Otherness matters: Beauvoir, Hegel and the ethics of recognition

Sims, Chantelle (2009-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Philosophy))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study critically explores the meaning of difference in continental philosophy. Concomitantly, it reflects on the norm, with regard to, firstly, the authorities within the philosophical community who take it upon themselves to distinguish, on a “corporate” and/or intellectual level, between the normal and that which is different from the norm; secondly, the apparatus of limitation employed to constitute, legitimate and reinforce this distinction, alongside distinctions between the conventional and the peculiar, the traditional and the marginal, the philosophical and the non-philosophical, the essential and the secondary or supplementary, as well as, the same (or subject) and the other. The focus on these distinctions is narrowed to the field of phenomenology, more particularly, how the anthropologistic readings of Phenomenology of Spirit by the exponents of early French phenomenology not only add force to the canonical reception of Hegel as a follower of a philosophical tradition governed by solipsism and individualism, but also perpetuate two traditional concepts; to wit, otherness as something threatening that must be overcome and self-other relationships as inexorably violent. A reinterpretation of the dialectic of recognition reveals not only Hegel’s appreciation of the degree to which subjectivity is indebted to otherness, but also his notion of friendship as the reciprocal preservation of the other’s otherness. This notion of friendship is appropriated by Simone de Beauvoir, whose engagement with Hegel constitutes a radical departure from French phenomenology; by implication, normal practice. Beauvoir, both personally and in her work, confronts the philosophical community with the short-sighted, often destructive, ways in which it delimits the canon, particularly with regard to its “othering” of women and its disregard for the specificity of difference. In keeping with the anthropological spirit of the respective readings of Hegel, the study itself takes the form of an autobiography. It traces the intellectual journey of a non-Western, non-white, non-male scholar, from her sense of not belonging in the world of continental philosophy, to her critical engagement with Hegel, mediated by Beauvoir. In the process it aims to show that otherness matters and how it matters. Furthermore, it calls for writing and reading differently so as to encourage non-hegemonic philosophy.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie is ‘n kritiese verkenning van die betekenis van differensie in die kontinentale filosofie. Gepaardgaande hiermee, word besin oor die norm, met betrekking tot, eerstens, diegene wat gesaghebbend binne die filosofiese gemeenskap, d.w.s. met ‘n self-opgelegde mandaat om te onderskei, op ‘n “korporatiewe” en/of intellektuele vlak, tussen die norm en dit wat afwyk van die norm; en tweedens, die begrensing bepaal, wat aangewend word om hierdie onderskeid, tesame met onderskeidings tussen die konvensionele en die eie, die tradisionele en die marginale, die filosofiese en die nie-filosofiese, die sentrale en die sekondêre of aanvullende, asook (die)selfde (of subjek) en die ander, te konstitueer, legitimeer en versterk. Hierdie onderskeidings word ondersoek binne die veld van die fenomenologie; in die besonder, hoe die antropologistiese vertolkings van Phenomenology of Spirit, deur die verteenwoordigers van die vroeë Franse fenomenologie, die kanonieke beeld van Hegel as aanhanger van ‘n filosofiese tradisie, wat deur solipsisme en individualisme aangedryf word, bekragtig en daarmee saam twee tradisionele konsepte bestendig, naamlik, andersheid as ‘n bedreiging wat oorkom moet word en self-ander verhoudings as noodwendig gewelddadig. ‘n Herinterpretasie van die dialektiek van herkenning openbaar nie net Hegel se waarneming van die mate waartoe subjektiwiteit afhang van andersheid nie, maar ook sy idee van vriendskap as die wedersydse behoud van die ander se andersheid. Hierdie nosie van vriendskap word toe-geëien deur Simone de Beauvoir, wie se inskakeling met Hegel radikaal afwyk van die Franse fenomenologie, dus ook van standaard praktyk. Beauvoir, beide in persoon en in haar werk, konfronteer die filosofiese gemeenskap met die kortsigtige, dikwels afbrekende, wyse waarop hul die kanon begrens, veral met betrekking tot hul “be-andering” van vroue en hul minagting van die spesifisiteit van differensie. In ooreenstemming met die antropologiese gees van die onderskeie vertolkings van Hegel, neem die studie self die vorm van ‘n outobiografie aan. Dit volg die intellektuele verkenning van ‘n nie-Westerse, nie-wit, nie-manlike student, aanvanklik vanuit haar gevoel van ontuiswees in die wêreld van die kontinentale filosofie, tot haar kritiese inskakeling met Hegel, bemiddel deur Beauvoir. Hiermee wil die studie wys dat andersheid saak maak en hoe dit saak maak. Voorts beroep dit op ‘n anderse skryf en lees om sodoende nie-hegemoniese filosofie aan te moedig.

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