FAH/PHIL Guest Lecture – “Asymmetrical Reciprocity: Levinas, Derrida, and Intergenerational Justice” by Prof. Matthias Fritsch, Concordia University, Canada and Kyoto University, Japan


16 Feb 2016




This talk will connect Derrida’s critical reading of Levinas to economic and philosophical literature on intergenerational transfers. The overall goal will be to suggest that the much-discussed notion of indirect reciprocity—(past) A gives to (present) B who ‘returns’ the gift to (future) C—should be elaborated into what I call asymmetrical reciprocity. By asymmetry I mean two aspects of intergenerational relations: First, if A’s gift is co-constitutive of B, then B cannot ever fully repay the debt; the gift remains inappropriable, excessive, and asymmetrical for B, who therefore must also free herself from the debt. Second, the excess remains outstanding and thus obliges B from the future. Speaking of asymmetry in intergenerational reciprocity is meant to capture this ultimate impossibility of clearly assigning the source of intergenerational obligation to either the past or the future. Asymmetrical reciprocity, I will conclude, is thus not as vulnerable as indirect reciprocity to the objection that it cannot account for direct obligations to future people.


All are welcome




Philosophy and Religious Studies Programme
Tel: (853) 8822 4768
Email: fah.philosophy@um.edu.mo