THE MYSTERY OF THE OTHER
Wat is a philosopher?" asks Blanchot, and responds by saying that, "[i]n the past one might have said it is a man who stands in wonder; today I would say... it is someone who is afraid" ( Blanchot 1993, 49). For, as indicated, in fear, says Blanchot, "we leave ourselves, and, thrown outside, we experience in the guise of the frightening what is entirely outside us and other than us: the outside itself (le dehors même)" (ibid.). This is not to regard philosophy as a movement into the irrational, for "we are past the point of reducing philosophy to reason, or reason to itself" (ibid.). Philosophy is a relationship with the unknown, not that it gives a knowledge of the unknown, for -- such "is a monster that critical philosophy exorcised long ago" (ibid. 50). Rather, philosophy's unique dignity is that it maintains itself as thought in the face of the Other whom thought cannot contain. Philosophy is a relation with the absolute in which it is itself not absolutely lost. It is a question of transcendence. It is a question, says Blanchot, which one finds spoken with utmost sobriety in the thought of Emmanuel Levinas where, "by entertaining precisely the idea of the Other (autrui)... it is as though there were here a new departure in philosophy and a leap that it, and we ourselves were urged to accomplished" (ibid. 51-52). Philosophy on the precipice of the abyss -- a strange idea. Philosophy maintaining itself in the face of mystery, for "this Other is strangely mysterious (Cet Autrui est étrangement mysterieux)" (ibid. 52). Philosophy on the verge of theology!
The distinction between philosophy and theology is less clear than it perhaps has ever been. Rahner notes that "[t] he unity of philosophy and theology within their theological distinction is much closer than has been suggested" on account of the co-existence of "the universal, serious and efficacious salvific will of God towards the whole of humanity" and "the whole personal history of mankind," on account of the spatio-temporal co-incidence of salvation history and world-history (see Rahner 1969b, 77). Vatican I was cor-