Open Access Library Journal
Vol.02 No.08(2015), Article ID:68526,10 pages

The Other

Kuang-Ming Wu

(Ph.D. Emeritus), Philosophy Department, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Oshkosh, USA


Copyright © 2015 by author and OALib.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

Received 15 July 2015; accepted 1 August 2015; published 6 August 2015


This essay considers “the other” in Section 2―Levinas with Confucius and Section 3―The Other, to conclude with a wrap-up. Section 2 is Confucius critically dialoguing with Levinas. Section 3 develops “the other.” The wrap-up stresses how important such intercultural dialogue is. Section 2 has five themes: “face” as the other; “ethics” as human cosmology; the “other” as respect-dialogues; reasoning as logic-playing; and failure as success persistent. Section 3 has five more themes, the other in respect, as togetherness, as inter-verb, as joy cosmic, and as Utopia now. Wrap-up looks forward.


Levinas, Confucius, The Other, Respect, Dialogue

Subject Areas: Philosophy

1. Introduction

The “other” is an essence of things as themselves. The reason is simple but subtle. Existence stands-out (ek-histemi) as itself, only with its other in contrast, as proved by consanguineous marriage that weakens the family. Existence is confirmed as itself by its other, which is outside because otherness is intrinsic to existence itself. The other is a tensed verb of existence mutually other-ing to enable things mutually to thrive. Countless existents inter-other to compose the global world, and vast globalization is vibrant in interculture, itself mutually other-ing.

Concretely, this essay in Section 2 gazes at an ancient Chinese Confucius criticizing his other, Hebrew Levinas, today, and thereby in Section 3 develops some life-implications of the “other” itself. In ten themes, this essay considers “the other” as it compares vibrant Levinas and elder Confucius; every theme is the other to every other theme, to end with “wrap-up” to stress how important such intercultural dialogue is.

Section 2 has five themes, “face” as the other, “ethics” as human cosmology, the “other” as dialogical, reasoning as logic-playing, and failure as success persistent. Section 3 has five more themes, the other in respect, as togetherness, as inter-verb, as joy cosmic, and as Utopia now. Both sections lead to a wrap-up, to look forward to the future in mutual respect.

2. Levinas with Confucius

This section considers five concrete themes: one, “face” as the other as respect, two, “ethics” as human cosmology, three, the “other” as dialogical, four, reasoning as logic-playing, and five, failure worthily persisted as success. On themes one, two, and three, proposed by Levinas, Chinese Confucius respectfully criticizes his “other,” Hebrew Levinas, with themes four and five presented by Confucius’ life-project.

ONE: “Face” as respect as the other:

Levinas has three inter-incoherent themes, the other, the face, and Judaism. The “other” confronts me totally; “face” faces each other to tend to objectively analyze to scrutinize away the other. “Don’t we also face each other in greeting?” Such amicable facing is “respect,” a part of the dynamic “other” risking no demolition that “face” cannot guarantee against. Stressing brute “face” amounts to a botched I-Thou in Martin Buber his fellow Jew (Schilpp & Friedman [1] ).

Besides, “face” as objective facing deviates from the Hebrew opposition to visual scrutiny. Its tradition stresses “hear and respect, care and obey.” Respect means taking the other with tender seriousness, never taken for granted. Our respect of the enemy-other is derived from respectful greeting of friendly other. Respect here is not respectfully recognizing how formidable the enemy is, but reverence as before parents and cherishing elder brethren, as root of inter-humanity (Analects 1/2). “Respect” in this essay refers to cherishing respect of the beloved other. And so, Chinese cherishing reverence parallels the Hebrew tradition.

Moses was forbidden, from inside the fire, against going to look at the fire to inspect how the burning bush was not consumed (Exodus 3:3-6). “Inspection” looks-into with merciless analysis and scrutiny, alien and inappropriate to cherishing respect of the other, but “face” can inspect in disrespect. In all, “the other” includes cherishing respect, in need of no “face.”

Respect is due us by our beloved other, to hold in high regard the other’s specific what and how, to result in our inter-survival. An Indian fellow swimming noted a scorpion drowning; in pity he scooped it up on land, whereupon it bit him. Asked why, it said its nature, its what, is to bite. Respecting its need to live on land, he did not respect what it does on land―it bites. Full respect is Schweitzer’s “reverence for life” that is our daily duty. Confucius’ stress of “respect” in “father, father; child, child” is no needless platitude. Touchingly, the child totally meets with the other. “I marry you, my teapot!” This little missy handles nothing but meets it tenderly as Thou, to casually melt me.

Rockwell portrays a doctor with a stethoscope on a doll proffered by a worried little missy (Schilpp & Friedman [1] ). Ridiculously un-medical as it may seem, this “medical practice” hits us quite meaningful; her doctor follows her motherly concern. The doll as her soul plus her concern compose “the other” the missy. The doctor following the missy’s wish expresses “respecting the other” the missy. Following her along soulfully is the poetry of the other that irresistibly heals heart and soul of the missy and of us their onlookers.

No wonder, Jesus Almighty loves unconditionally these little ones! “I dare you to touch these angels! You’d surely die!” Jesus shouts (Matthew 18:1-14). Jesus accepts a tiny boy’s offer of his lunchbox, with which to feed five thousand adults! This miracle shows how much Jesus appreciates the boy’s sincere offer so pure so innocent. This miracle so stirred people that all the four Gospels recorded it!

Thus, “other” is a verb in at least six ways. One, reverence of life even of a scorpion as cited above, two, comparison to realize “my defects and limits,” three, dialogues with friends and foes, four, critiques constructive and destructive, five, learning from history, and six, respecting the other as It and as Thou. The fifth one is interesting. We today learn from merits and demerits of our forefathers’ experiences. The last two are noteworthy, learning from history, and respecting the other as It and as Thou.

Judging from brutal treatments of their Arab neighbors, the Jewry have learned ill from Nazi atrocities just a few decades ago. Judging from alarmingly unsatisfactory situations today, Chinese rulers now have learned ill from China’s long dictatorial devastations. Now, what runs through all these five interactions with the other is “learning” by discerning other-differences. Differences and learning compose the verb dynamics of the other, what history poignantly offers.

The final sixth feature of the other is proposed by Buber as It and as Thou. Marcel says, “Speaking of you reduces you to a thing.’” (p. 44). Buber [2] says, “The expression ‘thou’ is word, not man, but means man, as when I say ‘I,’ I mean not a thing (but ‘I’).” We on our part say three points. One, Marcel’s point is that the very saying of “thou” turns “thou” into “it.” Two, I meet thou in wording, so Buber [2] cannot separate word from person meant, for thou must be addressed with words, and so separating word from addressing destroys addressing (Buber [2] ; Schilpp & Friedman [1] ). When I say, my words mean; its “worded meaning” is a designated It.

Three, as for addressing “I,” my boy Peter taught us, “I have three names, ‘me,’ ‘myself,’ and ‘I.’” When I say “I,” my saying can mean “me” as It-object or “myself” as It-addressed, and It-addressed remains It, not Thou. All this while, “I” remains un-sayable, as the saying-words point at an entity, and the pointed-at entity is an It thus designated, not “I” beyond the designated It. Here is a dramatic example shows how this un-sayable “I” is presented.

In The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel, so many essays expound the ideas of “Marcel” in It-way, and Marcel responds to each, blending into them in Thou-way, to enliven them personally poetically (Schilpp & Hahn [3] ). The book now turns into a drama, composed by Marcel, using those essays as material. It is a poetic sight to behold. Poetry is worded drama of life; Marcel is a dramatic poet in respect of the others.

In this connection, the very idea in our mind must be noticed as of two sorts, as notion and as concept. “Notion” is what we notice within actuality; “concept” is picked out from actuality with forceps of concept. “The other” should never be turned into a conceptual cog in a theoretical chessboard, to analyze away the concrete person the other. For the other, “respect” is an important notion, impossible to conceptualize. Lest the other is conceptualized, we must beware of how we think on “the other.” Is Levinas sensitive to how he himself thinks?

In our modern centuries, the phenomenologist is vaguely aware of this concept-notion distinction, and tries to return to concrete situation by “phenomenological reduction.” But they never attend to their thinking-mode of notional sensibility to be distinguished from conceptual logicizing. Being turgid tempts Levinas to conceptualize; see-through simplicity keeps Confucius notional in actuality.

Confucius is sensitive to actuality in his wording, citing concrete examples to metaphor, never conceptualizing on “the truth.” He plays with logic, never logicizes away the personal “other.” As a result, his expression is subtle precise. To respect the other lets her be, not letting her go; to allude by metaphor lets her be (no point told), not letting her go (attention called). Such wording achieves respecting the other.

TWO: “Ethics” as human cosmology:

Levinas’ epithet “ethics” is sadly ill-chosen, as shown in his coinage “transcendental ethics” that strains ethics beyond its breaking point, beyond usual ethics of interpersonal relations, and shown in his “Infinity” as beyond ethical “totality” to launch out from the launchpad of ethics-as-totality. He needs a new notion, not “ethics.” He characterizes his philosophy as “ethical transcendentalism” to bespeak of going beyond ethics in immanent worldliness. Let me explain.

Levinas and Confucius take all “existents,” such as human existence, as cosmic beyond merely ethical. Levinas says his “ethics” is Infinity beyond the Totality of “ethics,” so he misused “ethics” as Bradley [4] (1876), Moore [5] (1903), Nowell-Smith [6] (1954), and Sidgwick [7] (1874) did; there, whatever lived is shoved into “ethics” as logicizing of “empirical experiences.” Levinas risks this mistake; it is better to feature his philosophy as “human cosmology,” less eye-catching than “ethics as first philosophy” but more accurate.

Proud squall sweeps down with shy drips, and then soft steady rain descends to give things birth. The spring symphony drones the thunders of “my birth with sky and fields, one with myriad things” Wu [8] . I am the cosmos writ small, as the cosmos is my self writ large; the vast universe and tiny me are inherently at one intimate mutual. Such is human cosmology Levinas and Confucius peep at, beyond tiny ethics.

Human Confucius at riverbank sighed, “Water! O, water!” (Analects 9/17) Wu [8] . He wished to be silent as Heaven silently nurturing hundreds of things (17/17). He said that the humane enjoy hills, as the wise enjoy water (6/23). He sided with his student who wished to bathe in the spring water to sing praises of the spring, going home (11/25). Vast Mother Nature infuses naturalness into us all human, to invigorate to normalize―ethic- ize?―our life. Confucius’ ideal ruler is natural wind to which people the grass bends (12/19); politics must be natural as nature.

Confucius’ humanism is cosmic. Likewise, Levinas’ totality of “ethics” is infinity vast, breaking up conceptual ethics. Levinas’ “ethics as first philosophy” could mean ethics as an initiation of philosophy proper, but he puts far more weight into “ethics” than as initiation, to ruin both ethics and philosophy. Still, Levinas consistently intends to make vastly cosmic everything human, as Confucius patterns human behaviors and sentiments after the vast cosmic nature. Both are cosmic persons.

THREE: The “other” as in respectful dialogues:

The bare “other” can be enemy fit to demolish; Levinas does not mean so. “Responsibility” he touts is made possible by respect, serving the other. Levinas’ “other” entails “respect,” as Confucius stresses it as the sine qua non of the inter-human, rejoicing in respectful cherishing of his beloved students. “O Ssu! We can now begin to mutually dialogue on Poetry Classic. Told of what is gone, [you and I] know what is to come!” (1/15), “the other” (9/23)!

This is one instance of Confucius who always raises “one” for the other to return two, three, or ten more others (5/9, 7/8; also 3/8). Respect embodies dialogues. Respectful dialogues in joy typify Confucius. His joys despite all odds consist in his continuous dialogues to provoke insights―with commonplaces, wonderful analogies, and unsuspected metaphors and ironies, all in joys no one can steal.

Incredibly, the other cherished respected causes me pain, as in Mencius (unbearable pain at people in pain) and in Jesus (visceral pain when he heals people) (Kohlenberger III, Goodrick, & Swanson [9] . China says, “I pain you 我疼你” to mean “I love you” Wu [10] . It is sweet pain in the other, not pained pain lonely, bereft of the other. Sweet pain is tender joys in the other; it has no room for violence that destroys, nor is here macho dominion and jealousy that fear, hoard, and exclude others.

The other cherished respected eagerly shares as, strangely―instead of consumption to exhaust―the other as in beautiful artwork expands to enrich as cherished enjoyed together. The more shared, the merrier richer they turn. “The more” in the world of the other embraces rhythmic growth―happily ever after. She the other feeds the flock, hugs the lambs in her breast, and gently leads the mother sheep nursing―toward tender joys together, shine or rain, chilly or scorching.

Here everything is at play as all kids are at play; even logic is played with. Here, the impossible is the irresistible. We are fascinated by other than expected. Fascination is “the other” everywhere, to exist as Utopia-nowhere. It is simple as that, and incredible as that. Our adult-Utopia impossible is kid-commonplace as “the other” at play. More will be said on this last theme at the end. Here we note the incredible “playing with logic” as part of our fascination with the other.

FOUR: Reasoning as playing with logic:

Logicizing, including phenomenological return to the concrete of inter-other-ing, tends to analytically tear up the other served. We wonder if Levinas is sensitive enough to this important mode of his rationally elucidating the other, to scrutinize away its integrity. Without conceptual dissection, Confucius sensitively presents our respect of the other with concrete examples, metaphors, allusions, historical precedents, and even irony, to hint at the point, to let the hearer make her own point. Such soaring slithering logic in China is famously used by Chuang Tzu alive.

Analogy is “as A, so B” from A to surprising B. Metaphor ferries us from familiar A to unfamiliar B, opening the brave new world. Allusion talks of trifle A and stops at that; we then cannot help but explore B beyond. Irony says A to insinuate not-A. Amazingly, such playing with logic (Wu [11] ) evokes to reach global family (Wu [12] ) in mutual respect. Confucius’ casual evocation “warms ‘old’ to know ‘new’ 2/11” as analogy and metaphor; “hearing one to know ten 5/9” comes from allusion and irony. Confucius’ simplest allusion musical says platitudes to lure us on beyond, e.g., “Who can out, not by door?” 6/17; we all know such, but what is his point? He just smiles.

Socrates denied seducing the young to corrupt them (Helm [13] ), but Confucius openly “step by step ‘enticed’ 誘9/11” us into truth, by his allurement; his playful allusion overflows meaning not said. Confucius is the world’s master of allusion; all his sentences short simple are intimate music riding on aid-particles 助詞, 之乎者也. “Isn’t his pithy beauty the later compilers’ refinements?” I doubt it, as their flow is too natural to be retouched, but even if later compilers did it, it was Confucius who inspired them. Music is primal language to sing meaning felt unsaid. Confucius’ casual words are punchy allusions rolling in our tongue; each simple saying prances sonorous, haunting us for years, giving one meaning one time, another hitting hard another, alluding musical lived.

This mode of elucidation is not straight logicizing but playing with logic to allow the theme to freely appear. “Playing with logicizing” conforms to respect of others, to allow them freely to catch the point as they freely interpret (7/8, 5/9). “The other” includes both the other as the theme evoked and as the hearer invited provoked. But, then, amazingly, this practice of respectful other-ing often fails, as Confucius unwittingly experienced and stubbornly tried again and again. “Failure” is an important concomitant to our praxis of other-ing.

FIVE: Failure as success when worthily persisted:

“Transcendental ethics” of Levinas is kin to “teleological suspension of the ethical” as Kierkegaard, in fear and trembling, describes the dreadful demand of the Beyond to Abraham (Genesis 22), paralleled in tragic heroism in China as the loyal suspension of the filial (Kierkegaard [14] ; Speiser [15] ; Wu [8] ). The transcendence of cosmic Infinity beyond ethical Totality, in Levinas, is a subversive revolution. Transcendence is tragedy. Worse, we all fail here; “perfect life” must be “in failure” as Confucius tried. Does Levinas’ system include failures of his philosophy? Has Levinas probed massive failures in the other-praxis in Nazi’s genocidal devastations and worldwide anti-Semitism? Let us look into failures.

Confucius was a lifetime hobo, vainly struggling against his constant failures of his ideal to universalize his other-project into “one family under heaven” taking others seriously throughout the globe; Levinas also insists on such other-project. Both Levinas and Confucius agree here, and both have failed here. Actually, such failure is a mystery, for we are constituted by inter-other-ing, so the project of achieving other-as-community should have been natural as fish taking to water. But we bypass this basic problem beyond this essay. The problem is akin to our mysterious tendency to violence to others, and to evil in general. Our legendary hero Job raised a similar problem, only to be reminded by the Beyond (from chapter 38 on) that, being a creature, Job is in no position to raise such a “good query.” Levinas is strangely silent about such massive failures. In contrast, Confucius so persevered in his failures as to be known as “one who fails, fully knowing he could never succeed” (14/38).

Mind you. We can persist in unworthy ideal (Morris [16] ; Wu [8] ), and can persist in worthy ideal, as. Confucius did. We can just fool around, and do not fail, as we “fail” as we try for a desired end. Or else, we can try and fail, and try again, ever failing. Japan’s “heroes” choose inevitable defeat in death for their ideals, braving failures in an “insane” pursuit of ideals, where their failures themselves testify to the “nobility” of struggles, whatever their ideals are. It is good news to underdogs. But watch what ideal you fail in; it may not be worth failing. This book is a warning (Morris [16] )!

Edison’s genius is 1% inspiration added to 99% perspiration, and, we add, perspiration is error-full; the genius persistently fails. Continuing failures are “research” fooling around in a territory no one imagined. But are we sure they are noble? Confucius was also popularly known as the “one knowing what cannot [do] and doing it (14/38).” Is Confucius noble?

Clearly, heroes of failures in high ideals are not heroes in no-ideals. If an unexamined life is not worth living for Socrates, then an unexamined ideal, examined as unworthy, is not worth dying for, for anyone. Confucius in stubborn failures is great as his ideal is worth trying. What distinguishes Confucius in stubborn failures from rash others as stubborn is his high ideal, “global family.” We admire Confucius threefold. He [a] “knows” he will fail, [b] “and does it” because [c] he knows his ideal is worth failing even all his life!

Worthy ideal, admitting failures, stubbornly trying―make failures a true success. Inventing more lethal more numerous weapons is no success, even succeeded often. Trying to help people attain global family is success― even we keep failing as Confucius did. He lived about the same era as Greek sophists with the vision of world concord (Guthrie [17] ). Greek sophists petered out, while Confucius persisted in all his life-failures. Confucius the failure―in his stubborn ideal of “global family”―is smiling guiding us now. His failure is his greatest contribution; failed Confucius is glorious Confucius.

Confucius is not alone in pain. In the West alone, Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Frost, Keats, Freud. Schubert and Kafka have all suffered physically, mentally, and/or professionally. Still, they persisted, though not happily as Confucius. Their dreamed ideals sustained them every step of their way (Wu [18] ). These people in pain in failures are friends heart-known to Confucius, all shouting, “Within Four Seas are all our brethren!” Pain in persistence joins into brethren heartfelt, all over through history. This glorious comradeship in pain in failure is so awesome worldwide, more blessed than achievement.

We must admit, however, that not many fellow-sufferers are convinced as Confucius of high values of their ideals. Besides, incredibly, stubbornly persisting through lifelong failures, Confucius was constantly so happy striving as “to know no ‘old’ about to come” (7/19). His failure so noble is vast as the sun and moon eclipses (19/21). Confucius’ failures have shaped China Confucian, all its culture and history (Chan [19] ).

In all, the worthy telos suspends the ethical into “transcendental ethics” (Levinas) wrecking life into bits; ethical Totality is lost in the Infinity of community of others; the others are my other whose other I am. The others make up “global family” that Confucius fails, yet with the temerity to persist struggling toward it through life. Confucius invites us to such infinity. It is success in failures. We are awed.

Let us look back. “The other” is not another cog to move on chessboard of conceptual system, abstractly separated from actuality. The other is that person before me to live with. “Living with” is infinitely far beyond the totality of conceptualization in ethics logicizing, insists Levinas. Confucius is also innocently separated from theoretical separation from actuality where we live. How does Confucius do it?

Confucius plays with logic to toy with platitudes, to respect other persons living concrete. “The other” is lived with in joy in respect, I to you, and you, and you to me, and me, and me, world without end, ever through consistent failures we all share, till we are brethren in Four Seas. This fleshy world of the others has no room for bloodless cogs of “she,” “he,” or “they” to manipulate to manage. The “world” is the age-old human milieu (Weiner & Simpson [20] ), where persons live, move, and have being―“I am who I am” and then “I will be as I will be,” as dynamic self-tautology, “I am I,” with an inalienable right to be respected and to respect, one with “the other.” Tautology is the basic principle of logicizing. All logic originates in self-tautology, as all logicizing is operated by the personal self.

Such rich dialogues with respect describe “the other.” Ever contingent never logically expected, all persons are freely alive anywhere; you and I are drawn to live with the other, live as the other as our be-all and end-all, insist Levinas and Confucius. We are “the other” each to the other, constitutively inter-facing, as the other exists in inter-respect. This other-dynamics inevitably leads to the vast global family of Confucius with which Levinas chimes in as the Infinity of “transcendental ethics.”

3. The Other

Now, what can we ourselves say to all above excitements on the cosmic notion of “the other” and its ubiquitous existence? Here are five themes on “the other”: the other in respect, the other as togetherness cosmic, as inter- verb, as joy cosmic, and as Utopia here now, everywhere any time.

ONE: The Other in Respect:

Otherness is dialectical; the other is not “I,” yet without “I,” the other does not exist as other. The other is not-I-within-I, my self-negation inside, as inimical as caring, inter-respectful. Even enmity in inter-destruction is made by inter-reliance of the other to its other, I, as enemy exists when I exist. Rightly, Levinas uses “responsibility” to depict “the other.” We, on our part, must push responsibility to its origin, “respect.”

Respect is also dialectical; it lets the other be, not letting her go, as parent to child. Confucius’ “father as ‘father,’ child as ‘child’” (12/11) supports the Five Relations inter-human to solidify society. Respecting you respects me, negatively borne out by being alone depriving me of you, to be bereft of self-respect that establishes me. “Feeling-for others is not for others 情けは人の為ならず,” says Japan. I am constituted by the other; intuitively I want to respect, to implicate the other in “I.” I, respect, and other inter-implicate, and “other” is the pivot to inter-compose; I and the other gather on, ahead.

TWO: The Other as Togetherness Cosmic:

Being together describes “the other” to express joy. Joy together is immediate primal, and exigent. Even “being alone to feel rejected” indicates rejection by the other, haunted by her ghost in me. I am abandoned by absence―of the other, lost in the other because of her absence, in me. I am rejected by the other by her absence, to compse my pain being alone. Such strange pain poignantly proves that I am together with the other.

That is why being alone is unbearable, for “depriving me of the other” deprives me of me. The other is my origin my original self, and my Mother Nature my Self-So, my begin-all my be-all. God reveals his name―his essence―to Moses as “I am.” One commentator even says YHWH loosely names the “self-so,” in Taiwanese translation; “self-so” in Taiwan is Mother Nature (Clements [21] ). God is our Mother Nature our intimate other who is giving birth to our self.

Mother Nature is self-as-other to invigorate me; self-tautology―I am I―is self-other-ed-back in self-ontol- ogy to self-strengthen. The “I” breathes to exist in its other, as I inter-exist with a tree, breath to breath. All trees, are my inherent other on whom I breathe alive. My other is my whole universe of tree in time in space. Therefore, being alone is unbearable because the other-absence haunts me with my death while alive. Amazingly, trees my others are everywhere giving me life, so I cannot be alone yet I do feel alone. Being alone is an oxymoron.

The other is God’s ontological proof of my self, as God the other my parent exists first to “exist” me. In fact, my instinct to want to prove God’s existence shows my desire to prove me, in my origin of existence, and yet my desire proves my inability to prove my Parental other, my God, because I cannot prove the other who exists before me to exist me, as none can prove its origin.

Such absence of the Origin of me haunts me as the other in me, alone. I am the haunt of the other who is my begin-all my be-all. Levinas calls all this, “Infinity” in the “totality” of all our existence, called “ethics.” Such “Infinity” is the other vastly cosmic. The other is my be-all, all cosmic all human beyond human. The cosmic and the self, the human and the beyond-human, are all the dynamics of the verb, the other.

THREE: The Other as Inter-Verb:

Naturally, the dynamic other is a verb of reciprocity, as togetherness. These interpersonal interactions extend, reciprocally, repeatedly, until the dynamic other grows homo-cosmic in pan-respect of inter-being, all around. This is Levinas’ pan-ethics of cosmic ethics, beyond usual ethics; it is pan-ontology in reciprocal reverence of all existents, in Albert Schweitzer’s “reverence for life.” We are awestruck at Confucius awestruck at common hills and rivers, sighing at the rivers of existence daily flowing. Confucius’ inter-humanism embraces him in the cosmic hills and rivers, our Mother Nature, awestruck all over.

Each day dawns another day its other, what in turn dawns another, its other, to spread on, homo-cosmic. The universe is a vast inter-verb of other-dynamics. Every entity, at every instant, is inter-revered breath to breath. The Hebrew-China brotherhood is one other-dynamics that continues to mutually “other” with all other beings and cultures, in mutual critiques to mutually enrich, to thrive together.

Cosmic Entropy is constant Extropy; each instance brotherly extends toward togetherness home-cosmic. First, my family-love to my parents and siblings roots my humanity (Confucian Yu Tzu says Analects 1/2), to spread to brother trees and I breath to breath, to confirm a Confucian claim, “Within Four Seas are all our brethren” (Analects 12/5). Levinas hits upon its crucial key, “the other,” as Confucius chimes in, all in joy.

FOUR: The Other as Joy Cosmic:

We must explore this irresistible joy of finding the other in me, and finding me in the other, the joy of the other as togetherness. The other is my homecoming―“This, finally, is me!” (Genesis 2:23). Proverbs in the Bible (chapters 3, 8, etc.) typify all women, good Wisdom bad prostitute, identically promising to be man’s home to live long. Wisdom delivers her promise while prostitute fails, for Wisdom creates man while prostitute does not. The other different is precisely my true self; oneself is the other. I am this I yet different from I. The self is dehiscent from the self, and the dehiscence is joy of self-expansion fascinating, this way.

The mystery is that my joy of me as me, my self-tautology, lies in the difference of the other-as-my-self, where my self goes outside. My home here is out there, the other different from me, not me. Self-dehiscence―to reach the self-as-home―is the existential drama that expands homo-cosmic. “My self at home as somewhere else” catapults me outside me as the true me, as the drama of my self as the other. Self-exile is self-homecoming. “O mother! I am lost” far away shows my mother my home, as a toddler brushing away Mom to wobble ahead, only to stumble collapse into Mom. “We say ‘far away’; the Zulu has for that a word which means, in our sentence form, ‘There where someone cries out, “O mother, I The Zulus are our primal people who reveal our primordial condition.

This dynamics of exiled homecoming is the converse of being alone, bereft of the other as bereft of the self. Exiled homecoming is a strange self-becoming by self-alienation, to resonate with solitude, self-home often lonely. Those are rare sages who can be at home-as-oneself in solitude. Still, in homecoming self-exiled or in homecoming in solitude, we are to find the “joy of living.” Its secret key is “the other” whom I find to be my self; I must “find” the other as my self. I must come to realize that to come home to the other as my self, self-difference as self-identity, is Joy of all joys.

The primordial shout, “This, now, is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh!” (Genesis 2:23), is my primordial discovery of my self. We quote this sexual Genesis 2:23 in this context of the other, for gender distinction is taken as part of human otherness. Thielicke [22] (1979) just notes that intrinsic sexual duality is intrinsic to neighbors, with their obvious differences.

“This, now” embraces the man as man who cannot exist without his other the woman who gives birth to the man, who cannot give birth. The woman all differs from “my bone” of the man, the different the self to make my self. This self-paradox of the total joy pushes us all into the cosmos that is an “infinite” joy global, ever transcending “here now.” All this justifies Levinas seeming extreme, “total,” “infinite,” and “transcendental.” Joy here now is my exiled self there then, due to the other that composes my self. Is all this our Utopia?

FIVE: The Other as Utopia Here Now:

We have long been nostalgic for happy Utopia literally “nowhere”; we never notice how tiny kids have been enjoying adult Wonderland of adult dreams, for they always have play pals their “others” they naturally gather; children’s open sesame to our joy is kids all over as “the other.” “Don’t kids die in pain?” Well, kids are so fragile that they wail to very soon perish. Kid’s pain exists an instant and perishes with kids. Their eternal fragility is their eternal protection. Weakness is happiness ever, living and dying. Kids understand joy but not pain. No wonder, Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu extol the child, as Confucius (9/23) is awestruck at later-comers (9/23), and follows a kid hitting an empty pot walking (Twua [23] ).

Still, incredibly, we can have joy and we do not have joy. We are oddly in abiding failure of joy that we can have anytime, by just stretching our selves to the other. The other of Levinas and of Confucius so kid-common- place, is the clarion call heralding Joy Supreme.

The supreme Beyond is our Father Up There, and our neighbors are our family members; Jesus with all OT prophets and Chinese sages are all our Gospels. This Gospel is constantly lived precisely by those children without even trying. This Gospel call is issued from children, ever so messy so noisy, to us to come back home to be play pals to these playing children; we must become their “other” ever respected ever cherished, and ever laughed at as clumsy.

Actually, in our caring for these children, those children themselves care for our essential need, the joy with the other, in the Utopia quite reachable, in fact so spontaneously lived by those kids. We die without them. Isn’t it awesomely paradoxical that we must care for angels from Heaven so as to learn from these angles how to be heavenly happy in heaven?

Children live “Wonderland of Alice” thriving full of logical non-sequiturs of adults. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was concocted by an Oxford professor of mathematics Dr. Dodgson. Thanks to Levinas in his “other,” chimed in with by Confucius, we can now laugh at such mathematical concoction as futile. We just turn into kids to become their “others,” to play their Wonderland any time. In fact, children have been beckoning us since the foundation of the world, every single day.

Importantly, all that is required of us is to serve as kids’ “other” playmates, as we “respect” them as our cherished “others.” And then, the miracle of no miracle, our Utopia we can never attain, erupts in their common playground of common days. We never know that our Utopia is so ordinary, available everyday among the shouting kids so loud as for Granny to say, “Can’t they calm down for a change?” But they cannot, as they cannot stop their shouting joys!

Availability of irresistible joy implicates our unconditional imperative to be the other to our dearest “others” the kids, the sole open sesame to joy together at play. Children our “other” are Levinas’ total infinity in Confucius’ global family, all inter-other-ing, all sincerely inter-respecting, clumsily-expertly guided by kids whom we think so clumsy immature that we must take care lest they get hurt. Actually we adults so clumsy immature have to be cared for by these children, lest we get hurt living our death.

We adults are so “clumsy” as self-reflexive poseur, cornered into silly dilemmas of our making (Ryle [24] ). We never knew that those kids are straightly nimble enjoying their days, so happy as to guide us really clumsy adults into living our happy natural kid-days.

Now I hear a murmur. “Now, you said, no smart math-aleck is needed, and we so smart must be led by ‘dumb kids.’ Mustn’t you be smart to write against being smart?” O, No, pal. I am clumsy, no math-whiz. All I am is awestruck, marveling at the common “other” that I respect heartily. Sensitivity to the “other” cherished respected is all that is needed, and I am “dumb” enough to be sensitive.

“Respecting the other” enables living together happily; being smart can cut into other-respect to cut off joy- together. You know, it is precisely dumb folks who respect all other people, as they know they are dumb as kids. The other is respected here, and “here” turns into a Utopia-paradise, despite its constant failure in us smart alecks; we fail to attain Utopia of pan-joy because we are so smart. Refusing to be dumb as kids refuses to respect the other to joy together.

But even our smart failure certifies how precious “the other” is. The total infinite “open sesame” under vast Heaven is simply “the other” so commonplace so “dumb.” Being dumb makes us to respect one another to make us all happy together. I am so dumb as to write all above to invite us all to become “dumb” as little children, to respect the other to shout in joy together.

“Now, wait. You are sneaking in ‘smart’ from the backdoor of ‘dumb.’ You are claiming that ‘dumb’ people and tiny children are smart in a sneaky way. You said, ‘they know they are dumb as kids.’ That gives away the whole show.” What you say has a grain of truth, of course. But then, if I follow your route, I would have to say, “Dumb people and children are smart,” and I would then need many paragraphs to explain all such twists―to just muddle up the main issue. I must then stick to my original gun, insisting, “We must become dumb with dumb folks and dumb children.”

4. A Wrap-UP

Naturally, the brothers, vibrant Levinas and elder Confucius, would gather toward mutually respected “others” for deep dialogues. This essay has tried―essay tries―to begin such delightful dialogues, by Confucius facing Levinas in respect, and then developed the theme “the other” as inspired by Levinas and chimed in with by Confucius.

Surprisingly, overhearing all above dialogues between France today and ancient China, Shakespeare in England in sixteenth century is drawn in to serve as our other, intoning “I must not break my faith, /You know me dutiful; therefore, dear sire, /Let me not shame respect, but give me leave/ To take that course, by your consent and voice” (Shakespeare [25] ). In any case, such is our global initiation, through the ordinary “other,” this one and then that, of intercultural dialogues across time (ancient China, France today) and cultures (Asia, Hebrew). Global ubiquity is empowered by locality.

This essay stands on Confucius to dialogue with Levinas, in their shared respect in mutual “others.” We hope that another essay comes to, this time, stand on Levinas to dialogue with Confucius, to balance off our significant yet one-sided interculture here. To have a new idea begins feeling it to live it, by acting on it. Levinas eloquently proposes “other”; Confucius lives it. Both insist on “other” as key to globalization; both fail to achieve it. Confucius shows how precious such failure is, thereby shapes China. Confucius now stands beside us, smiling, as our historic other.

Levinas can toast Confucius rejoicing, as Confucius can deepen Levinas historic; they would then reciprocally critique, mutually enrich, to promote inter-other and thrive together in our small Global Village today. In this way inter-other-ing, they today continue globalization (Wu [26] ). No more can be said. The “other” must be lived up, together, one instance after another, in respect in joy.

Cite this paper

Kuang-Ming Wu, (2015) The Other. Open Access Library Journal,02,1-10. doi: 10.4236/oalib.1101706


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