This interview was conducted in April 2010, in Munich. The questions were intended to touch upon the central ideas in Bernhard Waldenfels’ thought, as well as to highlight what he considers to be the purpose of philosophy. Waldenfels explains why the ideal of an all-encompassing order is overly optimistic, and perhaps even violent. He also discusses the relationship between the need for order, on the one hand, and the fact of insurmountable differences of the alien, or the experience of the extra-ordinary, on the other. Issues concerning the relationship between the I and the other, familiar and alien are addressed, while he emphasizes why he felt it necessary to switch from the early belief in the joint primordiality of the I and the other to advocating for the anteriority of the other in all aspects concerning the birth of meaning and understanding in general. His explanations of how he conceives of ethics, and of the differences between his responsive ethics and Levinas’ ethics as first philosophy are also discussed.
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Bernhard Waldenfels is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bochum and the co-founder of the German Society for Phenomenological Research. He has authored numerous publications, including a four-volume series Studien zur Phänomenologie des Fremden (Suhrkamp, 1997–1999); Phänomenologie der Aufmerksamkeit (Suhrkamp, 2004); and Ordnung im Zwielicht (Suhrkamp, 1996), which has been translated into English as Order in the Twilight (Ohio University Press, 1996); and The Question of the Other (SUNY Press, 2007). He has also published a number of essays that have been translated into English, including “The Ruled and the Unruly: Functions and Limits of Institutional Regulations,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal (1982); and “Between Necessity and Superabundance: Metaeconomic Reflections on Marxism,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal (1991).
Bernhard Waldenfels and Irina Rotaru, “The Ethical Priority of the Extra-Ordinary: An Interview with Bernhard Waldenfels,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 37:1 (2016), pp. 151–70.