Levinas: Time and AnotherJune 26, 2021
These are works that seek an answer to the question of “transcendence” posed in On Escape in 1935, from Time and the Other and From Existence to Being, published in 1947-48 after the Second World War, with a phenomenology unique to Levinas. On Escape begins with a description of the experience of the unbearable weight and overwhelmingness of being. In this experience I feel the need to exit being.
Levinas asks if pleasure will give itself an outlet. Since the experience of pleasure results in a return to the self, the ego experiences the impossibility of exiting being in pleasure. The impossibility of escaping or getting out of existence is embodied in the self’s experience of being self-fixed. The self already contains a duality between the self and itself; I, crushed under the unbearable weight of existence, wants to get out of itself, but cannot find a way out.
Between 1947-48 Levinas clarifies the problem of transcendence as follows: Coming out of being is not the complete loss of being or dying, but going towards the other by keeping one foot in being and never coming back to oneself. In this period, Levinas made the determination that Western philosophy was an allergic and monistic thought towards the “other”. So whatever the possibility of transcendence is, it will be seen as a possibility that opens Western philosophy to pluralism. In fact, Levinas declares in this work that he has made a break with Parmenides, who claims that the being is One. It is difficult to comment on how this proposition should be understood, as Levinas says so little about Parmenides. The ego’s coming out of itself and going into another does not describe a mystical experience in which the ego loses itself and dissolves in the other, a situation where the self is both itself and the other will first eliminate monism and then carry us to pluralism through dualism.
Levinas describes the phenomenological origin of the self in Zaman ve Other by returning to anonymous existence (il ya). Levinas calls the phenomenon of the emergence of an ego assuming its own existence from processes that do not belong to a subject and do not reveal a meaningful world (for example, the experience of insomnia). However, the existence of an ego formed through hypostasis can be spoken of in terms of “being in the world”. Levinas depicts a subject by addressing such an ego’s struggle to meet its needs, its materiality, its freedom, and its relation to death. This analysis is in the nature of a discussion with Heidegger’s Dasein analytics in Being and Time. Levinas, in the continuation of this description, considers death as a relation to a radical otherness. Death opens or makes possible a time when I relate to possibilities that were not possible for me. Levinas interprets the relationship between child and fatherhood, acquired through eros, as the embodiment of this radical alterity relationship structure. I am my son in a sense, he is both me and another. I become other than myself by leaving existence or myself through guardianship and never returning to myself. Levinas thus proclaims that he has opened up from Parmenidean monism to pluralism by finding the possibility of transcendence outside of the movement of Western metaphysics that reduces the other to the same. This is the first step in his attempt to break out of the Heideggerian idea of being.
In Levinas’ philosophy, the self does not primarily mean “identity”. Of course, the ego can fix itself by making it belong to an identity (sameness) or identity by identification. But even the fact that we can enter into the act of identification reveals that there is a difference between the self and the self.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook