Is There a Paradox of Learning from the Other? Four Questions and a Proposal

The Muslim World (2016, Forthcoming)

21 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2016

See all articles by Andrew F. March

Andrew F. March

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Date Written: March 2, 2016


A common justification given for comparative political theory (and its cognate concepts) is that we will be morally and epistemically transformed by encounters with our "others." This is a fully warranted and admirable aim for expanded forms of ethical and political theory. However, it also raises some complex questions. First, who is the self being transformed? Do we understand the self in phenomenological, anthropological or ideological terms? Are we being transformed in reference to an existing repertoire of moral, political and epistemic commitments (say, liberal ones) or in reference to a universal self capable of critical reflection on all core value commitments? Second, who is our "other." How deep do we go in identifying core moral and epistemic commitments that are to be challenged by new encounters? More importantly, when we identify an "other" with whom we are in "conversation," are we by definition always just identifying values or commitments that we already have, for otherwise how would we be able to identifying what the "other" can teach us as being valuable or good? Is this the paradox of comparative political theory, or is there a deeper, genuinely transformative potential for learning and transformation?

Suggested Citation

March, Andrew F., Is There a Paradox of Learning from the Other? Four Questions and a Proposal (March 2, 2016). The Muslim World (2016, Forthcoming). Available at SSRN:

Andrew F. March (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts, Amherst ( email )

Thompson Hall
Amherst, MA 01003
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics