Mystery and Method: The Other in Rahner and Levinas

By Michael Purcell | Go to book overview
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5.
DESIRING THE OTHER OR, THE PREVENIENCE OF GRACE

To relate to the utterly excessive and absolutely other may seem impossible, on account of the "theoretical incoherence of the notions of pure infinity and absolute otherness, or exteriority," as Derrida has indicated. Indeed, Blanchot describes such a relationship as an "impossible relationship." What Blanchot argues is that the possibility of subjectivity and the project of subjectivity is impossible outside the relation with the Other. Possibility is not to be understood in terms of the subject's projection of itself -- Heidegger Dasein -- whereby alterity would ultimately be in the service of the same. Rather, the same is in the service of the Other. Subjectivity is not a project of the self It is, rather, in the gift of the Other. The self is indebted to and always in debt to the Other who, by the graciousness and gratuity of his or her approach, summons me beyond the confines of my self to a life grace with possibilities beyond my own power and capacity. The difficulty then is: given the inability of comprehension to comprehend the incomprehensible, or mediate what is given in absolute proximity --for the Other is always immediate, both as unable to be mediated in itself by the self, but nonetheless always and already proximate in sensibility -- how is a relationship with what is beyond mediation possible? Levinas maintains the possibility and the significance of this "impossible relationship." What is absolutely remote to thought is nevertheless proximate in sensibility. To enter into a relationship with what is and remains beyond is to enter into an impossible relationship, a relationship beyond the power and the capacity of the subject, a graced relationship. Such a relationship, for Levinas, is to be situated within the ethics of Desire, a relationship in which the power and possibility of the subject is called into question by the impossible relationship with the infinitely and absolute Other, who nonetheless, as Rahner says, draws close in ab

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