“It is finally on the ethical plane that the affection of the self by the other displays the specific features that belong as much to the properly ethical plane as to the moral plane of obligation. The very definition of ethics that we have proposed-living well with and for others in just institutions-cannot be conceived without the project of living well being affected by solicitude, both that which is exerted and that which is received. Prior to any consideration of the justice of the exchanges, the dialectic of self-esteem and friendship can be entirely rewritten in terms of a dialectic of action and affection. In order to be the ‘friend of oneself’-in accordance with Aristotelian philautia-one must already have entered into a relation of friendship with others, as though friendship for oneself were a self-affection rigorously correlative to the affection by and for the other as friend. In this sense, friendship forms the bed of justice, as the virtue ‘for others,’ following another of Aristotle’s sayings. The passage from ethics to morality-from the optative mode of living well to the imperative mode of obligation-occurred… under the protection of the Golden Rule, to which we thought we gave full credit by assigning it to the merit of interposing the commandment at the very intersection of the asymmetrical relation between doing and undergoing (the good you would want to be done to you, the evil you would hate to be done to you). Acting and suffering then seem to be distributed between two different protagonists: the agent and the patient, the latter appearing as the potential victim by the other. Inasmuch as one is affected by the power over one exerted by the other, the agent is invested with the responsibility of an action that is placed from the very outset under the rule of reciprocity, which the rule of justice will transform into a rule of equality. Since each protagonist holds two roles, being both agent and patient, the formalism of the categorical imperative requires the ‘matter’ of a plurality of acting beings each affected by forces exerted reciprocally.
The question here is that of determining what new figure of otherness is called for by this affection of the ipse by the other than self and, by implication, what dialected of the Same and the Other replies to the demand for a phenomenology of the self affected by the other than self.
I should like to show essentially that it is impossible to construct this dialectic in a unilateral manner, whether one attempts, with Husserl, to derive the alter ego from the ego or whether, with Lévinas, one reserves for the Other the exclusive initiative for assigning responsibility to the self. A two-pronged conception of otherness remains to be constructed here, one that does justice in turn to the primary of self-esteem and also to the primacy of the convocation to justice coming from the other. What is at stake here… is a formulation of otherness that is homogeneous with the fundamental distinction between two ideas of the Same-the Same as idem and the Same as ipse-a distinction upon which our entire philosophy of selfhood (ipseity) has been based” (Ricoeur 1994:330-331).
1994 Oneself as Another. Kathleen Blamey, trans. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
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