Alterity, Responsibility and Post-Human Humanism

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


The posthuman notion of subjectivity is decentered, consequently also decentering the notion of agency. Language, the human, the material, are considered, not as intertwined separate entities, but rather as entangled, i.e. co-constitutive. It is argued that if we understand that human existence is entangled with the world, co-producing one another, then we are completely responsible for the world and all in it, human as well as material. However, as Brinkmann (2017) points out, this radical decentering of subjectivity and agency, could just as well deem humans as non-responsible, as what happens in the world is ultimately beyond our control. This presentation turns to the Levinas interpreter and existential phenomenologist Alphonso Lingis in order to ask the question, what is it, in a decentered posthuman ontology that makes the subject responsible for the Other. It is argued that it is in the face of the other, in the meeting with mortality and vulnerability, that the other is given to us as a radical alterity, and consequently is an Other. This radical alterity is what Levinas terms “first philosophy,” i.e. it transcends ontology, and demands the I respond, consequently calling me, through my responsibility, into existence. This philosophy of the connection between alterity, entanglement and responsibility is illustrated drawing on an interview with a refugee man, whom I (I’m ashamed to admit) found quite dislikable. At the end of the interview he found his lute, and played a song for me. In the deep vulnerability of the weaving of the delicate melody and his rusty, raw voice, I was called to respond.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateMay 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018
EventInternational Conference of Qualitative Inquiry - University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana , United States
Duration: 16 May 201819 May 2018


ConferenceInternational Conference of Qualitative Inquiry
LocationUniversity of Illinois
CountryUnited States
Internet address

Cite this