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Strangers, God and Monsters
My purpose in this book is more than the investigation of certain formative archives in the Western genealogy of the stranger. My main task is actually to explore possibilities of responding to the problem of the stranger in terms of some kind of philosophical understanding. Julia Kristeva has suggested that there are three main ways in which we might respond to our fundamental experience of estrangement: art, religion and psychoanalysis. I will be looking at each of these during the course of this study. But I will also be suggesting a fourth way of response: philosophy. For if art offers therapy in terms of images, religion in terms of faith, and psychoanalysis in terms of a 'talking cure', philosophy has something extra (though not necessarily better) to offer. And that something extra, which may usefully supplement the other three, is a certain kind of understanding. During the course of these studies I will be referring to various moments in the history of philosophy which might help us in our search for ways of understanding the Other - from Aristotle's practical wisdom (phronesis) and Kant's 'reflective judgement' to more contemporary hermeneutic models of narrative comprehension (Ricoeur, Arendt, Taylor). My wager is that if the enigma of the Other has been largely ignored by the mainstream metaphysical tradition - going back to Parmenides and Plato who defined the Other in relation to the Same - it resurfaces again and again throughout our western cultural history in the guise of strangers, gods and monsters who will not go away and continue to command our attention. …
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