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I offer this short excerpt from the book Vivantonomy, and hope that our readers will enjoy it.  It is part of our contribution to a new human anthropology.

Kevin Boileau

  1. Introduction

I am writing this book in Missoula, Montana, USA, in fall of 2014 and the early part of 2015.  It comes from several years of thought, teaching, research, work with Professor David A. Boileau, work at the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute, work with the Global Center for Advanced Studies, work at the BCS Dispute Resolution Research Institute, and valuable dialogue with Professor Burggraeve himself.  While it is true that I practice, teach, and write in the areas of psychoanalysis, critical theory, and phenomenology, it is also true that I have spent decades of my life studying moral theory.  My work here comes from all that I mention, but I must state that the content of this book is perhaps important to me primarily because of the gravity of moral issues currently facing human beings.  I take full responsibility for any errors, omissions, or inaccuracies.  However, much of my thinking comes from several earlier volumes of mine and I feel confident that I have been true and fair both past and present.

Primary written sources for my work include my prior books entitled Genuine Reciprocity, Essays on Phenomenology, Manifesto on Solidarity, and Critical Existential Psycho-Analysis (and all notations and references); Professor Burggraeve’s book From Self-Development to Solidarity (along with all his references to original work by Emmanuel Levinas), and in general, all the work he has done on Levinas, including his new unpublished essay “Bound to the Other Before Any Contract,” which focuses on the triplicate of the French Revolution, which he wants to re-order to fraternity, equality, freedom.”; private notes and correspondence between David A. Boileau and me; and finally, all the work that I have published in other formats in psychoanalysis, cooperative conflict resolution, and phenomenology.  My endnotes reference my original ideas, contributions of ideas from others, or the source books I list above.  The main purpose of my contribution is not to demonstrate broad knowledge about who is writing in this area.  In contrast, it is to present some focused ideas that I have been working on for over two decades, and about which some clarity is starting to emerge in my own consciousness.

I have organized this text as an introduction in a general way to my perspective on the thought of Levinas, some of my interpretations of Burggraeve’s work I mention above, my thoughts about what I call a “trans-human” approach to solidarity, and a rapprochement of my work with Burggraeve’s, especially focusing on the notion of responsibility and human fraternity. Let us now turn to some general thoughts about Levinas, which will bring my work alongside Burggraeve’s.  Then, I shall follow a simple progression of thought in the main body of my essay.  This will show how our modern anthropology of the human has progressed from the autonomy of Kant to the heteronomy of Levinas, and to the trans-human approach that I outline.  Thus, we move from what I call the “possessive self” of the Enlightenment to the other-directed self we see with Levinas, Burggraeve, Marcel (carefully reviewed in my Critical Existential Psycho-Analysis) and others, which increases the demand for responsibility and which re-configures our anthropology.  I then propose a new type of humanism that is other-directed, to be sure, but which moves beyond a humanism that focuses solely or primarily on humans and human benefit.  In this humanism, which constructs a ”trans-human” anthropology, the focus goes beyond humans in order to take into account on an equal basis with a principle of ontological parity, the environment, and perhaps more import, all sentient life.

I will thereby argue that this trans-humanist move is necessary in order to complete the historical-theoretical line of thinking that Levinas starts and which Burggraeve develops and refines.  I propose that this trans-human approach is consonant with the thinking of both Levinas and Burggraeve, and that it allows us a deeper sense of the heteronomous approach, surpassing it through a radicalization of its theoretical core.  Further, it develops our notion of fraternity, refines our sense of solidarity, enriches our beliefs about mutuality and reciprocity, and finally, broadens and extends the requirements of responsibility for each of us, and all of us.  In the end, I believe that this is the most important consequence of this progression.  I also might add that my work is exploratory in the sense that a trans-humanism purports to “cross” or go beyond both humanisms of autonomy and heteronomy but then proceeds to return to both.  I hope that the reader can generously interpret my intent, which is solely to enrich Professor Burggraeve’s refined notions of fraternity and responsibility, and to continue to develop our understanding of what is truly an ethic that relies on a radicalized heteronomous anthropology.  I must confess that as we make our commitments to greater levels of responsibility and to an anthropology that deepens its commitment to all others, and to the Other, we necessarily find ourselves at sea—with loss of autonomy, ego, and personal identity as we have known it.  I am grateful to both Professor David A. Boileau and to Professor Roger Burggraeve for helping me develop this work.  Because of the nature of these ideas, much of what I write here is in part motivated by faith in the not-yet-known.  Let us turn to some general thoughts about Levinas as we proceed to the problem at hand.

Kevin Boileau

Nazarita Goldhammer

EPIS Education

EPIS Press

The Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

 

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