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Title: Naar een fenomenologische benadering van de dissensus Towards a Phenomenological Approach to the Dissensus
Subtitle: Over het geschil tussen Maurice Blanchot en Emmanuel Levinas About the difference between Maurice Blanchot and Emmanuel Levinas
Author(s): COOLS, Arthur
Volume: 66 Issue: 2 Date: 2005
According to a philosophical tradition, it is trivial to speak about dissensus: the incompatibility of meaning and the dispute are charcteritics of the life of the philosopical reflection. In its most radical sense, though, the notion of dissensus is not only opposed to the possibility of reaching consensus, but concerns the possibility of discourse itself. As such, dissensus confronts philosophy with an impossibility that challenges its evidence. How to approach this impossibility? I argue that the problem of dissensus is not just a question of (the heterogeneity of) language, but that it is necessary to take into consideration the relation between language and subjectivity. This relation is a central issue in the writings of Maurice Blanchot as well as in the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas: for both of them, ‘language’ is in the phenomenological sense of the word an ‘experience’ in which the whole problem of subjectivity is involved. But at the same time, this experience is the origin of a profound difference between the two friends. Analysing the question of subjectivity in its relation to the other, Levinas is able to show why language plays a fundamental role in the promotion and the constitution of a subjectivity that is obliged to respond in the first person. Blanchot, however, approaches language in the experience of writing where subjectivity looses grip and cannot but disappear. The distinction between written language and oral discourse therefore seems to be crucial with regard to the problem of subjectivity. The explicitation of this distinction enables me to specify the condition of dissensus.