Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst, developed a theory of the "Other" that is central to his understanding of human subjectivity and the nature of the self.
Lacan argues that the self is formed in relation to the Other, which he defines as the symbolic order of language and culture. He claims that the self is not a fixed or stable entity, but rather is constantly shaped and reshaped by the way it relates to the Other.
According to Lacan, the Other is the source of our sense of self and our identity. He argues that the self is formed through a process of identification with the Other, in which we take on the characteristics and values of the culture and society in which we live. However, he also argues that the self is fundamentally split or divided because we can never fully identify with the Other or achieve a sense of completeness.
Lacan also suggests that the other can be seen as the "big other" which is the symbolic order of language and culture, and the "small other" which is the other in the interpersonal relationship.
In many theories of human subjectivity, the self and the other are seen as related but distinct concepts. The self is often defined as one's own subjectivity, or the way we experience and understand our own existence. The other, on the other hand, refers to any person or group that is perceived as different from the self.
The relationship between the self and the other is a central theme in many fields, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy. Many theories propose that the self is formed in relation to the other, and that the way we relate to others shapes our sense of self.
In ethnography, "the other" refers to the group or culture being studied by the ethnographer. The term emphasizes the difference and distinctiveness of the group being studied, as well as the ethnographer's position as an outsider observing and trying to understand the group. The concept of "the other" is central to the ethnographic method and the goal of cultural understanding and empathy. An example would be an ethnographer studying the culture of a remote indigenous tribe living in the Amazon rainforest. The ethnographer, who is from a Western urban background, is considered "the other" in relation to the tribe, as they have different customs, beliefs, and ways of life. And if an ethnographer who is part of the mainstream culture might study a subculture of punk rockers. In this case, the punk rockers would be "the other" being studied by the ethnographer, even though they are part of the same larger society.
In all these theories the self and the other are considered to be a dialectic relationship, where the self is constantly being shaped and reshaped by the way it relates to the other, and the other also is being shaped by the way it is perceived by the self.
One step further to this, the Indian Vedic text the Upanishads, a collection of ancient texts that form the foundation of Hinduism, the concepts of the self (Atman) and the other (Brahman) are central to the understanding of the nature of reality.
The Upanishads propose that the ultimate reality is a single, unchanging, and eternal consciousness known as Brahman. This consciousness is the source and ground of all existence, and it is the ultimate goal of human life to realize and merge with it.
The Atman, on the other hand, is the individual self, the individual consciousness of a person. The Upanishads propose that the Atman and Brahman are not two separate entities, but rather one and the same. The Atman is considered a reflection of the Brahman, and it is through the realization of this connection that one can achieve spiritual liberation or moksha.
According to the Upanishads, the illusion of separation between the self and the world is caused by the ego, and the self is not only distinct from the other but also is in an eternal connection with the other. The goal of spiritual life is to realize this connection and to merge the individual self with the ultimate reality, Brahman. In this way, the Upanishads propose that the self and the other are not separate entities, but rather two aspects of the same ultimate reality.