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2010 | 9 | 2(27) | 295-315

Article title

THE LEGACY OF POSTSTRUCTURALIST 'HETEROLOGIES' IN THE CONTEMPORARY HUMANITIES (AN ATTEMPT AT RECAPITULATION) (Dziedzictwo poststrukturalistycznej filozofii innosci w humanistyce wspólczesnej (proba bilansu))

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The paper discusses the main poststructuralist conceptions of alterity in an attempt to account for their originality and significance in the contemporary humanities. Traditionally, otherness has been associated with phenomena that challenge reason and rationality. The authors begin from the thesis that acknowledging the dangers implied by alterity, reason at the same time has always struggled to conceptualize that which is wholly other, which absolutely transcends cognition. It is French poststructuralism in its early, transgressive phase (Bataille, Klossowski, Lévinas, Blanchot, Foucault and Derrida) that constitutes the most recent endeavor to radicalize the discourse of alterity. First, the authors discuss this issue by drawing attention to the significant difference between postructuralist heterologies and other approaches to otherness/alterity in the twentieth century philosophical thought (Bakhtin, Mead, Ricoeur, Gadamer). In these approaches, they claim, otherness has been construed in a Hegelian manner, as something that will sooner or later prove indispensable for further development of identity (the Same). They then pass on to the discussion of the main theses of heterological conceptions of alterity as developed by Bataille, Derrida, Lévinas, Lacan, Deleuze, and Foucault. They search for their specificity in their subversive and anti-humanist orientation. They then ponder on problem of possible implications of such a thinking for social sciences. Poststructuralism, according to them, has managed to show that in our intellectual efforts to cognitively know and structure (capture) being, we mystify our genuine experience of the world as a radical and insurmountable alterity. The final sections of the article bring an analysis of selected literary fragments and artistic forms that provide additional comments on this idea. In the concluding part, the authors advance a hypothesis of three levels of thinking alterity in modern humanities. The levels vary with regard to their advancement in criticism understood as an awareness of the ambivalent and paradoxical character of the heterological discourse in toto, the discourse that utilizes the means offered by reason to critique, challenge and subvert reason.


  • Dolnoslaska Szkola Wyzsza we Wroclawiu, ul. Wagonowa 9, 53-609 Wroclaw, Poland
  • Michal Kruszelnicki, Dolnoslaska Szkola Wyzsza we Wroclawiu, ul. Wagonowa 9, 53-609 Wroclaw, Poland


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Publication order reference


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