Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Other

Last class we ended discussion by clarifying the difference between the generalized other and the concrete other. The generalized other is acting like everyone is the same as it can be applied to the concept of universalism. The concrete other can be seen as a solution to the generalized other as the concrete other is acting in complete subjectivity. The concrete other is used as a standard for the generalized other. The generalized other is also seen to be under a veil of ignorance while the concrete other is concerned with who is involved and the actual situation. While reading I noticed Seyla Benhabib’s use of the word “other” and recalled Simon de Beauvoir’s article, The Second Sex.

In The Second Sex, Beauvoir explains that men are the “one” so women become the “other.” The category of man is defined by a man but the category of women is defined by a man as well. Because men are the “one,” people can judge men as men and see men as more than just objects. Women being the “other” sex are just seen as objects by other people. Hence, women are never able to separate themselves from their sexuality or sex. Therefore, women become the second sex in comparison to men who are seen to be the first or normal sex.

By comparing both Beauvoir’s and Benhabib’s use of the “other” I wonder if the generalized or concrete other could fit the description of the other as presented by Beauvoir. Both writers defined women in terms of the other but in different methods. Benhabib explains that female is defined by the negation of the “other” and that other spits into two categories : generalized and concrete. Beauvoir defines other in such a way to express women as being something other than man or the norm, therefore women are the other.

Both Beauvoir and Benhabib have a similar explanations of women’s inferiority but have different perspectives. Beauvoir claims that women have to "become woman" by performing feminine activities. Similarly, Benhabib claims that household activities can make women seem like they are inferior and therefore are not capable of morality. Benhabib is asking just that- whether women are capable of being moral agents even when they are seen as inferior because of household matters.

Beauvoir and Benhabib seem to have a comparable view on women’s inferiority which is defined through their common word “other”. So one, is there a connection between Beauvoir's and Benhabib’s term for “other”? If so, could Beauvoir’s term, “other” be seen as a generalized other or concrete other?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Manali,

    This is an interesting comparison that you make. In response to your last question, I believe that Beauvoir's "other" is closer in meaning to Benhabib's "concrete other", insofar as they both speak of women as lacking objectivity and hence universality. Morality has often been described as acting in accordance with the universal; we are supposed to treat others as abstract and therefore no different from ourselves. As our discussion in class last thursday pointed out, however, there is a significant problem in treating others as abstract, because no one can ever be completely abstracted from his or her situation.


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