, which manifests the appearance to the interiority and givesspace to thinking on the substance in terms of the essence to the convenient categories, isso compenetrated, at the same time, by a more essential behaviour, and radiated by thatwhich astonishes, the indefinable substance. Being is first. If the spirit knows the distancewhich separates the essence from the substance, it is because there is as connaturality of one with the other. The spirit knows the fullness of being, because it has an immediateknowledge of the substance. This fact is anterior to whatever discursive and analyticknowledge by means of which it assumes being in its intelligible mode. On account of thethe connaturality of the spirit and of being in its profundity, rest the possibility of thediscursive knowledge of the reality which is irreducible to the understanding.The knowledge affirms and respects the reality, which it recognizes in itsobjectivity. This is guaranteed by the discursivity of knowledge and by its processes of verifying. However, the substance is not reached in its act by the discursive knowledge. If the substance is connatural with spirit - and it must be it otherwise the discursiveknowledge would have no sense - it is because the spirit reaches it in a new manner.It is by departing from being which gives birth to a new behaviour. This behaviour gives space not only to the intelligibility of being, but also to being itself, tothe fact that it is. The effort accomplished in the chapter on the astonishment renderedaccount the intelligibility of this:
On account of this, while intelligibility of being astonishes, its existence is not in the same manner assumed as mystery; being couldnot be purely “to be”; that which appears, properly because it appears, could not appear.To this absolute transcendence of being corresponds a new behaviour;
there is aneed to go to being
participating in it and accompanying it
. The spirit is not anymore theintelligent analyst, but a friend that communicates with a friend.2. The Infiniteness of the Face.
That which attracts the spirit, the question of that which it is itself, is the wholeother thing of being. It is the alterity or otherness of being that seduces the spirit. Andthat which tends towards it does not measure this otherness. The spirit depends from thatwhich it interrogates. The spirit is finite, limited, in this sense fundamental; it cannot bethe origin of that which it interrogates. On account of this, the being interrogated is not
Astonishment names the original wonder. It is the preferred term because contemporary usage of the word“wonder” easily slides into the sentimental. We are struck into astonishment. We do not think our way intoastonishment; we are overcome by astonishment. There is a certain shock or bite of otherness inastonishment. There is also a certain receptivity, indeed patience. The givenness of being is offered for our beholding. ( cf. William Desmond, “Being, Determination, and Dialectic: On the Sources of MetaphysicalThinking”, The Review on Metaphysics, vol. XLVIII, no. 4, issue no. 192, June 1995, p. 736.)
Levinas gives an ethical dimension, rather than a phenomenological and epistemological, to the face. Therelation with the face can surely be dominated by perception, but what is specifically the face is whatcannot be reduced to that. There is first the very uprightness of the face, its upright exposure, withoutdefense. There is essential poverty in the face. It is what cannot become a content, which your thoughtwould embrace. It is uncontainable, it leads you beyond. Face and discourse are tied. The face speaks. Itspeaks, it is in this that it renders possible and begins all discourse. [ cf. Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics andInfinity (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1985), pp. 85-87.]