How might we consider the other as integral to self? It’s a question older than philosophy and one that has plagued it. This is not the place for a broad philosophic overview, but I would like to point towards Levinas’ humanistic approach which suggests a moral imperative, thus a responsibility, to exist between self and other. As Richard Cohen has written: ‘For Levinas, the dignity of the self arises in and as an unsurpassable moral responsibility to and for the other person’. This does not just involve basic human dignity towards the other, it extends to the dignity of the self serving the other over economic and territorial interests, social hierarchies, or our various forms and increasingly complex forms of self-interest.
Writing is communal responsibility in action. What are we, if not at least relational to the other? If the other is morally bankrupt, then surely his currency affects the entire human stock market, including who we are. The integrity of any culture is always reflective of a wider, human civilisation. Art that preserves or protects nationalist interests is always in danger of reducing the human to the tribal, often at the cost of reducing the human to the inhuman. The other is where we are from, where we are heading towards. The other is who we ourselves are.
James Byrne, June 18, 2016