as such.

“The general self-awareness is the affirmative recognition of oneself in the other self” (Hegel)

Another recognized self-consciousness by the self-awareness that I am myself thus allows intersubjectivity: the recognition of two consciousnesses that recognize themselves as subjects. But this recognition cannot mean the knowledge of others in its essence. I recognize it as self-awareness in the same way as me but another is another than me with his desires, his projects … a relationship to the world different from mine. This is why another person, the incarnation of freedom in the world, is the one to whom I owe respect.

Recognize others: recognize the humanity in others and therefore recognize my own humanity.

Without others, the world would be reduced to my only point of view, the world would be reduced to the only representation I make of it. The presence of others is therefore also, for me, the assurance of an externality, of the existence of something other than my only relation to the world. Others: a relation to the possible world, different ideas that I confront: others: the one with whom I transform myself, near which I become another.

Other: the one who separates me from my egocentrism

The other: the one that limits me and stimulates me, and to recognize as subject as much as me and as other than me, is to leave my egocentrism. This limit to the expression of my self is not only private, but it is also what allows me to separate from the indifference of one and to recognize the other as the identity of you. To respect others is also to respect the other in myself and to respect me through others, it is the recognition of belonging to one and the same human condition.

To separate from egocentrism: to separate from ethnocentrism.

Text by Claude Lévi-Strauss “Race and history”

The natural psychological dispositions make it always difficult to admit what is different from us, which is culturally foreign to us because, in the face of the unknown, we remain without reference, without possible support to answer it. The first movement is the rejection of what is unfamiliar to us.
However, there is only one human species. Civilizations are only particular expressions of one and the same species, one and the same humanity.
Not to recognize the humanity in the man who faces me by calling him a “barbarian” means to lead me like what I reproach him for being: not to recognize the humanity in the other: not to recognize the humanity in myself. By excluding it from human nature, I exclude myself, I am the savage: “By refusing humanity appearing as the most savage or barbaric of its representatives, we only borrow them an of their typical attitudes. The barbarian is first of all those who believe in barbarism “.
Other is not only my neighbour, he is also far away, but he can also belong to a culture very different from mine with different social codes. Another is the one who embodies and presents me with other ways of thinking in the world, to relate to it with rites, exchanges … different from mine. ; another is the closest and the farthest to me, he is the one who humbles me when he is recognized and recognizes me.

Rousseau: “He who imagines nothing feels only himself, he is alone in the middle of the human race”

Solitude: the greatest suffering (Text of hume “Treatise on human nature”)

The greatest suffering: loneliness. When happiness is not shared, it is less, when the suffering is not shared it is amplified.
All passions imply sympathy “to suffer with”. the passions are the same in all men.
Even if all powers were given to one man, even if all desires were fulfilled, this man would remain miserable if he was without communion, without sharing. Only one absolutely alone cannot be happy.
In the experience of the dialogue “, they fit (the two interlocutors) in an operation of which each of us is the creator” Merleau-Ponty. “Our perspectives slip into each other, we coexist through the same world”

“I give him thoughts, he makes me think back”

Other integrates with my life, I integrate with his by the dialogue and the memory of this objective and objective dialogue which become constitutive of the moments of my life: double objectification, mutual objectification: what denies me as subject and also what constitutes me as a subject, another is the one that alters me and without which I will be in total solipsism. This otherness is present in the thought of Levinas with the notion of Face. The Face introduces me to the Other in its most extreme destitution, it imposes on me an ethical relation.

Tournier: Friday or the limbo of the Pacific

“Against the optical illusion, the hallucination, the waking dream, the fantasy, the delirium, the audition trouble … the surest rampart is our brother, our neighbor, our friend or our enemy but someone great Gods, someone “.

Specific definitions of philosophers on the other

Hegel: “Since it is necessary that each of the two self-consciousnesses, who oppose each other, strive to manifest and assert themselves before the other and for the other, as an absolute being-for-self, thereby the one who has preferred life to freedom and who is powerless to make, by itself and to ensure its independence, abstraction of its present sensible reality, thus enters into the relationship of servitude “(Phenomenology of the mind)

Sartre: “Another is the other, that is to say the self which is not me” (Being and Nothingness)

Sartre: “Another is this self from which nothing separates me, absolutely nothing except its pure and total freedom” (Being and Nothingness)

Sartre: “The Other is the mediator between me and myself […] The For-Self refers to the For-Others” (Being and Nothingness)

Derrida: “As long as the other as other has not been in some way” welcomed “in the epiphany, in the withdrawal or the visitation of his face, there can be no sense in speaking of peace. With the same one is never at peace “(The Concept of September 11)

Derrida: – “Another is secret because he is other” (The Concept of September 11)

Levinas: “The self, in front of others, is infinitely responsible” (Ethics and Infinity)

Levinas: “The face of my neighbour is an otherness that opens the beyond. The God of heaven is accessible without losing anything of his transcendence, but without denying the freedom of the believer “(Ethics and Infinity)

Levinas: “The face speaks” (Ethics and Infinity)

Husserl: “I do not apprehend the other simply as my double. I do not apprehend it either provided with my original sphere or a sphere similar to mine, nor equipped with spatial phenomena that belong to me as related to the here. But, to consider the thing more closely, it is his body which is constituted in an original way and is given in the mode of an “absolute snag”, functional center of its action “(Cartesian Meditations)

Heidegger: “The others are those who most of the time do not stand out” (Being and Time)

Cite this article as: Tim, "The Other in Philosophy (Quotes, Concepts, Authors), June 3, 2019, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, June 3, 2019,