File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2003/lyotard.0302, message 95

Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2003 11:47:10 -0500
Subject: Re: Fear/levinas

Steve, Eric, and others

I think I'm getting sold here.  Certainly I dread all of the 
things you've noted as dreadful and coming out of Levinas.  I 
myself have been a atheist all of my adult life, and 
therefore cannot defend his work in the light you cast upon 

I have, however, in my belated arrival, come to a certain 
appreciation for things I thought I found there that I now 
need to reconsider.  

Please understand again, however, that I would have resisted 
the very things you resist in Levinas even before I had read 
him.  I assure you, I appreciate no aspect of his work that 
you point to... which is not to say I don't appreciate 
something there... something I now feel called upon to place 
under your tools of analysis. 

Before I do so, however, and it will take some few days, I'd 
like to know how what you've highlighted affects what Geof 
has said about Levinas' take on the question of everyday 
fear.  Do you see it as a possible tool in granting space to 
others?  Or feelings of alienation.  Do you yourselves stand 
against the hesitancy and critical promotion of self-interest 
Levinas appears to recommend?  

Don Socha 

---- Original message ----
>Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2003 21:20:38 +0000
>From: "steve.devos" <>  
>Subject: Re: Fear.  
>   Don/All
>   rough notes...
>   Eric has already replied more or less as I would
>   have and I have some sympathy with his mail  - most
>   specially raising the issue of Badiou's critique of
>   Levinas. I was tempted at this point to raise again
>   the Hegelian and Psychoanalytical refusal of Levinas
>   - but since both perspectives are part of Badiou's
>   critique it may be more pertinent to refer to a more
>   vuilgar materialist refusal - hence what follows
>   below which assumes a more materialist and
>   utilitarian approach to morality and ethics....
>   The Levinas position being founded on transcendence
>   - excludes the non-human from the ethical. Rather it
>   maintains the idea that in some sense a human is
>   more significant than a non-human, which is an
>   absurd position that cannot be justified given our
>   status as the biggest extinction event in 65 Million
>   years. Consequently what cannot be addressed from
>   inside his position is the most critical ethical
>   issue of the day - which can be understood in terms
>   of the detritous of the bad sort of humanism -
>   namely that it references the philosophical idea
>   that being human matters morally,  as in the
>   equivilant idea that belonging to a particular race
>   matters morally. Anyone who thinks that race or
>   species boundaries are morally significant is
>   completely blind to what makes an individual human
>   or non-human significant.  It has recently been
>   argued that the terms "Human Being" and "Person"
>   should be seperated for whereas the former signifies
>   a member of our species (which, lest we forget some
>   Darwinians argue does not exist) whilst the latter
>   refers to any being that posses "a conception of
>   self as a subject of experiences and other mental
>   states and believes that it is a continuing
>   entity..." (Michael Tooley).
>   (Now it so happens that most "Persons" I  meet are
>   Human Beings however George the cat is plainly a
>   person  and as such has as much right to be
>   considered and treated ethically as any Human Being,
>   more than some human beings I could name.)
>   For Levinas the "face of the other" appears to me
>   through the face of God (the other resembles God,
>   and I see the face of the other thanks to my
>   relationship with God). Respect for the other, an
>   ethical relationship with him is possible thanks to
>   the passage through the absolute Other: God... What
>   Levinas does is place God between myself and the
>   Other thereby making preventing dialogue - reducing
>   discourse to something already said by the Other.
>   Need I point out that since Hegel and Kant it has
>   been accepted that ethics are founded on the social
>   and political - not on the face of a dead and
>   non-existent god...
>   Anyone know which text of Irigaray's contians the
>   critique of Levinas?
>   Hegel hhhmmm later.
>   regards
>   steve
>   Don Socha wrote:
> G/all
> I had thought of the Levinas angle but discarded it, for
> myself at
> least, because of my rejection of his ethics.  Beyond the
> critique of
> Levinas by Badiou, there is something deeply reactionary in
> statements
> such as "...Ethics is, therefore, against nature because it
> forbids the
> murderousness of my natural will to put my own existence
> first..." 
> regards
> steve
> I don't see what's necessarily reactionary about this
> position, Steve.  Surely you don't mean to suggest that
> Levinas is anything like a biological determinist. Though I
> don't want to overlook the always difficult context of his
> work, isn't he simply saying that while nature is
> indifferent, people need not be fatalistic? 
> I've yet to read Badiou (plan to begin this week), but
> doesn't Levinas mean something quite distinct when he
> says "against nature"?  I do know he wasn't in favor of
> putting his own existence first... rather, his whole ouvre
> stands against precisely this. 
> Or do you see ethics as something other than an artificial
> means by which better versions of ourselves might be
> explored?  
> Don Socha


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