Ethics of Sharing

Emanuel Levinas begins his ethics basing himself on call of the Other. Martin Heidegger seems to start the same from the deep inner voice of conscience that calls the falling-self back to authentic life. Away from this two approaches, Jean-Luc Nancy has a starting point in the potentiality of relationality. Rather than starting with the primacy of the Other or that of the self , Nancy begins with relationality. Nancy gives relationality the first place in his analysis. But this first place is a non-place without content. His ethics therefore is a post-foundationalist Ethics. We have seen that transcendent otherness has been viewed as a potent means to resist totalization (Levinas). But Nancy has another way of resisting totalization that does not need to consider pure outside or originary grounding as is the case with Levinas and Heidegger respectively. Nancy thinks of existence as transimmanence and sees no opposition between transcendence and immanence. Thus, the way he thinks being as singular-plural itself resists totalization. Thus, it does not require an exteriority of otherness to resist totalization into sameness. When being is singular-plural and it is thereby marked by otherness all the way.

We can think together transcendence and immanence. We can also think together other binaries like singular/ plural, absolute/ relative , other/ same etc. Transcendence and immanence meet in a relation. Relation, therefore, is one of transimmanence. Thinking together these concepts brings us to the indissociability of concepts as the starting point where responsibility cannot rest with one side or the other. We cannot also think of responsibility as a negotiation between two poles. We are then left with the line which connects and disconnects to think responsibility. Since transimmanence is the character of being , ethics becomes ontology. Ethics, therefore, becomes a way of being human. Transimmanence or relation opens us to the thinking of ethics not as originary (or first as Levinas ) but takes us to the origin of ethics . It is an ethics where singularity is always produced as on a limit of conflicting demands. These demands are not informed by duty to the same or duty to the absolute otherness but by duty to the singular-plural, such that they cannot be separated or put in a hierarchy.

The starting of singular-plural is always open, transimmanent, a relation without content. It is aligned with ethos or conduct. It is a point where ethics begins. Ontology becomes ethics. The way of being ethical becomes a way of being. Being being singular-plural is already hyphenating otherness and sameness and thus, becoming ethical. Hence, the political is the dynamism of hyphenation and, ethics then moves beyond the zone of conduct and embraces the way of being human. This is so because it becomes the way of being. Ethics, therefore, becomes ontology. We become our true self by being ethical . Thus, in some, way we can see that Nancy returns to Heidegger but without positing the call of conscience.

Since existence is a relation of transimmanence, we say that existence is a co-existence. It is a being-with-others or being-with-common. Being, therefore, is primarily being-with. With is not an addition to the being. Being is being -with. Thus, with is at the heart of being. This means , it is not the case that there are beings that we than relate with. The very being is a being -with. Beings are also being-with. There is no being that is alone. Even conceptually aloneness is an absence of the other ( Being to be with). Our thinking of being is therefore, primordially a thinking of being-with. This ‘with’ is , therefore, not of beings standing side by side. Being is tending towards togetherness. Being is not togetherness. Being is a relation. Thus, from the very beginning, we are being-with-one-another. Being-with is therefore, hyphenated way of being. This is why being is always singular-plural. Hyphenation links and separates. Hyphenation does not keep any side primary or uncontaminated by the other. Hyphenation keeps each term with the other. Thus, as hyphenated beings, we as’ individuals’ ( better to calls us singulars, singulars are relational) are not one particular instance of a type nor we are self-contained or autonomous sovereign. We are each one with and among all others. We are from the very being one-with the other. We are one for the other. Our very being is ethical.

Being ethical we share our sharability as well as unsharability. We are not prior to being-in-common. There is no we before we come to share in-common. We become we by sharing in-common. This is why Nancy says we are being-in-common. What we share or what we have in-common is sharing itself. If Heidegger came to analyze care as the fundamental being of Dasien, we may say that Nancy comes to posit sharing as profoundly characterizing humans. We share our unsharabilty. What I have with another Goan is the fact that I am not that same Goan as him/her. But we do share this unsharability . There is no one fixed Goan-ness that then informs all Goans. We are Goanizing or relating -with. It is this relation of hyphenation of our very being that makes us Goans but each of us differently. We are singular-plurals in a very deep sense. In being different Goans, we become truly Goans. We share our identity through our non-identity ( not being same Goans). By not exactly resembling the other Goans, I share identity with Goans. And by thus sharing our unsharability, we generate our Goan-ness. There is, therefore , no one, ideal , perfect Goan-ness , which we then share and become Goans. On the other hand, we Goanize , Goa and ourselves by sharing our unsharability.

Although, Nancy appears to be heading to some commonality or sameness as rooting our identity, his notion of singular-plural paradoxically opens us to a new level. We share by sharing our unsharability. This is because, we have nothing in common to share other than our ability to share. Our deepest being is sharing. Sharing as way of being human seems to be deeper than Heidegger’s care. Care has led us to develop ethics of care. What we need today seems to be an ethics of sharing. Sharing can open us to being-with. How are we to share our country with everyone? We need the ethics of sharing to respond to our contemporary challenges. Sharing opens us to the sharing of our unsharabilty. By sharing our non-identity with the other , I become one with the other. We as Indians, therefore, do not have to have one fixed essence that we share and become one. It is by sharing our non-identity with other Indians that we become Indians and generate Indian-ness. Ethics of sharing may be the best response to politics of hate and outsidering in our country.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao