The Question of the Other

By Bernhard Waldenfels

Subjects: Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791473726, 162 pages, June 2016
Hardcover : 9780791473719, 162 pages, September 2007

Introduces the phenomenology of the Other, taking into account the work of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, Schutz, and Derrida, but mostly going back to things themselves.


Drawn from a series of lectures that Bernhard Waldenfels delivered in honor of the Chinese philosopher Tang Junyi, The Question of the Other is a collection of seven papers introducing what he calls a new sort of responsive phenomenology. This means that our experience does not start from our own intentions or from our common understanding, but from something that happens and appeals to us, disturbing our projects and forcing us to respond. We only become ourselves by responding to the Other. Hence otherness is not restricted to the otherness of the Other or to that of another order, it rather penetrates ourselves. We need a peculiar logic of response which includes items like singularity, inevitability, and asymmetry, and which transgresses the limits of common rules. This general perspective will be specified by dealing with crucial issues such as: the power of events which precede our own initiatives; a special kind of time lag which separates what strikes us from our responding; the intertwining of selfhood and otherness within our bodily experience; and violence as an extreme form of refusing and violating the Other's demand. At last it will be shown how otherness penetrates the spatial structures of our lifeworld and how hospitality shapes our being in the world. Otherness means being never completely at home.

Bernhard Waldenfels, born in 1934, studied philosophy, psychology, classical philology, and history in Bonn, Innsbruck, and Munich. He earned his PhD from the University of Munich in 1959. From 1960–1962, he studied modern French philosophy in Paris with Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur. In 1967 he finished his Habilitation at Munich. He taught there until 1976 when he was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Since 1999 he is Professor Emeritus. He has been a visiting professor in Rotterdam, Paris, New York, Louvain-la Neuve, Costa Rica, Debrecen, Prague, Rome, Vienna, and Hong Kong. He is a cofounder of the German Society for Phenomenological Research.


"After the death of Paul Ricoeur, Bernhard Waldenfels can justifiably be regarded as the most original living phenomenologist. For decades a nonconformist among German philosophers, Waldenfels has seen his favorite topics, the body and the Other, become focuses of mainstream philosophical discussion." — Elmar Holenstein, Professor Emeritus, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at Zurich

"Bernhard Waldenfels is the most important systematic thinker of otherness in the phenomenological tradition. These stimulating lectures, delivered at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, discuss the horror of the alien and analyze its occurrence in terms of a preconceptual pathos that elicits a response on the part of the human subject. Just as this deep affectivity precedes linguistic description, so the Other occasioning it bears a surplus that lies beyond whatever is said about it. Readers will find in these lively lectures an original and illuminating understanding of otherness as it enters into their everyday lives." — Edward S. Casey, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Stony Brook University, State University of New York