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The stranger between oppression and superiority

Close encounter with Heinz Kimmerle


Response to Elisabeth de Schipper by Heinz Kimmerle



Elisabeth de Schipper (Sliedrecht)

The toe-nail of the Holy Ghost



Given the title of this close encounter with professor Heinz Kimmerle: 'The stranger between oppression and superiority', the stranger is already enclosed. The stranger is pressed between the two expressions of the way we can think about and relate to the other. In our reflection about the stranger, there is no way out, or if we would like to stay there, in the aporia, he is in-between: The worst of all.

In the following lecture, I would like to sketch an other idea of the stranger, in which there is no otherness. In other words: The stranger, in capitals, as a category, does not exist, only in case of presupposing a con�ceptual distance. This conceptual distance is based on a certain idea of time, which in her turn is grounded in the belief in the Holy Trinity. From this point of view there is no difference between the missionary treatment of the stranger and the Derridean idea of the guest. When the Holy Ghost is fading away, the stranger has to approach. He becomes a person of flesh and blood. He is my brother, my sister, my neighbor, or a helpless person in the street, which I have to help get up.

To illuminate my words, not to illustrate them, I have chosen a sentence of Hegel. In fact, it is a phrase from the Bible (The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luc. 10:25-37), which Hegel comments in The spirit of Christianity: "(...) und liebe deinen N�chsten als dich selbst heisst nicht, ihn so sehr lieben als sich selbst; denn sich selbst lieben ist ein Wort ohne Sinn; sondern: liebe ihn als [einen,] der du ist; ein Gef�hl des gleichen, nicht m�chtigeren, nicht schw�cheren Lebens." [i] In English translation, we read: "(...) and love your neighbour as yourself does not imply, that you must love him as much as you love yourself; for loving oneself is a word without sense; but: love him as [one,] who is you; a feeling of the similar, not of the mightier, not of the weaker life." [ii] Here we read in a very complicated and condensed phrase - in fact an anacoluthon, a sentence which lacks grammatical sequence - that love ends, if the other appears.

Let us - for the moment - read Hegel's words in his early theological writings, let us - for the moment - forget the whole never ending story of the dialectics, let us close read: "(...�) liebe ihn als [einen,] der du ist; ein Gef�hl des gleichen, nicht m�chtigeren, nicht schw�cheren Lebens." "(...)love him as [one,] who is you; (...)". "Einen", "one" is an addition of the editors. In fact, the phrase runs as follows: "Love him as, who is you." And very literally the text spells: "as, who you is". And still more precisely, we read in Nohl, who ordened Hegel's early manuscripts: "Liebe ihn, als der du ist." [iii] The comma appears here before the 'als', the 'as': "Love him, as who you is." "As who you is", is here really an apposition. This grammatically beautiful sentence, changes in later editions. What does this mean: "Love him, as who you is." It has not the meaning to love the other as much as you love yourself; but how to love the other as the one who you is? He cannot be the same as I am, because I am who I am, and you are, who you are. You are the other.

If it is true, that I am the most singular one that exists on earth, then it is impossible to love the other, as one who is I. He cannot be the same as I am. He is he, and I am I. However, according to Hegel: we must love him, as who you is.� The person we love, is an objectivated I. Not a he, not a we, but I as a he, he as an I. Similarity in very special way, without identity, without unification. What's the intention? The anacoluthon: "love him, as who you is" will say: "love him, as who you is". We cannot interpret here, we cannot say it in another way. Here the empathy is really fulfilled. We don't project our personality into something, in an attempt to fully comprehend the object, but we are already the one we love. "Ich bin du, wenn ich ich bin." "I am you, when I am I, I writes Paul Celan in 'Lob der Ferne'. [iv]

The way we read the above sentence, is not without risks, because, you could easily understand it as a manner to enrich the self. The empathy as a condition of possibility for subjectivation. It's the way Hegel can be understood, not lastly by Hegel himself, who had to comprehend love in the whole of his system. It is also the point of departure for criticizing Hegel, like Derrida does. In his comment on the passage in Glas, we read the following words: "One can love the other only as an other, but in (the Hegelian (S)) love there is no longer alterity, only Vereinigung." "(...) If love has no other, it is infinite. To love is necessarily to love God." (...) "Love, the sensible heart of the family, is infinite, or it does not exist." [v] Here, we have a misinterpretation of the Hegelian infinite in the early theological writings. Derrida reads in Hegel's God the divine and the divine family, where the mother has disappeared. When Hegel writes here: "to love God is to feel self in the whole of life, with no limits, in the infinite (schrankenlos im Unendlichen)", then he has no option for the transcendental God. On the contrary, Hegel means by God, divinity, the unity of the spirit, in opposition to the unity of the concept. In love, there is no unification of the universal and the particular, therefore we cannot think about love, therefore we can never command to love: "Es ist der Liebe eine Art von Unehre, wenn sie geboten wird, dass sie, ein Lebendiges, ein Geist, mit Namen genannt wird; (...)." [vi] "It is a sort of dishonor to love when it is commanded, i.e., when love, something living, a spirit, is called by name." [vii]

In Hegel's early theological writings we find a description of empathy which bears already all the richness for a wisdom, in which the other does not exist, where we cannot talk in terms of relations and relationships, communication and miscommunication. We are not related to someone else, we do not communicate. I am my brother and my sister, I am you.

In this close encounter with Heinz Kimmerle and all of you, in this close reading of one sentence from Hegel's early theological writings, in this short monologue, I tried to make thinkable, what Heinz Kimmerle has taught us about philosophy and dialogue.


Response to Elisabeth de Schipper by Heinz Kimmerle

Thank you, Elisabeth, you are talking to me and to all of us in this session about love. I agree with you that nobody has given us better words for this talk than Hegel in his Early writings. In his reflections on the gospel of St. Luke he discusses the 'command' of love as it is expressed by Jesus. Hegel's translation of the second half of this text is: 'Love your neighbor as you is'. This is not a sentence, indeed, it is an anacoluthon. Obviously it is unsayable, there is no name for what Hegel wants to say about love. At least, it seems to be impossible to formulate a sentence, which gives an adequate description of love.
It is most important what we can learn from Hegel that there is no other for those who are in love. Love means you is I and I is you. The other would be an objectivation of you. Martin Buber knows also about this I-you-relation, which cannot or must not be objectified. He makes clear: I is you and you is I, is especially valid in the moment of meeting each other. He analyses this moment of mutual identification of I and you by describing the space between them. We all know by experience: the space between loving partners is a space of high tension, and the space between them is connecting I and you in a very intense way. And it makes it possible that I remains I and you remains you. Without the space of the 'between' the relation of I and you would collapse; in Hegelian terms: sie (diese Beziehung) würde ineinander stürzen. The 'between' makes it possible that I and you are one and remain to be two: I is I and you is you.
In the text of the gospel on which Hegel is commenting, the person who is my neighbor whom I have to love as I, is a stranger. Speaking more precisely, the person who helps another person who needs help, is a stranger. A person from Samaria, a foreigner in Israel, offers help to the person who needs it. For situations like that when another human being needs my help, it is indeed of no importance at all to what people, race or culture he or she belongs. However, we have not always to do with situations of such elementary needs. If we want to conceptualize what a stranger is, and what the range of experiences is which he or she can make, we have to take into account Buber's analysis of the moment of meeting each other and of the space 'between' I and you. And, I think, we have to go a step further, from the 'between' to the 'in-between'. We have to see what it means being one and two at the same time and being two who are strangers to each other deciding to come closer to each other, to cross the divide between I and you. I approach you as a stranger, but I do not really reach you. On my way to you I leave the I and do not arrive at the you. I stay in between you and I. The between is no longer the connecting and separating space which unites the I and the you. If I step into the between and stay in it, it is to a certain extent neutralized, not objectified, but less high tension than the between of I and you in love.

In another lecture I have tried to grasp the in-between by using the German word �Achtung� in the sense of Immanuel Kant. I and you as strangers to each other can have Achtung for each other. As we know, Kant does not speak of Achtung in-between two persons, but in-between the acting subject and the ethical law, which is a law of reason. With Kant no emotion may become the motive for a good action. The only exception is the rational feeling of Achtung for the ethical law. In this feeling are expressed distance and sympathy at the same time. So the feeling of Achtung between I and you as a stranger is not love, but it is a rational feeling which is akin to love.

The most adequate way of interacting between I and you as a stranger is the dialogue. It is the conversation between partners who are equal and different, equal in rank and different in the way of making experiences. Partners in a dialogue have to be open for unexpected results of their exchange of ideas. Not one of them knows the truth and is telling it to the other, truth is appearing in the course of the conversation. And what makes it a dialogue between strangers: the other tells me something, which by no means I could have told to myself. The relations between I and you are probably not always ideal, in accordance with what a dialogue is or ought to be. But I and you can try to make our relations more dialogical.

If we come now to the title of this Close encounter-session, a second step has to be taken. I am not talking of the in-between of I and you as a stranger, but of a different situation. There are persons in a community who do not belong to it by birth. Julia Kristeva has described their feelings in a very impressive way. And I do not right to her description when I choose two extreme notions in between of which the stranger is situated. What is this situation like? We talk no longer of I and you in the relation of love, and also not of an I who is moving in the direction of a you. The I determines his/her position in respect of a community in which he/she lives, to which he/she however does not belong by birth. This position turns out to be paradoxical. It is not characterized by being one and two at the same time, nor by distance and sympathy, but by oppositional terms. Strangers feel that they are feared and honored at the same time, that they are hated and admired, that they cannot find the words to make themselves understandable and speak many languages. All that and more I want to summarize in the formulation that the stranger is situated in-between oppression and superiority.

There is no doubt, it is a long way to go from the discourse of love between you and I, via the dialogues of Achtung between I and you as a stranger to these experiences which real strangers have, living in a community and being confronted with reactions of this community, which is not theirs by birth. Then we are talking about a multicultural situation. Intercultural philosophy is anchored in such a multicultural situation. Yet intercultural philosophy is acted out in dialogues between philosophers of different cultures, that is to say between persons who are strangers to each other, but who are moving in the direction from I to you and from you to I. They stay in-between, cherishing the feeling of Achtung for each other and being open for unexpected results of their conversation. What is true for the not always ideal way in which the dialogues between philosophers from different cultures are carried out, is valid all the more for their position in the multicultural society. They can and will endeavour to make the relations between strangers and indigenous inhabitants more dialogical.

I is you and you is I in the spirit of love, I interacts with you as a stranger in the spirit of Achtung, and I who is confronted with a community, which is not his, experiences the spirits of oppression and superiority at the same time. What have all these spirits to do with the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost? This spirit is much too idealistic, I think, claiming the realization of a community of love. A more realistic view on the stranger might be something like the toe-nail of this Holy Spirit, if spirits have toe-nails at all.


[i]     G.W.F. Hegel, Fr�he Schriften, Theorie Werkausgabe, Bd. I, hrsg. von E. Moldenhauer und K.M. Michel, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp 1985, p. 363.

[ii]     The English translation is partly based on the translation of the phrase by John P. Leavey, Jr. and Richard Rand in: Jacques Derrida, Glas, Lincoln and London, p. 64.

[iii]     Hegels theologische Jugendschriften, hrsg. von Herman Nohl, T�bingen: Mohr (Siebeck) 1907, p. 296.

[iv]     Paul Celan, 'Lob der Ferne', Mohn und Ged�chtnis, Gesammelte Werke, Bd. I, hrsg. von Beda Allemann und Stefan Reichert unter Mitwerkung von Rolf B�cher, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp 1986, p. 33.

[v]     Derrida, l.c., p. 64.

[vi]      Hegel, l.c., p. 363.

[vii]      Some translations in this paragraph are adopted from: Stuart Barnett, 'Eating My God', in: Hegel after Derrida, ed. by Stuart Barnett, London and New York 1998, p. 131-144.< style='font-size:12.0pt; letter-spacing:-.15pt;'>

[viii] Kimmerle, �Sollen wir Partner im Dialog tolerieren und/oder achten?�, Lecture on the conference: Tolerance in the Context of Interculturality and Globalization, at the University of Mumbai on March 13, 2002, and on the conference: Plato im postmetaphysischen Zeitalter� at the Technical University Darmstadt on April 24, 2002, organized in honor of Gernot B�hme�s retirement from teaching.

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