The vulnerability of reason
the philosophical foundations of Emmanuel Levinas and K. O. Apel
In a recent contribution to a conversation between philosophers from the "Third" and "First" Worlds, Karl-Otto Apel contends that part B of his discourse ethics can easily accommodate the preoccupation with the exclusion of the Other that characterizes the philosophy of Enrique Dussel, a Mexican philosopher in the tradition of Emmanuel Levinas. In my opinion, however, such a facile accommodation cannot take place since Apel's reconstructive transcendental methodology conceives interpersonal relationships as if their terms were the reversible and interchangeable ones of formal logic. Therefore, Apel inevitably fails to recognize the Levinasian discovery that the Other is not given as an equal but as one commanding from a height. Instead of Apel subsuming Dussel and Levinas, I would rather suggest that these two philosophical endeavors with their different methodologies, purposes, and emphases, can be located at different levels on a common architectonic, analogous to the dual levels of the life-world and transcendental philosophy in Edmund Husserl's philosophy. Dussel and Levinas, reflecting on the forgotten horizons prior to the origin of theory itself, at a level analogous to Husserl's lifeworld, utilize an intuitive-descriptive methodology in a continual effort to revivify the Other's easily overlooked height and resistance to totalization. Apel, on the other hand, through self-reflection, explores the operative but unadmitted presuppositions within argumentation and every ongoing theory, at a level analogous to that of Husserl's reflections on the transcendental ego.
Barber, M. (1995)., The vulnerability of reason: the philosophical foundations of Emmanuel Levinas and K. O. Apel, in S. Crowell (ed.), The prism of the self, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 93-106.
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