The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common


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<P>"... thought-provoking and meditative, Lingis's work is above all touching, and offers a refreshingly idiosyncratic antidote to the idle talk that so often passes for philosophical writing." —Radical Philosophy</P><P>"... striking for the clarity and singularity of its styles and voices as well as for the compelling measure of genuine philosophic originality which it contributes to questions of community and (its) communication." —Research in Phenomenology</P><P>Articulating the author's journeys and personal experiences in the idiom of contemporary continental thought, Alphonso Lingis launches a devastating critique, pointing up the myopia of Western rationalism. Here Lingis raises issues of undeniable urgency.</P>
<P>the other community</P><P>the intruder</P><P>faces, idols, fetishes</P><P>the murmur of the world</P><P>the elemental that faces</P><P>carrion body carrion utterance</P><P>community in death</P>



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Published 22 April 1994
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EAN13 9780253114112
Language English

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C o m m u n i t y
IN COMMONStudies in Continental Thought
John Sallis, general editor
Consulting Editors
Robert Bernasconi William L. McBride
Rudolf Bernet J. N. Mohanty
John D. Caputo Mary Rawlinson
David Carr Tom Rockmore
Edward S. Casey Calvin O. Schrag
Hubert L. Dreyfus Reiner Schürmann
Don Ihde Charles E. Scott
David Farrell Krell Thomas Sheehan
Lenore Langsdorf Robert Sokolowski
Alphonso Lingis Bruce W. Wilshire
David WoodTHE
C o m m u n i t y
IN COMMON© 1994 by Alphonso Lingis
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval
system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American
University Presses’ Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National
Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lingis, Alphonso, date
The community of those who have nothing in common / Alphonso Lingis.
p. cm. — (Studies in Continental thought)
ISBN 0–253–33438–1 (alk. paper). —
ISBN 0–253–20852–1 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Man. 2. Reason. 3. Death. I. Title. II. Series.
B945.L4583C66 1994
179 ′.7—dc20
2 3 4 5 99 98CONTENTS
the other community
the intruder
faces, idols, fetishes
the murmur of the world
the elemental that faces
carrion body carrion utterance
community in deathcommunity is usually conceived as constituted by a number of individuals having
something in common—a common language, a common conceptual framework—and
building something in common: a nation, a polis, an institution. I started to think of
those who are leaving everything—who are dying. Death comes singularly for each;
each one dies alone, Heidegger said. But, in hospitals, I had many hours to think of the
necessity, among the living, to accompany those who are dying. Not only is this true of
the doctors and nurses, who do all they can, but of the one who goes to stay with the
dying one to the end and who stays when there is no longer any healing possible—who
knows in his or her heart he or she has to stay. It is the hardest thing there is, but one
knows it is what one has to do. Not only because it is a parent or lover who is dying,
someone with whom one has lived one’s life; one will stay when, in the next bed or the
next room, there is someone one never knew, dying alone.
Is this the critical point of individual morality only? I came to think that a society that
would forsake the dying to die alone, whether in hospitals or in the gutters, undermines
itself radically.
Is there not a growing conviction, clearer today among innumerable people, that the
dying of people with whom we have nothing in common—no racial kinship, no
language, no religion, no economic interests—concerns us? We obscurely feel that our
generation is being judged, ultimately, by the abandon of the Cambodians, and
Somalians, and the social outcasts in the streets of our own cities.
Coming back from these thoughts, I came to understand that what concerns us in
another is precisely his or her otherness—which appeals to us and contests us when
he faces. The essay “The Intruder” circumscribes this otherness. The essay “Faces,
Idols, Fetishes” explains how real values are not what we have in common, but what
individualizes each one and makes him or her other. In “The Murmur of the World,” I set
out to show that language is not simply a code established by convention among
humans, that levels our experiences such that they can be treated as equivalent and
interchangeable, but that human language has to be seen as arising out of the murmur
of nature—of animals and finally of all things that are and that resound. In the sonority
of our codes we communicate not only with human decoders, but with the chant and
the complaint and the cacophony of nature. “The Elemental That Faces” studies the
situation where what is said is inessential; what is essential is that I be there and
speak. “Carrion Body Carrion Utterance” is concerned with torture, which arises in a
specific linguistic situation: the victim is being forced to say that all that he or she said
and believed is lies, that he or she is incapable of truth. Finally, “Community in Death”
addresses the community one has with the dying.