Wprowadzenie do semantyki „inności”

Stefan Bednarek

Introduction of the Semantisc of „Otherness“ 

The starting point for the discussion of the possible denotations and contents of the word “other” (“otherness”) is its etymology, connected with the Latin word “unus” (one). The word “other” in Polish as well as in the majority of the Indo-European languages is understood as a synonym of the word “other human being” (in Polish: “drugi” – a distinction non-existent in English). It is hard to clarify in what way the original “unus” had been split into “one” and “other”, however, as the historical and linguistic data show, the source of the today’s “otherness” lies in the originary unity – the union between I and Other. This relationship between “Me” and “Other” and its ethical consequences can be found in numerous conceptualizations of the problem of difference; in Martin Buber’s philosophy of the dialogue between “I” and “Thou”, in Levinas’s philosophy of the Face of the Other, or in Zygmunt Bauman’s consideration of postmodern ethics and his idea of the “moral party of two”.

The article also draws attention to the semantic distinction between the words “other” and “alien”. The word “other” differentiates, but does not at the same time exclude one from a group. On the other hand, the word “alien” does not permit any relationship between the other and a group, until some kind of assimilation takes place. Moreover, the word “alien” evokes reluctance, aversion, fear, caution, hostility which linger, until the alien is not recognized as a differently looking, but still “our” countryman, or, conversely, an “other” who still shares with us certain features in common which allow him to communicate and cooperate within a group.

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