Bernhard Waldenfels has been taking phenomenology in a new direction –one that has implications for phenomenologies of technology. Instead of focusing on intentionality and the relationship between self and other, he has, over more than a dozen books, articulated a philosophy of the “alien” and its relationship to “ownness.” Unlike the other, the alien is not simply opposed to or the obverse of the “self;” the alien is instead that which is excluded in the very constitution of the order of the self. However, the alien never simply “goes away.” Instead, its periodic “sting” and its general resistance is felt in a variety of ways, perhaps most evidently in our own bodies, which resist any reduction to functionalist, aesthetic, objectivist or other terms. Technical forms of reproduction and representation do not fully reflect this irreducibility. Or as Waldenfels says (and as I’ve noted here earlier), the question is not so much one of telepresence, but rather, of tele-absence.
In this introductory article, I use all the three short books currently available from Waldenfels in English to piece together an overview of the main themes of his responsive phenomenology.