I have come across the term 'the Other' several times while reading/watching videos of Zizek's/Derrida. While googling the answer to my question of what the Other is and represents is an option, I would rather read it from the authors who coined the phrase and others who have written on it. Can anyone familiar with this point me in the right direction, namely by listing texts surrounding the concept of the Other?

TLDR: Looking for a reading of the Other by original author & commentators.

1 Answer 1


There's perhaps something of hint of a meta-joke lurking in this demand for the original author of "otherness". Very generally speaking, the idea of the other (sometimes called alterity) is:

(a) phenomenologically disruptive of our self-assurance and authority to "legislate" our own words/writing (Derrida, Levinas), and

(b) epistemologically confounding, through presenting us with fundamental un-knowability, at least as to the inner sense of the enjoyment/desire of the other (Lacan, Zizek, but Nietzsche belongs here too: what if nature/wisdom were a woman?)

Hence altogether then we have a map of a kind of onto-epistemic humility -- and the traces here of so-called negative theology can be detected.

Heidegger and Levinas are perhaps close to an originary dialectical couplet here of the modern conception of alterity and otherness, who between them articulate alterity in its horror and intimacy. It is Levinas who recaptures a transcendental sense of phenomenological alterity in the infinity of the face-to-face encounter and the subsequent demand of the other upon us, which at its most fundamental is simply to let the other live: the most basic sense of alterity in this sense is an ethical injunction not to murder.

  • Any direction in particular that I should take if I should choose to start reading Heidegger/Levinas? Oct 16, 2016 at 16:27
  • As a side note, which texts by the aforementioned contain what you describe, alterity/otherness? Oct 16, 2016 at 16:28
  • Totality and Infinity is a common place to start with Levinas
    – Joseph Weissman
    Oct 16, 2016 at 18:55

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