oa Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology - Friendship otherwise - toward a Levinasian description of personal friendship

Volume 5 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1445-7377



A Levinasian reading of intimate and personal friendship - of friendship "otherwise than political", as it were - suggests that intimate and personal friendship cannot be subsumed under either completely ethical or completely erotic terms. While friendship can be understood as a certain "fraternity", and thus be legitimately employed in discussing justice and politics, such a usage trades on a certain equivocation. Hermeneutics seeks to make the alien familiar, and deconstruction seeks to show that the familiar is always (already) alien. As this paper seeks to describe, a Levinasian reading of personal friendship involves both of these movements. In that Levinas, however, never explicitly addresses this relationship, the paper proceeds by sketching the broad contours of his thought before offering a phenomenology of personal friendship in the wake of the limits Levinas thematizes in his analysis of the ethical relation. The readings and analysis presented suggest that personal friendship appears as an irreducible excess, reducible to neither ethics nor enjoyment, while nevertheless passing through ethics and enjoyment. Friendship marks a space of non-violent familiarity and exteriority, a site of solidarity between identity and difference.

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