The Experience of the Alien and the Inter-world: From Waldenfels to Merleau-Ponty

Research in Phenomenology 53 (3):308-330 (2023)
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Abstract

This paper aims to lay out the main tenets of Bernhard Waldenfels’s analyses of the experience of the alien and to confront the philosophical thesis underwriting them with a central insight stemming from Merleau-Ponty’s late philosophy. In the first section, I reconstruct the outlines of the experience of the alien, as described by Waldenfels, and show that, on his account, this experience can function as a powerful impetus enabling us to call into question some of the most deeply held commitments of Western philosophical tradition: the sovereignty of the ego, the supremacy of order, the priority of the whole. In the second section, I show how a patient analysis of this experience compels us to undertake an inquiry concerning the “inter-world,” understood as the place of the encounter and the threshold of separation between the own and the alien. Finally, drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s alternative description of the “inter-world,” I maintain that Waldenfels’s account is insufficiently radical and show that the in-between realm cannot be assimilated to an interstice lodged between two insulated spheres. Rather, the “inter-world” should be conceived of as a shared dimension, subtending the partition between the spheres of ownness and alienness, as the one inclusive world.

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Ovidiu Stanciu
Universidad Diego Portales

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