Providing a solid media-philosophical groundwork, the book contributes to the theory of alterity in Performance Philosophy, while stimulating and inspiring future inquiries where studies in media, art, and literature intersect with philosophy. It collects a selective as well as productive diversity of philosophical, literary, and artistic figures of thought, attaining an exacting framework as a result of a clearly elaborated ethics of alterity, innovatively opened up by way of an aisthetics of existence: Touching upon the Aristotelian concept of aisthesis, the material, perceptual and sensory dimensions of everyday bodily existence are highlighted to move beyond what aesthetics in Modern Philosophy just specializes in, namely art and the beautiful. The notion of existence is therefore borrowed from Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who understands it as something concrete and richly interrelated, so as to avoid the dualisms both of psychological processes of consciousness and of physiological mechanisms. It is thus made explicit such that the unity of body and soul is not any arbitrarily arranged connection between “subject” and “object” but, rather, that it is enacted at every instant in the movement of existence. Imaginatively then, the book puts into writing how alterity not only can be treated theoretically but can be also made accessible through writing as well as rendered relatable through reading. That is why it deals with exemplary interpersonal encounters in the lifeworld, in the arts, and in the media, which are initially thematized as intercorporeal experiences, so as to enable an approach for an ethics of alterity by way of, in particular, sites located within a phenomenology of perception oriented towards the lived body.
Jörg Sternagel is a scholar in media studies with a focus on media philosophy.
Foreword: A personal response to Ethics of Alterity
Chapter 1: Opening Up Before Opening Up
Chapter 2: Being Visible, Rendering Visible, and Being Invisible
Chapter 3: Prosthethics
Chapter 4: Face, Mask, and Visage
Chapter 5: Responsivity of the Lived Body
Chapter 6: Moments of the Ethical
Chapter 7: Pathology of the Lived Body
Chapter 8: Aesthetics of L’écriture Féminine
Chapter 9: The Event of Hospitality
Chapter 10: Vita Communis
Chapter 11: Ethics of Ethics
About the Author
This innovative and original work interrogates the condition and performance of alterity across poetry, film and a range of visual and literary arts. Weaving together political philosophy, phenomenology and theories of language and embodiment, Ethics of Alterity poses fundamental questions about the claims to be made by the Self and the Other and the responsibility that arises in their relation.
Ethics of Alterity pulled me into a creative optimism. Building upon delicate observations and a well-crafted exchange between theories and ideas, Jörg Sternagel brings together the aisthetics of human existence and the ethical core of creative thinking. However, this book brings forth more than a theoretical interplay, it paves and inspires a way of living, in which experience, observation and ideas comprehensively interact. Ethics of Alterity is a heartwarming celebration of human nature and culture, and of the great potential that our ‘being-among-others’ has.
With the title of this book, Jörg Sternagel calls to mind the fundamental difference Kierkegaard established between the gravitas of ethics and the free play of aesthetics. For his part, however, Sternagel takes up the trajectories of a phenomenology of corporeal and intercorporeal existence, as it has developed heretofore via Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas. In so doing, it is the claim of the alien that sets the tone, raising questions concerning everything of the Self. Sternagel’s work calls forth compelling concepts like the alien visage, substitution, hospitality, and the language of the sexes—motifs that confront us with alien claims over and over again. This responsive kind of phenomenology leads to surprising encounters between, say, Theodor Adorno and the comedian Charlie Chaplin, between Jacques Derrida and the jazz musician Ornette Coleman, or between Emmanuel Levinas and Paul Celan, two Jewish voices from a long-contested Eastern Europe.
Much has been written about embodiment in contemporary theory. In Ethics of Alterity: Aisthetics of Existence, Jörg Sternagel takes on what might be called the paradoxes of embodiment, how we are present and absent to ourselves, how we are connected but distinct from others, how we both express and conceal, and how our senses are themselves composed in a mediated space that constitutes and is constituted by the social world. As part of performance philosophy, Jörg Sternagel interweaves literature, poetry, art, and theatre with philosophy mirroring the way in which our own existence is permeated constantly by the world. Our embodiment is the grounds for an ethics, not out of intellectual duty, but as emerging from this complex shifting situation in which we exist. In such a manner, we find the ethics of alterity is a responsibility as not an intellectual conclusion, but that arises out of our embodied response-ability and capacity to transform the world through our art, our philosophy, and our shared human life.