The Path of Emmanuel Levinas’ PhilosophyJune 26, 2021
In the early 1930s, Levinas produced works that interpreted Husserl’s and Heidegger’s philosophies. In his Theory of Vision in Husserl’s Phenomenology, he evaluates Husserl’s phenomenology from a Heideggerian perspective.
What impresses Levinas in Heidegger’s approach is his critique of the philosophy of consciousness made by Being and Time, his analysis of human existence on the basis of “being in the world” in a way that goes beyond the subject-object opposition, his affect is an existential way, an experience of being. as an attempt to rethink. According to Levinas, the most important thesis of Being and Time is that being is not independent of Dasein’s understanding of being. Between 1930 and 1940, Levinas wrote articles introducing Heidegger’s thought. These are found in Exploring Coexistence with Husserl and Heidegger. On Escape in 1935 poses the question that determined Levinas’ philosophical trajectory: Is transcendence possible? This question is asked in a specific way: Is it possible for the ego to escape from the weight of the experience of being by coming out of itself?
The trajectory of Levinas’ thought can be placed within the framework of re-asking the question of transcendence, which first appeared in 1935, and seeking answers to it in various ways. Levinas’s admiration for Heidegger’s thought will be replaced by his quest to get out of the climate of this thought after hearing from Alexandre Koyre that Heidegger is a member of the National Socialist Party. This search manifests itself prominently in the short works titled Zaman ve Other and Existence to Existence written in 1947-48 after the second world war. In these works, the question of transcendence is asked again, this time using the term “excendance” (excendance, outward transcendence), and through eros, parenthood (fertility of the father) is read as experiences that embody and embody transcendence.
“Fertility” is a concept used in this text to refer to the fertility of the father (fécondité de la paternité). This is not an idea of the continuation of the biological lineage. Relationship with an adopted son, a student, can also provide the condition for fertility in this sense. According to Levinas, the child’s survival in a time when the father does not exist, is the emergence of the self from the existence in which it is attached to its identity, its body. Levinas’ understanding of “son” by the concept of “child” has been criticized because it is under the influence of patriarchal prejudices in the understanding of fertility.
The formal expression of transcendence in Totality and Infinite is the relationship of “metaphysical desire” with the absolute other. Levinas describes this with the idea of the infinite he found in Descartes. This relationship is embodied in the face-to-face relationship with the other, that is, in the ethical relationship. In this work, Levinas describes the subject as a movement from immanence to transcendence. Gradually he describes the transcendence of the self by considering relations with various othernesses. In these relations, the ego separates from the whole, collects itself and identifies, and the identity of the self arises from this identification. The ultimate degree of relationship with otherness is ethical relationship with the other. In this relationship, the self questioned by the face of another comes out of itself and goes to the other, never to return. However, in the process of explaining himself in front of someone else, he will regain himself and dominate the language. Since the transcendence movement in the face-to-face relationship may fail with the dissolution of the radical other in unity, Levinas will return to guardianship again and this time, by adding an ethical meaning to guardianship, he will underline that this relationship is one that resists integrity. While the Hegelian infinite is embodied in the unity of the state, the Levinasian infinity is embodied in a guardianship that resists the infinite unity.
Levinas must have been dissatisfied with the solution he found, as he revisits the question of transcendence in 1974’s Other Than Being or Beyond Essence. This time, the experience of guardianship has completely disappeared. This is because, according to some commentators, the relationship with my child brings too much identification with someone else. Other than Being has many important differences from Totality and Infinite. The most important of these is that Levinas rethinks language, meaning, expression, utterance, sensitivity, ethical subjectivity, and the structure of the ethical relationship. This time, the possibility of transcendence is embodied in the ethical relationship, which is thought of as “substitution”. In the ethical relationship, the subject is “for-one-for-the-other”. Although ethics was not a decisive path from the beginning of Levinas’ thought, at the end of his path, Levinas became a philosopher of ethics, a philosopher who rethinks the meaning of ethics. Moreover, according to Levinas, the meaning of the idea of God is in relation to the other. Thus, Levinas introduces God into philosophy not through the problems of ontology, but through the enigma of ethics. In Levinas, the relationship with the other constitutes an enigma that interrupts the self’s identity arising from identification or identity arising from identification(s). In the ethical subject, identity erodes, deteriorates, falls into the background, becomes insignificant, disintegrates, is wasted; The enigma of the relationship with others depends on the relationship of social, ethnic, cultural and national identities.