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Emmanuel Levinas_Subjectivity as an-Archy (Feb. 20, 1976)

Emmanuel Levinas_Subjectivity as an-Archy (Feb. 20, 1976)

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Published by Yavuz Odabasi
Emmanuel Levinas: "Subjectivity as An-Archy" (Feb. 20, 1976)

From the Lectures at the Sorbonne in the academic year 1975-1976.

Emmanuel Levinas, "God, Death, and Time", Trans. by Bettina Bergo, Stanford , CA, Stanford University Press, 2000, pp. 172-175.
Emmanuel Levinas: "Subjectivity as An-Archy" (Feb. 20, 1976)

From the Lectures at the Sorbonne in the academic year 1975-1976.

Emmanuel Levinas, "God, Death, and Time", Trans. by Bettina Bergo, Stanford , CA, Stanford University Press, 2000, pp. 172-175.

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Published by: Yavuz Odabasi on Nov 20, 2011
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Subjectivity as An-Archy
The non-onto-theo-logical approach to the idea of God goes byway of the analysis of the interhuman relationships that do notenter into the framework of intentionality, which, always having acontent, would always think in proportion to
Thoughts overflowing their limit, like desire, searching, questioning, hope—these are thoughts that think more than they can think, more thanthought can contain. The same goes for ethical responsibility forother human beings. Ethics contrasts with intentionality, as it alsodoes with freedom: to be responsible is to be responsible beforeany decision. Therein lies a breaking-away, a defeat, a defectionfrom the unity of transcendental apperception, just as there is herea defeat of the originary intentionality in every act. It is as thoughthere were here something before the beginning: an
Andthat means placing the subject as spontaneity into question: I amnot my origin unto
I do not have my origin in
(Weshould think of the popular Russian tale in which a knight has hisheart outside his body.)
This responsibility for another is structured as the one-for-the-other, to the point of the one being a
of the other, a hostagein his very identity of being called irreplaceable, before any return to
For the other in the form of 
to the point of 
for another.
And we must understand that here is a relationship unintelligible within being, which also means that this substitution is
an exception to essence. Compassion is, to be sure, a natural sentiment on the part of him who was hungry once, toward the otherand for the hunger of the other. But with substitution, there is abreak in the mechanical solidarity that has currency in the world orin being. "Who is Hecuba to me?" we must ask with Shakespeare.
We are seeking to describe subjectivity as irreducible to the transcendental consciousness that thematizes being. Nearness appearsas a relationship with another who cannot be resolved into imagesor presented as a theme. The other person
is not beyond-measure but incommensurable; that is, he does not hold within atheme and cannot appear to a consciousness. He is a face, and thereis a sort of invisibility to the face that becomes obsession, an invisibility that stems not from the insignificance of what is approachedbut from a way of signifying that is wholly other than manifestation, monstration, and consequently, vision.Indeed, contrary to what the philosophy handed down to usteaches, signification does not necessarily imply thematization. Theone-for-the-other is not an absence of intuition but the
of responsibility that is expressed in the^rof the relationship. In this
there beckons
the significance of 
signification thatgoes beyond the given, and that is to be distinguished from the famous
Sinngebung or 
"meaning bestowal."Signification is this one-for-the-other or this responsibility foranother. It is not the inoffensive knowledge relation in which everything is equalized, but an assignation of me
by another, a responsibility in regard to men we do not even know. An assignationof extreme urgency, prior to every engagement and every beginning:
This is what we are calling
a relationship prior to the act, a relationship that is neither act nor position,and that, as such, contrasts with the Fichtean thesis, which holdsthat all that is in consciousness is posited there by consciousness.
Here, it is entirely different: not all that is in consciousness isposited by consciousness. Obsession crosses consciousness againstthe current and is inscribed in it
to signify aheteronomy, a disequilibrium, a delirium overtaking the origin,
rising earlier than the origin, prior to the ccpxr|> at the beginning,being produced before any glimmer of consciousness. An anarchystops the ontological game in which being loses itself and finds itself anew. In nearness, the "me"
is anarchically late for itspresent and incapable of covering up that lateness. This anarchy is
it is the hold of the other upon the me, who leaves mewithout speech.This persecution designates not the content of a mad consciousness but rather the form according to which the me
isaffected. It expresses the inversion of consciousness, a passivitythat will not be defined in terms of intentionaliry—where undergoing is always a
taking charge.
However, in the consciousness thatis all freedom, or is so at least in the last instance (because, in it,everything is taken charge of intentionally), how is a
possible as a
passion [passion]?
How can madness and obsession enter into consciousness? This is the paradox of the intrigueof consciousness.The heteronomy of which we are speaking—a nonobjective,nonspatial (if it were spatial it could still be recovered by consciousness), obsessional, nonthematizable, anarchic exteriority—points to the intrigue or the meta-ontological drama of anarchyundoing the
the speaking, the reason that becomes an apologetic recovery of self-possession in which the me
comes tothe defense of the self 
A matter of extreme passion, in at leastthree aspects. First, through this passion, consciousness is struck orwounded
in it, consciousness is seized without any
a priori
(the other is always encountered in an unexpected fashion—he is the "first come"). With this passion, consciousness is touchedby the
(the other is
and this includes herethe meaning that some give to this term when speaking of foreign
Second, there is no libido in the relationship with the other; itis the anti-erotic relationship
Third, there is here aputting into question prior to all questioning.In contrast with the vision of Heidegger, Fink, or Jeanne Del-homme, each of whom calls for a freedom without responsibility,
a freedom of 
we are here distinguishing a responsibility

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