Otherness and the Poetics of Love

John Wall

in Moral Creativity

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780195182569
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835737 | DOI:

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

  Otherness and the Poetics of Love

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A more complex dimension of moral creativity is involved in the deontological problem of responsibility toward “the other” in the sense of otherness, alterity, or irreducibility to the self. Immanuel Kant’s obscuring of this problem of otherness can be attributed in part to his separation of ethics from poetics (or aesthetics) in his second and third critiques. Paul Ricoeur shows that Kantian moral freedom is always in poetic tension with the passivity of the command not to do violence to otherness. Beyond Ricoeur, however, the other should be understood more radically as not just another self like oneself but, as Emmanuel Levinas and others argue, itself the transcending origin of the moral command as an invisible face of the Wholly Other. Moral creativity in its deontological sense combines Ricoeur’s Christian and Levinas’ Jewish interpretations of “the other” in a more profoundly presupposed mythology of humanity as an image of its Creator, so that others in particular originate or create a love command to selves who are in turn called to a negative moral poetics of creating others an ever less violent and reductive response.

Keywords: alterity; command; deontology; Immanuel Kant; Emmanuel Levinas; love; otherness; responsibility; violence; Wholly Other

Chapter.  18707 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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