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Phenomenology of the Alien

Basic Concepts

Bernhard Waldenfels

Publication Year: 2011

Tanja Stähler and Alexander Kozin’s elegant translation of Bernhard Waldenfels’s Phenomenology of the Alien (Grundmotive einer Phänomenologie des Fremden) introduces the English readership to the philosophy of alien-experience, a multifaceted and multidimensional phenomenon that permeates our everyday experiences of the life-world with immediate implications for the ways we conduct our social, political, and ethical affairs. 

With impressive erudition Waldenfels weaves in xenological themes from classical philosophy, contemporary phenomenology, literature, linguistics, sociology, and anthropology to address the boundaries of experience that unite and separate human beings, their collectives, their perceptions, and aspirations. While the debate has long raged in German-speaking circles, Waldenfels’s work is largely unavailable to the English-speaking audience, with the only other translation being The Order in the Twilight (1996). Phenomenology of the Alien is a superb introduction to both xenological phenomenology, and the the question of the alien as it has been unfolding in contemporary thought. Bernhard Waldenfels is Professor Emeritus at

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-2

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Introduction: Facets of the Alien

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pp. 1-7

To pose the alien as a special theme is to have missed it already. For it means to begin from the place of the familiar and the known, and if the journey goes as planned, to expect to return to the same place. Most certainly, the experience of the alien will bring about a change, maybe even a catharsis. Yet, in the end, the original familiarity will prevail; it might even...

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1. The Human as a Liminal Being

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pp. 8-20

The alien is a limit phenomenon par excellence. It arrives from elsewhere, even when it appears in our own house and own world. There can be no alien without an alien place. How much weight is given to the alien will thus depend on the kind of order in which our life, our experience, our language, our acts and deeds take shape. When the order becomes...

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2. Between Pathos and Response

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pp. 21-34

If we presume that the alien transgresses the boundaries of every order, the question arises as to what an experience in which such a transgression takes place would be like. It is not to be expected that a combination of sense and rule, of the intentional and rule- guided acts of a subject, along with the consensual agreement between different subjects, can stand up to the challenges of the alien. The alternative envisioned here appears...

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3. Response to the Alien

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pp. 35-42

The question concerning the kind of experience in which the alien comes to appear is inseparably linked to the further question of how we meet this alien. This question is reflected in the motif of responsivity which is not conceivable without an ethical dimension. A responsive ethics which is guided by this motif, however, goes deeper than a philosophy...

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4. Corporeal Experience Between Selfhood and Otherness

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pp. 43-57

Corporeality and alienness are intimately connected. Alienness presents itself in the flesh, as absence in flesh and bone (absence en chair et en os) in the formulation of Sartre, which alludes to Husserl’s presence in the flesh [leibhaftige Gegenwart] of the perceived object. In turn, a corporeal being is never entirely present to itself. The enigma of alienness is thus exacerbated in the enigma of the body, so that we again get entangled in...

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5. Thresholds of Attention

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pp. 58-69

Attention is something so ordinary that it is rarely considered in connection with the problem of the alien. Consequently, we might be missing one of the most important ways in which the alien comes to meet us, because it is intrinsic for attention that the senses can be controlled only to a limited extent. If the controls were perfect, life would be determined only by habit without allowing for anything of the alien. What...

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6. Between Cultures

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pp. 70-84

What happens between cultures endows the alien with a special hue which leads to the development of a specific science of the alien—ethnology or cultural anthropology. The intercultural encounter has always been connected to a questionable form of colonial alien politics. Recently, ethnoscience and ethnopolitics have acquired new forms under the sign...


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pp. 85-88


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pp. 89-92

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780810165472
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810127579
Print-ISBN-10: 0810127563

Page Count: 104
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: New
Volume Title: 1
Series Title: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy