Sarah ALLEN - "A Philosophy of the Neutral? Levinas, Heidegger and Multiculturalism"

Sarah ALLEN (U. Concórdia, Montreal)

What is the neutral? What might be its advantages or disadvantages in a multicultural public sphere? In this paper, I explore Emmanuel Levinas's criticism of Heideggerian thought as a philosophy of the neutral that leaves no room for ethical relations and true religion. This sets the stage for questioning the meaning and worth of neutrality in a multicultural global context where the other we encounter is often literally and not just metaphysically the stranger, the foreigner, who may bring with him different values and religious beliefs that conflict with our own. Can we be as open and vulnerable to this other as Levinas requires? On a political and civil level, in the public space, might the neutral (at least as an ideal) be necessary as an openness, a place of receptivity into which different cultures can come and be heard? Or is "neutrality" itself the problem, and not really neutrality at all, but a cover for a dominant cultural and/or political position, much like the neutral third terms of philosophy may be just the tyrannical subject cloaking itself in impersonality?
These are the questions I want to explore with a view to placing Levinas and Heidegger, in their reflections on ethics and religion, within the context of contemporary issues raised by the meeting, and oft-times, clashing of cultures within an increasingly globalized public sphere.

UBI, Pólo I, Sala dos Conselhos



Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
União Europeia
Quadro de Referência Estratégico Nacional
Programa Operacional Factores de Competitividade
Universidade da Beira Interior