File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2003/lyotard.0302, message 98

Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2003 14:06:05 -0500
Subject: Re: Fear/levinas


Having brought up Levinas in regards to fear, I wanted to say a few things:  
first, as to Levinas notion that "to love is to fear for another" is really, 
for me, something of a Valentine.  I realize the challenge Levinas's ethics "as 
a whole" poses, particulary in regards to the animal (i.e. He says also in T & 
I, "Everything that cannot be reduced to an interhuman relation represents not 
the superior form but the forever primitive form of religion" (79).)  I haven't 
read Badiou yet, but there are other elements to be cautious about, for sure.  

But the idea of "hesitancy" and "granting a space for others" that your post 
inquires about does strike a chord as to Levinas's importance.  His work is 
valuable, or so it seems to me, as a corrective to Heidegger's rather daunting 
superstructuralism.  I love bit like this:  "It is interesting to observe that 
Heidegger does not take the relation of enjoyment into consideration.  The 
implement has entirely masked the usage and the issuance at the term--the 
satisfication.  Dasein in Heidegger is never hungry.  Food can be interpreted 
as an implement in a world of explotation" (134).

Now, again, we might see in Levinas a certain bourgeouise attitude in his 
articulation of "enjoyment"--indeed, we might regard it as more sinister still 
in light of the role the feminine SERVES in this conception--but in another 
way, the idea that dasein is never hungry goes a long way in explaining 

H. certainly did not take the responsibility, the host-welcoming function into 
consideration in preparing his Rector's Address.  

Levinas reminds us of the value in considering "non-symmetrical" relationship.  
This to me, Don, is the "hesitancy" or the "granting of space."  Levinas was 
quite fond of Russian literature, and this is one from Dostoyevsky that shows 
up in a number of places:

"We are all guilty of all and for all men before all, and I more than the 
others." (from The Brothers Karamazov, Ethics and Infinity 98).

The non-symmetry results from this responsibility that exceeds what I can count 
on.  A commitment to a the I that "always has one responsibility MORE than all 
the others" makes for one dynamo of a host (99).  

Levinas's welcoming acts this way:  You arrive late at night on camel.  You 
enter the tent and are greeted.  Carpets are brought out, a bath is prepared, 
dinner is served.  There is music and wine.  And sleep.  In the morning, one 
awakes, washes, and smokes.  Your host then asks, "So why have you come?"




Quoting Don Socha <>:

> 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 
> it.  
> 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.  
> >To:
> >
> >   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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