We kiss and we beat ourselves

One of the premises of ethic is reciprocity: there can be no moral instance without the recognition of otherness and the relationship of mutuality. This does not constrain the need to dislike every form of humanity indiscriminately: the ethical individual maintains his own preferences, appreciates, shares, or despises and dislikes. But never can the human being be ignored in its uniqueness, which puts it before another human being as different. Being alone in the world is an oxymorate: it is not possible to contravene the ontological background that concerns every human being as such, that is, the fact of being in the world together with other human beings.

H. Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1490-1510, Prado Museum, Madrid

Buber already explained that “the instinct of creativity, abandoned to itself, does not lead, cannot lead to two formations indispensable for the construction of a true human life: to participate in a cause and to access reciprocity” (Buber, 1926, p. 166). The reciprocity (Gegenseitigkeit) of which Buber speaks is the key to understanding the dialogue pedagogy that must characterize humanity as such. But already ontologically, “man becomes me in contact with the tu” (Buber, 1923, p. 79), because “Beziehung ist Gegenseitigkeit” (Buber, 1923, p. 63), “relationship is reciprocity”. A lively argument in the ortheinian argument, capable of overturning the phenomenology of Husserl: before the I there is the tu, because the other that appears to me is not simply another, but is alter ego, is another like me, another I (Ortega y Gasset, 1967, p. 97). Therefore, “relationship is reciprocity” or, to put it with Heidegger, Mitsein: “The world is already always what I con-split with others. The world of Being is con-world. In-being is a con-being with others. The intra-worldly being of others is a con-Being” (Heidegger, 1927, p. 154).

R. Magritte, Les amants, 1928, MOMA, New York

Much of the phenomenology and very existentialism have revolved around this great question: who am I? And contemporary philosophy, although for various turns, has always responded in ways similar to this: I am me and my world. The contemporary, often mired as a temple of laxity, of any kind, of nihilism, accused of being the age of the crisis of values – and I have never quite understood what values and crises were spoken of – has instead sealed this extreme conquest, which allows us to look to the future with renewed euphoria, but with careful and sensitive awareness: subjectivity is objectivity. The inescapable root of the human being is a radical subjectivity; but this subjectivity is not, as in the shining rationalism, in scientific positivism or in imaginative metaphysics, acquired certainty of self-domination over the world. On the contrary, any conscious self-investigation turns out to be an opening towards an indefinite horizon of opportunities, including failure, nausea, discomfort. Contemporary man discovers that his subjectivity is but a reference to other subjectivity: the infinite worlds of Giordano Bruno are but the anticipation of the infinite subjects with which I can find myself in close contact or in feeble relationships. If I “accepted life, I accepted with my existence the need for my co-existence. It is not a question of deliberating to enter the so-called relationship life. All life is a relationship” (Piovani, 1972, p. 87). Before any social ethics, which recognizes life as a life of relationship, there is an ontological assumption, which reveals the need for co-existentiality: co-existing is not a deliberate act, or effect of institutional ratification, or the result of a calculation of convenience. Co-existence is an inescapable fact, for no human being can exist outside the ontological plane of coexistence; each subject is a reference to other subjects not only because, like every human being, it is the result of a generation produced by other human beings, a man and a woman, the parents; but above all because life is an activity that requires, produces, causes, undergoes continuous encounters and clashes with others: from the individual known in the hospital and become a friend to the person who hit me with the car.

J. Miro, Mangeur de soleil, 1955, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Therefore, it goes without saying that any naive perspective devoted to spontaneous philanthropy is complicated by the fact that coexistence does not mean peace and love: beyond the fact that for Ortega y Gasset himself, the other appears as a potential danger, it is given the fact that we are often forced to live with un courteous neighbors, with colleagues not available , with people we’d like not to have in our neighbourhoods, with enemies and demons that often reside in ourselves even before they’re out there. As with Spanish, Moreover, not only is the social relationship inescapable on the ontological level – as we are “open to the other” (1967, p. 130) – but it becomes a key to the ethical reading of social coexistence, because it is the origin of the transcendence of individual individualities, the transition from Buber’s self and tu to something else, the us: “The relationship “we” is the primary form of relationship. No matter its contents: the kiss, the beating. We kiss and we beat each other. The important thing here is the us there. Already in this relationship I do not live, but I live. […]I find myself surrounded by other men. With many of them I am in a social relationship, I live that reciprocity that we have called the reality of “We” (Ortega y Gasset, 1967, pp. 130-131).

M. Ernst, Le baiser, 1928, Guggenheim, Venice

By reversing the Gospel message, I must love myself as I love the other. The important thing here is to understand very simply that to get to know each other you need to get to know each other first.

Buber M. (1923). Ich und Du, Insel, Leipzig
Buber M. (1926). Rede Eber das Erzieherische, Lambert Schneider, Berlin Heidegger M. (1927). Sein und Zeit, Niemeyer, Tobingen
Ortega y Gasset J. (1967). El hombre y la gente, Revista de West, Madrid Piovani P. (1972). Principles of a philosophy of morality, Morano, Naples

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