Since I'm not quite ready to get back to Groundhog Day, I thought I'd throw in an explanation of the title of this blog site. "The face of the Other" is a phrase used by Emmanuel Levinas, an important twentieth-century philosopher who has won my deep interest and admiration. I'll make two clarifying points and then give some quotations from Levinas:
(1) “Other” (sometimes capitalized, sometimes not) usually translates the French word autrui, which means “the other person,” “someone else” (other than oneself). It is thus the personal other, the other person, whoever it is, that each of us encounters directly, or experiences the traces of, every day. Of course, we encounter a multiplicity of others, but Levinas more often uses the singular “other” to emphasize that we encounter others one at a time, face to face.
(2) By “face” Levinas means the human face (or in French, visage), but not thought of or experienced as a physical or aesthetic object. Rather, the first, usual, unreflective encounter with the face is as the living presence of another person. Thus, when we come "face to face" with another person, the experience is a social and ethical one (rather than intellectual, aesthetic, or merely physical). “Living presence,” for Levinas, would imply that the other person (as someone genuinely other than myself) is exposed to me--that is, is vulnerably present--and expresses him or herself simply by being there as an undeniable reality that I cannot reduce to images or ideas in my head. This impossibility of capturing the other conceptually or otherwise reveals the other’s “infinity” (i.e., irreducibility to a finite [bounded] entity over which I can have power). The other person is, of course, exposed and expressive in other ways than through the literal face (e.g., through speech, gesture, action, and bodily presence generally), but the face is the most exposed, most vulnerable, and most expressive aspect of the other’s presence.
Some quotations from Levinas:
The face is a living presence; it is expression. . . . The face speaks. (Totality and Infinity 66)
. . . the face speaks to me and thereby invites me to a relation . . . (Totality and Infinity 198)
The face opens the primordial discourse whose first word is obligation. (Totality and Infinity 201)
. . . the face presents itself, and demands justice. (Totality and Infinity 294)
In front of the face, I always demand more of myself. (“Signature” 294 in Difficult Freedom: Essays on Judaism)
[I am] not free to ignore the meaningful world into which the face of the Other has introduced [me]. (Totality and Infinity 219)
For many more quotations concerning "the face," see http://english2.byu.edu/faculty/youngb/levinas/face.pdf or http://english2.byu.edu/faculty/youngb/levinas/face.rtf. And for more on Levinas, see http://english2.byu.edu/faculty/youngb/levinas/guide.htm.