Otherness is the quality or state of what is other or different . It is related to the ability to perceive oneself or one’s own social group, not as the standard but also as the other. Alterity definition
It is a term used by philosophy and the social sciences (sociology, anthropology, political science, etc.).
Life in society is based on interaction between individuals. Thus, the individual (subject) is always in contact with other subjects, other individuals. The relationship between the “I” and the “other” is a constant, forming a network of interactions. The equity of relationships depends on everyone having the same value.
One of the fundamental principles of alterity is that the individual in society not only interacts with other individuals, but their existence also depends on the existence of the other. For this reason, the “I” can only exist through its contact with the “Other”. Alterity definition
Otherness shows that it is only possible to perceive oneself in opposition to the perception of the other.
In social sciences, cultural otherness foresees the valorization of differences and does not accept the predominance of one culture or way of life over another.
Without hierarchy, it is possible to see, for example, that a culture is alien to an individual in the same proportion that that individual is alien to that culture.
So, the focus is on the ability to put yourself in the other’s shoes, in a relationship based on dialogue and valuing existing differences. Alterity definition
Alterity in Philosophy
In the realm of Philosophy, otherness is the opposite of identity. Presented by Plato (in the Sophist) as one of the five “supreme genres”, he refuses the identification of being as identity and sees an attribute of being in the multiplicity of Ideas, between which there is the relation of reciprocal otherness.
For Emmanuel Lévinas, ethics itself requires the other, one can only be ethical in terms of the other. The ethics of alterity proposed by Lévinas demands that we be responsible for the other, which is the principle of ethics and humanization. Alterity definition
Thus, violence only occurs through the devaluation of otherness, of the other as a being. Against this, Lévinas shows that an understanding is needed that the “I” only exists because it is constituted by the “other”. In this way, the violence and the destruction of the other would mean the destruction of the self.
Alterity in Anthropology
Anthropology is known as the science of alterity, because it aims to study Man in his fullness and the phenomena that involve him.
With such a vast and complex object of study, it is imperative to be able to study the differences between various cultures and ethnicities. The concept of otherness plays an essential role in anthropology, responsible for avoiding an ethnocentric reading of the world. Alterity definition