A Different Alterity: Jean-Luc Nancy's ‘Singular Plural’

Paragraph 30 (2):50-64 (2007)
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Abstract

Under the influence of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, the theme of absolute alterity still dominates the thinking of the ethical in Continental philosophy. This article examines an alternative ethical démarche, Jean-Luc Nancy's ‘singular plurality’, which refuses to start with the opposition of same and other, arguing instead for a primacy of relation, the ‘in-common’ and the ‘with’. The article first distinguishes Nancy's ‘singular plural’ from other recent attempts to disengage ethical thinking from the Levinasian framework, before showing how Nancy proceeds otherwise than in terms of sameness and alterity while still maintaining an ethical impetus. Foregrounding what is politically and philosophically at stake in the difference between Nancy and the Levinasian/Derridean model, the article concludes by considering how Nancy can be defended against critics who mistakenly argue that he discounts alterity.

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Christopher Watkin
Monash University

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