Philosophy East and West vol:45 issue:4 pages:545-567
The Possibilities and Application of Comparative Philosophy location:Antwerp date:16-18 September 1994
Speech, ethics and the other between Athens and Jerusalem
A comparative study of Plato and Rosenzweig
The starting hypothesis of this study consists in the insight that the way of speeking determines what kind of reality can be the object of language and what kind of relationality is possible. The cultural and ethical world is formed by the way in which she is narrated or spoken of. The hypothesis is worked out in an analysis of the literary genres in The Republic of Plato and The Star of Redemption of Rosenzweig. Both authors give a different appreciation of the possibilities of rhetorics, lyrics, epics and dramatics.
In The Republic, Plato brings language to a decisive crisis. The form of rhetorics is excluded in favour of the philosophical 'dialogical' way of thinking which is founded on the primacy of the first grammatical person, plural (the we). In the dialogue, one looks for the truth. Therefore, every external critical instance is excluded and the participants of the dialogue become their own judges. Simularly, the epics, lyrics and dramatics are excluded because of their dangerous ontological status and their mimetical character. Within the textual field of philosophy and after the crisis of literature, Plato is able to describe justice as the fulfillment of the own task of each part of the soul within a hierarchical state where everyone fulfills his own task.
Rosenzweig rehabilitates the literary genres that were rejected by Plato. The dangerous dramatics become the most important form of arts that brings together the epical broath of narration of the lyrical depth of dialogue. In the dramatics, the existence of God, man and world are interrelated with each other. This web of relations forms reality. In this perspective, ethics is not seen as the fulfillment of the own task but as the response of autonomous freedom (first grammatical person) to the call of the alterity (second grammatical person) in favour of the unaccomplished world and fellow man (third grammatical person). The epical life history is confronted with the lyrical depth or hight of existence and results in the dramatical interactions of living.
Conclusion: The strict rational way of thinking, founded by Plato, leads to a type of ethics where there is no place for the other. The reality of the other can be introduced in philosophical thinking by taking seriously the polysemy of literature that evocates 'unthinkable' dimensions of the reality. The appreciation of language is congruent with the type of ethics and the place of the other. The jewish tradition has another type of speeking, formed by the reality of revelation, than the greek way of thinking.