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Unavailability: When Neighbors Become Strangers

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Richard Kearney’s Anatheism: Returning to God After God has hospitality to the stranger as one of its central features. This article traces the roots of such hospitality back through Kearney’s mentor Paul Ricoeur to Ricoeur’s own mentor, Gabriel Marcel. Marcel’s analysis of the role of abstraction in philosophical reflection leads him to propose a réflexion seconde as a means of avoiding the lure of the “spirit of abstraction.” Necessary to second reflection is the cultivation of the virtue Marcel calls “availability,” and it is in light of this elemental, though often elusive, ground for thinking and living that even the best ambitions of the hospitable wager are put to a strenuous test. The second part of the article takes up the case of post-Katrina New Orleans as a way of showing that in a consumerist and calculative society there is a default resistance to availability and therefore a severe handicap to entering even the most basic scene of hospitality. The intractable lack of availability thus rivals the otherwise provocative summons to the threshold of welcome, even where it concerns the neighbor. The anatheistic wager, though profound in its own right, will rarely be undertaken, and “available” inquiry thus faces a more elemental initial task.

Affiliations: 1: Loyola University


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