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Also by John Llewelyn and published by Macmillan

The Middle Voice of
The Hermeneutic Circle in Contemporary Continental Philosophy


Ecological Conscience

A Chiasmic Reading of Responsibility

in the Neighbourhood of Levinas,
Heidegger and Others

John Llewelyn

© John Llewelyn 1991 In memory of

All rights reserved. No reproduction. copy or transmission

Kenneth Allsop
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Chico Mendes
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Llewelyn. John
The middle voice of ecological conscience: a chiasmic
reading of responsibility in the neighbourhood of Levinas,
Heidegger and others.
I. Ethics
I. Title
ISBN G-333-5444&-X

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That the respiration by which entities seem to affirm themselves
tri�phantly in their vital space would be a consumption, a

denudeation of my substantiality, that in respiration I already
open myself to subj ection to the whole of the invisible other, that
the beyond or the liberation would be the support of a crushing
charge, that is indeed astonishing. It is this astonishment that has
been the object of the book proposed here.

Que la respiration par laquelle les etants semblent s'affirmer triomphale­ Preface viii
ment dans leur espace vital, soit une consumation, une denuc/eation de
ma substantialite; que darts la respiration je m'ouvre deja a ma sujetion a 1 Introduction to Metaphysics 1
tout /'aufre invisible; que I' au-dela ou la liberation soit le support d'une
charge icrasante - est certes itonnanf. Cest cet ifonnement qui a ete 2 Anarchic ·Responsibility 27
l'objet du livre ici proposi.
Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence 3 Who is my Neighbour? 49

4 Critical Responsibility 68
all behaviour with regard to entities is under the sway of
obligation . Obligation cannot be explained in terms of objectiv­ 5 Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 89
ity, but the reverse.
6 Ontological Responsibility and the Poetics of
alles Verhalten zu Seiendem ist durchwaltet von Verbindlichkeit. Wir
Nature 114
konnen uns Verbindlichkeit nicht aus Gegenstandlichkeit erklaren,
sondern umgekehrt.
Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics 7 The Responsibility of Saving the World
through Song 146

And where th�re is the perilousness of being moved by terror, only 8 The Absolute Master 174
there is the blessedness of astonishment - that wakeful rapture
9 The Feeling Intellect 197

which is the breath of all philosophizing . . .

Und nur, wo die Gefiihrlichkeit des Enfsetzens, da die Seligkeit 10 Something like the Middle Voice 225
.des Staunens - jene wache Hingerissenheit, die der Odem alles.
Philosophierens ist . . . Postface 245
Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics
Notes and References 278
Bibliography 294
Index 297

Preface ix

outside must sometimes remain undecidable. When I call something a

chiasmic exchange it may not always be one that can be spelled out
in this way. I sometimes use the word chiasmus more loosely, as it is
Preface used when Levinas speaks of crossing Derrida's path at the heart of a
chiasmus (NP 89). There is convergence and divergence.
Nor, for reasons which will gradually emerge in the text, do I
Warum schweigt die Erde bei dieser Zersforung? stipulate a strict definition of what I mean when I use the phrase
Martin Heidegger, Beifriige zur Philosophie 'middle voice'. Greek and Sanskrit grammars do not manage to come
up with a definition that is both strict and helpful. The following
definition by Jan Gonda is unstrict but helpful as a place from which
to start:
The motivation, perhaps mouvance, behind this essay in philosophical
ecology is a desire, perhaps Desire, to speak for those that cannot the 'original' or 'essential' function of the medial voice was ... to
speak for themselves. To this end I adapt and attempt to adapt as far denote that a process is taking place with regard to, or is affecting,
as possible to each other the philosophies of Emmanuel Levinas and happening to, a person or a thing; this definition includes also
Martin Heidegger, a rash project given that so much of the former's those cases in which we are under the impression that in the eyes
writings are directed at exposing what he considers to be short­ of those who once used this category in its original function some
comings of the latter's. Where this adaptation has not been possible I power or something powerful was at work in or through the
have tried to make it plain where I take leave of the one or the other subject, or manifested itself in or by means of the subject on the
or both. one hand and those cases in which the process, whilst properly
Those familiar with Levinas's. publications, in particular with the performed by, or originating with, the subject, obviously was
one entitled Du sacre au saint, will charge m e with reversing the limited to the 'sphere' of the subject.1
transition indicated in that title and urged in the lectures collected
under it. What I plead guilty to is not simply reversing the order of The crucial words here are 'power', 'process', 'through', 'by' and
priority of the sacred and the holy but seeing the second of these in 'subject'. We need a notion of power which does not merely pass
the first, independently of whether the hand at the top of the apsidal through the subject, and a notion of subject which is neither merely a
mosaic in the basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe is reaching down conduit or passage (the 'through' of pure passivity) nor the conductor
even toward the birds and flowers and rocks at the bottom or (Fehl entirely in charge of a performance (the 'by' of pure agency) but is
GoUes, as Heidegger says, or, as Levinas says, God's anachoresis) performed by as much as it performs the process - or the procedure,
drawing itself away. Sacrosanctity is only one of many such chiasrnic Verfahren, to employ the term Kant applies to the schematism of the
alterations proposed in the following chapters. The chiasm between imagination which Heidegger takes as a point for a new departure in
Levinas and Heidegger which these chapters effect, affect or explore a manner which we shall in some of the following chapters describe.
is not a totalizing synthesis or bland reconciliation. It is a setting out Heidegger's problem, and ours, is to avoid the metap�ysics of
of each from the other, an Auseinandersetzung in which each is in some subjectivity, which may seem to be threatened by the last part of
respect the supplement of the other and each is in turn one step Gonda's characterization of the middle voice, without falling into the
ahead. A chiasrnic exchange as spelled out by Jacques Derrida metaphysical denial of metaphysics by positing a power that has at
responds to and supplies a ne�d which is met not just by external most a contingent need of human or other beings. This latter may
addition or by logical inference of what is internal to the essence of a appear to be threatened by the first part of Gonda's characterization
term. It supplies an externality to which the term is essentially of the middle voice and by Heidegger's thinking after the from
exposed, demonstrating that the terms of the exchange are not really the philosophical style of Being and Time. For example, in 'Building
terms of a simple opposition and that what is inside and what is Dwelling Thinking' (1951) he writes: 'Man ads as though he were the

X Preface Preface xi

shaper and master of language, while in fad language remains th� come from Tina Chanter, Alphonso Lingis, Adriaan Peperzak, David
master of man. Perhaps H is before all else man's inversion of fhrs Wood and Robert Bernasconi - the relation of Robert Bernasconi's
relation of dominance that drives his nature into alienation (in das forthcoming book Between Levinas and Derrida to my own arbitration
Unheimische)' (VA2 20, PLT 146). However, man's contribuHon here between Levinas and Heidegger may we!J turn out to be as good
acknowledged by the statement which ends the same paragraph : an example as any of chiasmic supplementation: a chiasmus of a
'Among all the appeals (Zusprnch en) that we human beings, on our chiasmus.
part. can help to be voiced, language is the highest and everywh I might have described Derrida's work in the words Levinas uses in
er and we need to escape both extremes of the preface to Totality and Infinity of Franz Rosenzweig's The Sfar of
the first.' What Heidegg
of self-inter est and that of the total absorptio n of self Redemption, as 'a work too often present in this book to be cited'.
domination, that
and its interest in a totalizing Self, is a characterization of the middle However, although there is discussion of an aspect of his work only
voice which adjusts each part of Gonda's description to the other. in Chapter 10, I have been unable to avoid making passing references
Gonda speculates on the reasons why many forms we would to his writings throughout. I make no apologies for now reciting at
expect to be medial are in fact active and why there is a tendency length the sentences, already cited in my Derrida on the Threshold of
middle voiced forms to become assimilat ed in their function to Sense,4 that sowed the seed from which so much in what follows has
bifurcati on, which we could call deponen ce in a sense sprung:
passives. This
extended beyond that of the grammar books, illustrates what
Heidegger calls falling or fallenness, Verfallen, an existential-ontolo In a conceptuality adhering to classical strictures differance would
gical presuppo sition of falling from grace more origina ! than ori �inal be said to designate a constitutive, productive, and originary
sin. There may be something to be said for endeavounng to retneve causality. the process of scission and division which would
the middle voice or translate it from the Greek. Heidegger's writings, produce or constitute different things or differences. But, because
the later ones especially, can be read as an attempt to do just this. it brings us close to the infinitive and active kernel of differer,
More difficult to sustain is the suggestion that Levinas's writings too diffirance (with an a) neutralizes what the infinitive denotes as
may be read in this way. Can the middle voice express the emphasis simply active, just as mouvance in our language does not simply
on absolute passivity in them? Here is a sentence to encourage us not mean the fact of moving. of moving oneself or of being moved. No
to abandon too soon the thought that it can: What verbs like
"to more is resonance the act of resonating. We must consider that in
deliver oneself', "to consume oneself', "to exile oneself' (se livrer, se the usage of our language the ending -ance remains undecided
r, s'exile�;) suggest by their pronom inal form is not an act of between the active and the passive. And we will see why that which
reflection on oneself, of concern for oneself; it is not an act at all, but lets itself be designated diffirance is neither simply active nor
a modality of passivity which in substitution (in one's non-selfpositing simply passive, announcing or rather recalling something like the
and one's being for the other] is beyond even passivity' (AEAE middle voice, saying an operation that is not an operation, an
OBBE 138). operation that cannot be conceived either as passion or as the
I was introduced to the writings of Levinas through two important action of a subject on an object, or on the basis of the categories of
2 as I am agent or patient, neither on the basis of nor moving toward any of
essays on them by Derrida. I am indebted to both authors,
ional de Cerisy­
also to Jean Greisch and the Centre Culture! Internat these terms. For the middle voice. a certain intransitivity, may be
la-Salle for the ten days of discussions of Levinas's philosop hy at the what philosophy, at its outset, distributed into an active and
chateau in· Normandy where the participation of Levinas himself passive voice, thereby constituting itself by means of this
r­ 5
provided an opportunity to keep down the number of mis�de repression.
whose sometim es
standings that may remain in my chapters on work
(dare one say?) .poetic density, richness and intricacy present no Conversations and correspondence with Charles Bigger have
n against which he
risk of inducing in its readers the unsober fascinatio helped me distinguish the various tones of the middle voice. and
3 e in time of need has the interest I share with him also in the doctrine of schematism in
would have them be on guard. Further assistanc
xii Preface Preface xiii

Kant, its antecedents going back beyond Plato and its still continuing accommodate my philosophical predilections in the arrangements
fecundity make me impatient for the publication of his Kant's made for teaching. not least through a programme of cooperation
Methodology: A Concluding Hermeneutical Posfscripf, forthcoming from promoted by Alan Steele and his successors in the Department of
Ohio University Press. My hearing has been improved too by French. I thank all my colleagues for encouraging and facilitating my
Charles ScoH's papers on the middle voice referred to in my notes. acquisition of the word processor on which this book was composed,
I recall with pleasure the day he, Thomas Pepper and I met in Perugia and in particular Dory Scaltsas and Mark Bedau who with nothing
on a sunny terrace overlooking Assisi during a session of the short of the infinite patience of which Levinas writes taught me the
Collegium Phaenomenologicum and discovered that we had each skills required for the use of this wonder of wonders of the
been separately cultivating thoughts on different applications of what technological age. Also for their patience, and for their inspiration,
Derrida, who was also there, refers to as 'something like the middle I thank my students.
voice'. For preparing the index I thank David Gandolfo. I thank Frances
The doctrine of schematism as it develops in Kant's three Critiques, Arnold and Keith Povey for putting at my service so unstintingly
his phenomenology of respect and the remarks about the great chain their editorial expertise.
of being made in Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone and I am indebted to Timothy Sprigge for reading and commenting on
elsewhere serve, through Heidegger's post-critical treatment of these, the Postface thereby enabling me to raise its argument toward the
as a base from which to launch a comparison of this last with standard of rigour I admire in his 0\1\'Tl philosophizing. I thank Robert
Levinas's reaction to the deontology of Kant. The investigation of Gibbs for cooperating in the mouvance of this book and for helping
rationalist deontology and of Levinas's super-rationalist dis-ontology me see that the ecological extension of responsibility it seeks by
is preceded by some reflections on sentimentalist, utilitarian and other following clues in the works of Heidegger may already be at hand in
teleological theories in Chapter 1. the work of which Levinas says that it is too often present in his book
A briefer version of Chapter 3 was read at the Levinas conference to be cited - unless the lines cited as the first epigraph of my book, as
organized by Robert Bemasconi and ·David Krell at the University of well as being a more complete citation of Dostoevsky's monk Markel
Essex in 1987 and appears in Re-Reading Levinas, a collection based on than Levinas sometimes gives, is also already a citation of the icrifure
the proceedings edited by Robert Bernasconi and Simon Critchley. I du dis-astre in which Rosenzweig says:
thank them and Indiana University Press, for allowing me to use that
material here. Chapters 4 and 5 include sections of a paper which was Thus the neighbour is . . . only locum tenens. Love goes out to
read at the Conflict of Faculties conference at the University of whatever is nighest to it as to a representative, in the fleeting
Alabama in 1987 organized by Richard Rand and is to be published in moment of its presentness, and thereby in truth to the all-inclusive
the volume of the proceedings entitled Our Academic Confracf. I thank concept of all men and all things which could ever assume this
him and the University of Nebraska Press for permission to use those place of being its nighest neighbour. In the final analysis it goes
sections here. For permission to use as my Chapter 6 an expanded out to everything, to the world . .6 .

version of an article included in the Heidegger centenary number of

Research in Phenomenology, XIX (1989) I thank the editor, John Sallis. It goes out to my nighest, my wife Margaret, along with gratitude
My thanks are due to him too, and to David Krell, for forcing me by for her collaboration. She and l are of one mind that royalties from
their example to be more micrological in my reading of the great the sale of the product of this work should go to Greenpeace and
texts in the neighbourhood of which this book is written. Friends of the Earth.
I am grateful for the assistance given me by the staff of the
University and New College libraries at Edinburgh and the Director }OHN LLEWELYN
and librarian of the Institut Fran�ais d'Ecosse. I count myself fortunate
to have been a member of the Department of Philosophy at
Edinburgh with chairmen and other colleagues more than ready to
Introduction to Metaphysics

This source of anxiety may, perhaps, be thought to resemble that

of the philosophers of Laputa, who feared lest the sun should be
burnt out.
John Stuart MilL Autobiography

The subject has no recourse in itself that does not dry up under the
intelligible sun.
Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity

The fountains of vanity and ambition seemed to have dried up

within me, as completely as those of benevolence.
John Stuart Mill, Autobiography

John Stuart Mill records in his Autobiography that in the autumn of

1826 he asked himself: 'Suppose that all your objects in life were
realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you
are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very
instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?' To this
question, he also records, 'an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly
answered "No!"'

At this my heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which

ii my Ufe was constructed fell down. All my happiness was to have
been found in the continual pursuit of this end. The end had ceased
i to charm, and how could there ever again be any interest in the
i means? I seemed to have nothing to live for.
I Such dejection, Emmanuel Levinas would say, is only to be .expected

If: where the good life is conceived as the pursuit of an end and the
ethical as totalization. The ethical is misconceived when conceived as
I 'an ideal calculus' (Tl 192; 216), and this is how Mill continued to
I 1
2 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Introduction to Metaphysics 3

conceive his utilitarianism even after he had champfered the sharp bject of our hope not being securely within our grasp. Pleasure is
edges of Bentham's quantitative calculus by insisting that we take

k�p up .b � stru �g e and privation'. This belief is the deeper source of

quality into account. It 'remains defenceless against totalization' (TI Mill s spmtual cnsis. And it is this belief which he does not think out.
l95; 220) because it remains systematically egological. This is not to What precisely does it amount to? It can hardly mean that because
say that it remains egotistical. Utilitarianism is universalistic. It is members of parliament and local government officers succeed in their
concerned with the maximization of the happiness of the maximum ambitions for the community they serve, other members of the
number of sentient beings. However, although this concern embraces community will thereby cease to enjoy the basic goods that have
others as well as myself, it is a concern whose centre and centre of been secured for them. On the hypothesis of abundance that satisfies
gravity is the agent's freely intending will. As Mill puts this all needs, assuming this hypothesis makes sense for mortal beings,
distinction, 'though my dejection, honestly looked at, could not be there may be, as Hume points out, no room for rules of distributive
called other than egotistical, produced by the ruin, as I thought, of ju �tice a�d institutions to enforce their observance, but people still
my fabric of happiness, yet the destiny of mankind in general was enJOY milk and honey. One may enjoy something more when it is in
ever in my thoughts, and could not be separated from my own'.2 short supply, but one does not cease enjoying it altogether when it is
What according to Mill's utilitarianism largely determines the moral not and when one has no fear that it may become so. This holds even
worth of an act is whether it tends to an improvement of the welfare when allowance is made for the fact that in a democracy the citizens
of mankind, not whether it advances the welfare solely of the agent. themselves as voters participate in the endeavour to bring about what
they consider to be the most satisfactory social, economic and
However, the agent's welfare is a component of the welfare of
mankind. But this appears to pose the following dilemma. political arrangements. If that end is achieved, they will not be
Although Mill's personal happiness is not the criterion of the deprived of the pleasure of enjoying the goods they have secured or
morality of his acts, he will not be completely happy until the of the bonus of pleasure of reflecting on their achievement. Nor
happiness of mankind is complete. No wonder he says he felt that the indeed will they be deprived of the pleasure of struggle if beyond the
Aaw in his life must be a flaw in life itself. Mill came to consider that satisfactio � of the social, economic and political sort that preoccupied
the flaw was only a flaw in his life, since until he came through the Bentham 1s set what Mill is thinking of when he speaks of 'some
'melancholy winter' of 1826-7 he had not come to realize that .
high er hope hop � the importance of which had been brought home
utilitarianism need not limit itself, as Bentham mostly limited it, to to him by his readmg of Coleridge, Wordsworth and Marmontel, this
problems that. can be dealt with by legal, economic and political importance being the importance of the cultivation of the feelings
reform. Mill came to believe that there was 'some better hope' than with regard to the natural world and fellow human beings. But if, in
the securing of the basic needs of life by such social reform.·But Mill the words Mill cites from Coleridge, 'hope without an object cannot
is deceiving himself in thinking that the following of this better hope live', does not hope die with the attaining of that object? So, although
will suffice to end his dissatisfaction. That the appearance of a flaw in he does not see this, does not the original ground of Mill's malaise
life arises from a flaw in his thinking is indicated by his remark 'that remain? If he is dissatisfied with the satisfaction of the aims he shares
the question was, whether, if the reformers of society and govern­ with Bentham should he not be dissatisfied with the satisfaction of
ment could succeed in their objects, and every person in the those aims for which Bentham appears to give no or too little room?
community were free and in a state of physical comfort, the pleasures For it is satisfaction as such with which he is dissatisfied. And perhaps
of life, being no longer kept up by struggle and privation, would �
he �o d be less than human if he were not. That is why in
Wllttanamsm he is careful to distinguish satisfaction or contentment
cease to be pleasures'. What this suggests is that, quite apart from the
dissatisfaction arising from not seeing that as well as the hope of from happiness, why it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a
reforming institutions there is a higher hope, Mill is dissatisfied at the satisfied fool or pig.
thought of complete satisfaction. He believes that to find satisfaction The happiness of humanity is fraught with what some would call a
is to lose pleasure and hence the happiness he defines in terms of it, divine discontent. Levinas's name for this is Infinity. He also calls it
because he believes pleasure depends on the consciousness of the Desire, where this is not to be understood as a conative drive toward
4 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscie1ue
Introduction to Metaphysics 5
an object the attainment of which is, in both senses of the word,
that to which at least human being must belong, that which it
desire's end. Desire in Levinas's special sense of the word is infinitive,
overhears; not just outside and alongside being, but chiasmically and
condemned, as he sometimes says, to infinition. Where on the
intriguingly involved with it; not aggregatively added from outside,
classical utilitarian account desire is a psychological concept on the
but in Derrida's sense supplementary, that which makes being good;
basis of which ethical concepts are explained, Desire as defined by
epekeina tes ousias, radically exterior to being, like the Platonic Good
Levinas is an ethical or, more strictly, proto-ethical notion to which
beyond Being, yet called for by being and calling to it.
the psychological and indeed the physical are corollary and ancillary.
Because infinitive desire is proto-ethical it is metaphysical, over and
beyond phusis, the outside of nature and being.
Why do we hesitate between saying that this infinitive desire �s
ethical and saying that it is proto-ethical? And why do we say t h�t tt
is the outside rather than that it is outside of nature and bemg7
A further clue to the unnatural nature of this strange relation of
Levinas himself regularly describes this infinity or Infinity and this
exteriority in which proximity and distance are no longer opposed
desire or Desire as ethical. But, in a manner to be later explained, the
can be elicited by asking how Levinas might respond to another
adjective as thus understood qualifies not an ethical system, practice
statement made by Mill. Surely, Levinas would say, having reminded
or code, but the minimal condition or, as he sometimes risks saying,
us that the golden rule of the New Testament is already laid down in
the essence of the ethical and the essence of ethical justice: that
the Old, Mill is overlooking a crucial difference when in the second
without which ethics would be violence and justice injustice, some­
chapter of Utilitarianism he says that 'In the golden rule of Jesus of
what as Kant is not occupied directly with specific ethical practices
Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility'. As we
but with what he calls the fundamental principles of the metaphysics
have already noted, utilitarianism is universalistic. In one of its
of ethics - somewhat only, because what Levinas is directly occupied
classical versions it is often described as universalistic hedonism.
with is prior to principles that found. This is why when speaking
That is to say, the good upon the production of which the rightness
strictly we shall often prefer the adjective proto-ethical. For when
of an act or rule depends includes the good of the agent or promoter
philosophers have spoken of the ethical they have rarely kept this
proto-ethical condition in mind. And this is why we shall o en spe�
of the rule. It may happen that a disposition to put the other person's
welfare before one's own will lead to greater good over all. Where
also of primary justice rather than justice. This is because m Totality
however this contingent circumstance does not obtain, and when I am
and Infinity at ;least Levinas is concerned to direct his readers'
presented with a choice between an act that ·will produce a good (or
attention to what is the condition of the justice of systems of justice
reduce a bad) of a certain amount and quality for another and one that
as these are usually understood. ln his later writing, including
will produce a good (or reduce a bad) of the same quantity and of the
Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, he tends to use the word in
same quality for myselt it will be ethically indifferent which act I
the usual way. In that book too, though the translator responsible for
perform. The Christian ethic, on the other hand, assuming it goes in
its English version does not follow the original in this, Levinas
for the arithmetic of goods and bads, requires that I always put my
attempts to say what he says with as little recourse as possible to the
neighbour's interest first. The Reverend Richard Price is not preaching
verb 'to be'. In the earlier book his syntax is less syntactically strange.
the Christian ethic therefore when in the Review of the Principal
But it is still logically bizarre. This is precisely because he has
Questions in Morals he writes:
recourse to constructions with the verb 'to be' in order to treat that
by which being is deconstructed. This is why the metaphysical is the
it will be strange, if any one can avoid acknowledging that it is
outside of being or essence or nature. lt is, at least where human
right and fit that a being should, when all circumstances on both
nature and human beings are conc�rned, the other than nature and
sides are equal, prefer himself to another; reserve, for example, to
being that nature and being require in order to be themsel�es. The
himself, a certain means of enjoyment h e possesses rather than part
Exterior to being is the exterior of being. It is in a paradoxtcal way
with it to a stranger, to whom it will not be more beneficial.3
6 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience
Introdt-tciion to Metaphysics 7
This is not the Christian ethic even if all Price means when he says 'it
Decision based on the tossing of a coin in a fifty-fifty situation is
is right and fit' is that it is all right rather than that it is the right
thing to do. What the golden rule of both Testaments says is not t at � not a decision guided by the principle of neighbour love. This
principle, whether understood in the context of the New Testament
preferring myself is all right or the right thin � to do when, as Pnce
or read solely in the context of Leviticus 19: 18, is not involved in
intends the phrase, all circumstances on both s1des are equal, but that
. the very meaning of the principle of utility. Each of these principles
all circumstances on both sides are never equal. Th1s does not of
course mean that it is not all right to love oneself. One does that all is consistent both with self-love and with love of one's neighbour.
And each of them requires the agent to take the spectator's point of
right. But what one is required to do is also to love one's neighbour
view. The difference is that the spectator whose point of view the
as oneself.
, . Biblical commandment requires the agent to take is the Spectator
There is room for more than one interpretation of the os seauton m
who commands me to be partial in favour of my neighbour. And this
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'. In calling this the golden
is the difference that distinguishes Levinas's notion of proto-ethical
rule of Jesus of Nazareth, Mill equates it with the injunction to do as
primary justice from both the principle of utility and the Biblical
you would be done by. If as a matter of fact I would, when
principle of neighbour love. For although the principle of utility is
circumstances on both sides are equal, have others put me before
a principle of impartiality and the Biblical principle of neighbour
themselves, I should as a matter of morals in such circumsta�c�s put
love a principle of partiality when I hear it addressed to me, it
them before myself. This is not a principle of eth1caJ Impartiality or
� �
justice. It is a principle that calls for partiality, pa� t ality towar my
becomes a principle of impartiality, of impartial partiality, so to speak,

neighbour. It is not a principle that expresses the spmt of the e h1cs of
once it is conceived from the Commanding Spectator's point of view.

� � �
utility. Mill is mistaken when he says that the spiri whic i spue� the
The essence of Levinas's ethics beyond essence is that primary justice

principle of utility is the spirit of justice and 1mpar h ahty s nctly � becomes injustice and ethics totalitarian violence unless priority is
given to my hearing the command addressed to me over my
understood, whereas the spirit which inspires the golden rule IS the
conceiving it as a universal principle addressed to ruy neighbour as
spirit of self-denying love. Mill is correct when he says in Chapter 5
well as to myself. In this sense, because, unlike the Cartesian ego of
of Utilitarianism, in words that have been among the most contested
in the entire book, 'That first of judicial virtues, impartiality ... t e � Meditation Three, the proto-ethical subject is denied 'a point of view
exterior to itself from which it can apprehend itself (Tl 186; 210), it
highest abstract standard of social and distributive justice . : . IS
cannot be an ethical agent unless i t is first a proto-ethical patient,
involved in the very meaning of Utility, or the Greatest Happmess
suffering unassumingly a passivity that is more passive than the
Principle' and 'That principle is a mere form of words withou _t rational
passivity of interaction.
justification, unless one person's happiness, supposed equal m degree
(with proper allowance made for kind), is counted for exactly as much
as another's.' As he has already said in Chapter 2, when someone has
to choose between his own happiness and another's, 'utilitarianism
requires him to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and
benevolent spectator'. Now a truly disinterested spectator has no
Mill offers another explanation why. the meaning of life seemed to
reason for preferring the happiness of the one over that of �he other
_ evaporate. Although he claims that 'the destiny of mankind in general
where it is assumed that, first, the benefit is to be quanhtabvely and
was ever in my thoughts', he admits that his dejection, 'honestly
qualitatively equivalent whichever of the two receives it; second, the
looked at, could not b e called other than egotistical, produced by the
benefit cannot be divided between them; and, third, it is granted that
ruin, as I thought, of my fabric of happiness'. Instead of 'my fabric of
if the two people in question find themselves in relevantly simil�r
happiness', he could have said 'the fabric of my happiness', as is
circumstances in the future the one who does not receive the beneftt
evident from his asking himself 'would this be a great joy and
now will receive it then. The spectator can toss a coin. And so can the
happiness to you?' and from his assertion 'All my happiness was to
agent, for the agent is to ad as though he were a spectator.
have been found in the continual pursuit of this end', this end being
Introduction fo Metaphysics 9
8 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience

Were there no appetite of any kind antecedent to self-love, that

the happiness of mankind in general. But this end comes to be
propensity could scarcely ever exert itself; because we should, in
regarded as a means, a means to his own happiness. This is borne out
that case, have felt few and slender pains and pleasures, and have
by the way he seeks a remedy in what he refers to as 'the anti­
little misery or happiness to avoid or pursue .6
selfconsciousness theory of Carlyle'.

Hume also sharpens Butler's distinction by contrasting primary and

I never, indeed, wavered in the conviction that happiness is the test
secondary passions, a primary one having for example fame, power or
of all rules of conduct, and the end of life. But I now thought that
the welfare of others as its direct object, a secondary passion having
this end was only to be attained by not making it the direct end.
as its object the satisfaction of a primary passion which is pursued 'as
Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on
a part of our happiness'. This phrase of Hume's is one Mill employs in
some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of
Chapter 4 of Utilitarianism where, though without mentioning Hume,
others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or
he adapts his distinction between primary and secondary passions to
pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end ....
the task of eliminating alternatives to happiness as candidates for the
Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. The
status of original ends in themselves. This logical distinction is what
only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it,
makes possible the psychological theory and practice of anti-self­
as the purpose of life.4
consciousness he adapts from Carlyle.
However, the distinction between the logical and the psychological
The happiness referred to in this last sentence is Mill's own, not 'the .
ts not a fundamental one according to Mill. His System of Logic (1843)
happiness of others' referred to earlier, for 'the only chance' offered
argues that the logical is reducible to the psychological or, employing
by Carlyle's theory is not needed to enable me to break a
the word which has misled so many readers of the tenth paragraph of
psychological barrier in the pursuit of the happiness of others.
the fourth chapter of Utilitarianism, to the metaphysical. One might
Others do not cease to be happy. when l ask myself whether they
v.:ell ask how in advancing this argument, hence in pronouncing a
are. Carlyle's recipe is anti-selfconsciousness, not anti-otherconscious­
discourse that appeals to normative principles, Mill can simultan­
ness. It is only when people's minds are fixed on their own happiness
eously consider those normative principles of logic to be no more
that Carlyle's psychological technique is required. This does not mean
than matters of psychological fact. One might also wonder, assuming
that whether I make someone else's happiness or my own the direct
he subscribed to this psychologism in 1826, whether the mental crisis
end I can do this without being aware of the logical truth that this
into which he was thrown in that year had among its causes this
end is attainable' only if I concern myself with the various things in
refusal to distinguish the logical and the psychological, and the
which their or my happiness consists. As Joseph Butler puts this, in
mental confusion that could be expected to ensue upon that refusal.
the wake of Aristotle, Seneca and Cicero, and anticipating Price,
What his crisis needed was logical analysis to supplement both the
Hume and Nietzsche, but without making the distinction between
psychological technique applied to it by himself and the psycho­
happiness and satisfaction insisted upon by Mill: . .
logical analysts and psychoanalysis applied to it so copiously since by
Happiness or ·satisfaction consists only in the enjoyment of those
Levinas, distrustful of the pretensions of psychoanalysis and as
objects which are by nature suited to our several particular
fierce an opponent as his mentor Husserl of the psychologistic
appetites, passions, and affections. So that if self-love wholly
analysis of logic, phenomenology and ontology, wouJd say that the
engrosses us, and leaves no room for any other principle, there
treatment demanded both by Mill's crisis and by his choice of a cure
can be absolutely no such thing at all as happiness, or enjoyment of
is a reestablishment of the distinction between psychology and
any kind whatever, since happiness consists in the gratification of
metaphysics and the recognition that the metaphysical is the
particular passions, which supposes the having of them.5
� �
im easura le distance of ethical proximity, the infinition of proto­
ethlcal deme beyond the desire described by psychology, but also
Hume makes this logical point still more pungently:
10 Tlte Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Introduction to Metaphysics 11

beyond the categorial and existential structures of logic, phenomeno­ rule is pro-ductively defined and de-limited by the goodness of the
logy and ontology, including the fundamental ontology of Being and infinite rectitude of the face to face.
Time. An-archic desire without end.
Mill was suffocating, Levinas would say. Does he not write in his The term 'production' designates both the effectuation of being
Autobiography that he was like someone who has a ship furnished (the event 'is produced', an automobile 'is produced') and its being
with a rudder and all the other usual gear 'but no sail; without any brought to light or its exposition (an argument 'is produced', an
real desire'? That was one item with which his father and his other actor 'is produced'). The ambiguity of this verb conveys the
teachers had omitted to fit him out. His so-called mental crisis is a essential ambiguity of the operation by which the being of an
crisis of spirit. The sail he needs is one that can be inflated only by entity simultaneously excels itself (s'everfue) and is revealed. (TI
the breath of another human being. The desire he lacks is not simply XIV; 26)
the desire for an end chosen by himself. but a desire inspired by the
human Other who is so radically other that he is not an alter ego The ambiguity of this production is not altogether unlike that of
analogically posited by me or by the Husserl of the Fifth Cartesian the word 'realization' as used in Sartre's Being and Nothingness with
Meditation. It is not enough that, as Mill writes, 'the destiny of both ontological and, as he says, gnosiological force.7 However, when
mankind in general was ever in my thoughts, and could not be Levinas says here that the being of an entity is revealed he does not
separated from my own'. I must recognize my separation for what it mean that there is some kind of cognitive or phenomenological
is: insurmountable by any amount of the sympathy with others that, perception. Here too the ontological disclosure of Being and Time is
with Scheler, and following Comte here more than Bentham, Mill exceeded and excelled by ethical epiphany, 'transascended', as Levinas
would have us cultivate. So-called natural love or benevolence has a puts it, making use of Jean Wahl's neologism, through the irruption
non-natural - which need not mean super-human - presupposition. into being of the invisible trace of the Other's face.8 This revelation
This, Levinas would say, is what Mill might have seen if he had of the invisible and noumenal is an accession to a reason presupposed
meditated certain of the Biblical references in Bishop Butler's Sermons by and exterior to the rationality of traditional formal logic, which
that are not reproduced by Hume or Mill. And this is what is in judges it to be folly, exterior to the reason of Hegel's phenomeno­
danger of being concealed by Martin Buber's teaching that a personal logical method and system, as well as to the subjectivity that is truth
relationship is a relationship between an I and a Thou. These according to one of Hegel's harshest critics. 'The I is conserved then
pronouns reflect an intimate interrelation, but such being-with, as in in goodness, without its resistance to system manifesting itself as the
erotic love, is coinp!emented or supplemented, as Derrida would say, egoist cry of the subjectivity, still concerned for happiness or
accomplished, as Levinas says, by metaphysical desire originating in salvation, as in Kierkegaard' (Tl 282; 304).
the relation of all relations in which the other as a You is face to face Derrida doubts that Kierkegaard is as far from Hegel as Levinas
with a Me that is always in the accusative. The good which is to be supposes in saying this. But in reproducing this sentence in 'Violence
maximized according to the principle of utility is accomplished by a and Metaphysics', his first essay on Levinas, he omits the commas
good that is exterior to totalization and teleology, beyond both from this sentence and so may be exaggerating the distance between
satisfaction and non-satisfaction, outside the discontent that can be Kierkegaard and Hegel that Levinas here supposes. Levinas writes of
ended by the fulfilment of a need, and foreign to happiness. The le cri egoiste de la subjecfiviti, encore soucieuse de bonheur ou de sa/ut, de
teleological productivity of utilitarian and all other moralities of Kierkegaard. Derrida's citation drops the commas and in Alan Bass's
economic welfare is infiltrated by a de-ontological and dis-ontological translation becomes 'the egoistic cry of a subjectivity still concerned
pro-duction of being. 'To posit metaphysics as Desire is to interpret with Kierkegaard's happiness or salvation'.9 This, despite the
the production of being - desire generating Desire - as goodness and substitution of an indefinite for a definite article, does not obviously
beyond happiness; it is to interpret the production of being as being misrepresent what Derrida takes Levinas to say, namely, it seems,
for the Other' (TI 281; 304). The optimal productivity of goods that something about the subjectivity that Kierkegaard marks when he
ultimately defines what Mill understands by the rightness of an act or says '!' or signs his name. After mentioning Levinas's warning against
12 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Introduction to Metaphysics 13

the confusion of his teaching with that of Kierkegaardian existential­ switch their reference as the context in which they are used is
ism, and after citing his explanatory statement 'It is not I who set my changed. But Levinas and Kierkegaard are agreed in disagreeing with
face against the system (me refuse au systeme), as Kierkegaard thought, Hegel in their underlining · the importance of leaving a place for
it is the Other', Derrida asks 'Can we not wager that Kierkegaard 'signification without a context' (TI XII; 23). However, Levinas does
would have been deaf to this distinction? And that he in his turn not look in the same direction as Kierkegaard for this place - or non­
would have protested against this conceptuality?' Kierkegaard would place, as Levinas prefers to say. He does not like the way
have been Hegelian enough to admit that he himself and Hegel were Kierkergaard handles this almost intangible point, the manner in
both egos. But perhaps Levinas would be Hegelian enough to admit which he treats this wound in the flesh of Hegelianism. The word
that he himself and Hegel and Kierkegaard - and Caius and so on, are 'manner' is particularly apposite here because Levinas uses the phrase
all egos. His statement about subjectivity can be read as evidence that maniere d'itre with Heidegger's Seinsweise in mind. He also writes of la
he would. Read thus, i t says something about Kierkegaard's maniere kierkegaardienne de la veri ti. The Kierkegaardian manner in
philosophy of subjectivity, rather than being an attempt to say question is a modificatory manipulation, turning, twist, chiropractice,
something regarding Kierkegaard's subjectivity that does not hold Kehre, tropos or production, 'a new modality of truth' that Kierkegaard
for the subjectivity of anyone else. On this reading Levinas is no less must be credited with introducing into philosophy, though in ·

aware than Kierkegaard of the ever-to-be-repeated defeats destined to prophecy there has always been this manner of being and truth
be suffered by the ever-to-be-repeated attempts to say the paradox­ which in logic would be condemned as mania, 'seed of folly' (AEAE
ical doxically, an 'ever reopening laceration' (dechirement toujours 116, OBBE 91).
recommen�ant) which Kierkegaard, for the first time in European Kierkegaard mishandles the introduction of this new modality
philosophy, recognizes as itself evidence of the possibility of arriving because he is so committed to the Spinozistic principle 'Every
at truth (NP 114, cp 103-4). Of course, what Kierkegaard's philosophy thing, so far as it is in itself, endeavours to persevere in its being'
of subjectivity says about subjectivity says something about Kierk­ (Ethics, Pt. !11, Prop. VI), that it governs his thinking of what is for
egaard himself, and one does not have to look far to find evidence of itself, leading him, despite himself, to persist in thinking of the for­
Kierkegaard's concern for his own salvation. In the Concluding itself of subjectivity as an interior, inward in-itself, preventing him
Unscientific Postscript one finds him stating 'When an individual from recognizing that before I am a self-identical for-itself I am before
abandons himself to lay hold of something great outside him, his and for the other. Whether with Spinoza one names the object of this
enthusiasm is aesthetic; when he forsakes everything to save himself, endeavour blessedness, whether with Kierkegaard one names it
his enthusiasm i� ethical':10 When the disinterested pathos of the salvation, or whether with Mill one names i t happiness, the
aesthetic and the' intere�ted pathos of the ethical give way to the perseverance toward it for its own sake would be the perversity
pathos of religion the absolute telos is salvation. Levinas himself that Luther names curvitas, a curvature of the self inward upon itself,
comes perilously close to speaking in this way of the passivity of even when the object of the self's conatus i s not its own but another's
'religion' in his special sense when he writes: 'we are not going to blessedness, salvation or happiness. In other words, it would be a
find in the subject the means of its salvation. It can only come from mistake to suppose that the object of Levinas's endeavour is to make
elsewhere, while everything in the subject is here' (EE 159; 93). out the case for ethical altruism as opposed to ethical egoism. It is not
Whatever we may think about the proximity of Levinas and a specific ethical positiqn for which he is arguing. His chief aim is to
Kierkegaard and Hegel on the question of the subject's salvation - question a predominant and dominant philosophical account of human
and Levinas is usually careful to leave his readers in no doubt that the being and to describe an alternative which is an alternative to, for
centre of gravity lies elsewhere - there is a moment of agreement example, the account Heidegger outlines to Jean Beaufret i n the
between Levinas and Kierkegaard which is a moment of agreement 'Letter on Humanism' and which leaves open the alternatives both of
with Hegel on the fatedness of what is said in statements with token ethical egoism and ethical altruism and of psychological egoism and
reflexive expressions to systematic ambiguity deriving from the way natural benevolence addressed by Hobbes, Butler, Hume and Mill.
token reflexives or so-called shifters like personal pronouns may What Levinas has t o say is not irrelevant to what these philosophers
Introduction fo Metaphysics 15
14 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience

assertions it would seem appropriate to put him well over toward

have to say for and against 'the selfish hypothesis', but Levinas's
what it will be convenient to call the dark end of the scale. However,
criticisms are directed less at egoism than at the egologism that
he would have to be put well over toward the bright end on the basis
characterizes most philosophical defences both of egoism and
of the agility he displays at one point in the De Docfrina Chrisfiana
altruism. Levinas's topic is not that of Thomas Nagel's book, the
where he turns dilectio tua, 'your self-love', into dilectio tui, 'your self's
possibility of altruism. 1 1 It is the impossibility or non-possibility of
absolute alterity. We must therefore tread carefully if we compare
love , that is to say, the self's love of God, this translation being
lubncated by the ambiguity this phrase enjoys as between objective
what Levinas calls droifure, uprightness (which, linked to the idea of
and subjective genitivity, that is to say, as between our love of God
looking up, is sometimes proposed as a root meaning of anthropos)
with what Luther calls the recfifudo of the man that loves his
� §
and God's love for us, � speculati:'e amb g�ity that Au ustine plays
on also when he somehmes substitutes d11J1na for Dei. 1
neighbour as himself and contrasts with the deformity of curviias
Calvin would be near the dark extreme with Luther, one might
that afflicts the person whose love is self-centred and of whom he
suppose, in a grey zon� remote from the bright extreme near which
would say 'You are completely turned in upon yourself', curvus es
12 would be Butler, Price and Mill who, it will be recalled, equates the
fotus in te et versus in tui amorem. We must also therefore be
principle of neighbour love with the golden rule as stated at Matthew
circumspect in considering what, if anything, Levinas could contribute
to our understanding of the os seaufon or the tanquam teipsum or, as
7: 12, Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do
to you, do ye even so to them', an apparently negative version of
perhaps we should here say, ktimoklui, of the injunction Thou shalt
which is the precept in which according to Hillel the entire law is
love thy neighbour as thyself.' The consideration of this question will
comprehended, That which is hateful to you, do not do unto your
be the main task of the next two sections of this chapter. It will serve
neighbour'. Calvin says: 'As we are naturally inclined to love
as an introduction to the consideration of Levinas's answer to the
ourselves, that this feeling overcomes all others, so love of our
question Who is my neighbour?' which will be the main task of
neighbour should so rule in us, that it governs us in every part, and
Chapter 3 and a leading question throughout the rest of this book.
be the principle of all our purposes and all our actions. 1 4 There is

nothing in this that Luther would not accept. His view of the 'as
thyself' is that although it is wrong to love ourselves and we cannot
be commanded to love ourselves as with our natural sinfulness we do
love ourselves above others, we can be freed from this evil by loving
others as we love ourselves. In that case the command will have
How we undersfand the il'ljunction to love one's neighbour as oneself
become irrelevant. He adds: 'Nor will it be necessary for you to love
will depend on v,vhether we hold a high or low opinion of loving
oneself, and this will depend on whether, following Rousseau's yourself as you do your neighbour, inasmuch as by this very fact you
most truly love yourself, and all in turn love you'. This seems to
distinction, we understand loving oneself as amour de soi or as amour
mean that not only is the original commandment no longer
propre, as self-respect or, in Butler's phrase, cool self-love. One way of
apphcable, because we are freed from the evil way of loving
discovering how Levinas understands the injunction would be to ask
where, if anywhere, his understanding of the 'as thyself would appear ourselves, but that there is no place either for the commandment to
love ourselves as we love our neighbour, since orice it is granted that
on a scale showing the rating self-love receives from others who have
we love our neighbour it follows that we do love ourselves in the
commented on the Levitican injunction or its parallels in Matthew 19:
good way.
19 and 22: 39, Mark 12: 31, Romans 13: 9, Galatians 5: 14, James 2: 8,
This last idea is close to, if not identical with that expressed in one
etc., where Jesus is reported to have judged this second of all in
of Aquinas's discussions of Leviticus 19: 18, where he says that 'Thou
importance in his own commentary on the items in the Mosaic list.
shalt love thy friend as thyself' can be reconciled with Gregory's
This would be a complicated if not frivolous exercise given that some
statement that charity is not possible where there are less than two,
commentators evince different degrees of esteem in different places in
their commentaries. For instance, on the basis of some of Augustine's with Aristotle's statement that friendship implies an equal return of
16 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Introduction to Metaphysics 17

love, and with Paul's statement that love of oneself is culpable were, on his own responsibility'. That sounds like very good ne :§
whereas charity i s not.15 Aquinas resolves the difficulty Paul's However, what is optimism and what is pessimism here? He amplifies·
statement presents by distinguishing, as Luther also does, between as follows:
love for oneself as a sensible being (secundum nafuram sensibilem) and
true love of oneself as a rational being (secundum naturam rationalem). No reflection of ours could put it better or more strongly or
Because in neither case does Aquinas say 'only' it has to be asked radically than this critical 'as thyself'. It is rather to be feared that
whether loving one's neighbour or friend as one loves oneself allows our reflections would end optimistically, which would poison our
for a love of one's neighbour or friend that is secundum naturam supposed obedience to the commandment at the very root, because
rafionalem where this phrase is taken to mean that that love is we would then rely on ourselves rather than wholly and absolutely
rational, rather than to mean that the object of that love is nothing on the promise. Or else they would end pessimistically, and we
other than the loved person's rationality. That it does allow for this is would regard ourselves as dispensed from all further attempts to be
suggested by Aquinas's assertion a few lines earlier that man may obedient because too much is required of us in word and deed and
properly love himself qua creature belonging to God. On this basis attitude. The 'as thyself tells us that a priori our obedience is
Aquinas would keep company at the bright end of our scale with thought of only as the obedience of sinners, and in that way it cuts
Augustine as represented in the passage cited above from the De off both these false paths. For this annihilating 'as thyself' invites us
Doctrina Christiana. Indeed Aquinas himself cites this passage and so e,
to ut our trust simply in the fact that the commandment is given
might be ready to say that since my and your body belong to God it us.
would be proper to love them so long as they are loved rationally.
This idea of a rational love of the sensible compels us to Not only our self-love but the justification of our love of the
acknowledge another oversimplification n i this project of locating neighbour is to be left to God. 'The justification of our activity,
philosophers and theologians at points along a scale according to the acceptability of the little praise we offer to God, the truth of the
how high or low an opinion they hold of self-love. For just as the love we give our neighbour, we really have to leave to God.' God is
notion of the rational love of the sensible requires us to distinguish the centre of gravity. We are already judged.' The same tone of voice
questions about the value of the sensible in isolation from questions is to be heard in Kierkegaard when he says in the Journals and Papers
about the value of the sensible in relation to the rational (as the 'God's requirement is that love shall be sacrificial. but how this is to
latter's vehicle, e�pression or whatever), so too must an analogous be interpreted more specifically in the particular case, God, again,
distinction be m?tde between questions regarding self-love. Depend­ �
must determine', 7 and when he says in Works of Love:
ing on whether or not self-love is considered in its connection with
rationality, wher·e the rational may be understood ethically or The sign of childishness is to say: 'Me wants, me - me'; the sign of
theologically, and depending on whether a humanist or non-humanist youth is to say 'I,' -and 'I' -'!'; the sign of maturity and the
point of view be adopted, a particular commentator's estimation of introduction to the eternal is to will to understand that this 'I'
self-love may have to be located toward one end of the scale or the signifies nothing if it does not become the 'thou' to whom eternity
other. No single positioning may be possible. This becomes especially unceasingly speaks, and says: 'Thou shalt, thou shalt, thou shalt.'
evident when we ask about the position of Karl Barth. With him The youth wishes to be the only T in the whole world; maturity
darkness and brightness, pessimism and optimism coincide. According consists in understanding this 'thou1 for itself, even if it is not said
to him the commandment to love thy neighbour as thyself announces to any other single man. Thou shalt, thou shalt love thy neighbour.
that we are sinners and that there is no love in us. Is this an 0 my hearer, it is not you to whom I speak; it is me, to whom
announcement of good news or of bad? If what it says about self-love eternity says: Thou shalt.'18
is taken in isolation it reads like very bad news. Deeper pessimism
regarding human nature would be hard to imagine. But Barth goes on Kierkegaard's hearers may hear not only the same tone of voice
to say immediately: 'The one who commands us accepts this, as it that they hear when they listen to Levinas. They will recognize too a
18 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Introduction to Metaphysics 19

similarity in what is being said. Despite Levinas's earlier noted mentioned between inverted commas at one point in From Existence
� �
judgement that Kierkeg ard remains �reoccupied a ove all with the to Existents as though to underline that what in it is called the if y a is
question of his and or:te s own salvahon, and desptte, v;e m�y now not to be confused with what was described in the book whose date
add his strictures on wha� he takes to be Kierkegaard s belief �hat of publication is separated from its own by the experience of the
sel ood and its salvation originate in commitment and the either-or Second World War. There is an analysis of nausea in De !'evasion, an
of choice, the sentences from Kierkegaard just reproduced reveal essay originally published in 1935. There the anguish of nausea is
agreement between him and Levinas that the me (mig, moi) of described as the malaise of not being able to be what one is and yet
immersion in self and the I that recognizes others only as servants being stuck with oneself, rive a soi-meme, stuck to oneself as Sartre
of its own needs becomes adult only when it recognizes that it is would say (DE 90}.
addressed unceasingly - incessamment, as Levinas continually says - When Levinas writes of the i/ y a he is responding to Bergson as
by eternity as Kierkegaard here says, or by infinity or Infinity as well as to Heidegger and Sartre. In explaining what he means with
Levinas usually writes, alluding to the Third Meditation of Descartes. the help of Blanchot's analogy of someone in the next room
Levinas's allusion to Descartes is not made in order to establish an relentlessly moving the furniture about all night he is saying that
ontological or theological foundation. It is made however in order to nothing new is created here, any more than it is in Bergson' s idea of
assist him in his attempt to persuade his reader that the self's centre creative evolution as artistic generation and of nothingness as a
of gravity is exterior to its own initiative. How difficult this is to derivative of being, so that there is not even the possibility of
show is apparent from what we have just been saying about novelty through non-being, and possibility too is a modality of
Kierkegaard. But this is also apparent in the words we have etted being's plenitude, hence no escape from ontological ennui (TA 86, TO
from Barth. Although on the one hand Barth says that he who 91-2; DE 72). Newness does not come into being through artistic
commands 'Love thy neighbour as thyself' accepts our sinfulness 'as it creation, however inspired by the muses it may be. Newness comes
were, on his own responsibility', on the other hand he says that 'this from the other in ethical 'inspiration to the end, even to expiration'
annihilating "as thyself" invites us to put our trust simply in the fad (AEAE 229, OBBE 182).
that the commandment is given'. That is, the question of the relabon What might be referred to as the experience of the i/ y a is the
of love of one's neighbour to love of oneself appears here to be experience of the night, except that the notion of experience is
implicated with the question of the relation between faith and gr�ce. incompatible with the absolute exclusion of light (EE 94; 58).zo Light
We shall have to return to the consideration of a non-theologtcal is the condition of the appearance of objects. The 'there is' precedes
version of this �econd question, as we shall to the question of how objects or existents of any kind, yet is not the nothingness which is
the ethics or proto-ethics of Levinas relates to such traditional opposed to being by Sartre and Heidegger in their different ways.
philosophico-theological interests as those with which the Th rd � The anxiety before nothingness which they describe is not what
Meditation is concerned. Our concern in the present chapter IS wtth Levinas means by the horror of the 'there is'. The 'there is' is the
the first of these three questions only, and in particular with what neither simply nothingness or absence nor simply being or presence,

asking it may tell us about what Levinas means y metaphysi�s. but the excluded middle of these, the presence of absence, the
Love of one's neighbour, Kierkegaard tells us, tS the begmnmg of existence of nothingness, without being its dialectical opposite, prior
sobriety (aedru). Levinas's word for this is degrisement, a word whic
. .
� to lexis, but mutely armouncing another excluded middle, calling for
conjures up the image of arousal from the grey ltght of the vtgtl the call that Levinas will call Dire. The i/ y a fills the void left by the
between being asleep and fully awake which he refers to as the 'there negation of being' (AEAE 4, OBBE 4), but without any sense of the
is', il y a, and describes so graphically in From Eristence to Exisfents in abundance and generosity implied in Heidegger's es gibt (EE 10; 10).
pages (first published in 1946) that bear comparison with those where
Roquentin describes his malaise in Sartre's La Nausee (1938} and those Il y a is an impersonal form, like in 'it is raining' or 'it is warm'. Its
in which Mill's Autobiography describes his. Not that these are anonymity is essential. The mind does not find itself faced with an
descriptions of the same malaise. The word 'nausea' is indeed apprehended exterior. The exterior - if one insists on this term -
20 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Introduction fo Metaphysics 21

remains uncorrelated with an interior. It is no longer given. It is no V

longer a world. What we call the I is itself submerged by the night,
invaded, depersonalized, stifled by it. (EE 95; 58) If lo:e of my neighbour is, as Kierkegaard says it is, the dawning of
sobnety, then what he calls earthly love must be intoxication. He
opposes earthly love to Christian love, and wagers that the poet will
An escape from this suffocation is promised when what we call the search ni vain in the New Testament for inspiration on the subject of
I (le moi) overcomes this impersonal and inhuman neutrality by earthly love or friendship.21 Whether or not the poet would be better
positing a personal identity for itself. That thi� promise is not yet advised to consult the Old Testament is not without relevance both
kept is the message Mill is beginning to recetve m 1826. It cannot be to Levinas's view or views of the poet (to which we shall return in
kept if the human being is no more than a hypostatic unity, no even � Chapter 5) and to his analysis of erotic love in which the preservation
if to that unity is added union with others through compassiOnate of the separateness of the lover and loved one is stressed, whereas
love, as Mill's account of utilitarianism adds to Bentham's. So-called Kierkegaard stresses union (Forening). Earthly love according to .
human being is still not human if its being is the monotony of the Kierkegaard is pagan, and the analysis he gives of it follows the
identity of a subjectivity caught up in the self-referential circularity of pagan �istotelian account on which Aquinas bases his interpretation
the satisfaction of need, even if that need is self-salvation outside this of cantas broadly understood. Strictly speaking, Aquinas says,
world or the need to satisfy the needs of others in it. Even then, referring to Dionysius the Areopagite, we do not have friendship
hypostasis would be apostasis. This may well seem an outrageous thing for ourselves, since amicitia is a union (unio) between at least two
to say. One can understand why Andre Gide should not want to persons, whereas in relation to himself man is a unity (unitas): 'as
climb on board a raft (or an ark. See Chapter 3) when there are so unity is presupposed to union, so our love for ourselves is the model
many others left struggling in the sea. But what complaint can
�nd root of friendship; for our friendship for others consists precisely
Levinas have about someone who out of compassion for his fellows m the fact that our attitude to them is the same as to ourselves'. He

spends his life trying to save them? Is he so det�rmined to :eak he � then cites Nicomachean Ethics 1166a: 'Friendly relations with one's
circle of Heideggerian care (Sorge) and the .mtegnty of Dasetn s bemg neighbours, and the mark by which friendships are defined, seem to
towards its own death that he is ready to deny that one should care have proceeded from a man's relations to himself.' This 'root' is
for one's neighbour? poisoned, Levinas seems to say. Erotic and in general earthly love
The apparent outrageousness of what Levinas says can be conceived in this way is misconceived. So too is carifas as conceived
mitigated if a provisional comparison is made with Kant's c�ticism by Aquinas. Thus conceived caritas would be a curvifas, a being bent
of philosophers like Hurne, according to whom the foundation of back on oneself. even when it is a desire for the blessedness, salvation
ethics is natural benevolence. However, Kant's grounding of ethics on or happiness of the neighbour. It is precisely in this inclusion of my
the moral law does not escape Levinas's criticism. Although the ne•ghbour within the orbit of my projected schemes, however
Kantian account is not, like the sentimentalist account on his view, benevolent they may be, that my failure to stand upright before
vulnerable to the charge of making moral choice contingent upon him consists. This interpretation of caritas. Fursorge or care conceals
complex and conflicting information as to what different people enjoy the truth that it is my neighbour who encircles and concerns me,
and hate, with the consequence that making the right choice is often where the word 'concern', con-cerne, connotes a reversal of intentio­
if not always a matter of luck, it, no less than accounts of ethics based nality: obsession, but an obsession which is the antitype of the
on natural general benevolence or 'humanity', still fails to see that the .
obsess1on of the false exterior presented by the resounding silence of
primary ethical or proto-ethical relation between myself and another the darkness that encircled the infant Levinas and has returned on
is one of absolute dissymmetry. My neigbour and I are not equals. sleepless nights throughout his life since, le revenant, like Banquo's
Hence, it would seem Levinas must say, if I should love my ghost, being the very element of the horror of the 'there is'. This
neighbour, l cannot love him as myself. The Levinasian construal of horror is not the horror of death, described by Heidegger as the
love of my neighbour must be otherwise than Levitican. possibility of impossibility of being. It is the horror of irremissible
22 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Introduction to Metaphysics 23

existence even after death, the impossibility of final death and them a past which was never present, chosen or assumed, a past
therefore the unendingness of responsibility (EE 11, IOD-2; 61-2). which is immemorial because it is not the past of my time as passive
Levinas cites Macbeth: 'The times have been, that when the Brains synthesis in which the Augenblick is only a collecting and recollecting
were out, the man would dye, and there an end; But now they rise of light, but, more passive than that, the past of the time of the other
again . . . and push us from our stools. This is more strange than such whose approach interrupts my being toward my undated death,
a murther is.' He cites Phedre and says of her that she 'discovers the tuming senescence, which says this overcoat will see me out, into
impossibility of death, the eternal responsibility of her being . . .'. juvenescence, 'absolute youth', which says there is still always time
How can Levinas speak here of responsibility as something before for me to give the coat to save someone else from the cold or to
which one stands horrified, yet go on to see in it the wonder of serve him or her as a shroud, after or before my time has come (Tl
wonders of the face to face with the Other which is the exit from 212, 259; 23.5, 282. HAH 95, 101). Furthermore, whether I donate it
being for which Macbeth and Phedre seek in vain? The answer to this to the other or not, there is always time to be pardoned, the
question has to be pieced together from what Levinas says elsewhere. discontinuous time of filial filiation with the others that follow after
First, although he sees philosophy as the wisdom or witness of the time of my being toward my death. This time is not the time of
love and not simply as the love of wisdom or wit (AEAE 205-7, possibility but the time that suspends power. It suspends power
OBBE 161-2), and although he sees the beginning of philosophy not, because what approaches is unknown; because the time of the
as Heidegger does, in the wonder before being but in the wonder of approach is not a time of knowledge or ignorance or of the ekstasis
wonders of the face to face, my responsibility before the Other, while of understanding, but the metaphysical time of ethical infinity. Like a
it frees me from the burden of the bad infinity of incessant being, wave flowing up the beach, the posthumous time in which I am
does not free me from the burden of the incessant Infinite 'Thou pardoned by the other interrupts the ebb of my time, introducing into
shalt'. The ontological burden, the burden of existence, is released it retroactively another beginning which is also an utterly fresh start
from my shoulders only to make room for the burden of ethical (TI 257-6 1; 282-5). However, we must here interrupt these remarks
necessity. on filiation until in Chapter 9 our remarks on paternal love pick up
Second, whereas the responsibility to which reference is made this cast-off thread.
when Levinas cites Macbeth and Phedre is responsibility for a Levinas maintains that there is an element of eros in all love. Taken
particular criminal ad of will, what in Barth's terms would be a sin strictly, this would hold for the agapeistic love to which the erotic is
that 'the one who commands us would accept . . ., as it were, on his usually opposed, unless one is even more strict and refuses to
own responsibilify', the proto-ethical responsibility that frees me from translate agape by 1ove'. True, he sometimes uses the phrase 'love
the claustrophobia of the 'there is' also frees me from condemnation without eros' to refer to the notion of Desire without desire, that is to
to the freedom of ads of self-will by placing this in the non-place of a say, proto-ethical Desire in which the intentionality of telic desire is
responsibility that is not a culpability for any particular crime that I reversed. When toward the end of his genealogy of relationships
have committed or derivative from any historical contract undertaken 'beyond the face' he reaches the relationship of fraternity, he has
by me. Heidegger says in the Prolegomena to the History of the Concept passed through the forms of love and returned to the proto-ethical
of Time: 'As an active being-with with others and as such, Dasein is eo responsibility of the face to face which was his topic before he
ipso guilty, even when - and precisely when - it does not know that embarked on his analysis of the prototypes of the biological concepts.
it is injuring another or destroying him in his Dasein. With the choice Therefore, although the remark is made in the course of interpreting a
of being willing to have a conscience, I have at the same time chosen rabbinical text, we can assume that Levinas is speaking his own mind
to have become guilty' (G20 441, HCT 319). Macbeth's and Phedre's when he writes:
responsibility is a guilt that goes back to a deed they chose to
perform at a given dated moment in the past. That responsibility, that The formula 'Love thy neighbour as thyself' still presupposes self­
guilt and that date have behind them according to Heidegger the love as the prototype of love. Here, ethics signifies: 'Be responsible
choice of a way of being. According to Levinas they have behind for the other as thou art responsible for thyself'. We avoid the
24 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Introduction to Metaphysics 25

presupposition of self-love - of amour-propre which pretends to

- It is however to a chiasmus in the Levinasian ventricle of this heart
be the very definition of the personal. (ADV 105) that we must see we have been brought in the final paragraphs of this
chapter. From the opening pages we have been concerned with an
That is to say, our heuristic hypothesis of a scale of self-love and injunction of Judaic and Christian ethics. In the course of the chapter
our question as to the point on it at which should be placed the we have discovered that Levinas reflects on this injunction in order to
interpretation of the commandment to love one's neighbour given by articulate the asymmetry of the face to face. We have also discovered
different commentators lead us to the conclusion that Levinas is so that this articulation is neutral with respect to the distinctions
pessimistic over the chances of love of self being part of a principle of between ethical egoism and ethical altruism. Levinas himself says
ethics that for an understanding of his notion of ethics we can forget that it is 'beyond egoism and altruism' (AEAE 150, OBBE 117). But is
about this scale and look elsewhere to the notion of immeasurable, not 'Love thy neighbour' an ethical principle, as Mill takes it to be
incalculable, anarchic responsibility. It is to this that we shall look in when he mistakenly equates it with the principle of utility? Is it not a
the next chapter, but not before noting a complication. prescription of ethical altruism? It is, but we have just seen that it is
The conclusion we have just reached in this chapter gives us an not as such that Levinas invokes it. Rather as for Kant the moral law
apparently unambiguous answer to the question as to whether is descriptive of rather than prescriptive for the holy will, for Levinas
Levinas puts self-love at the dark extreme or the bright extreme of the Levitican formula is turned to tell us something about personality.
the scale. Have we not just seen that it is because his view of self-love Does this mean then that it is interpreted not as a prescription of
is so dark that he looks for an arche or cmarche of ethics in which love ethical altruism but as a description of human nature, a statement of
of self does not figure? However, what if we take seriously an psychological or existential-ontological altruism, a defence of what
alternative 'extremely audacious' reading of the Levitican verse which might be dubbed the unselfish hypothesis? No, Levinas answers, for
Levinas proposes? On this reading the last word of this verse, the proximity of the face to face breaks with the spiritualism of
kamokha, 'as thyself', is separated from the beginning of the verse consciousness which is the main tradition of Western philosophy. The
to give the translation 'Love your neighbour; this is yourself' or 'this signification of the for the other 'allows us to understand goodness in
love of your neighbour is yourself' (DDVI 144). In this way is another way than as an altruistic inclination to be safisfied' (AEAE
removed any suspicion that a residue of return to self is carried over 175, OBBE 137-8). This brings out why Levinas finds reference to
from the voluptuosity of erotic love to responsibility for oneself. If I responsibility rather than love more suited to explaining what he
am love of my neighbour, my responsibility for myself is respons­ means by goodness here and why he says, recalling Kant's distinction
ibility for my nei�hbour. But in this case, through love of love of my between 'pathological' love and practical love or the duty of
neighbour, love of my self will be love of and responsibility for my beneficence (for example in §27 of The Metaphysical Principles of
neighbour, since on this 'audacious' reading of Leviticus the personal Virtue), that this goodness is not the goodness of good will.23 We
is redefined as love of my neighbour. If my self is love of my shall examine this last contention in our last two chapters. At the end
neighbour my love of myself cannot be such a bad thing. Somewhat of this first chapter we note that in familiar senses of the terms one
as with Aquinas, Luther and Barth, so with Levinas, self-love gets can be responsible for one's neighbour, whether one is conscious that
located both at the darker and at the brighter extremes of the scale. one is or not, and whether one loves one's neighbour or not. The
To paraphrase Pascal, whose words about the physical sun Levinas notion of responsibility thus lends itself more readily to any
frequently cites ('"That is my place in the sun". That is how the ontological principle one might want to affirm about the ipseity of
usurpation of the whole world began'), magnanimity and agility of the self, whereas the notion of love lends itself more readily to the
soul are demonstrated not by being at one extreme but rather by affirmation of a principle of ethics. In Otherwise than Being or Beyond
touching both extremes at one and the same time, and by occupying Essence, Levinas's primary topic is neither prescriptive ethics nor, as
the space between: occupying, to cite Levinas and Heidegger, the the title of the book makes plain, descriptive ontology. It is the
place (Ort) or non-place at which there is contact at the heart of a chiasmus of these for which he reintroduces the paleonym metaphy­
chiasmus.22 sics: 'the religiosity of the self', meaning by that that the ego is bound
26 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience

to the other prior to ethical and ontological principles; prior to any

principles at all. 'Goodness in the subject is anarchy itself', anarchic
Anarchic Responsibility

comparaison dece qui est en principe incomparable

Emmanuel Levinas, 'Philosophie, justice et amour'

When Levinas writes: 'Here, ethics signifies "Be responsible for the
other as thou art responsible for thyself"' from the context it can be
inferred that by 'here' is meant n i the Torah. Taking Levinas to be
endorsing this interpretation of ethics presents two difficulties, neither
of which is removed when the sullied or compromised (galvaude)
word 'love' is removed from the formulation of what ethics or the
ethical signifies (El 51; 52). We might refer to these difficulties as the
predicament of predication, which we shall discuss in section 11, and
the predicament of taking oneself too seriously, which we shall
discuss forthwith.

Apparently, even when the Levitican injunction is reformulated we do

not escape the reference to the self as though it were the benchmark
in relation to which our responsibility toward others is in some way
to be determined. But this would seem to contradict the Levinasian
doctrine according to which the centre of gravity is outside the self.
How can this difficulty be resolved?
This difficulty would not arise for Levinas if we took him to
endorse only the first part of the injunction. Retention of the revised
version of the second part no longer runs the risk he associates with
self-love, but this advantage is purchased at the cost of resurrecting
the problem some philosophers have had with the idea of responsi­
bilities or duties to oneself. One traditional solution of this problem is
to allow such duties but to limit them to indirect duties, duties one
has to oneself on account of direct duties one has to others. This
solution appears to be available to Levinas. I cannot give the other

28 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 29

bread unless I have worked to earn the bread I must eat to keep my alterity which is constitutive of the self, and an alterity such that if we
body and soul together in order that I may be there to aid my hungry say that I am the same and the other at the same time, this second
neighbour. I have responsibilities for myself because I have responsi­ 'same' must be in its turn understood in such a way as not to exclude
bilities for others. In this sense, the other could be said to be the other. The simultaneity is not simply that of coincidence in one
responsible for the responsibilities I have to myself. If we do say time. If there is simultaneity in that sense there is also a diachrony, a
this, however, the sense in which he is said to be responsible is a difference of times instead of a difference of time. The coincidence is
logical or explanatory one. It is not in this sense that I am responsible the coincidence of prophecy, speaking for another, 'returning in which
for the other, to the extent even, according to Levinas, of being the perception of an order coincides with the signifying of this order
responsible for his responsibilities. Here my responsibility for the performed by him that obeys it' (AEAE 190, OBBE 149). This
other is the anarchic 'condition of possibility' of ethics. It is where returning is not that of Husserlian retention, Hegelian self-certainty
ethics begins - or, speaking strictly, turns out not to have a or of the predicative or pre-predicative reflection of the Kantian
beginning, any more than do I, ethically understood. For to say, as threefold synthesis of self-consciousness in which experiences from
Levinas does, that ethics begins with me is to say that it does not one's past are remembered and integrated in one time continuous
begin with the self that persists in its identity and aspires to realize with that of the present and with time to come. For the past that is
ends, but in the other by whom I am ad- and in-spired (AEAE 228, thus resumed is a past that was itself at one time a present. Prophetic
OBBE 180-1). The self that is encumbered by its body is the self retournement is the return of the other, his diachronous revenir, not the
upon which responsibility for the other is incumbent. And its soul is se souvenir in which I recollect my past. Prophetic second coming is
its being animated by the other. The other is the very pneuma of the the revenience of an immemorial past, a coming which is plus and
soul. what, no less than bread, keeps body and soul together. Bread of minus one, absolutely second and absolutely prior in that it is an
heaven, so to speak. Or God's breath, as expressed in the parable unfinishing coming of what never had a first coming and will never
Levinas cites according to which Moses, 'whom the Lord knew face arrive, but will be going on coming for ever, immer unterwegs, a uenir.
to face' (Deuteronomy 34: 10}, gave up his soul 'on the mouth of None of this is easy to comprehend. It is no easier to comprehend
God', as though the kiss of life were not to be distinguished from the than how freedom of choice can be synthesized with the rational will
kiss of death with him who dies for the other. 'The absolute in the philosophy of Kant. Levinas would say, as the title of his book
expiration - in the kiss of God - is death on order - in the Difficile LiberU suggests, that we should not expect freedom to be
passivity of obedience - in inspiration by the Other for the other' anything other than difficult, and that philosophical synthesis and
(AEAE 229, OBBE 200). So the ipseity of the identity of the self is comprehension are inevitably disrupted by prophecy because pro­
that of a displaced person. I am in exile in myself (AEAE 134, OBBE phecy surpasses synthesis and comprehension. This very surpassing
107). I am one, a subject, because I have got the other under my skin; of comprehension and of thematization is their reversion to the
because I am subjected to the other's command, but without being immemorial past, the intrication of what is said, dit, philosophically
dominated or enslaved by it, for the other and I are not in correlation, and the otherwise saying of prophecy's infinitive dire. Hence, like
which would be necessary if we were to be in a relation of power. Heidegger when in his inaugural lecture he affirms propositions
The other is not my other dialectically. in such a way that we become regarding what a proposition cannot contain, Levinas is, wittingly,
fused together as a we. My autonomy is made possible by hoist with his own petard as soon as he tries to explain to his readers
heteronomy. Auto-affection is conditioned by hetero-affection. The what they are to understand when he writes of 'this returning in
other is in the same, where the paradoxicality of Levinas's dans, which the perception of an order coincides with the signifying of this
'within' without within, matches that of Blanchot's sans, 'without' order performed by him that obeys it'. If synthesis is out of the
without without, and pas, negation without denial, as analysed by question - or, rather, cannot get us out of the question, which is
Derrida in Pas and Survivre. 1 ]e est un autre. Before I am a moi I am a where we are trying per impossibile, through im-possibility, to be, to
soi. But in an exceedingly odd sense of 'before'. This conjunction calling the question into question - so too is analysis, except up to a
marks a disjunction, yet not a straightforward division. It marks an certain point. For there are no ultimate elements at which analysis
28 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 29

bread unless I have worked to earn the bread I must eat to keep my alterity which is constitutive of the self, and an alterity such that if we
body and soul together in order that I may be there to aid my hungry say that I am the same and the other at the same time, this second
neighbour. I have responsibilities for myself because I have responsi­ 'same' must be in its turn understood in such a way as not to exclude
bilities for others. In this sense, the other could be said to be the other. The simultaneity is not simply that of coincidence in one
responsible for the responsibilities I have to myself. If we do say time. If there is simultaneity in that sense there is also a diachrony, a
this, however, the sense in which he is said to be responsible is a difference of times instead of a difference of time. The coincidence is
logical or explanatory one. It is not in this sense that I am responsible the coincidence of prophecy, speaking for another, 'returning in which
for the other, to the extent even, according to Levinas, of being the perception of an order coincides with the signifying of this order
responsible for his responsibilities. Here my responsibility for the performed by him that obeys it' (AEAE 190, OBBE 149). This
other is the anarchic 'condition of possibility' of ethics. It is where returning is not that of Husserlian retention, Hegelian self-certai nty
ethics begins - or, speaking strictly, turns out not to have a or of the predicative or pre-predicative reflection of the Kantian
beginning, any more than do I, ethically understood. For to say, as threefold synthesis of self-consciousness in which experiences from
Levinas does, that ethics begins with me is to say that it does not one's past are remembered and integrated in one time continuous
begin with the self that persists in its identity and aspires to realize with that of the present and with time to come. For the past that is
ends, but in the other by whom I am ad- and in-spired (AEAE 228, thus resumed is a past that was itself at one time a present. Prophetic
OBBE 180-1). The self that is encumbered by its body is the self refournement is the return of the other, his diachronous revenir, not the
upon which responsibility for the other is incumbent. And its soul is se souvmir in which I recollect my past. Prophetic second coming is
its being animated by the other. The other is the very pneuma of the the revenience of an immemorial past, a coming which is plus and
soul, what, no less than bread, keeps body and soul together. Bread of minus one, absolutely second and absolutely prior in that it is an
heaven, so to speak. Or God's breath, as expressed in the parable unfinishing coming of what never had a first coming and will never
Levinas cites according to which Moses, 'whom the Lord knew face arrive, but will be going on coming for ever, immer unterwegs, a venir.
to face' (Deuteronomy 34: 10), gave up his soul 'on the mouth of None of this is easy to comprehend. It is no easier to comprehend
God', as though the kiss of life were not to be distinguished from the than how freedom of choice can be synthesized with the rational will
kiss of death with him who dies for the other. 'The absolute in the philosophy of Kant. Levinas would say, as the title of his book
expiration - in the kiss of God - is death on order - in the Difficile Liberti suggests, that we should not expect freedom to be
passivity of obedience - . i n inspiration by the Other for the other' anything other than difficult, and that philosophical synthesis and
(AEAE 229, OBBE 200). So the ipseity of the identity of the self is comprehension are inevitably disrupted by prophecy because pro­
that of a displac.ed person. I am in exile in myself (AEAE 134, OBBE phecy surpasses synthesis and comprehension. This very surpassing
107). I am one, a subject, because I have got the other under my skin; of comprehension and of thematization is their reversion to the
because I am subjected to the other's command, but without being immemorial past, the intrication of what is said, dit, philosophically
dominated or enslaved by it, for the other and I are not in correlation, and the otherwise saying of prophecy's infinitive dire. Hence, like
which would be necessary if we were to be in a relation of power. Heidegger when in his inaugural lecture he affirms propositi ons
The other is not my other dialectically, in such a way that we become regarding what a proposition cannot contain, Levinas is, wittingly,
fused together as a we. My autonomy is made possible by hoist with his own petard as soon as he tries to explain to his readers
heteronomy. Auto-affection is conditioned by hetero-affection. The what they are to understand when he writes of 'this returning in
other is in the same, where the paradoxicality o f Levinas's dans, which the perception of an order coincides with the signifying of this
'within' without within, matches that of Blanchot's sans, 'without' order performed by him that obeys it'. If synthesis is out of the
without without, and pas, negation without denial, as analysed by question - or, rather, cannot get us out of the question, which is
Derrida in Pas and Survivre. ]e est un autre Before I am a moi I am a
where we are trying per impossibi/e, through im-possibility, to be, to
soi. But in an exceedingly odd sense of 'before'. This conjunction calling the question into question - so too is analysis, except up to a
marks a disjunction, yet not a straightforward division. It marks an certain point. For there are no ultimate elements at which analysis
30 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscil!llce Anarchic Respo1rsibility 31

could arrive. How can there be a percepfion of an order, where the into autonomy, is the way the Irfinite comes to pass. The
order is not the order of a world but an imperative which is older metaphor of the inscription of the law in consciousness expresses
than any such order, such synthesis? To perceive a command is to this in a remarkable way, reconciling autonomy and heteronomy. It
transform it into an object of the theoretical understanding, hence to does so in an ambivalence which, in the present, is an ambiguity.
neutralize its categorial imperativity. This is why Levinas says that (AEAE 189, OBBE 148)
where an order is at stake the perception or 'epiphany' of its
imperativity, as against perception of it as such, must take the form, If it were a question of a concept present to consciousness we
or non-form, of the performance of saying on the part of the should have to say that the concept is ambiguous, pointing in
recipient. It is an epi-phany in that it is epiphenomenal: what at different directions at one and the same time. But it is not a question
one stage of his reflections on how in uttering words we perform of concepts only and their synchronic or achronic logic. H is a
various deeds John Austin would have called a performative speech question of what exceeds the theoretical concept or idea, exceeds
ad, which in this case is in the neighbourhood of a constative one. In even the practical Idea and the bad infinity of the regulative teleology
the present case this so-called performative act is the signifying of the of its Sol/en. So there has to be a pad, a peaceful if restless
order, the endorsing or countersigning of it by obeying it in advance reconcilation of the logic and temporality of conceptual and
of hearing it, as though the command were, to use the image imaginative representation on the one hand with, on the other, the
favoured by advocates of natural law, inscribed upon one's soul. proto-logic and diachrony of my response to the order which 'has not
This deed is less like the countersigning of a blank cheque than like been the cause of my response, nor even a question that would have
the endorsement of one on which what is due is traced out in preceded it in djalogue'. My response is not eo-responsibility. It is not
invisible ink. What is due is that 'thou shalt be responsible for thy only a transgression outside the dialogue of the soul with itself to a
neighbour as thou art responsible for thyself'. Although there seems dialogue of the soul with the other. It is a transgression outside the
to be no reason why Levinas should deny that I am responsible for dialogue and its with. The semantic ambiguity, an ;unbiguity of
myself because otherwise I should not be able causally to go any way signification in which the signifier stands for what it signifies, an
toward meeting my responsibility for my neighbour, the endorsement ambiguity as a result of which communication may temporarily break
we are assuming he gives to thjs command derives from the way in down, is caught up in an intrigue with the incessant rhetorological
which through the oddly tensed proto-logic of ipseity I am not ambivalence of my signifying to the other, my standing for him in
responsible for myself except in so far as I am responsible for my response to an order which I find in my response itself. 'I find the
neighbour, because my neighbour is the other who calls me in my order in my response itself, which, as a sign given to the neighbour,
own voice, the voice of conscience which is mine and yet not mine as a "Here I am", brings me out of invisibility, out of the shadow in
since it is already obeyed before there is any consciousness on which which my responsibility could have been evaded.'
the law can be written and before there is any being-there. An · Could my responsibility have been evaded? What ink would be so
obeying (ob-oedire, ob-ar�dire) that is before hearing (audire, enfendre) permanently invisible as to permit that? What shadow so indelibly
and therefore before understanding (audire, enfmdre) can hardly be one deep? Not even the shadow of death in which my responsibility
speech act among others. It can scarcely be an ad. It must be prior to would be delegated to a shawabti12. Just how important these
intentionality and conventionality in speech ads. Is it then a speech questions are will be more apparent when we come to consider in
passion? That sounds like a description of hearing. But the obedience Chapter 5 what Levinas has to say about the language of poetry. We
of which Levinas is here speaking must be more passive than passion shall keep them in mind however as we turn now from the difficulty
since it is an obedience that precedes any hearing of speech. raised by the idea of responsibility for oneself to the other of the two
chief difficulties touched on above, the predicament of predication, in
Obedience precedes any hearing of the command. The possibility particular as it arises in the language of philosophy. How can the very
of finding, anachronously, the order in the obedience itself, and of nature of philosophical assertion not conceal what the philosopher
receiving the order out of oneself. this reverting of heteronomy Emmanuel Levinas wants to say?
32 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 33

II concept of an ego in an ipseity - not in an ipseity in generaL, but in

me'. This last word is under stress because Levinas wishes to
The difficulty is that of finding a way to avoid saying the opposite of emphasize the already emphatic pronoun moi in order to mark the
what one wants to say, the predicament that haunts among others the contrast and the asymmetry between the other and me. But what he
philosopher of sense-certainty and the sceptic in Hegel's Phenomeno­ says would be false if the me referred only to him, Emmanuel Levinas.
logy of Spirit, On the other hand, however loudly the pronoun is pronounced, it is
What Levinas wants to say is that he is more responsible than applicable, like any other token reflexive expression, to any other
anyone else in that it holds of whatever responsibility another might person who could say 'me', that is to say, to everyone, And it is
claim that Levinas is responsible even for that. about everyone that the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas wishes to say
that he escapes the concept of an ego in a singular ipseity beyond the
The knot of subjectivity consists in going to the other without universal and the particular. And this is what we earlier called an
concerning oneself with his movement towards me. Or, more absurdity. How can everyone, however singular, be more responsible
exactly, it consists in approaching in such a way that, over and than his neighbour?
beyond all the reciprocal relations that do not fail to get set up The same problem arises with i t a s arises with the injunction 'Thou
between me and the neighbour, I have always taken one step more shalt love thy neighbour more than thyself: The Sifra, the first
toward him - which is possible only if this step is responsibility, In Rabbinic commentary on Leviticus, tells us:
the responsibility which we have for one another, I am the one
who always has one response more to give, who has to answer for Two men are in the desert with a little water in possession of one
his responsibility, (AEAE 106, OBBE 84) of them. If the one drinks it, he will reach civilisation; but if the
two of them share it, both will die, Ben Petura said, Let the two of
What is more, this surplus of my obligations over my rights them drink, though both will die. Rabbi Akiba held that, in such a
augments the greater is my endeavour to meet them. As I approach case, your own life has precedence over that of your fellow men.
the other the distance between us increases in geometrical progres­
sion. The giving then shows itself to be parsimony, the exposure a Chief Rabbi Hertz holds that Ben Petura's view is the more heroic and
reserve, and holiness guilt' (AEAE 181, OBBE 142). This lapse is not altruistic. It is certainly more altruistic than Rabbi Akiba's. But is not a
to be confuse1 with original sin. It is pre-original goodness and 'the third view more altruistic stilL the view which holds that we are
diachrony of�dme
.t that flows between the fingers of Mnemosyne' required to love others more than we love ourselves, to live or die for
(AEAE 106, OBBE 84), the infinite time of my life toward the other in them? The trouble with this third view is that it appears to be self­
the finite time �f my being toward my own death, displacing me contradictory, For in enjoining others to live for others I am enjoining
outside it and outside the concept which is another (Hegelian) name them to live for me.3
for death, the in-finite which is both non-finite and in the finite: This threat of self-contradiction remains when love is replaced by
]edeinigkeit which extroverts the project of ]emeinigkeit, responsibility, If Levinas says that everyone is more responsible than
The recurrence of this responsibility can be compared with that of his neighbour on account of an irreversible asymmetry, he is
the decimal fraction sometimes obtained as the quotient in an cancelling any irreversibility and asymmetry there may have been
arithmetical division (for example the division of 5 by 6) when the and making each of us, including me, equally responsible with the
same numbers are iterated in the same order ad infinitum, except that others, And Levinas knows this full welL This is why he asserts that
in the recurrence of which Levinas speaks there is an ever-increasing the accusedness of him who is held responsible is beyond apology. It
multiplication of indivisible responsibility, But Levinas does not want is beyond apology because it is beyond all logos understood as the
to say that this exponentiation of responsibility obsesses only him, giving of justifying reasons. The persecuted one cannot defend
notwithstanding that he says that this non-reciprocal obsession 'is himself by language, He is, Levinas says, without the mediation of
tied to an ego that states itself in the first person, escaping the the logos, But this 'without' is the sans whose strangeness Blanchot
34 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 35

and Derrida have emphasized. To say that one is defenceless is to account for myself, to produce a justificatory logos, I must produce
already a defence, to excuse oneself for not having an excuse. And it a proposition, if only the proposition that I cannot justify myself, that
is to say something, if only the opposite of what one wanted to say. here, on the hither side of the self-certain here (AEAE 227, OBBE
The accused me is accused neither of a historical crime nor an 180), apologia pro vita mea, logos, is out of place, that any proposition I
original sin. It is of a pre-original innocence that I am accused. But 'in produce to defend myself is in practical contradiction with the
me alone can innocence be accused without absurdity. To accuse the exposition of myself that signifies my indefensibility. Every plea in
innocence of the other, to ask of the other more than he owes, is self-defence cloth protest too much. But every protest is, in Edwin
criminal' (AEAE 144, OBBE 195). Why is it not criminal for the other Markham's words, 'a protest that is also a prophecy'. Every
to accuse my innocence? Because when I am in the accusaH�e case I proposition is itself an exposition, an exposure of its proposer. This
have endorsed in advance the other's accusation. This is my suffering is why when the 'self-fulfilling scepticism', das sich vollbringende
of unspecific remorse, the ayenbyte of inwyl, in which there is an Skeptizismus, of the Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit seems
effacement of the distinction between the other's accusing me and my to have met its death through consumption in the universality of the
accusing myself. To accuse myself is not to avow my innocence. I can concept, it incessantly rises out of its ashes to haunt us all over again.
no more avow my innocence than I can say that the other must Before explaining the significance Levinas attaches to this rebirth of
substitute himself for others. To say the latter would be to preach scepticism, let us consider a third illustration of this problem with
human sacrifice. I can preach only my own sacrifice. Does that mean universality and the singularity of the Other and the subjected
that although it is not for me to preach your sacrifice it is all right for Signifier.
you to do so? Am I not already going too far in saying this? And is it
not this which Levinas is saying? He warns his readers again and
again that 'me' is not common to several souls, that there is no ipseity Ill
common to me and to others, and that 'me' is the exclusion of the
possibility of comparison, but at the same time he wants to endorse The fenestration of the walJs of subjectivity and Subjectivity by an
the 'eternal word' of Jehuda Halevy, 'God speaks to each man in infinitely Other who, like Aristotelian nous, comes in from an absolute
particular' (AEAE 232, OBBE 184). Is this not precisely the kind of outside is also the penetration of ethics understood as a system
eternal sentence that can be pronounced by someone who puts ordering reciprocal obligations and claims. An ethical system is
himself at the point of view of God or the Other, and is that not what unethical unless its network of triadic, quadratic and n-adic symme­
Levinas considers to be an ethical if not a logical impossibility? Is it tries remembers the dyadic asymmetry of my face to face with the
not speaking for each man in the manner we have just seen that he other human being. This holds for an ethical system conceived like
rules out? Is i t not to have recourse to the discourse of philosophy to that of Spinoza from the point of view of eternity, for the Kantian
evade God by saying that no one, and not only not Jonah, is able to morality of the kingdom of rational ends, for the Hegelian system of
evade God? Sittlichkeit, and for utilitarian teleologies in their various forms,
Is the only alternative silence? Levinas responds that he and we his whether general or restricted and whether the good to be maximized
readers are no more condemned to remain silent or to say only the and the bad to be minimized be construed as pleasure and pain or
opposite of what we want to say than is the philosophical sceptic or more widely. All these systems are political or onto-theological in the
the philosopher who maintains that the sceptic accomplishes his own sense that they allow only for a derivative exteriority, the exteriority
refutation and would therefore do better to shut up than to propound of a third personal or impersonal uninteressierte Zuschauer who looks
his thesis. On Levinas's quasi-analysis of the self this can hardly be a down from an or:iginal position, in John Rawls' phrase, like an
viable option, not if keeping silence is keeping a thought to oneself. architect drawing up a blueprint or a philosopher-king devising a
For according to Levinas, as we have seen, when I enter into myself I constitution.4 This explains the failure of the most ingenious
find the other has got there before me and is already calling me to arguments Mill and his successors devise to demonstrate that justice
account. In returning to myself I return to the status quo ante. To try is a kind, albeit the most important kind, of expediency, the condition
36 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 37

necessary for the fulfilment of all the other kinds. It also explains is tempting to infer that Levinas's pre-ethical justice is less remote
Mill's accidie. In a piece of etymologizing that outheideggers from negative utilitarianism than it is from the positive or mixed
Heidegger and exposes him to the same risk, Mill observes that . varieties. This is what we might expect of the teaching that bedrock
the idea of justice includes the idea of a command, as hinted by the is reached when we strike a notion of justice. To say as Mill does that
origin of the word in the past participle of iubeo. This suggestion we never allow an imperfect obligation to be met at the price of
provoked one commentator to remark that the word goes �ack rather doing an injustice is to give priority to negative utilitarian
to the past participle of iungo, to join. That was a �erce�hve rema�k obligations, that is, to the avoidance of harm over the promotion
. .
as regards our understanding of Mill, for the mJunchvity of h1s of enjoyment, though perhaps negative utilitarian - or for that matter

conception of justice is accompanied by a no ion o.f conjuncti?n
. negative intuitionist - obligations are not exhausted by the perfect
within a system of reciprocal claims. Indeed this social reciprocity obligations of justice.
buttressed by analogies that Mill draws between utilitarianism and But what can be said about the relevance, if there is any, to pre­
political legislation in the Platonic republic, the Kantian moral law, the ethical justice of the positive utilitarian - or for that matter positive
golden rule and the Old and New Testament command�ent .to love intuitionist - obligation of beneficence? According to Mill 'No one
one's neighbour as oneself, is built mto h1s generalized Idea of has a moral right to our generosity or beneficence, because we are
expediency almost to the point at which it is as valid to maintain not morally bound to practise those virtues towards any given
that expediency is a corollary of justice as it is to maintain, as he individual.' Suppose however that there is only one given individual
does, the reverse. other than myself. This is the original position of the face to face:
What according to Mill holds justice apart from the rest of the Crusoe and Man Friday. If Man Friday is hale and hearty on Gaunilo's
s here of moral expediency is the fact that to the moral obligati?n of
. island flowing with milk and honey and I am Robinson Crusoe, would
justice there corresponds a right in some individual person ent!tlmg it not be grotesque for Levinas to say that Man Friday has a moral or
that ·person to be treated or not to be treated in a particular way. A pre-moral right to my generosity and beneficence? Before we decide
considerable portion of the last chapter of Utilitarianism is taken up that it would, account should be taken of the following three
with a description of the different classes of circumstance in which considerations.
such rights are conferred. What Levinas maintains is that justice d��e First, however prosperous the other man may seem to be, there is
under such circumstances is not ethical justice but violence unless It IS always something of which he is short even if that is only time, and
founded upon order to mark its difference from this justice of since in this dyadic face to face I am the only person there to
multiplicity may have to be called pre-ethical justice - thou�h e � anticipate any of his unforeseen needs or to prevent his dying alone,
himself calls it the ethical - a primary justice that has no foundahon m he may well have a pre-systematic and in that sense pre-moral right
a system of universal reciprocity but declares itself in the asymme­ to my generosity. Generosity is not supererogatory if the only
trical 'relation' which is the condition or 'condition' of all relations, alternative to giving him the gift is giving the gift to myself. It is
the infinite dyad of the face to face. The an-archic 'foundation' of not an objection to or an escape from Levinas's claim regarding ethics
ethics is, as Levinas puts it, the folly of my responsibility to the to say that it is an ethics only of supererogation for saints and heroes
Other, my obligation to be the servant but not the slave of him who and so can be ignored by those of us who are concerned with ethics
is the absolute lord and master to whom I must look up on account of tailored to the manageable, if not always soluble, problems of
his humility, his vulnerability and his sickness unto death. This excess everyday life.5 His claim is that the latter is only saved from political
of folie is at the same time the emphatic superlation of rationality, violence because it remains inescapably bound to the straight justice
rationality beyond reason, the ethical condition and quintessence of of the dyadic face to face.
pure reason, including reason as embodied or disembodied in the Second, although the original position as we have so far been
universality of the Kantian moral law. describing it is dyadic, involving myself and the Other whom Levinas
If the Other is thus described, if the Other, whoever he or she may refers to as Autrui, the singularity of Autrui is a singularity that
be, is always to confront me as the orphan, the widow or the poor, it distinguishes every other human being. Autrui is a singular plural. It is
38 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 39

not equivalent to the third-person plural 'they' or to the omnipersonal sion, but a dimension - what Merleau-Ponty describes as the most
das Man, the collediv� or indefinite 'one'. It is closer to the pronoun existential dimension - of depth or, better, of height, the altitude of
we would need for the person who has distinguished himself from the alterity. For the vis-a-vis of this relation is my being looked at and
indifference of das Man, except that Levinas's pronoun is not one that non-condescendingly spoken down to from on high. This does not
I can ever apply to myself, and entitlement to it is not earned by mean that I am less than human. This is acknowledged by the Other's
someone's being authentically toward his death. Autmi as intended by commanding me to command others not to kill but to love the
i tended in Martin Buber's I
Levinas is much closer to Du, 'thou', as n neighbour. Levinas wants it both ways. He wants everybody's
and Thou, provided the relationship this title indicates is not confused singularity to be recognized. However not just by mutual recogni­
with the intimacy of love but preserves the separateness of the Other tion. The mutual respect of master and slave eventually reached in
who commands respect in commanding me. With this proviso, the Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit must not lose its footing in the
Other's command 'thou shalt not kill' is synonymous with 'thou shalt dissymmetry of the vis-a-vis. This does not mean that I must remain
love the stranger' and 'love thy neighbour' (PL 173). ln issuing this under the Other's power, under his threat to kill. The face to face is
command the Other is not speaking only on his own behalf. He is not not a power relation. This is why it escapes the psychoanalytic
saying only 'thou shalt not kill me'. He is saying also that I should categories of masochism and sadism. When Levinas talks of a
command others likewise. I am a link in a chain of command. So passivity more passive than passivity he is saying that the face to
although the original position is a dyadic encounter H makes reference face is outside any struggle of wills, beyond the will to power as this
to other Others. This does not mean that the distinction between is usually quasi-dynamically understood. Because it is outside any
primary dyadic justice and secondary systematic justice collapses. A system of terms in reciprocal relation it is outside any systematicity
lexical sign of this is the fact that there is no grammatical plural of the analogous to that of Kant's Third Analogy, its ethical analogue the
word Autrui. When Levinas wishes to refer to the plurality of Others kingdom of ends or the latter's fulfilment in the Hegelian or neo­
in their plurality he has to speak of les Autres. The word Autrui in Hegelian Absolute Idea. It is not the Other's superior force that
normal usage does admit of plural application, but as distinguished makes him my Master in Levinas's sense, in particular not a superior
from the expression les Autres it allows Levinas to give voice through force which has its source in his threatening my death. He is my
it to the singularity of each Other, an aspect that English endeavours Master, that is to say my Magister or teacher, because death
to capture by employing an upper case '0'. Modem English lacks threatens him. It is that which requires me to give my life on his
another power of French to which Levinas sometimes has recourse. behalf.
A11trui is addressed as vous, which is both a plural and, in contrast Lest this should seem too dramatic a scheme to apply to what most
with tu, the singular of respect. Levinas has recourse to these lexical of us are accustomed to think of as ethics, a scheme suited only, we
and grammatical devices in order to defend a philosophical and might say, to extreme circumstances such as that of the prison camp
(proto-)ethical claim, a claim which is philosophical precisely because in which it was thought out, this may be an appropriate moment at
it is ethical. What he calls ethics and what, to mark its distinctness which to cite Levinas's clarification of what he takes the sixth
from the morals of the market, we prefer to call proto-ethics is first commandment of the Old Testament to mean: "Thou shalt not
philosophy, prote philosophia, prior to the science and thinking of kill" . . . does not mean simply that you are not to go around firing a
being. Jt is meta ta phusika, metaphysics beyond ontology (metonto­ gun all the time. It refers, rather, to the fact that, in the course of your
logy, dare one say?). The claim Levinas wishes to defend is the claim life, in different ways, you kill someone. For example, when we sit
to absolute alterity and uniqueness of each Other human being, so down at the table in the morning and drink coffee, we kill an
that it is he whom I respect, for himself, not as a representative of the Ethiopian who doesn't have any coffee' (PL 173). This, it will be said,
human race or as only a vehicle of the Kantian moral law. The alterity does nothing to reduce the harslmess of Levinas's conception of
Levinas primarily has in mind is the alterity of the Other vis-a-vis me. responsibility. On the contrary, it appears to remove it further from
Radical alterity is a relational or 'relational' property of the vertical the conception most of us have. For does it not imply that killing is
face to face, not a horizontally or horizonally contemplated dimen- something I cannot avoid? In so far as I cater to my own self-centred
40 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 41

needs I am consuming something that could save the life of someone responsibility that is performed. Knowledge of the truth or falsity
starving somewhere in the world, if not in Ethiopia then in of the answer to a question springs from an acknowledgement that
Madagascar or the Sudan. In consuming what I need to keep myself my subjectivity as a knowing and willing agent is heterologically
alive I am taking another person's life. Perhaps we will want to say constituted by my being subject to the Other's, to your, ethical
here that I am not taking a person's life but rather doing nothing to regard commanding me not to kill. In the end each one of us answers
keep him alive. If we do make this distinction then we will disagree the question for himself, but the ]emeinigkeit that Heidegger postulates
with Levinas that I am killing someone somewhere when I drink or beneath all our repeatable and communicable answers, whatever in
eat what would keep him or her alive. Our disagreement will be still any of them is said, dit, is secondary to the second-person ]edeinigkeit
sharper if the sixth commandment we are said to be breaking in of your saying, dire, 'thou shalt not kill'. This saying which speaks the
breaking our fast is translated, as Levinas sometimes does, 'thou shalt silence of held breath, le silence d'un souffle retenu (DEHH 213),
not murder'. The question remains, when these distinctions have been announces the good infinity that interrupts the bad infinity of the
made, am I free of all responsibility for this death? Is there any one of anonymous murmuring that goes on and on and on through the
us who on reflection feels not the least twinge of guilt? sleepless night of the il y a. It also speaks the end of fundamental
Any of us? It would be a hard saying indeed if this meant the ontology, marks the limits of alethic disclosure and the ungenerosity
Ethiopian too. Yet perhaps the starving Ethiopian mother might feel of the advent of disdosive appropriation (Ereignis) and of the es gibt
this way for her or someone else's starving child. But does not Sein.
Levinas's theory of proto-ethical_ justice require that she should feel Faced with the starving Ethiopian and the well-fed upwardly
this way too for the comparatively comfortable and well-off? The mobile entrepreneur, we and Levinas are faced with a problem of
word 'comparatively' is a sign that it does not. For the problem that distributive justice at a level where calculations have to be made. At
seems to be posed for Levinas by Mill is one that involves the level of the proto-ethical face to face calculation is ruled out. This
comparison. It is not therefore a problem that arises at the level of level is the level of 'monotheism', a term which Levinas uses because
proto-ethical justice. He would probably say that at this level there is it enables him to bring out that the proto-ethical is a stage at which I
no problem at all; that at this level the ethical problem is transcended am under the gaze of a singular Other. So he uses the term 'atheism'
by proto-ethical mystery. Our mistake has been to confuse these two to characterize the life which gives no thought to anything but its
levels. own survival and enjoyment. The necessity of this atheism is the
We have qverlooked the fact that we are asking what Levinas necessity of the denial of pagan polytheism. It is significant that he
would say aboUt a situation involving two other persons. So the does not consider it necessary to use the term 'polytheism' for the
situation is prejudiced from the start. For there are more than two level at which the third party, le tiers, has come on to the scene. That
people gathered together, even if one of them, the ph!losopher this is unnecessary and that it would be misleading is indicated by his
Emmanuel Levinas, is more an observer of the scene than a admission that already at the level of what we have been calling the
participant in the action to be performed on it. As philosopher dyadic original position the third party is in the wings. Both the
Levinas may well have a responsibility to state how he sees the primary proto-ethical situation of absolute justice and the derivative
situation from his point of view outside it, but that statement can situation of comparative justice are monotheistic because Autrui is
have any validity only if it be based on his own experience of being both the singularity of every human being and the singularity of every
himself an agent or, rather, a patient, more passive than the passivity human being. Both of these aspects must be remembered. Political
opposed to agency, non-laterally and non-comparatively pursued by moralists like Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel and Mill remember the
the Other's regard� concerned, con-cerne; obsessed by him - or, rather, universality, but even when universal eudaemonism underlines the
obsessed by you, mon dissemblable, mon frere. You are the point of importance of individual liberty and when respect for the moral law is
origin of this concern, you who are exorbitant, neither an object nor formulated as treating persons as ends, the other remains a citizen
an alter ego with me in the enveloping embrace of my care. In the end functioning with respect only to a totality. The other person is not
a constative response to a question must be traced back to a being respected for himself, since in these ways of regarding him he is
42 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 43
substitutable by another other. This is why Levinas is bound to resist individuation of my divided self: 'frontier at once ineffacable and
the suggestion made by Derrida in 'Violence and Metaphysics' that more fine than the trace of an ideal line', without which there is no
when a phenomenologist like Husserl treats the other as an alter ego demarcating of Levinas from the philosophy of Hegel.7
he is treating him with the highest possible respect. The highest
possible respect is given, Levinas would maintain, only when we say,
not as Kant does that God is also a citizen in the intelligible kingdom IV
of ends, but that each other for whom I respond is vis-a-vis me
sovereignly divine master. Only when this is not forgotten do we Without mentioning the author of the Phenomenology of Spirit by
escape what Heidegger understands by the crisis of technology, name, Levinas's paragraphs on scepticism mime paragraphs on the
treating human beings as commodity and stock, as it is possible to do sam� subject in that book in order to show, not entirely in the spirit
within the rule of law, and not only in the blatantly totalitarian State of tts author, that scepticism cannot be conjured away, and
which Heidegger and Levinas saw from opposite sides. Totalitarian­ furthermore, that this is because it opens up on to what on a
ism as Levinas understands it can be subtler than that. It would have superficial reading of Levinas and Hegel could be mistaken for the
to be, if on his view the moral theories both of Kant and John Stuart figure of Unhappy Consciousness to which the latter holds that
Mill are no less totalitarian than is the amoral and, at least in Levinas's scepticis ":' le�ds. Not parallel texts then, the Hegelian paragraphs and
sense, atheistic thinking of Heidegger.6 their Levmastan parody are connected chiasmically, in the sense that
Totalitarianism can be so subtle that it will infiltrate our thinking their double crossing has the asymmetry symbolised by the fad that
about the monotheistic thinking of Levinas. We have just been one foot is further forward than the other in x, the Greek letter chi.8
drawing a line between the sphere of the proto-ethical dyad and 'Unhappy consciousness', ungliickliches Bewusstsein, Hegel's translator
the ethical multiplicity where problems of distributive justice arise. J. B. Baillie remarks, is an unhappy phrase: 'the term hardly seems
We distinguished ]emeinigkeit from ]edeinigkeit as a way of marking the fortunate'. It hardly seems fortunate as applied to Levinas's philo­
frontier between the thinking of Heidegger and the thinking of sophy of the self. since this goes along with a philosophy of
Levinas. Now the German je does not have the collectivist phenomenology which, while taking Hegel's philosophy as its point
connotation of the German prefix ge-. It has a distributivist of dep�rture, does so in order to bring out that it is bound to depart
connotation. But we have missed the essence of Levinas's thinking � �
from ' tsel , n �t east because sooner or later the philosopher
if we think that it is no more than a move from collectivism to
�roposmg 1t will fmd that his own self is not comprehensible within

distributivism. We have missed it if we think that it is no more or less It unless it acknowledges that being and self-consciousness, Selbstbe­
than an -ism and an essence in a classical or post-classical Heidegger­ wusst-sein, are interrupted by responsibility for the other. That is to
ian sense. If we think that, we shall have missed the difference sa �, Hegel will find that his own self is not comprehensible within his
between what Heidegger means by the Sinn von Sein and what ph1losophy. Now Hegel's response to this challenge might well be to
Levinas means by the sens de l'itre. This is what we have been aiming en:brace this implication as an implication of his own philosophy of
to bring out in our treatment in this chapter of what we have called philosophy. Indeed, does not his own philosophy, or just philosophy,
the predicament of predication. That treatment will have proved as he would prefer to say, include an account of why his own singular
inefficacious unless it has confirmed the claim made at the end of our .
self IS not comprehensible within it, why it remains over from
first chapter that Levinas's thinking of the other is other than a absolute knowledge or (for these are not mutually exclusive
defence of psychological or ethical altruism. It is clear that it is not alternatives) why it remains in absolute knowledge as a subject -
the former. It is less clear that it is not the latter. That it is not the or the Subject, as he would prefer to say?9 And does not the
latter will never be clear if we ·insist on a clarity that will not tolerate �
philosop y of Levinas do the same? 'Are we not at this very
the ambiguity between the truth of disclosure or revelation and the moment m the process of barring the exit that our whole essay
betrothal of witness, between the said of a philosophical doctrine and attempts, and of encircling our position from all sides?' (AEAE 215,
the twofold saying of the other which is the anarchic principle of OBBE 169) How these questions are answered will depend upon what
44 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 45

one understands by singularity and self. And that is the crux of the being contrary, arguing eristic<!]lY.. first for one side and then for the
matter. Here is the place at which the paths of Hegel and Levinas other, indifferent to both. It perceives these sides as contradictories,
cross, the place at which the two philosophers exchange words in however, only because it directs its attention at the proposition
passing about scepticism, philosophy and reason. Here are the words explicit ni the words affirmed and the proposition that is implicit in
of Hegel: the deed of saying. To the saying as saying it is less sensitive on
Hegel's analysis. It nominalises the dire, taking advantage of the fact
Sceptical self-consciousness . . . pronounces an absolute vanishing, that in the one-for-the-other which it expresses there slumbers a doxic
but the pronouncement is, and this consciousness is the vanishing thesis. The one-for-the-other, responsibility, gets evaded not because
that is pronounced. It affirms the nullity of seeing, hearing, etc., yet it is hidden in deep shadow, but because it is made visible by being
it is itself seeing, hearing, etc. It affirms the nullity of ethical brought into the light. The ambiguities of truth and falsehood, being
principles, and lets its condud be governed by these very and not-being, and the ontological difference of being and beings
principles. Its deeds and its words always belie one another and conceal the ambivalence or amphibology between these and the one­
equally it has itself the doubly contradictory consciousness of for-the-other. Otherwise than being and beyond essence, also beyond
unchangeableness and sameness, and of utter contingency and non­ the Begriff, the for-the-other cannot be put in correlation with
identity with itself. But it keeps the poles of this its self­ anything at any of these three levels of Hegel's logic. 'In totalizing
contradiction apart, and adopts the same attitude to it as it does being, discourse qua discourse thus belies the very claim to totalize',
in its purely negative attitude in general. Point out likeness or Levinas remarks, still echoing Hegel. The indifference of Hegel's
identity to it, and it will point out unlikeness or non-identity; and sceptic is the visible sign of a non-indifference which the sceptic does
when it is now confronted with what it has just asserted, it turns not avow but which explains why scepticism returns despite its
round and points out likeness or identity. refutation. Its refutation is itself the spectre of scepticism in that as
soon as the refutation is uttered it is undermined. Speaking is already
Here are the words of Levinas: a sceptical limitation of the rationality of the logic of truth, the
emphasized rationality of that rationality, the truth or veracity of its
Scepticism, which crosses the rationality or logic of knowledge, is a truth, in so far as it is address. The addressee and therefore the
refusal to synchronize the implicit affirmation containe_d in-saytng speaker are 'outside the said that the discourse says, outside all it
and the negation ·which this affirmation states in the said. The includes'. But what about this statement we have just made, is not
contradiction is visible to reflection, which refutes it, but scepticism that included in the said? It is. Has not it now been deposited in the
is insensitive to the refutation, as though the affirmation and archive? It has. Although discourse is a sceptical interruption of
negation did not resound in the same. Scepticism then contests the philosophical rationality, the saying is always capped by a said. The
thesis that between the saying and the said the relationship that binds discourse of Western philosophy resumes every interruption within a
in synchrony a condition with the conditioned is repeated. It is as cultural history that runs without break from a beginning toward an
though scepticism were sensitive to the difference between my end. In the exchange between Levinas and Hegel, the latter has the
exposure without reserve to the other, which is saying, and the last meaningful word. What each of them has said will survive their
exposition or statement of the said in its equilibrium and justice. deaths not only like entries in a bank statement with the accountant's
(AEAE 213, OBBE 167-8)· 'End of History' its very last words, but as an unconcluding �radition
inherited by future addressees whose responses will continue to
On Hegel's analysis scepticism is not insensitive to the contradic­ interrupt the continuity.
tion between its words and deeds, between what it says and what is So it is arguable that although philosophy makes the last mean­
presupposed in its saying them or, as Levinas expresses it, between ingful statement it is as an owl of Minerva whose wings are
the affirmation implicit in saying and the negation of this affirmation supported by the breath of what Levinas calls pre-original saying.
which is the content of what is said. But it takes a childish pleasure in H is because Levinas wishes to argue precisely this that he insists that
46 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Anarchic Responsibility 47

he is arguing with the philosophers. This is why much of the force of reduction of reduction is an unsaying of the said in witness to the
his argument would be lost if in order to attempt to escape from the trace of infinite tertiality, the god without divinity that survives the
predicament of predication he had recourse to indirect, poetic, death of god, more human than the values of humanism, doubling the
aphoristic, dialogical styles such as those adopted by Kierkegaard, tertiality of third-personal justice and thematisation which is the
Nietzsche, Pascal and Plato, or to the style of 'audacious' commentary origin of origin: the excluded third of illeity in ilia tempore which is
he himself adopts in his lectures falmudiques (QLT 14). The impact of the only exit 'from existence to the existent', from the excluded third
that argument is all the greater if Levinas can persuade his readers of ilyaity and its anonymous eternal return.
that it is where it might be least expected, in what is said in Proto-ethical responsibility is pre-original, otherwise-than-being.
predicative prose, that pre-original saying presides.11 Of this pre­ Before being, before nothingness and before becoming, otherwise­
original saying he says that it is from it that philosophy, history and than-being 'is' before the beginning. Like the wonder that there is
culture proceed. Yet on the same and next pages he writes: something and not nothing, and the wonder at what is, the wonder,
efonnemenf, that Levinas refers to as the object of Otherwise than Being
there is need to unsay all that comes to alter the nakedness of or Beyond Essence (AEAE 228, OBBE 181} is beyond the proposition
signs, to set aside all that is said in the pure saying proper to and the interrogation in response to which the proposition supplies
proximity. One cannot, without equivocation, make signs in the the answer. But it is also beyond that ontological thaurnazein in which
night. One has to say 'what it's all about', say some thing - before Heidegger sees the beginning of philosophy. Levinas calls this proto­
saying only the saying, before making sign, before making oneself ethical thauma glory, an appellation which provides a second reason
a sign. (AEAE 182-3, OBBE 198) why to call wonder at this proto-ethical wonder of all wonders
unhappy consciousness is to give it a very bad name. Otherwise than
This second statement seems to contradict the first. It seems as both consciousness and being, answerability beyond question and
though Levinas first maintains that pre-original saying, as one might answer is no more vulnerable than is Kant's conception of obligation
expect from its description, precedes anything thematically said, then to Schiller's gibe that it must be synonymous with dejection,
maintains the opposite or at least that there must be a said 'Carthusian', incompatible with cheer. Miming Heidegger this time
contemporary with a saying. To suppose however that there is a as well as Hegel, Plato and Father Parmenides, inviting us to listen to
contradiction here is to forget that the saying harks back to the the pre-echo of the listening belonging together (ge-horen, zu-lt6ren,
immemorial past of -proximity to my neighbour and that, since this ge-horchen) of thinking and being, Levinas says that the saying of
past is in diachronic disrelation with what is said, the usual questions prophecy which is obedience before the law, before hearing its
of logical and chronological priority do not arise, nor therefore the command, which signifies acknowledgement to the other in saying
possibility of contradiction, for A and B cannot exclude each other 'Here I am. Command me', and which belongs to the margin of
unless they are either achronic or are included synchronically in one philosophy, though in Western philosophy it has seldom been
and the same logical space-time. acknowledged, 'belongs to the very glory of which it bears
witness' (AEAE 191, OBBE 150). 'The Infinite does not appear to
him that bears witness to it. On the contrary, the witness belongs to
V the glory of the Infinite. It is by the voice of the witness that the
glory of the Infinite is glorified' (AEAE 186, OBBE 146}. This voice of
Scepticism is a reminder and symptom of the anarchic responsibility witness, Levinas also says, says more than the vocative and
from which not even the philosopher is exempt, however successful invocative '0' and 'Hullo'. It expresses with open-mouthed astonish­
he may be in evading acknowledgement of it. However absorbed he ment the pro-vocative 'Our' and 'Oui', 'Oyez' and 'Yes' which affirm
may be in the reduction of the particular to the universal, the the speaker's ex-position and pro-position of himself as sworn witness
philosopher is obliged to perform a second reduction of the universal giving his word by a Dire anterior to the 'Yes' correlated with the
to the singularity of signifying to the other in the face to face. This 'No' of constative speech ads, and anterior to the polarity of True
48 Tile Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience

and False which delimit the logic of the proposition that is said. Is this 3
provocative voice of witness perhaps the Indo-European middle voice
heard in Sanskrit and Greek in which the desire for wisdom of
Western philosophy lets itself be translated into the wisdom of
Desire? Before considering the mediality of this voice, we shall
Who is My Neighbour?
consider the case for an alternative to Levinas's first response to
the question 'Who is my neighbour?' We shall also find ourselves in
disagreement with Levinas's first appraisal of the relation of poetry Et quis. est meus proximus?
and the other arts to responsibility for the neighbour, moving, Luke, 10: 29
through an examination of Heidegger's appraisal of the relation of
poetry to thinking, toward Levinas' s second appraisal of the relation
of poetry to responsibility for the neighbour, which, we shall argue,
can with a modicum of charity be seen to provide support not ·

otherwise provided by Levinas himself for his second response to the Who is my neighbour? The discussion of this question throughout the
question 'Who is my neighbour?' His second response to this �
ages as ranged from asking whether my neighbour is the Jew and
question, we shall argue, suggests that this question begs a the fnend, through whether my neighbour is any and every other
question, and that the more responsible question is 'Who or what hum� being including the stranger and my enemy, to whether he or
is my neighbour?' where the 'what' asks not after any property of a she IS G �d. Is it conceivable that my neighbour might be a non­
human being, but extends the question to include non-human beings human ammal? Would this be conceivable to Levinas? This question is
in its range. We read this suggestion in or into the following words �
rele�an to the question treated in Chapter I. If it is claimed that
which we cite from Derrida and which we adopt both as an iteration Le.�ma�• .u:' metaphysics can meet a shortcoming in the ethics of
of the intrigue with which this chapter has been occupied and as an uhhtanarusm at least as this is understood by John Stuart Mill it must
announcement of the study we undertake in later chapters of not do so at the cost of ignoring the fact that utilitarianism requires
. . _
Heidegger's later thinking on world neighbourhood and the poietic that m determmmg the morality of an action, rule or institution
word. �
considerati?n mus b� given to the welfare of any sentient being. Of
what class•cal uhl1tanans have said on this matter nothing is more
Suppose a first yes, the archi-original yes that engages, promises, eloquent than the words in which Jeremy Bentham declares his hope
acquiesces before all. On the one hand, it is originarily, in its very that:
structure, a reply. It is from the beginning second, coming after a
request, a question, or a yes. On the other hand, a s engagement or The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may
. those rights which never could have been withholden from
promise, it must at least and in advance bind itself to a confirmation
in a neighbouring yes. Yes to the neighbour(ing), otherwise said to �
t em but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already
the other yes that is already there and yet remains to come. Oui au �
d1scovere that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a
prochain, autrement dit a /'autre oui qui est deja la mais reste pourtant a human bemg should be abandoned without redress to the caprice
· 12
vemr. of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the
number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the
Let us not be in too great a hurry to decide whether the prochain is a os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a

who or a what. sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace
the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the
faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond
comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal,

50 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Who is My Neighbour? 51

than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But man, but of the chain of being 'from the first-born of the Pharoah that
suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maidservant
1 that sitteth behind the mill; and all the first-born of beasts'. But one of
not, Can they reason? nor Can they falk? but, Can they suffer?
these beasts, the silent dog sans ethic and sans logos, by holding its
Is Levinas of the opinion that the question is, Can they talk? It is tongue bears witness to the dignity of man. Man's best friend
not easy to detennine his opinion because almost always when he signifies a transcendence in its animaJity, dans /'animal! For which
touches upon the subject of animality he is thinking of the animality service he has the everlasting right mentioned in Exodus 22.
of man. There are however a few places where he writes explicitly It makes a nice story, Levinas seems to say, but have not the
about a non-human animal. In particular I am thinking of Bobby. Not Talmudic exegetes lapsed into merely rhetorical figures of speech? He
Greyfriars Bobby of Edinburgh, the Franciscan terrier that is said to decides that they have, no less than Aesop and La Fontaine, but he
have mourned on his master's grave for fourteen years until he goes on to tell of another dog, the dog that strayed into the German
himself died, but the dog referred to in an essay entitled 'Nom d'un camp for Jewish prisoners where Levinas himself and his companions
chien ou droit nature!' published in 1975 n i a collection entitled 'Celui had become accustomed to being treated as less than human,
qui ne peut se servir des mots' and reprinted in Difficile Liberte. No sometimes subjected to looks that were enough, as he chillingly
less eloquent than those words of Bentham's are those of the opening expresses it, to strip them of their human skin. Yet Bobby, during the
paragraph of this essay where Levinas mentions that according to few weeks the guards allowed him to remain, was there every
Genesis Adam was a vegetarian and where he all but proposes an morning to welcome them with wagging tail as they lined up before
analogy between the unspeakable human holocaust and the unspoken l�aving f�r work and, unconstrained by the prohibition placed upon
animal one. The reader of that paragraph may well feel his leather h1s Egyphan ancestors, was there waiting when they ·returned at night
shoes beginning to pinch.2 to welcome them one and all with an excited bark. The last Kantian in
I am thinking of Bobby in order to understand whom or what Nazi Germany, Levinas comments, and one wonders if he intends us
Levinas means by Aulmi. Is Aufrui a strictly personal pronoun? Can it to take that comment as nothing more or less than the literal truth.
stand for God? Can it stand for a dog? The question is not as rum as How can we? How, any more than Aesop, La Fontaine and the
it may· seem. Not as rum as the idea that occurred to George Borrow Talmudic exegetes, can Levinas be speaking otherwise than figurat­
when, learning that the Romany word for God is DuveL he muses in ively? For in the very same breath he adds that Bobby lacks the brains
Lavengro, Would it not be a rum thing if divine and devilish were to universalize his maxim. He is too stupid, frop bile. Bobby is
originally one a·nd the same word?' We are not about to find Levinas without logos and that is why he is without ethics. Therefore he is
arguing that the words 'God' and 'dog' have a common root. without Kantian ethics; and so he is without Levinasian ethics, since
Although Bobby has his origins on the Egyptian side of the Red the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas is analogous to the ethics of
Sea, he is not a metaphorical Anubis. Throughout the entire essay Immanuel Kant in that each is an ethics with a God within the
about him Levinas tries to keep the metaphorical at bay, for the sake � im� ts of reason alone, but without a dog or any other beast, except

of the literal truth about the dog of the verse in Exodus 22 which his Indirectly, tf we are to judge by reason alone.
essay takes as its text: 'neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of
beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs'. It is an uphill task, To judge by reason alone, man has no duties except to men
both for him and for the Talmudic interpreters of this text who (himself or others), for his duty to any subject at all is the moral
explain what Levinas calls 'the paradox' of a purely natural creature constraint by his will. Accordingly, a subject who constrains
having a right. here the right of the dog to feed on this particular sort (obligates) must, first. be a person; and he must, secondly, be
of meat. by referring to Exodus 11: 7, which says that no dog shall given as an object of experience, because he is to influence the
move its tongue at the midnight when the first-born in the land of purpose of a man's will; and such an influence can occur only in the
Egypt are threatened with slaughter and the Jews are about to be led relationship of two existing beings (for a mere creation of thought
into captivity. Threatened, be it noted, are the first-born not only of cannot become the cause of any purposive achievement). Since in
The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience
Who is My Neighbour? 53

with no being which might be given being to whom we are obligated; for the actuality of such a
all our experience we are acquainted ive) ept one, �an therefore v:ould first have to be made known by experience'. He also
capable of obligation (active or passr thanexcman . And 1f he supposes wntes, m the paragraph already cited, that we can have no duties
can have no duty to
any being othe except d�ties to human beings because 'we are acquainted with
that he has such another duty, ctio then this happens through an (ken�en w1r) no bein� which might be capable of obligation (active or
amphiboly of the concepts of refley ton; him and so his s�pposed dut�
self. He IS led �o th�s pass1ve) except man . We can be under an obligation only to a being
to other beings is merely his dut fuses his duty regardmg (m with whom we can be, as we say, face to face. In the very human
misunderstanding because he con foward (gegen) these beings.3 world of Immanuel Kant the other man is the only being with whom I
a duty
Ansehung) other beings with co�e face to face. So too in the very human world of Emmanuel
not even say 'Good .day', no Levmas. The only face we behold is the human face and that is the
To judge by reason alone, Bobby can o�ly face in which there is a trace of any being to which we can be
matter how gaily he may wag hisduti tail and no matter how exCitedly he dinctly beholden. �thicaUy, that is all that matters . In this, despite
may bark. If I think that I have toesortotow animals it is. be.cause I �m
ard from 1�d1rect duhes therr: fundamental d1sagreement over what it is for two human beings
failing to distinguish direct duties long-perform ed serv1ce of an old to �e face to face, there is a considerable area of agreement between
regarding. 'Even gratitude for themembers of the household) belongs Levmas and .Kant. Just as Kant maintains that I can have obligations
horse or dog (just as if they werehis duty rega d i ng these a�mals; �ut
only �o a bemg that has, or (to cover the infantile and the senile) is of
indirectly to man's duty, namely always only h1s. duty to �tm�elf,. If the kmd that can �a :'� .obligations, so Levinas seems to imply that I
directly considered, such a duty is relations with animals he IS hke�y to can have respons1b1hbes only toward beings capable of having
a man is not compassionate in his s with other human bemgs. responsibilities.
become insensitive in his relation gations only to a bein� that We. have �een why Kant thinks that God can have no obligations.
According to Kant a man can havehisobliacco of human e�penence, H� th�nks th1s b�cause he thinks that the notion of obligation carries
has obligations, which means, on only tount other human b�mgs. �he With 1t the �ot10n of constraint, of a tie. So although we may
that human beings have obligations ee� doin� somethmg wh1ch coher.en�ly thmk of God acting according to the moral law, that law is
argument turns on the differenceg betw somethmg wh1ch falls un�er t:"o descnphve, not prescriptive, of .his action, and it is not a law for
falls under a single law and doin and of human rahonahty, which he can feel respect or by which he can feel obliged. He can
laws, the law of human animality to thetheexplaw erience of constraint �nd command, but he cannot be commanded. And this is what Levinas
and it is this du!llity that gives rise on of bein g bound. s.o a. bemg says, speaking of Au�rui. '·do not judge the Other. The Other judges
tension which is implied in the noti have no sens e of obligation, of me. I do not categonze h1m. He categorizes me. He makes me stand
which is a purely animal nature willis purely rational. Hence, Kant out (m'accuse), identifies and accuses me. I do not simply appear, but
oughtness. Nor will a being that obligations to God. We have, am summoned to appear before him (DDVI 117). And in this court of
maintains we can have no moral ion, that is to say, duties 'of appeal it is �e. ��o does the calling. calling me to testify: to testify to
accordin� to Kant, duties of religdivine commands'. The duty of my responsibiiihes even for his responsibilities. So that where Kant
recognizing all duties as (insfar) an Idea of Reason that, from a a�lows that I have responsibilities to myself, namely to make myself
religion, however, is correlated with to make sense of the apparent YJr�ous, my responsibility toward myself according to Levinas is
theoretical point of view, helps us a practical point of view, Kant med1ated by . my responsibility for the Other's responsibility toward
purposefulness of nature; and, from moral fecundity in availing an me. Furt�er, m contrast to Kant's view that I have a duty to promote
holds, this Idea is of the grea test the happmess ,but not. the virtue of others, Levinas holds that I go bail
incentive to virt uou s con duc t. Thu s what we take to be a duty to for the Other s obed1ence to the Law. 'His business is my business'
man has to himself,
God is a duty to man himself, namely a duty each (ADV 106). But, Levinas goes on to ask. 1s not my business his? Is he
the duty to make himself virtuous. ot have a duty to a being he does not res.p��sible for �e? Ca � I therefore be responsible for his
Does Kant think that a man cann not . . . have before us (vor uns) a respons1bt!Jty for me? To th1s last question Levinas answers Yes.
not know exists? He writes: 'we do
54 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Who is My Neighbour? 55

For every responsibility that the Other has toward me and others I contend, not beyond the participation of what according to Hegel too
have a pre-ordained meta-responsibility. are primitive forms of religion, the mythological religions of faceless
Starting from below, as it were, from my responsibility toward the gods. The superior form of religion is one in which God is not
other human being, an infinite progress is generated, an infinite numinous, and in which he is 'in-himself', kath auto, only on the
progress that is not to be confused with the agent's infinite progress assumption of ontological atheism. Atheistic de-ontology, the atheism
towards moral perfection as postulated in the ethical theory of Kant, which results from the death of the pagan gods before which we are
even though both Kant and Levinas call what gives direction to this in danger of confusing God with the nocturnal shuffling of the if !I a
progress an Ideal. In the Kantian Ideal happiness is commensurate (TI 115-16; 142. DDVI 115). The Other, in his signification prior to
with virtue. It is an Ideal towards which one strives by exerting a my initiative, resembles God' (TI 269; 293). 'The Other is the very
good will, and the realization of the Ideal would be a fulfilment. The locus of metaphysical truth, and is indispensable for my relation with
Levinasian Ideal, as viewed from my subjectivity, recedes unmensur­ God' (TI 51; 78). But even when he is no longer conceived as the
ably further and further away the more I take up my responsibilities. God of positive or negative theology, God is not the Other, Autrui.
The incessant realizing of it would be a derealizing of my self, an Far from it. He is closer to this farness. Not the impersonal i/ of the il
emptying of myself, but a kenosis that could never be complete. And y a, not the third person of justice nascent in the dyadic face to face,
this taking up of my responsibilities is not an exercise of power, not God is the third personal Il over and up there, illic, and, as Descartes
even of the power of a good will. It is a being taken up by the idea of says, echoing the Symposium, majestic. God is the eminence of illeity
Infinity and Goodness, the idea which is presupposed by the infinite of which the trace is inscribed in the face of the second person You as
progression-regression and which prevents it becoming the bad well as in the third person nascent there. Still speaking in Cartesian
infinite that it would otherwise be. terms, Levinas says that the idea of God is the idea of Infinity
This explains the structure of Levinas's important essay 'God and thought by the first-personal but never nominative me, the 'in' of this
Philosophy'. The first part of this starts from above with the idea of idea of infinity connoting both the being of this idea in the finite me
God, Err Sof, the topic of Descartes's Third Meditation. Then, on and the negation implied i n the idea of my own finitude revealed to
pages 1 1 3-15 of De Dieu qui vient a /'idee, it starts again, this time me a posteriori by my doubt and desire but a priori by the
from below, with the topic of the First and Second Meditations, immeasurable degree to which the 'objective reality' of my idea of
subjectivity and therefore in Levinas's text, since subjectivity is ethical infinity falls short of the 'formal reality' of its metaphysical and ethical
subjection, with Autrui, the difficult pronoun that seems to do service origin. Infinity, the Desirable, God is the transcendence and holiness
for God in the; meditations of Levinas rather as the name of God or distance that makes my nearness to my neighbour more than a
seems to do service for the scarcely mentioned 'other minds' in the relation of love, as for Kant, mutatis mutandis, love is that which
Meditations of Descartes. unites while respect is that which sets a distance between us. 'God is
Is God Autrui 7 Not if by God is meant the God of positive or not simply "the first other", or "the other par excellence" or "the
negative theology. The Other is not some Plotinian avatar of God. absolutely other'", but other than the other, otherwise other, other
The Other is not the incarnation of God, but precisely by his face, in with an alterity prior to the alterity of the other' (DDVI 113-15).
which he is disincarnate, is the manifestation of the height in which he Levinas's phenomenological analysis of love is a reflection on
is revealed' (TI 51; 79), revealed in discourse. 'It is our relations with 5
Plato's Symposium and Rosenzweig's The Star of Redemption. Love is
men . . . that give to theological concepts the sole signification of ambiguous. On the one hand it points to the exteriority of the
which they admit.' 'Everything that cannot be reduced to an beloved and to an exteriority beyond that exteriority, beyond the
interhuman relation represents not the superior form but the forever face. On the other hand it enjoys the interiority of sensation and
primitive form of religion.' As indeed Hegel might have said, except return to oneself (TI 244; 266), to the concupiscence that Pascal
that the infinity of the interhuman relation in his conception is an describes with the help of the proclan1ation of the First Epistle of
infinity that totalizes a symmetrical intersubjectivity. Hegel's God is Saint John, 2: 16: 'Everything in the world is lust of the Aesh, or
beyond any gulf between subject and object, but it is, Levinas would concupiscence of the eyes, or vaingloriousness of life', libido sentiendi,
Who is My Neighbour? 57
56 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience

sentient creatures he is inclined to reply that our thinking about them .

libido sciendi, ' libido dominandi, the very same cupere that throws us
may have to be only analogical or that the answer turns on whether
back from the Cartesian idea of God to the cogifo that would like to
we can discern in the eyes of the animal a recognition, however
have everything under its command. We reported in Chapter 1
obscure, of its own mortality, on whether, in Levinas's sense, the
Levinas's statement that there is a touch of the erotic in all love,
animal has a face.8 If this question is crucial, we may have to be
followed by his reference to Amour sans Eras. lt is as though the
satisfied with falling back on the need to appeal to agents to speak on
pagan god is left behind as Levinas's thoughts turn from Plato to
the animal's behalf, as we do in the case of infants. However, the
Rosenzweig. Rosenzweig writes of the love of a non-pagan God, of
agent who speaks for the child says what he says on the child's behalf
God's love for man and of man's love for God. In a footnote Levinas
on the basis of the certainty that the child does not enjoy being
makes the comment that 'Franz Rosenzweig interprets the response
battered or starved. Is not the fact that this is also how it is with non­
made by Man to the love with which God loves him, as the
human animals enough to prove that I have responsibility for them,
movement towards the neighbour'. He probably has in mind the
and that responsibility does not depend upon their having responsi­
bilities, for example responsibilities to their offspring or to humans
they guard or guide? Suppose we agree that talk of the animal's
Since love cannot be commanded except by the lover himself,
responsibilities is anthropomorphism or rhetoric, still, as Bentham and
therefore the love for man, in being commanded by God, is
other utilitarians put it, the question is not Can they reason? or Can
directly derived from the love for God. The love for God is to
they talk? but Can they suffer?
express itself in love for one's neighbour. It is for this reason that
The first and perhaps the second of these questions has been seen
love of neighbour can and must be commanded.6
to be all-important for Kant. Yet the last is not for him morally
irrelevant, as some of his readers have inferred. It is argued that
We saw how in the spirit of these sentences the love without eros to
Kant's concession that we have indirect duties to animals can be
which Levinas refers - and which Rosenzweig champions (on p. 163),
reduced to absurdity on the grounds that rationality is the only
though in treating of God's love for man - gets spoken of henceforth
morally relevant characteristic that he can admit by which to
as responsibility in order to mark its difference from ego-based desire
distinguish animals from other non-human beings and that there­
and to mark that it is a response.
fore, if we are to refrain from treating animals only as means because
that is likely to lead us to treat fellow human beings as means only,
we should for the same reason refrain from treating only as means
inanimate objects like hammers. (We shall return to this alleged
absurdity.) This argument derives its plausibility from the failure to
Why however must responsibility be limited to responding to a being
distinguish a necessary condition of moral agency, where the moral is
that has the gift of speech? Is there no room for responsibility to
opposed to the non-moral, from a condition of the circumstances in
dumb animals?
which an action is performed that might determine whether the action
Responsibilities may be responsibilities towards, but not all such
responsibilities are responses fa in the strict sense of answers or other is moral as opposed to immoral. The former condition is one that
responses to a question or command. They may be responsibilities for, holds for any rational beings that ·may exist. The latter condition
holds only for the actions of those we know to exist, human beings.
and it is of responsibilities pour or de that Levinas mostly writes,
explicitly distinguishing them only once or twice from responsibilities That Kant agrees that the animality of rational animals can be
a (NP 108)? We could of course take up the question whether animals determinative of our duties toward them is implied by his claim
that we have a direct duty to contribute to the well-being of other
talk and, · if so, which if any can talk to us. There are grounds for
humans and to support them in distress, and an indirect duty to
believing that Levinas would consider it crucial for his account
assure one's own happiness as far as one can consistently with one's
whether Bobby merely barks or whether in doing so he can say
Bonjour. When asked about our responsibilities toward non-human other obligations.9 The practical contradictoriness that makes some of
58 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Who is My Neighbour? 59

my action s wrong depends on the fact that it is natural for men to face may be expressed by his hand or the nape of the neck (TI 240;
seek their own happines s. The moral law is a test for practi caL and 262). And for Kant at least the claim does not have to be a claim to a
that means tele ological, consistency, and it applies to maxims perfect right. I can have duti es to others without any of those others
prescriptive of how men can achieve that natural end. Since that having a right to require that that duty be exercised toward him or
natural end includes man s we ll being as an animal, the maxim Treat
' - her by me. Levinas however seems to be more demanding. The very
non-human animals as if they have no capacity for suffering' is not droilure of the face to face, its uprightness or rectitude (Gerechtigkeit,
one that can be consistently conceived as a law of nature or willed to justice), is the expression of the other's right over me, droit (Tl 10;
become one. Such conception is inconsistent with what one knows 40). And in one place at least Levinas says 'I support the universe', ]e
about animals from one's own experience of being one. This removes soutiens l'univers (AEAE 152, OBBE 197). This might seem to augur
one obstacle preventing Kant admitting that we have dire ct duties to well for Bobby He is presumably part of the universe. So if

brute s. supporting means being responsible for, I am responsible for, that

There remains the obstacle presented by Kant's doctrine that as far is to say, ob�essed by him. But Levinas distinguishes my support of
as we can tell on the basis of reason alone, in other words setting the universe into two aspects. My support of the universe performs
aside matters based on faith and on feelings other than the feeling of the role which Kant assigns to the
transcendental unity appe cep­
of r
moral respect, man has no du ti es except to men because his duty to tion, the role of giving the universe it s unity. Prior to transcendental
any s ubject is moral constraint by that subject's will. We should be unifying, Levinas says, is the unity of human society the one�ess of
well on the way to clearing Kant's path to admit ting direct duties to which is brought about by my responsibilit y. Human society. So there
animals if only this reference to the subject's will could be interpreted is no place for direct responsibility for Bobby here.
as what he desires. If that were allowed, and if similar translations of What about the other aspect in which the unity of the universe is
the accommodating word Wille were permjtted elsewhere in Kant's due to me? The other aspect of my unifying support is that which has
text, we should also be well on the way to converting Kant s th eory
' to do with the unity of being. But this second aspect is derivative
of ethics into the tacit utilitarianism that Mill holds it to be. Kant from the first and would t herefore appear to be no more capable than
himself i s les s accommoda ting than the word, taking pains to it of allowing for responsibility for the non-human animal. The one
distinguish two of its primary senses. He is adamant that we can space of th e universe is the space of secondary justice, justice in the
have direct duties only to beings that have Wille understood as pure proximity of the third party. It is the ubiquity not of the geometrical
practical reason. space of the things at which I look, but of the pre-geometrical space
In the metaphysical ethics of Levinas I can have direct responsi­ from which I am looked at by the face, the face which me regarde in
bilities only toward beings that can sp eak and this means beings that both senses of the word, the face that looks at me and concerns me,
have a rationality that is p res upposed by the univ e rsalizing reason the face that m'accuse in both senses of that word: the face whose look
fundamental in the metaphysics of ethics of Kant. However, the makes me stand out and accuses me (AEAE 147, OBBE 116). The face
proto-rationality of primary justice between two unequals anticipates that calls me into question is not the face of the animal. It is thanks to
the rationality of secondary justice among many, but without this human faces, Levinas writes, that Being will have a meaning as a

entailing that I cease being more responsible than anyone else. universe, and th e unity of the univ erse will be in me as subject to
Both Kant and Levinas are so sensitive to the dangers of the being. That means that the space of the universe will manifest itself as
Schwiirmerei threate ned by what Kant calls pathologi cal love that they the dwelling of the others.' The door of that dwelling would seem to
require an obligating being to be able to make a claim in so many be slammed in Bobby's face, assuming it be allowed that he has one.
words. No claim goes without saying, even if the saying is the silent This impression is confirmed by Levinas' s endorsement of much of
saying of the discourse of the face - a silence not to be confused with what he finds said in Rabbi Halm of Volozhin's Nefesh Hahafm, The
the nocturnal silence in which the insomniac hears the menacing rustle Soul of Life. In the doctrine expounded in this book Levinas recognizes
of the anonymous il y a (Tl 236; 258-9). The Other has to look at a ba si s for his own teaching that man is responsibl e for the universe .

me. Indeed, as we have already observed, what is expressed in his The soul of the universe, according to Rabbi Halm, is man and,
60 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Who is My Neighbour? 61

d not Hellenistic�lly There is no sign that Levinas would place the lower animal 'above
significantly for our present question, man define
stood Biblic ally as the bemg oneself' among the collectivities, persons and spiritual structures. It is
as a rational animal, but man under
preci sely, Levin as hastens to as though the universe to which Levinas applies Rabbi Halm's
created in the image of God and, more
princi ple of justice , not God as cosmology is the universe of discourse between the Creator and
add, of God as Elohim, God as the
principle of mercy unpronouncably named
in the T etragr a �
m aton. the human creature in the traditional great chain of being. The
. Nefesh Hahar m descn bes a creatureliness of any creature more humble than man is a purely (or
Elohim is also the soul of the world
in whjch i s postu lated a should we say 'impurely'?) cosmological creatureliness, recalcitrant to
cosmology, cabbalistic and Hellenistic,
hierarchy of worlds with God at the top But th is cosmo logy h �s production into ethics, whereas creation is the intake of ethical breath
of justic e at the head of this which Levinas calls psychisme: the reveille of the inner life by a Wachef
to be read ethically. The principle
the root of the soul auf that rouses it from the twilight of its dogmatic slumber,
hierarchy of worlds is the source on which feeds . .
nouris hes the mterm ediate worlds. apparently re-creation but in truth older than cosmological creation
of man. Thanks to this, man in turn
is at �he . sane
Man is dependent upon Elohim, yet Elohim as ontologically understood - the very pneuma of the psyche.
dependent upon man as mediator (ADV 190). In � . �
Ra bi Ha1m s ethical
c1ally, and on the
cosmology man is homo Tsraelis understood non-ra
ands of the Torah depend the life III
Israelite's obedience to the comm
world s, this 'powe r' of life and death
and death of all the intermediate
or, as Levina woul� say his �assivity In Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence Levinas writes: The soul is
being man's responsibility � . : .
ivity to wh1ch achvit y IS trad1bonally the other in me. The psyche (psychisme), the one-for-the-other, can be
more passive than the recept
opposed. . possession and psychosis; the soul is already the seed of folly' (AEAE
. .
th lower ammal? 86, OBBE 191). Where the conatus of the synoptic ego is a desire to
Does this responsibility include respons1bihty for �

Yes, If we ar � t� go
The answer to this question would appear to be .
possess, ethical and metaphysical Desire is psychotic possession,
by the following statement cited by Levina s from Nefesh Haharm: Just possession not by being or language, however, but possession by
ds on the soul that is God: sobered (degrise) enthusiasm in which there is a response to the
as the way in which the body moves depen
r and living soul of the word of the Other. Levinas maintains that the first word addressed to
interior to man, man in his entirety is the powe
his charg e, above him and below' (ADV 194). me by the Other is Thou shalt not murder/kill' where the oblique
innumerable worlds in .
as's interpretation On
And below. These two words get lost in Levin stroke we insert signals the question, How are we to translate the
he writes 'It i.s at the Hebrew word rasah? The answer to this question will have
the very same: page on which he cites them .
fate of the u�Iverse IS repercussions for the question whether I am obsessed by Bobby,
lowest (au plus bas), in man, that the entire .
the Talmud1c treahs e whether I have direct responsibility for him. We have failed to
decided', and on the next page he cites from
in the world s
Aboth 'Know what confusion your action brings about discover any evidence that Levinas allows that Bobby and I can be
above you.' That is to say: face to face such that I could read in his own eyes Thou shalt not
kill.' We must therefore retreat to the question whether in the face to
It is not by substantiality - by an in-itself or for-its
el - that ma.n � face the other man addresses me not only on behalf of himself and
e-other : for what IS
and his interiority are defined, but by the 'for-th other men, but also on behalf of the non-human animal; and to the
above oneself for the worlds - but also,
interpreting 'world' question whether, ifwhat the human face tells me is Thou shalt not
broadly, for c�llectivities, persons, spiritual
structures. In spite of murder', the legal and quasi-legal connotations of the word 'murder'
in injuring them (or
his creaturely humility, man is engaged prevent our saying that the commandment includes within its scope
preserving them). the non-human animal.
Commenting on Exodus 20: 13, ]. P. Hyatt states that rasah refers to
Is this broad definition of 'world' not still too narrow to allow for the murder of a personal enemy and that it is used much less frequenHy
direct responsibility for the lower animal? Where does he or she fit in? than the two words meaning to kilL harag and hemif. He adds:
62 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Who s
i My Neighbour? 63

It originally had nothing to do with capital punishment (admin­ challenge to our understanding as the smile left behind after the
istered by the avenger of blood or by the community), killing subtraction of the face of the Cheshire cat. For to every unsaying
in war which was certainly sanctioned by the OT, or the killing of there immediately accrues another said calling to be unsaid again to
animals. Careful studies have shown that it is not confined, infinity. Since Levinas replaces or translates the commandment 'Thou
however, to intentional murder, but is occasionally used of shalt not kill' sometimes by such words as Thou shalt give the other
unintentional homicide.11 the bread from thy mouth' and Thou shalt not let the stranger die
alone', it would seem not improper to conclude that these various
When we turn to Levinas's statements of the commandment we find forms of words are different ways of expressing the vulnerability of
that he sometimes formulates it as Thou shalt not kill', but other the human being, symbolized by the fact that these words are read in
times replaces tuer by meurtrir with no contextual indication that he the eyes of the other, the most vulnerable part of the face. This
would not be willing to use the latter in all his mentions of the symbolism does not prevent his granting that any part of the body
commandment. Of course this must not be taken to imply that he is can be the face in his ethical or proto-ethical sense. One problem
not fully aware of the strict injunctions of the Torah against causing raised by the suggestion we have just made is that the vulnerability
animals unnecessary pain. He also knows very well that the later in question is the vulnerability of the other, whereas saying, Dire, is
Priestly sections of Genesis which speak of man's dominion over not restricted to that side. This problem is a difficulty intrinsic to the
animals have alongside them sections from the earlier Jahwist sections saying of the face to face, not necessarily an objection to what
which speak of animals as man's companions and affirm that God's Levinas says about this. What he says is intrinsically difficult to
covenant is made between him and man and every living creature.12 comprehend, and perhaps it is impossible to do so if comprehension is
But what sort of relevance is to be ascribed to this sensitivity and subsumption under concepts. But this particular difficulty can be at
knowledge on Levinas's part or indeed to any of the citations he least articulated if we recall that there is an asymmetrical chiasmic
makes in the course of his more philosophical writings of texts from exchange of places in the face to face which Levinas tries to describe
the Jewish Bible or the Talmud7 The face to face faces us with a in sentences we quoted above from which it appears that despite the
dilemma. If the first word addressed to me derives its authority from, radical alterity of the other this alterity is somehow already
say, Sinai, does thaf not prevent Levinas making his claim that immemorially on my side because it is the anarchic condition of
metaphysical ethics makes no appeal to the content of any positive my identity. I am neither at one time nor at one place. Because I am
religion? Even if Levinas's ethics cannot be an ethics of the other diachronic and diaconal 1 am situated in the place of the other,
animal, even if Bobby cannot be my neighbour according to that substituted ethically in his stead to the point at which my so-called
ethics, we must take Levinas seriously when he insists that the ethics subjectivity is the other in my place, au lieu de moi, as Blanchot says,
of which he speaks is a humanism of the other man. This means that and therefore no more subjective than ob-jective, like the Cartesian
we cannot avoid asking how in the face to face the other man can say idea of God, where the 'of' is both a subjective and an objective
anything at all and how, without the constraints imposed by the genitive.13 So my dire is a speaking for him, prophecy. My word is a
importation of commandments from positive religions, he can be priori and, from before the beginning, psychotically possessed by him.
prevented from saying anything whatsoever. Its authority is independent of my authorship.
The best solution of this dilemma that Levinas's writings seem to Our main problem in this chapter has been and still is to
offer is to understand the encounter that Moses had on Sinai, where understand why Levinas gives so much ethical weight to the ability
he was told by God 'my face shall not be seen', as a face to face to speak; why calling or claiming is required in so literal a sense,
encounter with the other man, and, second, to understand 'Thou shalt though that sense is already extended some way by him from what
not kill' not as a proposition said or commandment affirmed as a one ordinarily thinks of as speech. If calling or claiming are to be
principle of ethics, not as something dil, but as the nearest one can understood in such a way that they do imply speech, why cannot the
come to an enunciation of the force of any saying, the dire that is left speech be that of persons who speak on behalf of those that cannot
when what is said is unsaid, didif. This "remainder is not as big a speak for themselves? Does not their being unable to speak for
64 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Who is My Neighbour? 65

themselves magnify my responsibility? Does their not being able to (whether this be an extension of ethics or an extension of 'ethics'), the
speak make my responsibility for them any the less direct than my other, whether it be animal, vegetable or mineral, can be an other in
responsibility for the other human being? This may not be a respect of whom or which I have responsibilities only on condition of
responsibility to or toward if by that is meant a response to a being its having a face. On being asked whether having a face in the ethical
that can put his or her request into words - though in the case of at sense means being able to speak, he replies:
least some non-human animals it is only on an extremely exacting
definition of language that it is plausible to hold that such a response I cannot say at what moment you have the right to be ca1led 'face'.
is ruled out. But is it not a responsibility for, and a direct one in the The human face is completely different and only afterwards do we
sense of underivative? discover the face of an animal. I don't know if a snake has a face. I
Now it is obligations that Kant distinguishes into direct ones to or can't answer that question. A more specific analysis is needed.
toward (gegen) and indirect ones regarding (in Ansehung). And if we
distinguish also obligations from responsibilities the prospect Levinas This seems to confirm that the distinction between obligation and
offers Bobby begins to look less bleak. In an interview published in responsibility is important for Levinas. Since 'It is clear that, without
1988, in reply to the question whether we have obligations to considering animals as human beings, the ethical extends to all living
animals, he answers, as we have never doubted for one moment that beings' and that we have an obligation to animals because they suffer,
he would, Yes we do. the implication appears to be that we can have an ethical obligation
without having a proto-ethical responsibility to animals. Therefore
It is dear that, without considering animals as human beings, the when, at the end of his great poem, after describing how he threw a
ethical extends to all living beings. We d o not want to make an log in the direction of the snake he encountered at his water-trough,
animal suffer needlessly and so on. But the prototype of this is D. H. Lawrence writes
human ethics. Vegetarianism, for example, arises from the transfer­
ence to animals of the idea of suffering. The animal suffers. It is And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
because we, as human, know what suffering is that we can have Of life.
this obligation. (PL 172) And I have something to expiate;
A pettiness.
That is his answer to Bentham. But this answer leaves unanswered the
question whether the obligation is direct or, as Kant maintains, only the expiation will be either of a failure to meet an ethical obligation
indirect and derived. It also leaves unanswered the question whether or of the shirking of a proto-ethical responsibility, depending on what
our obligation is also a responsibility. A negative answer to this is the right answer to the question asked earlier in the poem and on

question seems to be implied by the notion of the face to face which the reasons for its being right:
is at the centre of Levinas's rethinking of the ethical. Notwithstanding
his recent statement 'the ethical extends to all living beings', since on Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Levinas's analysis ethical responsibility 'originates' in the face to face,
it is not enough for the bearer of that responsibility to have a face. What answer and what reasons Levinas would give depend on what
The being to or for whom I am responsible must also have a face in answer he would give after further analysis to the question to which
Levinas's ethical sense. Despite his granting that we have obligations he says he does not yet know the answer, namely whether a snake
with respect to animals, and that the ethical extends to all living has a face. And his answer to the latter question appears to depend
beings - where, if the 'all' includes vegetable as well as animal life, the on whether in some sense the snake can talk. Since he grants that the
position of the vegetarians he goes on to mention becomes still more fact that animals suffer is enough to put us under obligation in respect
complex - he appears to continue to think that in ethics proper, that to them, has he not granted what matters most? Why do we need to
is to say in the 'prototype' of ethics as distinct from its extension pursue the question of responsibility in respect of non-human beings?
66 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Who is My Neighbour? 67

We need to do this in order to understand what Levinas means by or non-rationalist philosophy of man; he is arguing for a definition of
ethics and how the ethical is related to responsibility. Despite his rationality that brings out that the height of rationality is what by the
granting that we are under ethical obligations to animals, these standards of rationality as traditionally understood would be deemed
obligations appear on Levinas's account to have a lower status than the height of folly. However, as we shall see n i a later chapter,
obligations to human beings because the latter, but not the former, Heidegger separates the human from non-human animality more
are clearly expressions of proto-ethical responsibility. When Levinas sharply than Levinas does, so sharply that he would be very
says that the human face is completely different from the face of the unhappy with the equation Levinas draws between Dasein's being
animal and then adds 'I don't know if a snake has a face' we have to concerned for its being and the Darwinian idea that the living being
ask whether if he discovered that the snake has a face it would be a struggles for life. First, the being of Dasein is not a struggle for life.
face in the same sense as that in which a human being has a face. However paradoxical it may be to say so - particularly paradoxical if
For an animal to have a face in the same sense as that in which a the being of Dasein is being toward its death - the being of Dasein is
human being has a face would mean, on one interpretation of some of not a living being. Concern for its existence is not concern for its life.
Levinas's words, that the animal is capable of holiness or saintliness, Second, Dasein is indeed concerned for its being according to the
understanding by this that the animal is capable of being 'more analysis given in Being and Time; but it is concerned for - one might
attached to the being of the other than to his own'. I do not know say also concerned or obsessed by - being, and this concern cannot
whether Levinas would accept as evidence of this reports of be construed as a concern only for its own survival and/or the
apparently altruistic and self-sacrificial behaviour among non-human survival of other beings. It remains to be seen in the following
animals - it is said that elephants even mourn - or whether he would chapters whether the surplus of concern for being should be
interpret these as manifestations of individual altruism in the interest construed as a requirement for persistence in being, or at least
of the preservation of the genus or the gene. The first alternative persistence in authentic being.
seems to be ruled out by the following remarks: Having reached some understanding of Levinas's objections to
teleological theories of ethics as represented by utilitarianism and
You ask at what moment one becomes a face. I do not know at having begun to acquire some understanding of the degree of his
what moment the face appears, but what 1 want to emphasize is agreement with Kant, we shall in the next chapter continue to pursue
that the human breaks with pure being, which is always a Kantian themes in order to acquire some understanding of Levinas's
persistence in being. This is my principal thesis. A being is disagreement with Kant and, since we shall be reading Kant also as
something· that is attached to being, to its own being. That is interpreted by Heidegger, in order to make a transition to an
Darwin's idea. The being of animals is a struggle for life. A examination of topics whose treatment by Heidegger will provide
struggle for life without ethics. It is a question of might. Heidegger us with a new basis from which to respond to the question that the
says at the beginning of Being and Time that Dasein is a being who present inconclusive chapter compels us to ask: if, as Levinas
in his being is concerned for this being itself. That's Darwin's idea: maintains, ethics can escape violence or permit more. than a second­
the living being struggles for life. The aim of being is being itself. best sort of obligation only if it is not severed from proto-ethical
However, with the appearance of the human - and this is my entire responsibility, can the latter be described in such a way that i t does
philosophy - there is something more important than my life, and not restrict proto-ethical responsibility to the human? For the reasons
that is the life of the other. That is unreasonable. Man is an just indicated, as good as any point from which to begin seeking an
unreasonable animal. answer t o this question is the point where Kant combines a
phenomenology of morals with a phenomenology of the great chain
Like Heidegger, Levinas takes exception to the traditional defini­ of being.
tion of man as a rational animal. Levinas here has the adjective take
the weight of his disagreement with this definition. As we have seen,
it would be a mistake to suppose that he is arguing for an irrationalist
Critical Responsibility 69

4 Human Freedom, between writing the first Critique and the second
Kant comes to see that the real nature of the person is not the
representative 'I think' of the Cartesian ego or the Leibnizian monad,
Critical Resp onsibility but the 'I act', ich handle (G42 159, S 1 1 1 {92]). Or, as Heidegger also
says in the same place, Kant comes to see the 'I represent' as 'I ad'.
The idea (Vorsteflung) is understood in terms of the freedom in which I
give myself the law from the ground of my being and in which the I
Nous sommes toujours sur le seuil du Conflit des Facultes. is truly together with itself. Indeed, although he does not fully realize
)acques Derrida, Mochlos it, Kant is some distance along this path when in the first Critique he
maintains that I am conscious of the spontaneity of my intelligence
even though this consciousness does not count as knowledge. It does
not amount to knowledge because for there to be knowledge the
categories must be applied to data presented under the form of inner
Kantian critique distinguishes the faculties of mi�d and shows ow � sense, time. As the Transcendental Aesthetic of the first Critique
the elements distinguished - sensibility, imagination, understandmg, maintains, time is the form only, and only the form, of what is capable
will, reason - should, but can fail, to cooperate with each other. Man of being given in empirical or pure intuition, so I can have knowledge
is fully person, he tells us in Religion within the Bounds o Reason Alone, only of my psychological self which, Kant says (too hastily in
when he is fully rational, and that means fully responsible. In §13 of Heidegger's opinion), is the self only as object. Kant does not grasp
The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (19 27) Heidegger's rethinking of that although the categories temporalized by schematism do not
Kant (already underway in Being and Time, in lectures to be published apply to the self as subject, that is, as the agent which applies the
in 1929 as Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, and continued categories, a more original temporality might enable us to supplement
meanwhile in the course on the first Critique) distinguishes moral the categories through which we understand the given object with

personality. psychological personality and transcendent perso�ality. existentials through which we understand the giving, the es gibf, the
Transcendental personality is man's self-consciousness, h1s capac1ty to being of spontaneous subjectivity.
prefix 'I think' to any of his thoughts in the broad sense of thought Heidegger argues that although Kant fails to work out a way of
which Descartes ascribes to cogitalio in one of his uses of that word. describing the unity of the theoretical and practical ego, this
Hence among those thoughts of which man is conscious that he deficiency can be met by following guidelines laid down by Kant,
thinks them will be any thought he may have of his empirical nature, in particular in his interpretation of the phenomenon of respect.
any thought of which the object is or is in his inner sense, the Heidegger's claim to be able to arrive in this way at an ontology of
temporal flow of his stream of consciousne�s. !he transcendental the self presupposed by the distinction between theory and practice is

personality manifests itself too with those co lfafiones th�t Descart�s not without paradox. It is doubly paradoxical because a superficial
includes under the heading of will, thus m any acbon that IS reading of the first and the second Critiques might lead one to
performed out of respect for the moral law. Tha� is to say, the conclude that Kant limits respect to practical reason, and because
transcendental personality manifests itself ni any acbon of the mor � what he says about it is usually classified as moral psychology and
personality, in any act of practical rea�on. It would therefore seem m could be expected to have little to offer to a thinker who, heeding
. .
order to take this activity of combimng my cogrtalrones to be what Plato's warning that instead of taking faculty psychology too
Kant means by the action he identifies with intelligence. And that seriously we must take the long philosophical way round, had
may be what Kant would have said at the time of the composition of already written at length decrying psychologism. Yet Heidegger
the Critique of P�tre Reason. The combining Kant is primarily interested declares that 'Kant's interpretation of the phenomenon of respect is
in there is the combining of cogifationes treated as representations. But, probably the most brilliant phenomenological analysis of the
Heidegger says in his study of Schelling's Treatise on the Essence of phenomenon of morality that we have from him' (G24 189,

70 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Critical Responsibility 71

BPP 133). If it
is initially surprising that Heidegger seizes upon Kant's to be its pre-moral condition, authenticity. Fortunately for Heideg­
analysis of respect as a due we should remember that his application ger's project, these risks can be circumvented. We see that this is so
of that analysis is a reapplication of some of the thoughts suggested as soon as we realize that Heidegger's ontology draws neither simply
to him by the doctrine of transcendental schematism sketched out by on ��e moral la� nor � imply on human sentiment but on that special
Kant in the first Critique. Those thoughts were later to be published in amb1guous senbment analogous to other sentiments' of which Kant
the book on Kant which appeared in 1929. That book contains too says no person ea:' be destitute without ceasing to be a person.3
some reflections on respect, and these in turn should be remembered The moral law IS the obJect of a complex feeling, aspects of which
as we read what is said on that topic in The Basic Problems of are analo�ou� to inclination and fear. If with Heidegger we under­
stand mclmabo n and fear as dispositions to seek and avoid, we have
Respect is, in Heidegger's phrase, 'subjugative self-elevation', already made a step away from the view that feelings are simply
unterwerfende Sicherhaben. As Kant himself says, the feeling of respect occurrent, extant and present at hand psychological states, a view
for the moral law is at one and the same time something like Kant takes when he regards the psychological personality as a
contmuun : of empirical states and processes. Feelings and moods -
inclination and something like fear. We feel diminished and threatened
when we compare our all-too-human humanity with the demand how we fmd ourselves (wie wir uns befinden, comment on se frouve) -
made by the moral law. We are raised at the thought that submission are understan�a�le only in terms of ways of comporting ourselves in
to the moral law is a giving of oneself to what one is par excellence, a the w�rld. Th1s IS a break with one kind or aspect of psychologism.
giving of oneself to 'the hero in one's soul' (G24 192, BPP 136). But th1s brea� IS not one that has to do specifically with respect as
Respect, he says, strikes down self-love and self-conceit. However, compared w1th other feelings or emotions. Further, when Kant
there is a danger that in this striking down one form of self-love and maintains tha: incl�nati�n or attraction and fear are only analogues
of the confl1ctmg d1spos1bo. ns combined in respect, he is concerned to
self-conceit will be usurped by another kind unless we keep in view
that although 'Respect always goes to persons only, not to things'/ �nderline that �he moti �ation to and from distinctive of respect is
'Respect for a person is properly only respect for the law (of honesty, mtellectual. He1degger mterprets this intellectuality of respect by
etc.) of which he gives an example'. 2 This danger is only brushed mean� of the e�istential notion of Verstehen described in Being and
_ Ju�t as h� mterprets the feeling of respect along
under the carpet by Kant's insistence that I can never be sure that l the lines of the
myself have or anyone else has acted from a moral motive and that extstenbal notion of _Befi��lichkeit described there. So that 'in respect 1
therefore what we respect is the law which is capable of being adopted myself am am actmg . 1Ch selbst bin. Here we do well to recall that

as the principl� determining a person's will, a good will being, in in Being and Time and The History of the Concept of Time Heidegger
Heideggerian terms, a possible modification of Dasein, 'as we are able speaks of an etymological connection between bin and bei and innan
to be own to ourselves' (G24 228, BPP 160). Ignorance of whether I words connoting dwelling and the home. In the 'Letter on Humanism:
have ever been determined in my action by the moral law does not he associates t�e word ethos with these ideas. This is important for
clear away the danger that self-love arising from turning a blind eye o�r understandmg of the debate between Heidegger and Levinas. It
to the law may be succeeded by pride at the thought that I am bnngs out that although Heidegger emphasizes that his thinking
capable of following it. On the other hand. if this latter danger is tre�ts of what preced�s the distinction of philosophy into logic,
ethtcs, etc.. he IS_ treahng of what can provisionally be called
reduced by consciousness that respect for a person, hence self-respect, an
is properly respect for the moral law, another danger looms for an ontology of ethics. �is aim is obviously not to develop a system of
interpretation of Kant that would see in his account of respect the etht_�s as su�h. But th1s can _be said also of Levinas. However strongly
promise of an ontology of the self. The risk now is that the law will Le�mas res1sts the suggesbon that he is developing an ontology of
. metaphysics
eth1cs, the ethtcal
be too other than self to be capable of grounding an ontology of the which is his avowed concern has in
self. This risk is a threat to the possibility of an existential ontology common with Heidegger's reflections on ethos and oikos a radicality
based on Kant's doctrine of respect, not, like the other two risks, a that means that f�r at least some of the time they are seeking answers
threat to the possibility of moral behaviour or what Heidegger holds to the same queshon. When Levinas maintains that the ethical is prior
n The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Critical Responsibility 73

to ontology and to the thinking of being the impact of his argument sense as knowledge of an ego in general but as in each case mine (a/s
against Heidegger will be underestimated unless we remember that je meines), the ego as in each case the individual factical ego' (G24
Heidegger's topic is in a broad sense ethical and that he is working 194, BPP 137). Here Heidegger is making recourse to the Kantian
towards a deeper understanding of humanism. Al�hough the senses teaching on responsibility to help him spell out his reasons for
Heidegger and Levinas give to their key words may differ, although rejecting the neo-Kantian, especially Rickertian, gloss according to
they disagree over the scope of the words 'being' and 'ontology', and which Kant' s logical ego is a nameless abstraction. The strength of
although a particular word used by Heidegger may be used by this rejection depends however on the demonstration that the logical
Levinas with an 'emphasis' which displaces its force, the question at ego, fhe transcendental unity of self-consciousness that Heidegger
issue between them cannot be seen in proper perspective unless we calls transcendental personality, is one with what he calls the moral
notice the degree to which they share a common vocabulary. personality. Assuming that that demonstration is accepted, Heideg­
Recognition of this sharpens the point of their dispute. The terms ger's argument for the concreteness of the Kantian ego can be
of that dispute are often terms they have carried over from their supported by drawing our and Rickert's attention to the order of
reading of Kant. 'Respect', although not a term that Levinas employs proceeding in the Groundwork where the analysis has as its point of
frequently, is one that is associated by Kant and in Heidegger's departure the concrete experience of the difference between pmden­
reflections on Kant with terms that Levinas does employ frequently: tial and moral necessity. Heidegger would add that it is important not
'responsibility', 'holy' and 'conscience'. We shall now consider each of to forget that the freedom and responsibility to which Kant believes
these words in that order with a view to making clearer the extent of we are committed by the Faktum of pure practical reason is not
agreement and disagreement between Heidegger and Levinas as confined to virtuous action but is the ontological freedom and
revealed in the light of their reactions to Kant. This will enable us responsibility which is the definition and vocation of personality as
to achieve a clearer idea of how the link between the notions these such and is revealed in the respect for the moral law felt by the most
three words denote and the Kantian conception of moral respect vicious among us. In respect we know ourselves because respect,
serves to articulate a Heideggerian conception of ontological respect unlike other feelings, is self-wrought, selbstgewirkt - Kant subscribes
or responsibili.ty which we shall introduce in Chapter 6 and to to a version of Vico's verum-fadum principle: we can know only what
perceive how this conception relates to the Levinasian conception we make (G24 213, BPP 149-50). Hence mineness is the ground no
of responsibility which we have already discussed. less of inauthentic than of authentic self-understanding (G24 242, BPP
170). This existential-ontological distinction between inauthenticity
and authenticity corresponds to Kant's ontic-ethical distinction
between heteronomy and autonomy. However, it is not especially
II the mineness of Dasein that leads Heidegger to make a connection
between his ontology and Kant's metaphysics of morals, but features
Heidegger appeals to Kant's account of respect in order to support of the structure of that mineness as Dasein' s being for the sake of its
the claim made in Being and Time for the ]emeinigkeit of Dasein. The own self, umwillen seiner selbst.
moral feeling, like other feelings, is a feeling-of or feeling-for which is Dasein's mineness is the existential-ontological ground of formal
at the same time a self-feeling. I feel myself feeling. As Descartes puts or logical self-identity and of ontological identity in the traditional
this, cogito me senfire. But against Descartes Heidegger maintains that sense of ontology that classifies according to categories and
this self-feeling is a direct self-having, not an intuitive knowledge, and according to the opposition of substance or essence and predicate
not reflective in the sense that implies a bending back (G24 187, BPP or property. This is what Heidegger means here by 'formal­
133). In the case of the direct self-feeling of moral feeling, respect, I ontological'. Mineness is the phenomenological-ontological belong­
know myself as responsible. 'Respect reveals the dignity before which ing of each Dasein to itself, its existed having of itself.
and for which the self knows itself to be responsible. Only in Dasein's being for the sake of its own self, Heidegger writes, 'is the
responsibility does the ego reveal itself - the self not in a genera} structural moment that motivated Kant to define the person
74 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Critical Responsibility 75

ontologically as an end, without inquiring into the specific structure Ereignis, and the torn edge between being and beings - the
of purposiveness and the question of ontological possibility'. In other differentiating Riss which in the crazed mirror of Levinas's epekeina
words, Kant's doctrine that the person is an end in itself begins, but is reflected as the dechirure at the threshold between the Other and
only begins, to acknowledge that Dasein is a possibility-of-being, a me.
Seinkonnen, whose unifying principle is Sorge, care. The phrase 'end in That for the sake of which personality ads according to Kant is at
itself here marks the earlier-mentioned fad that respect for persons is one and the same time the good will, which requires the perfect
respect for the moral law. Personality on Kant's account of it is accordance of the mind with the moral law, and the highest good. On
distinguished by its impersonality. It is difficult to see how this can be Kant's interpretation of 'the moral destination of our nature' there can
reconciled with the for-the-sake-of-itselfness of Dasein that Heideg­ be only an endless progression toward the summr4m bonum thanks to
ger's reading of Kant discovers in the Critical doctrine unless this is our acting out of respect for the moral law. And, he says, the moral
located on the animal side of the rational animal, the side of which the law is holy. That is what he writes in the second Critique. In the Opus
principle is not the moral law but the interest in the attainment of Postumum he writes: The highest ideal as person (of which there can
happiness. This is a difficulty Levinas sees in Kant, one he tries to be only one) is God'. The words at least are ones that Levinas might
overcome by working out an analysis of concrete, personal me-ness employ provided the asymmetry between the Other and myself is
that is not based on the quest for happiness but on rationality preserved and ethical heteronomy, that is to say my being the
understood through the face to face encounter in which my Other's servant without his being mine, is given priority over the
subjectivity is my ethical subjection to the Other's accusative regard. autonomy that immediately implies ullfversal impersonalism in the
This difficulty affecting the interpretation of Kant Heidegger ethical teaching of Kant. Even though on Kant's teaching God would
advanced in his Marburg years against the Marburg and South-West be a citizen of the Kingdom of Ends, he is on that teaching also a
German neo-Kantians looms too in Heidegger's statement in The Sovereign. So Levinas can borrow the Idea of God from Kant to assist
Metaphysical Foundations of Logic that 'Selfhood is free responsibility in his explanation of what he means when he says that infinity is
for and toward itself' (G26 247, MFL 192). It is followed half a page invested in the other man. This appeal to God is not theological in
later by a statement that enables us to see in relief another deep either Levinas's teaching or Kant's. It is ethical, and religious only to
difference between Heidegger and Levinas. Heidegger writes: 'The the extent that religion and obligation have in common the idea of a
surpassing of the fadic beings that is peculiar to the world as such, bond. In Heidegger's thinking, certainly that of the 1920s and the
and thereby to transcendence and freedom corresponds to the early 1930s, the very idea of God, ethical or theological, would be
epekeina. In other words, the world itself is surpassive (iiberfrifftig); the idea of a being or of beingness, hence beside the point of
beings of Dasein's character are distinguished by overleaping fundamental ontology. Similarly with the notion of Goodness. In Kant
(Uberschwung).' Here again is the Platonic epekeina tes ousias, but with this notion, along with the idea of the ought, is sharply distinguished
a difference, a difference not only from Plato but a difference from from the notion of what is, even though theoretical reason turns out
Levinas. The difference from Levinas is made all the more poignant to presuppose practical Ideas, for example the Idea of freedom which
by the presence in Heidegger's text at this point not only of this Kant analyses in terms of the ought. That gives priority to the ethical,
Platonic tag that Levinas too likes to quote, but also of the phrase as Levinas does. H would be a gross error to say that Heidegger gives
'primary insatiability', where the noun is the one Levinas uses to priority to the theoretical, since he is concerned to expose to view, as
describe the fact that ethical Desire never achieves even momentary far as that is possible, the common root of theory and practice. What
satisfaction since the more I heed my responsibilities to the other the Heidegger gives priority to is being. So long as allowance is made for
more responsibility comes my way. The excession that Heidegger is Heidegger's rethinking of the tradition, it can be said that he belongs
describing on the other hand is not, like that to which Levinas refers, and Levinas does not belong to the tradition which says, in Eckhart's
an excession beyond being. It is an excession beyond beings, but not words, not only of goodness, but of holiness and the divine,
an excession beyond being, whatever at a later stage of his thinking, 'Goodness depends on being, for if there were no being there could
for example in 'Time and Being', may call to be said about es gibt, be no goodness, and thus being is purer than goodness'.4
The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Critical Responsibility 77

On Heidegger's rethinking of this tradition however, the rethinking As for this second class, the question arises how humanity can be
that is well under way in Being and Time and the Introduction to an element in the constitution, condition, definition, destiny or calling
Metaphysics (G40 205f., EM 149f., IM 164£.), goodness and in general of man. Is not humanness rather the whole, all there is to humanness?
value are not subordinated to being hierarchically. What follows from Is not humanity tautologically the whole duty of man, the Heiligkeit,
this rethinking is that value and obligation are no longer regarded as in the sense of the wholeness and wholesomeness or health, of his
tertiary properties superimposed upon the primary and secondary calling? Kant must be using the word Mensch with a wider and a
qualities of things or consequential upon the 'good-mak� ng' char­ narrower meaning, the wider meaning being that of which each
acteristics of human dispositions or actions, but are formahve of the division mentions an aspect, the narrower being that specified in the
very structure of being in the world. This is another way of saying second class, man's all-too-human humanness. Like the predisposition
that ontological ethos is prior to the distinction between theory and to anim(llity, this predisposition to humanness or humanity is natural
practice, and this explains why Heidegger says that an authentic way self-love, but whereas the predispositon to animality is mechanical
of being in the world is a responsible, careful, resolved and open (ent­ (mechanisch), the predisposition to humanity is comparative
schlossen) way of responding to the call of being. (vergleichend). It is concerned with whether we are more or less happy
than others. This concern gives rise first to an interest in acquiring at
least equal esteem, and then, when we become aware that others seek
to be esteemed above us, to an interest in being esteemed above
lli them. The vices correlated with humanity are vices of culture, and in
their extreme forms of envy, ingratitude and malice they are
There is a paradoxical alienness in this call which has analogues in the described as devilish; that is to say, their evil is thought of as going
thinking of Levinas and Kant. ln Religion within the Bo�nds of Rea�on beyond humanity, as being manifestations of man's inhumanity to
Alone Kant distinguishes three classes or elements m the callmg man. Like the so-called beastly vices, they are abuses of humanity in
(Bestimmung) of man or, more precisely, three components 'of the the generic sense of the word. Unlike them, they and their correlated
original disposition for good in human nature': the disp�sition to non-deviant uses are abuses and uses of reason, specifically reason
. employed as an instrument toward the satisfaction of physical desire,
animality of man as a living being, the disposition of humamty m man
taken as living and at the same time as rational, and the disposition to as ancilla of the passions. While in Kant's philosophy of theory the
personality as a rational and at the same time responsible and imagination's schematism participates in both the particularity of
accountable being. This classification is made accordmg to the sensibility and the universality of intellectuality and is the medium
functions or ends of man. So the first does not refer to life in through which the one is applied to the other in what the Critique of
generaL life such as is manifest in creatures with a veg etable soul, Judgement calls determinant, as opposed to reflective judgement, so
. humanity participates in man's animality and in the predisposition in
plants. Nor apparently can the animality or animateness mtended be
that which man shares with non-human animals.. For although Kant which man manifests reason par excellence, the predisposition to
says that Tierheit is physical and mechanical self-love that manifests personality.
itself in the instinct for self-preservation, propagation of the species Unlike his predisposition to humanity and animality, man's
and the social impulse which we could call man's gregariousness, he predisposition to personality is not· one upon which vices can be
associates with these various vices, for example the coarseness of grafted. Hence, when this predisposition becomes a motive for man's
drunkenness, sensuality and lawlessness in regard to other human elective will, that will is, as Kant says in the Groundwork, the only
beings. True, he describes these as 'beastly' or 'brutish' vices, but we thing that is good without qualification. Kant also says in the
all do that without believing that they can be imputed to non-human Goundwork, in a passage reproduced by Heidegger, that 'man and
animals and that to them can be attributed the corresponding virtues. every rationaJ being exists as an end in himself; and not merely as a
Thus the animality of Kant's first class encroaches upon the humanity means to be used arbitrarily by this or that will.' That is, Kant wishes
of the second. not to limit rationality to human beings. But if the rationality of
78 · The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Critical Responsibility 79

superhuman beings is what commands respect, how, we must ask, can analysis of proximity where this tie is also a tie to myself. In Le
it be true that, as Heidegger says in interpreting Kant, 'What malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel, in connection with
constitutes the nature of the person, its essentia, . . . is an object of what Hegel says in the section on the spirit of Judaism in The Spirit of
respect', that 'Conversely, that which is objective in respect, what is Christianity, Jean Wahl, a philosopher to whom Levinas acknowledges
revealed in it, makes manifest the personality of the person', and that indebtedness and who is one of the dedicatees of Totality and Infinity,
This interpretation of the personalitas moralis first makes clear what writes:
man is and defines his quidditas, man's essential nature, the rigorous
concept of Menschheit, humanity' (G24 196, BPP 138)? How can what If it is true that there is a need in man to surpass himself - and it is
is essentially superhuman according to the classification of humanity that which explains why it is possible for there to be a
in Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone nevertheless be the phenomenology of religious consciousness - it is none the less
essence of humanity? It is not just, as Suarez expresses it, that the true that there have always been spirits for whom this being that is
human intellect is a mean between the angelic intellect and sense or, higher than man is absolutely separate from him.5
as Kant himself says in the Critique of Practical Reason, 'the person as
belonging to the sensible world is subject to his own personality as Kant's epekeina is not that separate. It is both contrasted with
belonging to the intelligible', so that man is elevated (erhoben) above humanity and identified with it, a predicament that is encapsulated
himself 'as part of the world of sense'. He is elevated above himself, it in the statement that 'man . . . must regard humanity in his own person
would seem, as human, that is, 'as living and at the same time as holy', as though the study of man's rationality, hence of his
rational'. One is reminded of Aristotle's statement in De Generatione philosophical faculty, would be the study of God, and as though the
Animalium which describes the active intellect as though it comes Philosophical Faculty and the Faculty of Theology were inside and
from without, almost as though it were identified with God, leipetai de outside each other.6 This predicament has an ancestor in Descartes's
ton noun monon thurathen epeisienai kai theion enai monon (ll. 3, 736b28; statement that it is by virtue of the human will that man is an image
cp De Anima Ill, 5, 430a10). This is relevant to the question asked by of God, the will in Kant becoming identified with pure practical
Kant in The Conflict of Faculties whether the Philosophical Faculty is reason. The will and freedom play no such role in Levinas's account
ancillary to the Faculty of Theology or whether the latter is auxiliary of the relation betweeen God and the Good, and we should resist the
to the former, a question in the answering of which it would be temptation to say that for Levinas God is the image of man, since he
relevant to resall Hegel's assertion in the Logic of the Encyclopaedia employs the words 'trace' and 'face' in order to break with or delve
with reference tio logic that more deeply into the HeUenic tradition which presumes to talk of
God and man as beings whose nature can be mirrored, if only darkly,
the superexceitent is also the most useful, because it is the all­ in an image or in an idea.
sustaining principle which, having a subsistence of its own, may
therefore serve as the vehicle of special ends which it furthers and
secures. And thus, special ends, though they have no right to be
set first, are still fostered by the presence of the highest good. IV
(Enc. §20)
Kant's assertion that man must regard humanity in his own person as
Is the anticipatory imbrication of the classification drawn up by Kant holy anticipates Heidegger's reference to the way in which Dasein is
in Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone, rationality being ahead of foreign to itself, fremd and iibertrifftig in its very own home, in its
itself in holiness, an anticipation of the dynamics of Hegelian being zu Hause, as Hegel says of the spirit of Greece in the Lectures on
dialectic? If religion is within the bounds of reason, reason too the History of Philosophy.7 The voice of conscience, Heidegger says, is
seems to be within the bounds of religion: a double bound - and a both my voice and yet comes from above and beyond. Der Ruf komml
double bind, like the tie to the radically Other in Levinas's quasi- aus mir und doch iiber mich (BT 275). According to Kant the call of,
80 · The Middle Voice of Ecological CortScience Critical Responsibility 81

from and to conscience is the call of reason, whereas according to the The qualifying clause is important. Evidently the non-relationality
Heidegger of Being and Time the call is of being and to the care of of my being toward my death no more cuts me off from others than
being. According to Levinas conscience is the voice of the Other. not it cuts me off from. myself. What it cuts me off from is the purely
of being, but it has the same angle of incidence. It tells us that the general possibility of the 'one', das Man, the merely constated fact
Other is nearer God than I am (DEHH 174). The Other is not da, that one dies. Like Caius, Socrates et al. Heidegger emphasizes that
indeterminately here or there, but i/lic, over and up there. I am his 'Dasein is authentically itself only to the extent that, as concernful
humble servant, even if it is his humility that gives him the majesty Being-alongside and solicitous Being-with, it projects itself upon its
and height from which his eyes teach me that I am with respect to ownmost potentiality-for-Being rather than upon the possibility of
him perpetually in statu pupillari. According to Kant the call is from the they-self (BT 263). The other has to die his own death van ihm
and to rationality, and because for him rationality is freedom of the selbsf, bur that does not exclude my being solicitous that he should
wilt· · the call would appear to be a recall to that from which not die alone, where a lack of such solicitude would for Levinas be
conscience, as understood by Levinas, would call us away: the 'I tantamount to contravening the spirit of the injunction Thou shalt
can' of t!:te ego persisting in its will to life and power. This not kill'.9
. Further, the Heideggerian interpretation of Kant goes some way
appearance is false, for, as we have seen, the Kantian account of
personality is given in terms of reason and a moral law which, far toward discovering in conscience and respect what it would not be
from inflating the ego, deflates it to the point of impersonality. entirely inappropriate to characterize as, in the phrase Levinas uses to
Levinas aims to show that such impersonality is inconsistent with the describe ethical encounter, a passivity more passive than the passivity
ethical. This is one reason why Heidegger' s interpretation of Kant is which is contrasted with activity in traditional thinking about the
so significant. It offsets the threat of anonymity by underlining faculties and powers of the mind. The voice of conscience is a middle
Dasein's ]emeinigkeit and being towards death. voice, akin to the Greek voice that Heidegger finds most suitable to
Neither in Kant nor in Heidegger is the mortality of the other man express the mood of the phenomenological thinking called for in
given priority over my own as it is by Levinas. However, in Kant's Being and Time, a thin�ing which must be a cooperative and vigilant
metaphysics of morals respect for the moral law does bring with it listening obedience 1 0 Listening-to . . . is Dasein's existential way of
the idea of a kingdom of ends, and if Heidegger takes this seriously Being-open as Being-with for Others' (BT 163). Here and · in the
then what both he and Kant refer to as the proper or authentic self, paragraph immediately following this sentence in Being and Time the
das eigentliche S�lbst as Kant writes in the Groundwork, 8 will be a being words used are Ju5ren and horchen, where along with the idea of
that is ontologically being-with, whatever the ontic circumstances. hearkening there are overtones of heed, gehorchen. Heidegger is
Although being , toward death may set Dasein apart from the himself heeding here the demand that phenomenology must return
inauthentic self of das Man, this does not mean (as calling das Man to the things themselves and heeding what is said about this heed to
'the they-self' ·could lead the unwary reader to think) that Dasein is the things themselves by Hegel when, speaking in the Encyclopaedia
isolated from others in authentic being towards death. Heidegger about attention or heed (Aufmerksamkeit), he writes that
writes: 'Dasein is itself essentially Being-with'. He also writes: The
expression "Dasein", however, shows plainly that "in the first it demands an effort since a man, if he wants to apprehend one
instance" this entity is unrelated to Others, and that of course it particular object, must make abstraction from everything else, from
can still be "with" Others afterwards' (BT 120). What follows from all the thousand and one things going round in his head, from his
these statements taken together is that although ontically Dasein may other interests, even from his own person; he must suppress his
be on its own, ontologically Dasein is with Others. Later on in Being own conceit which would rashly judge the subject-matter, not
and Time he says: 'As the non-relational possibility, death individua­ allowing it to speak for itself (mit Unferdrucken seiner die Sache nicht
lizes - but only in such a manner that, as the possibility which is not zu Worte kommen lassenden), must stubbornly absorb himself in the
to be outstripped, it makes Dasein, as Being-with, have some subject-maHer, must fix his attention on it and let it have its say (in
understanding of the potentiality-for-Being of Others' (BT 264). sich walten lassen) without obtruding his own reflections. Attention
82 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Critical Responsibility 83

contains, therefore, the negation of one's self-assertiveness and also as its ownmost potentiality-for-Being' (BT 264). As the translators
the surrender of oneself to the mntler in hand . . . . (Enc. §448, supp.) John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson explain, although they have
taken Die gewisse M6glichkeit des Todes to be the subject of the
The vigilance of Heidegger's attention to what Hegel sa� s he�e sentence, das Dasein could be taken as the subject instead. There is
reveals itself in the fact that in Being and Time conscience (Gew1ssen) IS good reason to think that Heidegger wanted to leave open the
connected with certainty (Gewissheit) and thus its phenomenology of possibility of a double reading here. Likewise in the sentence two
conscience is by implication connected with and disconnected from sections further on: To lay bare the "upon-which" of a projection,
the dialectic of self-certainty worked out in the Phenomenology of Spirit amounts to disclosing that which makes possible what has been
where, in the chapter on absolute knowing, Hegel writes that projected' (BT 324). As the translators again point out, 'what is
conscience knows that its existence as such is pure certainly of projected', das Entworfene, can be taken as subject or object of 'makes
itself: es weiss, dass sein Dasein als solches diese reine Gewissheif seiner possible', ermogliclzt, and there is good reason to take it at one and the
selbsf ist. For Heidegger too Dasein, which in Being and Time is always same time as both. In his translation of the 'Letter on Humanism'
the existing of a capability of being, a Seinkonnen, is indeed capable of Roger Munier draws attention to the link between m6glich, meaning
self-certainty, but this is the certainty of its existing toward its death. 'possible', and miigen, meaning 'to like' or 'to love' - or in some
contexts even 'to desire', a link which is a sign that although in
comparison with Levinas (and other writers to whom we shall refer in
V Chapter 7 and Chapter 8) Heidegger's account of man finds much
more to say about death than it finds to say about life, he is fully
The existed possibility which is being toward death is, Heideg�er aware that it must find room for a Daseinal equivalent; his problem
says, a possibility of impossibility. It is the possibility of non-bemg here is very much Kant's problem: how to understand the animality of
and, because, as the 'Letter on Humanism' says. 'nihiling is the essence the classical definition of man as a rational animal without implying
of Being' (G9 360, BW 238), this is precisely why it can open that Dasein and the animal are species of a shared genus. The same
Dasein's eyes to the possibility of there being more than and other problem surfaces in Levinas's remark 'We understand the animal, the
than the common, universal beingness of beings like the entities that face of an animal, in accordance with Dasein' (PL 169). Levinas,
preoccupied the members of the Faculty of Science sitting i� the Aula Heidegger and Kant are all three preoccupied, like the Stoics, with the
. problem of safeguarding the dignity of man.
Maxima of the University of Freiburg when Heidegger delivered h1s
inaugural lecture 'What is Metaphysics?' Hence, when Heidegge: sa�s Munier could well have noted aimant means both 'loving' and
1n anticipation Dasein can first make certain of its ownmost Bemg m 'magnet', an association that would not be easy to justify on
its totality - a totality which is not to be outstripped', the totality etymological grounds but one that conveys the idea expressed in
here referred to is not a well-rounded whole but a detotalized totality, the dictum that has played so significant a role in the case for
at least for authentic Dasein. The hermeneutic circularity in which utilitarian analyses of ethics: nothing is desired except sub specie boni.
Dasein is at home is one in which Dasein is not at home. The circle is Whatever we desire or like or love must appear lovely or attractive in
a broken circle. The home is a broken home. Dasein's home is some way. This is a unidirectional conceptual truth, but the idea that
supplemented by the unhomely and its sameness is disrupted by the one who desires or loves is so to speak magnetized by the object
alterity. Dasein's enclosure is at the same time dis-closure, Ent­ of that desire or love is the idea of a psychological or phenomeno­
schliessen, and disclosure, Erschliessen, of the finitude of its indefinite logical bidirectionality or reciprocity in which that object exercises a
certainty (BT 265). Hence the careful ambiguity of some of certain power. It is from the idea of reciprocity and symmetry that
Heidegger's sentences on the possibiity of death as when
e � Levinas aims to break away when he stops talking about desire and
writes: 'The certain possibility of death, however, discloses Dasem love in order to talk about Desire and responsibility. We can
as a possibility, but does so in such a way that, in anticipating this safeguard the dignity of man only if we save the other man's
possibility, Dasein makes this possibility possible (ermoglicht) for itself majesty. So when Levinas writes of a passivity more passive than
84 Tlte Middle Voice of Ecological Conscit11ce Critical Responsibility 85

that which is opposed to activity in interaction within a physical or reason for this perhaps being that the prefix er- leans too far toward
social (Kant would say mechanisch or vergleichend) system he does n�t the activity pole of the traditional opposition between activity and
have in mind a neutral equilibrium of activity and passivity. He has m passivity. He does not suspend employment of the term das Mtig­
mind an ethical imbalance in which I am subjected to the Other's liche, with its play between the idea of possibility and miigen, to be
command, suffering a responsibility such that to assume it and make it disposed toward favourably. But he now introduces Vermogen to
internal to a project of mine would be exactly to. fail . in my perform a distinctive task. This word does not appear in the glossary
responsibility. Such a failure is what Levinas re�ds m Be1�g and of German expressions drawn up by Macquarrie and Robinson in
Time. Or reads into it because he pays too little attenbon to their translation of Being and Time, nor is it listed in Hildegard Feick's

Heidegger's warning that the analyses undertaken tl ere are p�ovi­
sionaL anticipating a return from the existential analybc �f Das� m t�
index to that book.11 It does however reappear in what it is common
to regard as the promised third part of Being and Time, the essay
the thinking of Sein. Without denying that even when thts w�rung IS published in 1969 under the heading 'Time and Being'.12 Heidegger
fully heeded Levinas will continue to have cause f�r compl.amt over refers there to his assertion in the 'Letter on Humanism' that 'The esli
Heidegger's failure to pay due regard to the surpassmg altenty of gar einai of Parmenides is still unthought today' (G9 335, BW 215). It
whether there is an occasion al
other man, one cannot but wonder is unthought if Parmenides' saying is interpreted literally as 'Being is',
failure on Levinas's part to distingui sh what Heidegg er says about since that implies that only of a being does it hold that it is. And
praxis and the everyday way of being in the world fr�m state.ments Parmenides' saying is still unthought if we translate esti only, as the
about the foundational ontological structures to whtch praxrs Letter does, by 'It allows', unless we pick up the Es gibf implicit in it
though Heidegg er's fundame n tal
everydayness are but clues, as . which gives it the quiet force of donation and gift, as expressed in the
ontology were a transplan tation to the Black Forest of Sartnan prepositions kraft and vermiige meaning 'thanks to . . : or griice a . .
. .

existentialism or the pragmatism of Bergson, Dewey or James. Only then do we take the long route round from the psychology of
Heidegger does say 'Thinking is a deed (ein Tun)' (G9 361, faculties, potentialities and powers of the animal rationale which, on a
239), but he goes on to say immedia tely that it is a deed that goes superficial understanding, are denoted by the noun Vermiigen.
beyond (iibertrifft) all praxis. It is to be expected that in a letter on humanism one will come
These statements are made in the 'Letter on Humanism'. By that across a word that Kant uses of the transcendental parallels he draws
time it has to be said, Heidegger explicitly distances himself from to the empirical faculties on which human nature depends. Vermogen
Sart e and announces that what he here means by the thinking which and Fiihigkeif are classical terms for classifying man's powers. This is
arises before the distinction between theory and practice should why what Heidegger does with the word Vermogen in the 'Letter on
longer be called by the traditional na e 'o t lo y' e �en if that is Humanism' has such far-reaching repercussions. The term traditionally
qualified by the adjective 'fundame

ntal, as
�� �
tt ts 1� Bemg a
. .
n� Tim� . used in psychology and metaphysics for what in his earlier
Metaphysical ontology , including that of Kanttan � nhC!Sm, lS vocabulary Heidegger calls an ontic faculty like the faculty of
conceptual. What Heidegger now calls essenbal thmkmg attempts hearing or sight is being asked to perform a role in what according
to think unconceptually the truth, a-letheia, that is to say, the �n­ to that earlier vocabulary is still called ontology. In the essay Wie
concealing of being. And this thinking of being is a of bemg wenn am Feiertage . . (1939-40) to which Heidegger refers the reader

where the 'of' is a double genitive (G9 316, BW 196). Hetdegger also of the Letter, vermogen and vermag are used several times intransit­
advises his reader that in spite of the risks run in continuing to ively with the meaning of 'is able', for example on pp. 59, 64, 65 and
employ the terms 'ontology' and 'ethics', there is still .room to ask � 71 of the Gesamtausgabe edition of Erlaulerungen zu Holder/ins Dichtung
question as to the relation between ontology and eth1cs, the · queshon (G4), but on at least one page the word vermiigen is employed with
that taxed Jean Beaufret, the recipient of the Letter, provtded that that the transitive meaning 'to enable', the meaning which, as suggested
question be thought in a more original way. The �ore original above, is expressed more actively perhaps by ermoglichen. However
thinking required leads Heidegger to suspend temp�ranly th.e use ermiiglichen is employed in the same lecture, for example on p. 62, and
the word Erm6glichung to express the notion of making posstble, one in later works, for example in the lecture The Essence of Language'
The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Critical Responsibility 87

(1957), in conjunction with Moglichkeit, as in the sentenc�s repro­ schlage, 'I hit', to the passive ich werde geschlagen, 'l am hit', via the
. middle ich lasse mich schlagen, 'I get myself hit' or 'I let myself be hit',
duced above from Being and Time, the sentences to the duphC!ty and
reversibility of which Macquarrie and Robinson draw our attention. lupfomai. In borrowing this name from the grammarians we do not
In 'The Essence of Language' Heidegger writes: wish it to be confined to any or all of the many senses they have
given it, though the illustration we have just cited from Heidegger
Anything that gives us room and allows us to do some�hing �i�e� shows that the sense with which we are gradually supplying it alludes
us a possibility, that is, it gives what enables us.

. .
to a reflexivity of some sort, as does one of the grammatical uses
(Moglichkeif) so understood, as what enables (das Ermogltchende), (louomai tas cheiras, I wash myself in respect of my hands}. The lasse11
means something else than mere opportunity (Chance). (Gl2 187, which exemplifies an aspect of the rapport in question has a hint of
US 199, OWL 92-3} what the grammar books describe, with for our purposes too strong
an implication of method or technique, as a causative function
These words are evidence of the aim which shapes the whole of (didaskomai, I get someone taught). The sense of lassen we find in
Heidegger's thinking: to find a way of saying the l�sen o Seinl�ssen � Heideggers treatment of Seinlassen and Gelassenheif - about which we
and Gelassenheit in which the lassen is neither qUite as mtrus1vely shall say more in a later chapter - is less that of causing than
forward as actively to get nor quite as reserved as passively to let. enabling, as we have tried in this section to bring out. That is why we
What he would have us overhear in this lassen is audible in what the have not been ready to follow Levinas in stressing as much as he
following sentences from the 'Letter on Humanism' say re�arding does the place of practical power in the interpretation of Heidegger's
Vermogen and the Element where, it should be noted, the meanmgs of ontology. The idea of belonging together and of mutual need which
these two words are already stretched well beyond the meanings they we shall continue to discover in Heidegger's musings on the fragment
have in Kant's Critical theory of the elements of knowledge: 'To of Parmenides which is glibly translated Thinking and Being are one'
enable something here means to preserve it in its essence, to maintain might be included among what the grammarians classify as reciproca­
it in its element' (G9 317, BW 197). tive uses of the middle voice (aspazesthai, to greet each other,
dialegesfhai, to converse), but this idea of reci procity must be
Thinking comes to an end when it slips out of its element. T e � attenuated if we are going to entertain the thought that Levinasian
element is what enables thinking to be thinking. The element IS proto-ethical responsibility is middle-voiced.13 One of the reasons
what prope�ly enables: the enabling. It emb�ace� thinkin� and so why we refer above to 'at least one of the services' of the middle
brings it info its essence. Said plainly, thin!Ong � s � he �hinkmg of voice is that we have spoken earlier of the middle voice of prophecy
Being. The genitive says something twofold. Thmking IS of B�mg . in expounding Levinas's doctrine of proto-ethica1 responsibility to the
inasmuch as thinking, coming to pass from Being, belongs to Bemg, Other, though when we return to this topic we shall see that Levinas
listens to Being (vom Sein ereignef, dem Sein gehiirt) . . . as well as Heidegger has problems avoiding an exaggeration of either
the activity or the passivity in the attempt to describe this 'relation'
er on (G9 359, BW 237), which is neither just the one nor just the other and for which we have
and, as Heidegger says forty pages furth
acknowledgment (Anerkmnen), that is to say
thinkin?, lii� s t das, worauf adapted the name 'middle voice'.
d wh1ch 1t goes come We have in this chapter invoked the middle voice in the context of
es gehl, auf siclt zukommen, 'lets that towar .
un refer s ambi guously to Heidegger's dogged thinking on the dictum of Parmenides to gar aufo
toward itself', where the reflexive prono
(as thoug h Being needs noein esfin te kai einai. Beginning with the next chapter we shall be
both the thinking and the thought, Being
izing at l ast one of embarking on an analysis of Heidegger's thinking on the experience
· thinking if it is to become itself), thereby epitom �
tion for wh1ch we are of hearing these words said in the middle voice of poetry. Levinas
the services performed by the enabling condi
borrowing the title 'middle voice'. The media
� �
lity of t e midd � voice and Heidegger seem not to speak in the same voice about poetry and,
s is approxamated �� sor:'e more generally, art. Therefore when we have examined what
in relation to the active and passive voice
seque nce from the active ICh Heidegger says regarding the relationship of essential Denken and
contexts in German by lassen, as in the
88 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience

Dichten we shall need to

ask whether the middle voice of prophecy
and the middle voice of poetry are or are not one and the same. So

Post-Critical Poiesis and

the present chapter on Critical Responsibility has been critical in the
sense that it raises a matter for decision (krino, to separate). It marks a
turning point also in that it is preceded by a chapter in which the first
of our chief reservations regarding Levinas's teaching is aired
(regarding what he says about the animal) and is followed by one
in which the second of our two main queries concerning that teaching
is posed (concerning what he writes about art). It will be recalled that
Who today would presume to claim that he is at home with the
we have expressed the hope that consideration of the second of our
nat�r� of poetry as well as with the nature of thinking and, in
difficulties may point in the direction of a solution or at least
add1bon, strong enough to bring the nature of the two into the
diminution of the first. If and when that hope is fulfilled we shall
most extreme discord and so to establish their concord?
be in a position to see how some of the things Heidegger and Levinas
say regarding animality and art stand out in relief when viewed
Martin Heidegger, What are Poets forr
against the backdrop of Kant's threefold Critique.
Das Schaudern isf der Menschheit bester Teil
Goethe, Faust (cited by Levinas as exergue under 'In Other Words',
the last chapter of Otherwise fhan Being or Beyond Essence)

From the middle of

the 1930s Heidegger's thinking of the belonging
together of Dasein and Sein becomes a thinking of the belonging
to�ethe: of the thinker and the poet, especially the poet of poets
Holderlm who mourns the separation of the gods from their templum
and te':'enos, the holy precinct set apart. But for this poet the time
moumm the departed gods is a time. of prayerful waiting for the

new. It 1s a between-time in which the poet who medjates between
the im�ortals and the mortals awaits a second coming with a
prese�t�ment of a presence that will inaugurate another epoch of
the h1story of being that will be discontinuously continuous with an
� �
ea�lier, houg it may take a reflective thinker to recognise this. Even
Holderlm, He1degger maintains, was unaware of the force of the
primal word phusis and hence was not trying to recapture that force in
the word Nature, the name he nvoked
i for the light which, since what
the poet invokes itself puts the poet under an obligation to say it'
Holderlin also called the holy.
How do�s Heidegger understand the relationship between the poet
and the th1nker? What we have just said about this suggests that
although the poet performs the seriality of the historically having-

90 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 91

been with the historically to-come, knotting together the end of one Erwachen, becomes 'In awak(en)ing nature as break of day unveils
epoch and the beginning of another, if we may here use the metaphor its essence'. Similarly with what Heidegger calls the guide-word Das
from Levinas which is analysed by Derrida in 'En ce moment meme Wesen der Sprache: Die Sprache des Wesens (G12 189, US ZOO, OWL
clans cet ouvrage me void ', the thinker, like Hegel's Owl of Minerva, 94). If this means that the essence of language must be understood
constates how the knot ties the severed past to the present and how through the language of essence or essencing - as confirmed by what
other epochs of the history of being have been discontinuously (and Heidegger writes in the Note to 'On the Essence of Truth' which says
undialectically) tied, even if not even he can prophesy how a present 'the essence of truth is the truth of essence' (G9 101, BW 140) - then,
epoch or interregnum will tie up with whatever is to come. Not that taking this statement with the statement in 'Holderlin and the Essence
this suggestion amounts to much until from Austin's How fo do things of Poetry' that 'the essence of poetry must be understood through the
with Words, Derrida's Mochlos and some of the essays included in his essence of language' (G4 43, EHD 40, EB 307), it is not rash to infer
Psyche we have learned how complex is the relationship of constating that if the thinker is to understand the essence of poetry he must
and (other kinds of) linguistic performance. understand the language of essence. It is not rash to suppose also that
The relationship of poet to thinker on Heidegger's conception is if he is to understand the essence of poetry he must be a reader of the
not without its complexity. He says that the thinker prepares the way poetic or, since by poetry here is meant originative art of any genre,
for the poet. That preparation could be understood along the lines he must have first-hand experience of poiesis, as Heidegger does. Is
just suggested. If the poet learned something from the reflective he not a thinker and, in the specific literary sense of the genre, a poet
thinker about the forces that shape the past and the present, that rolled into one, a dichtende Denker? Do the verses published under the
would already give a head start to his prophetic vision. But does that heading Gedachtes constitute a new genre? Or do they defeat
mean that the poet needed in the time of need is the one who has classification? That they do is perhaps what one of them, the one
read the reflections of the philosopher, as Holderlin was a reader of entitled 'Cezanne', indicates when it asks
Fichte, Schelling and Hegel7 Or is he perhaps the poet who is a poet
and thinker rolled into one, as Holderlin also was: a denkende Dichter 1 Zeigt sich hier ein Pfad, der in ein Zusam­
Denken and Dichten do not belong to each other through some mengehiiren des Dichtens und Denkens
historico-biographkal contingency. The poet and the thinker belong fuhrt?
to each other, Heidegger says, because the vocation of each is caring
for the word. It follows that they must care for each other. Yet, as where the abrupt Aus-einander-setzung of the hyphenated parts of the
Heidegger says 1n the lecture 'The Essence of Language' where the word Zusammengehiiren mimicks the deep cleft between the summits
question of the neighbourhood of the thinker and the poet is opt which the poet and the thinker, as Holderlin's poem 'Patmos' says,
resumed, 'We find ourselves at a loss for words (ratios) between dwell near one another on mountains quite separate.1 If they cannot
two wholly different kinds of saying' (G12 18 4 US 195, OWL 89)
, get together on one summit or in the cleft between, Gedachfes would
and at a loss for words of advice. The thinker does not speak the seem to b e the name for a wishful thinking for the offspring of an
language of the poet and the poet does not speak the language of the impossible union of Dichten and Denken.
thinker. Heidegger's readers may well find themselves at a loss, for Although, in so far as it is a task of thinking to understand the
whereas in the Postscript, dating from 1943 and 1949, which essence of poetry, the poet must prepare the thinker's way, it is
Heidegger appended to 'What is Metaphysics?' we read that while usually to the thinker that Heidegger assigns the role of Wegbereiter.
the thinker says being, the poet names the holy, in the lecture given For example, near the end of The Origin of the Work of Art' he says
in 1939 and 1940 on Holderlin's hymn Wie wenn am Feiertage . . . we that only 'reflective' or way-making knowledge, das besinnende Wissen,
read Das Heilige ist das Wesen der Natur (G4 59). If we translate Wesen as illustrated by the work of thinking on the work of art that has been
by 'essence', 'essencing' or 'presencing' we have The holy is the going forward in his preceding pages, 'prepares its space for art, their
essence (essencing, presencing) of nature', and the immediately way for the creators, their location for the preservers' (GS 66, H 65,
following sentence, Diese enthullt als das Tagende ihr Wesen im PLT 78). And in his discussion of Holderlin' s hymn The Rhine' he
92 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 93

writes: The ring has dosed itself. The poet calls for (fordert) the intends is confirmed in the following passage from 'The Saying of
thinker. The thinking of the poet - "Half-gods do I think" - grounds Anaximander':
itself in the poetic saying of the thinker' (G39 286). Are we to
understand that when in The Saying of Anaximander' Heidegger says The thinking of being is the originative mode of poetry. In it above
'Thinking however is poetry', Das Denken jedoch ist Dichten (G5 328, all does language first come to language, that is to say, into its
H 303, EGT 19), he means that thinking calls and is called by poetry, essence. Thinking is originative dictare. Thinking is primordial
that Denken heisst Dichlen and Dichten heisst Denken, that Heidegger poetry, prior to all poesy, but also to the poietic in art in so far
considers Dichten to be always as much the ancilla of Denken as vice as (insofern) the work of art is brought into being within the
versa? That this is so is at least not contradicted by the following precinct (Bezirk) of language. All poetry in this wider sense as well
sentences of the Introduction fo Metaphysics : as in the narrower sense of the poetic is in its ground a thinking.
The poietic essence of thinking preserves the sway of the truth of
The thinking of Parmenides and Heraclitus was still poetic, which being. (G5 328-9, H 303, EGT 19)
in this case means philosophical and not scientific. But because in
this thinking the thinking has priority, the thought about man's Heidegger does not give us definitions of thinking and poetry.2
being follows from its own direction and proportion. In order to There is no classification. Why not? One answer to this question is
gain enough light for us to be able to begin to understand how this that classification is about the beingness of beings, whereas since at
poetic thinking belongs together with and hearkens to its counter­ least as early as Being and Time he is asking after a sense of being
partner (van seiner ihm zugehdrigen Gegenseite), let us ask after the which is not just that; he is asking after the sense in the sense of the
poetic thinking of the Greeks, in particular that podry in which the direction (Sinn) and history of being in which beingness is but the
being of the Greeks and their Dasein (which belongs and hearkens metaphysical phase. In the sentences just reproduced it is the non­
to it) was authentically founded: the tragedy. (G40 153, EM 110, conceptual sense of being that is at stake, and the thinking in question
IM 122) there is the thinking of being in that primordial sense. So it will be
with being in that primordial sense that we are concerned when we
We are told here that thinking has priority over poetry in the poetic ask after the being of poetry. Although, as Heidegger writes n i the
thinking of Parmenides and Heraclitus. In some other poetic thinking, Postscript of What is Metaphysics?', the poet and the thinker reside,
perhaps that of �eidegger or a thinker thinking after him, the thinker in the phrase he quotes from Holderlin, near each other on mountains
and the poet might each whisper into the other's ear. Is not that deeply divided,3 the essence of poetry cannot be split off from the
possibility suggested by the statement that poetic thinking hearkens essence of being since essence or essencing is the sway of being. The
to thinking poetry and that it belongs with it? passage now n i question does, we must note, distinguish primordial
In the lecture on Holderlin's 'The Rhine', a lecture of approximately from non-primordial poetry, or, more generally, art, a distinction
the same period as the /nfroduction fo Metaphysics, Heidegger says: which is not to be confused with the distinction between poetry,
The basic temper of a people, and that means the truth of its which may be primordial or non-primordial, and poesy, which
existence (Dasein), is originally established thanks to (durch) the poet. likewise may be primordial or non-primordial in that it is one,
But only thanks to the thinker is this uncovered being of beings though maybe a privileged, form of art. No parallel distinction is
comprehended, ordained and opened as such . . .' (G39 144). Here the made in this passage between primordial and non-primordial thinking.
'But' (aber) is the mirror image of the 'however' (jedoch) in the Heidegger is concerned here only with that thinking which is the
sentence Thinking however is poetry' cited above from The Saying thinking of being in the pre-conceptual sense, prior to the idea of
of Anaximander'. The latter sentence tells us not to overlook the beingness. This follows from the fact that, as he has told us elsewhere,
place of poetry. The former sentence tells us not to overlook the the 'of in the phrase 'thinking of being' marks a double genitive.
place of thinking. Putting the two sentences together would �eem to Poetry or art or political legislation may be more or less institutive.
yield an argument for equiprimordiality. That this is what He1degger But 'in their ground', essentially, they are primordially institutive. To
The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience i and Thinking
Posf-Crifical Poies s 95

state this is to state a tautology. Essence, being, presencing is, as the 'Naming is a Saying, namely a showing . .' (G4 188}. In 'What are

saying of Parmenides says, thinking, and belongs together with the Poets for?' he writes 'the poet in the time of the world's night says
thinker, with Dasein. And here thinking, logos, is language, logos, since the holy' (G5 2 72, H 251, PLT 94).

only essential thinking or the thinking of essences is intended, only Most surprising of all is the statement in 'Hi:ilderlin and the Essence
originative dicfare, dighting, Dichten, poiesis. of Poetry' that 'poetry is the inaugural naming of being and of the
essence of all things' (G4 43, EHD 40, EB 307). lt seems that
Heidegger is licensing an interchange not only between naming
and saying but also between the holy and being in these contexts,
as Robert Bernasconi maintains.4 This does not mean however that
So is there no difference between the dichfende Denker and the the thinker and the poet differ only in name and that we have to
denkende Dichter 7 It is not enough to say that the poet sings his surrender the one substantial point of difference we believed we had
words while the thinker just says them. This might be no more than a established by which to maintain the separateness that according to
difference between poesy and prose, whereas Dichten can be either. Heidegger himself qualifies the nearness of the poet and the thinker,
There is also another possible source of confusion. At the end of the the extreme discord of their concord, as he expresses the relationship
lecture 'Holderlin and the Essence of Poetry' Heidegger says, referring in 'What are Poets for?' The thinker, in so far as he attempts to grasp
to the seventh stanza of Holderlin's 'Bread and Wine', What it has the essence of poetry, must still wait upon the poet to prepare the
only been possible to analyze intellectually is expressed there way. Although Heidegger says 'the essence of poetry must be
poetically.' He then brings what he has to say to a close by citing grasped through the essence of language', lower down in the same
that stanza. In the lecture on 'The Essence of Language' he quotes the paragraph he says 'the essence of language must be grasped through
first stanza of Holderlin's elegy 'Walk in the Country', then breaks off, the essence of poetry'. This magnifies the contribution poetry makes
saying 'It must be left to you, my audience, to think about these to thinking. It allows us to subshtute 'in that' or 'because' for the
verses in the light of what my three lectures are attempting.' In the uncommitted 'in so far as' (insofern) in the fourth sentence of the
Freiburg inaugural lecture he quotes not a single line of poetry, but passage reproduced from 'The Saying of Anaximander'. Although in
on the final page of the Postscript to it written four years later he this passage Heidegger speaks of primordial poetry, implying that
finds himself citing Sophocles. That even the Professor of Philosophy there is also a non-primordial kind, all poetry is in its ground a
cannot help breaking into song tells us something about the thinking. A thinking (ein Denken), he says: a thinking which is a
difference betweien poetry, which just happens here to be also thinking of being, but a thinking for and in which the appropriate
poesy, and the assertive style of the lecture. It tells us little about mode of monstrative saying is naming, 'the inaugural naming of being
the difference between Dichten and Denken because the assertive style and of the essence of all things'.
of the lecture is no friendlier to the latter than it is to the former. There appears to be at least one limit on the interchangeability of
They both call for the non-assertive, monstrative saying for which 'naming' and 'saying', and of 'the holy' and 'being' in the aphorism in
Heidegger uses the word 'say' with the force of the Old Norse sagan, the Postscript to 'What is Metaphysics?' Although Heidegger leaves
meaning 'to show: to make appear, set free, that is, to offer and open the possibility of making both substitutions in the second half of
extend what we call world, lighting and concealing it' (G12 188, US the aphorism, 'the poet names the holy', we have discovered no
200, OWL 93). Sagan (or Sagen in this sense) is the common root of evidence that in the first half, 'the thinker says being', he would allow
Dichfen and Denken, the previously mentioned dictare. From that root either. The poet says namingly the holy and the being and the
spring the two stems of which Heidegger speaks when in the essence of all things. The thinker, as such, says being non-namingly.
Postscript to 'What is Metaphysics?' he writes The thinker says What is non-naming saying? It is saying the as such. The poet names,
being, the poet names the holy' (G5 9, W 107, EB 391). If 'saying' but he does not grasp what naming is. This does not mean that he
here is primordial Sagan we should expect Heidegger to allow that cannot name names. This is what the poet of poets does. Hi:ilderlin is
the poet also says. He does allow this. In Das Gedicht he writes the poet of poets because he names the essence of poetry. The thinker
96 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 97

grasps the essence understandingly, though this Begreifen is no more a By the poietic. Dichten, Heidegger means not the arts as such, for
classification by genus and differentiating properly than is the poet's example p9esy. architecture or painting. He means the origin of
naming. One reason why it is not is the dependence of the thinker on language, the way in which language is an origin, as the originativity
the poet. The thinker thinks and says being, language is the house of of art is referred to in the title 'The Origin of the Work of Art'.
being, and 'the essence of language must be understood through the Heidegger's thinking of poiesis is a rethinking of that poiesis which
' essence of poetry'. That is, the essencing of language must be grasped Kant had in mind when he spoke of the productive imagination as an
through the essencing or presencing which is the enabling of a world, art concealed in the depths of the human soul. What emerges from his
the world-forming, Weltbildung, which is one and the same with the attempt to uncover this art is that both the bifidity of Kant's
word-forming, Wortbildung, of the poet. especially the poet 'in the temporalising schema, torn between the sensory particularity of
world's night', the night of pre-Adamic chaos or the night of the time reference or nomination and the universality of predicative descrip­
of need when the names of the gods are missing from the precinct of tion and intellectual sense, and the duplicity of Kantian respect,
language and, to say the same thing in another way, the gods have straddled between feeling and reason, are traced back to a letting be
forsaken the precinct of the temple. of monstrative language where this 'of is a double genitive prior to a
So according to Heidegger essential thinking calls for primordial division that might generate a conflict between the faculties
poetry; the latter is ancillary to the former. In Holderlin's words, ( Vermogen) of reason, will, understanding and sense, between the
thinking is Zu Sorg' und Diensf den Dichtenden arwertraut, 'entrusted to faculties of philosophy, letters, theology, law, science and fine art,
the care and service of the poets' (G4 41, EHD 38, EB 304), in that between the de facto and the de jure, between the constative and the
the thinking of being cannot come to pass without primordial poetry. non-constative performative, between theoria, praxis and poiesis
Being's thinking is poietic. As noein corresponds with einai, so Dieting conceived narrowly not as primordial techne but as superstructural
and being correspond, since Dieting is how being thinks, and how and structural technology and Gesfell. Having in tcye last chapter
being 'is' or gives itself. Being gives itself in thinking and thinking referred to Heidegger's response to what Kant says in the Critique of
gives itself in language. Thinking is the way the verbality of being's Pure Reason about the belonging together of sensibility and under­
participiality presents itself. H is adverbial to that verbality. Dieting is standing through the productive imagination, and having considered
adverbial to that adverbiality, as is marked in the phrase dichtendes there Heidegger's response to what Kant says in the Critique of
Denken des Seins, poietic thinking of being, where what Heidegger Practical Reason and other ethical works about the belonging together
wants to say is concealed if we parse this as an adjective followed by of feeling and reason through will and moral respect, our grasp of
two nouns. Ho"vever, although when properly parsed the poietic, how Heidegger conceives the belonging together of these two mutual
because it is adverbial to an adverb, appears to be allotted a lowly belongings stands a chance of being made more secure if in
third place, our analysis shows that it has the dignity of being a sine conjunction with the comparison, to be made in the next section,
qua non of the thinking of being. It has at least as important a place as of Levinas's and Heidegger' s estimations of art we consider the
Hegel allots to art in the history of the appearing of philosophy. latter's response to Kant's account in the Critique of judgement of the
Since according to Hegel it is no more than philosophy's self-effacing belonging together of feeling. reason and understanding. We shall
servant in spite of its being conserved by philosophy, art according find confirmation there and in later chapters of what in the first two
to Heidegger has a much more important place. Before asking in the sections of this chapter we have found Heidegger affirming, namely, a
following section of this chapter how important a place is given to art discordant concord, a non-neutral gathering (Sammeln, legein) which is
in the philosophy of Levinas, let us put into the Critical context neither blank identical sameness nor unheeding separation, an
treated in our immediately preceding chapter what we have been unindifferent belonging together of dichtendes Denken and denkendes
saying so far here, highlighting the thesis we draw froin what we Dichten which unites them as mutual ancillaries in the difference of
have been saying in this chapter in anticipation of what we shall be their responsibilities: respectively, the saying of the being of beings
saying in the next. and the saying of the being of beings.
The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 99

Ill of the etymological root inter-esse. In contemplating a work of art I

am outside myself among things. However, this being outside myself
must not be confused with the exteriority for which Levinas employs
5 the term des-interesse-ment in a (lOn-Kantian sense to refer to the
The work of art, Levinas says in 'Reality and its Shadow' (1948), is
disengaged, essentially musical and irresponsible. This statement that exteriority of the Other in the ethical face to face. The work of art
art is disengaged is probably directed at Sartre among others, and it is does not lead even to dialogue. It is outside society. It is not even
an endorsement of the theory of the disinterestedness of art for being in the world, he says, with an unmistakable allusion to
which, for good or ill, Kant's third Critique is best known. The Heidegger which leads us to ask how Heidegger would receive the
disinterestedness of art, Levinas argues, is a corollary of the fact that ideas. about art expressed in 'Reality and its Shadow' as we have
the medium of art is the image. The image suspends the tie with expounded them so far.
reality. Reality is replaced not by a concept but by an image which is First, with regard to the statement that contemplation of a work of
pure, unconceptualized sensuous quality and is blind, Levinas says, art is not a way of being in the world, Heidegger's lectures on
applying to art what Kant says about intuition without concepts at Holderlin and The Origin of the Work of Art' contend that if great
875 of the first Critique and making tacit reference to the thesis originative art is in some sense not in the world it is because it is
defended in the third Critique that the beautiful is what pleases between worlds, holding a passing world in remembrance and
universally without being subsumed under a concept. enabling the institution of a world to come. Its time is the moment
The kind of pleasure Kant mentions here is not that of any before the dawn. Levinas himself states that art belongs to a between­
sensuous experience whatsoever. It is that of the sense of harmony time, but the between-time he describes is the middle of the night,
between the appearance of organic unity in something and my not that of the moment before dawn. Or else it is the time of the
imagination which produces organically unified patterns by its own waking dream between consciousness and unconsciousness, a time
free play. One takes this sense to be a shared sense and, although the outside of time, a time of petrification, of idolatry and of a rehearsal
object of aesthetic experience is singular and the experience of death in which all initiative is sapped and all responsibilities
subjective, a judgement of taste makes a claim to universality. No evaded.
transcendental concept or principle can be deduced to warrant this Art can indee�}e evasion, and much that Levinas says rings true
claim, but in the case of what Kant terms appendent (adhiirierende) of much that pa"s"Ses for experience of art, but what Heidegger has to
beauty a concept may be involved in the play of imagination, as say in the lectures we have mentioned is expressly restricted to what
when I perceive/ a picture as a picture of a jug or perceive the utensil he calls the great and inaugurative work, art which, in revealing the
itself. Pure beauty however is beauty unassociated with either the opening of a world and the conceaHng withdrawal that he argues is
pleasure of non-aesthetic sensations or the notion of an object's concomitant with all disclosure of truth, reveals, unlike the fabricated
utility. Pure beauty is purposefulness without purpose. Hence Kant's utensil, its having been created. Is Levinas's reluctance to grant that
preference for beauty where the concept involved is indeterminate, as art can be disclosive and originative in this way a consequence of
in the case of a purely formal organization, for example the pattern of regarding the artist and those who approach his work as no more
notes in a piece of music. Nevertheless, because Kant takes music to than passive recipients? He says that all art is plastic image and that
deal only with sensations, he rates it the lowest of the fine arts. imaging is inertial passivity. lmaging understood in this Berkeleian
Levinas, at least at the time of writing 'Reality and its Shadow', way is contrasted with the free initiative and power of 'I can' which
does not rate music much higher, yet he, like Waiter Pater, considers Levinas takes to be implied in Heidegger's notion of Seinkdnnen. As
it to be the paradigm of art, especially because rhythm is what we argued in the last chapter, this reading of Heidegger has too little
explains why art has the magic power to bemuse us and absorb our regard for the possibility of Seinlassen which Heidegger's Seinkdnnen
interest. Thus, although he agrees with Kant that art is disinterested, must admit. It does not tally with the way Heidegger reads Kant's
in the sense of being of no utiljty, he maintains at the same time that first and second Critiques to articulate letting-be. Heidegger's
art is in a special sense interesting. In maintaining this he is thinking Seinlassen is outside the opposition of praxis and pathos and, while
100 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 101

it is some distance (how great a distance remains to be seen) from Levy-Bruhl's term to interpret the aesthetic state of mind in which, as
what Levinas describes as a passivity more passive than the pas� ivity the poet says, one cannot distinguish oneself from the music, he gives
traditionally opposed to activity, the ambiguous, januarial and �Iddle­ far lower marks to art than does Heidegger or even Hegel.
voiced logic of Seinlassen makes it easy to under� tand �hy � n he � Paradoxically, however, the peak of humanity, the real wonder of
1930s the poet comes to occupy a place in Heide�ge� s tht�kin� all wonders, that I am face to face with another human being, the
which in some respects corresponds to the place occupied m Levmas s ethical and metaphysical relation of all relationships, in its way defeats
thinking by the feminine, which he locates at the portico �o the law, the logic of the law of contradiction as that logic is defeated by the
as women were once confined to the narthex of the basthca. _
primitive mental state that conforms to Levy-Bruhl's law of participa­
Does Heidegger's reading of the third Critique imply that he would tion. If this Gipfel of humanity is, as Levinas maintains, exterior to the
find Levinas guilty of the misreading with � hich he charg:s exteriority of the experience of art, the essentiality of the relation, if it
Schopenhauer and Nietzsche? ln the study of Ntet�sche b;gun m is right to talk of a relation here, cannot be the essentiality which
1936 Heidegger picks up what in the lectures on Holderh _ _ s h�n
� Heidegger ascribes and believes Kant ascribes to man's relation to the
Germanien delivered in 1934-5 he says about the mubhty work of art.
(UneigenniUzigkeil) of the holy (G39 86-7). He maintains th�t One of Levinas's reasons for maintaining that this height of


Schopenhauer and, following him, Nietzsche are dou ly wrong m humanity is exterior to the exteriority of the experience of art must
their interpretation of Kant's doctrine of the beautiful Ftrst, they take be put in proper perspective. When he speaks of the face to face
the positive part of that doctrine to be the idea that tt _IS what ts free encounter he is not speaking of a state of mind such as might be
of interest which pleases us in the experience of the beautiful,_ whereas enjoyed by someone listening to a sonata by Vinteuil when, as Proust
this is only the negative and preliminary part of Kant's account. writes, 'the imagination is freed from time'. But it has to be said that
Second, having thus mistaken the part for the whole, they go on to what Heidegger means by the coming to pass of truth in art is not a
suppose incorrectly that the suspension of 'inter�st' amo�nts to the state of mind either.
exclusion of any essential relationship to the object. Levmas, as we When Levinas says that the between-time of art is a rehearsal of
have noted, does at least insist that the so-called suspension of death it is a rather less dignified rehearsal of death than that as which
interest does not rule out interest in the sense of an involvement with the Phaedo regards philosophy. The dead time of art on Levinas's
the object. He even adds that this involvement is essentiaL of the view is the time of my being toward my death as described in Being
essence, because it is involvement in being; though he denies, as we arul Time, my precipitate elan de mort. It is as though in 'Reality and
have also noted, that it is being in the world. This involvement is a its Shadow' Levinas were saying that a philosopher whose interpreta­
sort of being lo�t to the world, a condition he describes with the help tion of time and of Dasein's being in the world takes its guideline
of a term he borrows from Levy-Bruhl. Levy-Bruhl uses the term from Dasein's being toward its own death could be expected to be
'participation' of what he describes as the primitive, 'pre-logical' recasting his interpretation before long in the light of what he thinks
affective mentality for which 'the opposition between the one and about the work of art. It is only by placing the death of Dasein and
the many, same and other, etc., does not impose the necessity to the death of art within the contextless context of the death of the
affirm one of the terms if the other is denied, and vice versa'. Thts _
other that we can hope to arrive at a viable interpretation of time in
statement of the 'law of participation' is made in a book entitled Les which the coming to pass of death is itself surpassed, overcome by an
fonctions mentales dans les societs e inferieures.6 Although, like Freud immemorial diachronic past which has no need of art to console us for
when he writes that the principle of contradiction is suspended in the death of god.
dreams, Levy-Bruhl does not mean that this state of mind is pr� ­ Referring to the 1948 article, with no sign that in the interval he

logical in the sense of anterior to the logic of co�tr_adiction ut that tt
has changed his mind about anything he says in it, Levinas writes the
is one into which members of so-called non-pnmibve societies may following sentences in Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence (1974)
lapse, the last word of the title of the book suggests that _this would about the immemorial past and my incontractual responsibility to the
indeed be a lapse. It must already be plain that when Levmas adapts orphan, the widow and the stranger not to let them die alone:
102 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 103

The immemorial past is intolerable for thought. Thus there is an Once we make allowance, Heidegger continues, for Nietzsche's
exigency to stop: arumke sfenai. The movement beyond being misconstrual of Kant which, as we might put it, confuses disinter­
becomes ontology and theology. And thus there is also an idolatry estedness with uninterestedness, we realize that what Nietzsche
of the beautiful. In its indiscrete exposition and in its arrest in a describes as 'the thrill (das Enfzucken) of being in our world now' is
statue, in its plasticity, a work of art substitutes itself for God . . . . nothing other than what Kant calls the 'pleasure of reflection' in our
By an irresistible subreption, the incomparable, the diachronic, the experience of the beautiful. This experience must not be conceived of
non-contemporaneous, through the effect of a marvellous schemat­ course as a psychological state of mind. It is a fundamental way of
ism, is 'imitated' by art, which is iconography. The movement being.
beyond being is fixed in beauty. Theology and art 'retain'
(retiennenf) the immemorial past. (AEAE 191. OBBE 199) Kanfs interpretation of aesthetic behaviour as 'pleasure of reflec­
tion' propels us toward a basic state of human being in which man
That is to say, theology and art hold back the immemorial past as one for the first time arrives at a well-grounded fullness of his essence.
holds back a word, the word hineni, 'Here am l; send me'. It is the state that Schiller conceives of as the condition of the
So the thinker of the death of god, Nietzsche, is a theologian. How possibility of man's existence as historical, as grounding history.
does this portrait of the artist-philosopher compare with the portrait
Heidegger paints of the/poet-thinker? Why is this reference to Schiller so significant? Because of his
In the section of the study of Nietzsche to which we have referred doctrine of the sublime. The word 'sublime' does not occur in the
Heidegger quotes from The Will to Power (804) the statement 'The sec tion of Heide ��er's :Vietzsche which we have been considering.
beautiful exists just as little as the good, the true', commenting that Th1s 1s not surpnsmg g1ven that the title of the section announces
this is also very much the view of Kant (G43 129, N I 131, trans. I that it is about Kant's doctrine of the beautiful. However, in both
111). That would not prevent Nietzsche and Kant being polytheolo­ Kant's and in $chiller's Kantian doctrine of the sublime there is a
gians, we can imagine Levinas saying in line with his assertions that pronounced tendency to try to capture the sublime in art and nature
poet�thinkers are polytheists and that 'The proscription of images is for humanity. Is this tendency manifest in the sentence from
truly the supreme commandment of monotheism', that is to say of Nietzsche which Heidegger cites and of which we have cited a
non theological ethics which holds not that we are waiting for the
- part? Having spoken of this 'thrill that comes of being in our world
advent of a being but that the one and only god has already come in now' Nietzsche immediately adds that this thrill is the thrill of
the person of the other man, the only imago Dei that is possible since 'getting rid of the anxiety in the face of things foreign (die Angst
this imago is the ethical human face, not a plastic image or fa<;ade. The vor dem Fremden loszusein)'. When we get rid of our anxiety in the face
poet-thinker, Levinas implies, is inclined to think that the artist of things foreign do the things foreign become things in our world? It
himself is a god in so far as he takes himself to be a creator or at least is not obvious that they do. What would Heidegger's answer to this
a messenger of the gods to the extent that he believes himself to be a question be? He writes:
revealer. Indeed, it might look from what Heidegger goes on to say
about Kant and Nietzsche that this man-god or revealing archangel According to the explanation by Nietzsche which we have cited,
makes the world in his own image or reveals his own image in it. And the beautiful is what determines us, our behaviour and our
lo, he sees that it is good: capability (unser Verhalten und Verm6gen), to the extent that we
are claimed supremely in our essence, which is to say, to the extent
The beautiful is what we find honourable and worthy, as the image that we ascend beyond ourselves. Such ascent beyond ourselves, to
of our essential nature. It is that upon which we bestow the full of our essential c a p ab ility (in der Fulle unseres
'unconstrained favour' (die freie Gunst), as Kant says, and we do Wesensvermt5gens) occurs according to Nietzsche in rapture
so from the very foundation of our essential nature and for its sake� {Rausch). The beautiful itself is what transports us into the feeling
(G43 131, N I 132, trans. I 112) of rapture.
104 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 105

Is the ascendence beyond ourselves (uber-uns-weg-Steigen), is the (to by the mere display of its might in nature, but more by the faculty
borrow the word Levinas borrows from jean Wahl) 'transascendence' which is planted in us of estimating that might without fear, and of
here attributed to the sentiment of the beautiful a foretaste of the regarding our estate as exalted above it.
sublime, an imbrication of the sublime upon the beautiful? Schiller
seems to give two answers to this difficult question. The so-called The section of which this is the final paragraph, §28 of the Critique of
energetic or energizing (energische) beauty mentioned in the Sixteenth Aesthetic ]udgement,8 is entitled 'Nature as Might' and is perhaps what
and Seventeenth Letters of On the Aesthenc Education of Man is Heidegger is thinking of when on page 70 of Being and Time he uses
difficult to distinguish from what he elsewhere entitles a form of the the phrase 'the might of nature'. The last sentence of this last
sublime.7 It is as though he were wittingly or unwittingly assimilating paragraph is perhaps what Nietzsche is thinking of when he writes
the sublime to the beautifuL binding the unbounded. Kant makes the of 'getting rid of our anxiety in the face of things foreign', one of the
distinction, corresponding to his distinction between the understand­ phrases Heidegger cites in his discussion of Schopenhauer's and
ing and reason, between the beautiful in nature as the property of a Nietzsche's interpretation of Kant's doctrine of the beautiful. The
bounded object and the sublime as the property of what _IS paragraph must be one Schiller is thinking of when he writes in On
unbounded supplemented by an idea of the finality grounded in the Ground of the Enjoyment of Things Tragic that the feeling of the
our reason rather than in our sensuous experience of nature as in the sublime is in part a feeling of the limits of our own power to master
conception of natural beauty. This idea of finality grounded in reason an object, in part a feeling of our power to master it thanks to our

is what is missing from our experience of the terrifying (griisslich), and moral or, as he says, spiritual (geisfig) superiority. Having distin­
is what makes the difference between it and our experience of the guished the beautiful from the sublime by saying that the former is
sublime. The stormy ocean is terrifying but not sublime. Perhaps bounded and the latter unbounded, Schiller and Kant endeavour to
Schiller is thinking of such manifestations when he distinguishes bind the unboundedness and, as we expressed it earlier, to subjugate
energetic from melting (schmelzende) beauty. Kant remarks that r:'an is nature to man. On the one hand, especially in his writings on ethics
prone to regard a storm at sea as though it were a mamfestahon of and in Religion wifhin the Bounds of Reason Alone, Kant underlines the
the wrath of God. But the God thus fancied is a god of human way in which human nature transcends itself. On the other hand, he
superstition. If the idea of God is present in the experience of underlines the way in which this transcendence--is ..immanent. This is
sublimity it is the idea of God within the bounds of reason, the God very Greek, as the Greek is described by Heidegger in the Introduction
in whose holiness man shares, in that both are citizens of the kingdom to Metaphysics, where he says 'Among the Greeks there were no
of ends where the only fundamental principle is the moral law. personalities (and for the same reason no supra-personality). Man is to
Sublimity even in nature is really sublimity in the rational aspect of deinotaton, the strangest of the strange' (G40 158, EM 114, IM 125).
_ 9
human nature. The feeling of sublimity arises from one's sense of Heidegger is commenting on the first chorus of Sophocles' Antigone:
being more than sensibility. It is a recognition of a human disposition
that is consonant with God's will. There is much that is strange, but nothing
that surpasses man in strangeness.
Sublimity, therefore, does not reside in any of the things of nature,
but only in our mind, in so far as we may become conscious of our So is man's transascendence an ascendence beyond himself and to
superiority over nature within, and thus also over nature without himself such as Heidegger believes he discerns, with good reason as
us (as exerting influence upon us). Everything that provokes this we have seen, in Kant's acccount of the relation of man's personality
feeling in us, including the might (Macht) of nature which to the holy? We have also seen now that the account of the sublime
challenges our strength, is then, though improperly, called with which the third Critique expands on the second and articulates its
sublime, and it is only under presupposition of this idea within link with the Critique of Pure Reason retotalizes a detotalized totality,
us, and in relation to it, that we are capable of attaining to the idea and that although being toward nothingness and death is what makes
of the sublimity of that Being which inspires deep respect in us, not possible the totality of Dasein, this is a totality that is never at home
106 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 107

with itself The dei non of Sophocles is 'the strange, the uncanny (das
On the other hand, although it might seem possible to mark the
Unheimliche) . . . which casts us out of the homely
" ", i.e. the radical difference between Heidegger's teaching and Levinas's by
customary, familiar, secure.' It is not any thing that can be grasped saying that in the former the donation of being is primary whereas in
by the scientific understanding, for example by psychology. 'What is the latter what is primary is my respon sibility to give myself to the
meant by deinon here . . . must not be interpreted as invention or as a other man, we must not forget what he says in the paragraph we
mere faculty (Verm6gen) or disposition of man.' It can be disclosed have just read, that responsib il ity toward being for Heidegger is at
only to poetic thinking. The poetic comprised in denkendes Oichten the same time res ponsibility toward the word. We must not forget
and dichtendes Denken is an enseignemenf, whatever hesitation Levinas the double genitivity - of which the word Da-sein is already a
may manifest over whether the poetic can teach. Whether it can will reminder - which means that our, Dasein's responsibi lity toward

depend on what one means by 'ensignment'. Before asking what being and the word is a responsibilit y of being and the word. Now f i
Levinas means by this we must take note of his response to what Heidegger's texts support the reading that responsibility toward
Heidegger says regarding the gift, grace or favour of being. bein g is inseparable from responsibility toward beings, there may
In llber Anmut und Wurde Schiller asserts that 'Grace can be said to be room in Heidegger's thinking not only for responsibilit y toward
be a favour (Gunst) which is granted to what is sensuous by what is those beings that seem to get short shrift in Levinas's thi nking ,

moral' and in the Critique of judgement Kant sp eaks of 'unconstrained namely the non-human and non-divine, but responsibility too for
favour', a phrase we have found Heidegger mentioning in his study of those beings that are at the centre of Levinas's thinking namely ,

Niet zsche. In the Postscript to 'What is Metaphysics?' he writes: human beings the human existents Levinas refers to in the title of his

early book. Further, this latter responsibi lity will be as basic a s

Original thin king (the fourth edition of 1943 has 'thanking') is the res ponsibility toward being, since it will be part and parcel of what is
echo of the favour of being wherein. a space is cleared and an meant by responsibility toward being. Responsibility toward beings is
advent effected by the unexampled truth: that what has being is. blind if it is not at the same time responsibility toward being; but
This echo is man's response to the word of the soundless voice of responsibility toward being is empty, abstract and irresponsible if it is
being. The response of thinking (the fourth edition has 'The not at the same time responsibility toward beings. The responsibilit y
speechless response of thanking through sacrifice') is the origin here will not be that of specific ethical obligations. Just as Levinas's
of the human Word, the Word that first enables la�§uage as the 'first word', Thou shalt not kill', is not regarded by him as a specific
bruiting abroad of words to anse. (G9 310, EB 389) ethical imperative but as having a status more like that of the
fundamental principle of Kant's metaphysics of morals (excep t that
Levinas's response to these words is to say that prior to the favour it is not a pri nciple, but the n
i finite signifiance of the other's dire), so
of being to which original thinking responds is the immemorial past when we seek in Heidegger an ontology or quasi-ontology of
of the response that is prior to any question: 'Here am l; send me'. obligation we shall be concerned not primarily with the specifically
This response is the responsibility anticipating the command of ethical but with the being with others in the being toward death
another mortal human being. The response of original thinking of which manifests itself in the historical social institutions and structures
which Heidegger speaks here is the responsibility toward being - or which enable my being toward and for others (G39 73).
toward existence as the title of one of Levinas's early books This proposal for a readi ng of Heidegger would do justice to the
somewhat riskily says. Now although it looks as though Heidegger human, the animaL the plant and the inorganic world in the way that
agrees with the chorus of Antigone that there is nothing more strange appears not to be done at least on our reading of Levinas so far.
than man, there is no suggestion that more strange than man as Objections to this reading of Heidegger will be considered more
Dasein is man as the Other, as the stranger. Nowhere is there a hint closely in later chapters Let us deal immediately with two of them.

of the fearful asymmetry of the face to face. Therefore nowhere First, what about the obstacle which migh t appear to be presented
should we expect to find in the writings of Heidegger an endorse­ by Heidegger's remark The thinking of bei ng seeks no hold in what
ment of Levinas's claim that I am more respo nsible than anyone else. is' (G9 311, EB 391)? Whether this is an obstacle depends on what
108 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 109

Heidegger means by 'hold', Anhalt. If an Anha/t is a Haltestelle, a example, beingness, but to think it from Ereignis, the advening of
stopping place, then we are indeed not to stop at beings. There is no truth. If we are misreading Heidegger here, so be it. That we are not
ananke stenai here. And if what is meant here by Anhalt is a mooring, misreading him is confirmed by his statement in 'The Origin of the
prop or support, then of course a being cannot be a support of being. Work of Art' that We ought to turn toward the being, think about it
A being cannot be more fundamental than being either in traditional in regard to its being, but by means of this thinking at the same time
onto-theology or in Heideggerian ontology, if we may use this word let it rest itself in its own being' (G5 16, H 20, PLT 31). This holds for
of the Heidegger of 1943. the being of all beings in the so-called great chain of being, beginning
Second, what about Heidegger's statement 'The need is to preserve with the being whose hand hardly appears at the top of the apsidal
the truth of being no matter what may happen to man and all beings'? mosaic at Classe, through the two Jews pointing at the man-God on
Does this mean that responsibility toward being is compatible with the mountain, to the symbols of Peter, James and John, and to the
irresponsibility and indifference toward human and other beings? If it sheep, the birds, the trees, the flowers (are they perhaps Alpine lilies,
does mean this, what Heidegger is saying in 1943 is incompatible campanulas or orchids?) and the rocks on the slopes of the mountain
with what he says in Being and Time about the way care (Sorge) itself. It holds for any being of which the work of art may speak, so it
regarding being implies a certain kind of authentic solicitude (Fiirsorge) holds for this mosaic itself, not only for the tablets of the Mosaic law.
regarding other human beings, even unto their death. It will also be There are lessons to be learned from the work of art, from what in the
incompatible with what he says in the 'Letter on Humanism' about wide sense of the word is called Dichtung in Heidegger' s defence of
what he appears to be prepared to describe, if somewhat reluctantly, poetry. Poetry can be an enseignement.
as a new humanism. Finally, and most relevantly to our present topic, Anticipating what Levinas writes in 'Reality and its Shadow' about
it will be incompatible with what in The Origin of the Work of Art', art as bemusement and dream, Heidegger writes in 'Holderlin and the
in the essay on The Thing', in 'Building Dwelling Thinking' and in Essence of Poetry': 'Poetry looks like a game and yet it is not'.
many other places Heidegger says about non-human beings, whether
natural ones or works of artifice and art. Heidegger's meditation on Poetry presents the appearance of the unreal and of dream in the
the saying of Parmenides regarding the belonging together of being face of the palpable and clamorous reality in which we believe
and thinking can hardly be read as an invitation to {orget the kind of ourselves to be at home. And yet in just the reverse manner, what
being whose way of being is to be there, da sein. His later thinking is the poet says and undertakes to be (zu sein iibernimmf) is the real
incomprehensible unless it is a call to remember also non-human (G4 45, EHD 42, EB 310).
beings. The insist'ence on concreteness at the beginning of Being and
Time is an insistence on the concreteness of what reflection on that Anticipating what Levinas writes passim about the face to face
beginning reveals, and that stress on the concreteness continues to encounter, Heidegger writes in 'The Nature of Language':
make itself felt in Heidegger's later work. The requirement of
concreteness is one reason why the poet is the thinker's ancilla. We tend to think of face to face encounter exclusively as a relation
The sense of the sentence The need is to preserve the truth of between human beings. These lectures too have indeed restricted
being no matter what may happen to man and all beings' is perhaps face to face encounter to the neighbourhood of poetry and
that sacrifices may have to be made in some quarters (and it is of thinking as modes of saying. We shall for now leave open
sacrifices that the sentences following this one speak), if we are to whether what we have done here is a restriction or a release.
meet our responsibility to being and to language, a responsibility Yet being face to face with another has a more distant origin; it
without which there can be no question of responsibility to human originates in the distance where earth and sky, the god and man
and other beings. Further, when in Time and Being' he writes that 'to reach one another. (G12 199, US 21 1, OWL 103)
think Being without beings means to think Being without metaphy­
sics' (ZSD 25, TB 24) this does not mean that we are not to think of What Heidegger seems to be saying here and elsewhere is that the
beings; it means that we are not to think of being as a being, as, for work of art - and that is what originative discourse is - can teach us
110 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 111

what it is to be face to face with human beings and with beings that (autrui} as absence and mystery, finding that relation i n th� very
are not human. This allows at least in principle for the possibility that intimacy of the T, and inaugurating a dialectic that breaks
man may be in a moral relationship with things of his natural and definitively with Parmenides. (NP 156)
artificial environment, in the way that adam, meaning man, and
humanus are said to be cognate with adamah and humus, meaning Proust was long dead, yet here is Levinas not ruling out the
earth or dust. Nowhere in our reading of Levinas so far does he seem possibility that A la recherche du temps perdu may be an
to show any sign of admitting such relationships except in so far as enseignement, an ensignment or teaching or token, that is to say a Dire.
they are derivative from my responsibility to the other man or to By 1972 the not ruling out has become an unhesitant ruling in. His
God. And he usually regards works of art as he regards works in essay on Paul Celan significantly subtitled 'from being to the other',
general, works as opposed to what he calls expression. The work is takes us to a mountain, not presumably Tabor, nor necessarily Horeb
set loose in the world for anyone to make of it what he or she will, or Sinai, and apparently not the mountain on which stands
without the possibility of guidance like we have when the person Heidegger's thinker or his poet, the thinking poet who said 'Art is
addressing us is still there at our shoulder to assist. The work of art is the passage from nature to culture and from culture to nature' (G39
at the mercy of those who wish to treat it as a commercial product or 20}, but a mountain on which two Jews - or one Jew tragically
a topic of historical, sociological or psychoanalytic research (Tl 201ff.; divided against himself - walk and talk oblivious of the grandeur of
226ff.). Heidegger would be the first to agree about the baneful the mountain and blind to the charms of the Alpine carnpanulas and
intrusion of collectors, merchants and even museums into the precinct lilies growing round about. Blind to nature, for, as Celan says,
of art. But although art can be cunning when it hides itself as Kant 'always, even today and even here, a Jew and nature, that makes
says in the depths of the soul, the Kunsfwerk can also be a Gunstwerk. two'. There is no sign that Levinas, who remarks that in Heidegger's
And Levinas admits as much when he writes 'As long as the will, in a Feldweg 'there is a tree; we encounter there no men',11 would disagree
being who speaks, takes up again and defends his work against a with this other Jew, the poet who once walked with this Gentile
foreign will, history lacks the withdrawal it lives from' (TI 203; 229). thinker on the slopes of Todtnauberg
Under these circumstances art is expression. The scene is Platonic, up
to a point. There is expression where the other is present, not as in Orchis und Orchis, einzeln.
Plato to ask me questions that will prompt me to discover the truths I
already have stored inside me, but to teach me what is ever new and There is no sign yet that what is called Levinas's messianism -
ever resists formulation; not to teach me maieutically what is waiting which, because 'ethics has a sense even without the promises of the
to be said, but to teach what is not a what, to teach the saying not Messiah' (El 122; 114), no more expects an arrival than Derrida's
the said. That i� why in Totality and Infinity Levinas does not allow, post-Johannine and post-Critical Apocalypse expects an Apocalypse
the assistance of the author to take the form of what the author has Now - provides for the possibility of a second coming when man is
written elsewhere in the 'Complete Works' he leaves 'at the mercy' of so transfigured that he sees himself having underived responsibility
his interpreters. However, we have noted that in Otherwise than Being toward such things of the natural world as are depicted in the mosaic
or Beyond Essence he stresses that no work is ever complete and that at Classe which proclaims 'Hagios, Hagios, Hagios' or 'Qadosh,
interpretation is always interruption of the book because, like Hagios, Sandus' as we prefer to say in memory of Heidegger's
scepticism, the author always returns to address his affiliated statement that the default of God and the divinities is absence, but
posterity. And as early as 1947, a year before the publication of absence which is 'precisely the presence, which must first be
'Reality and its Shadow', Levinas writes: appropriated, of the hidden fullness and wealth of what has been
and what, thus gathered, is presencing, of the divine in the world of
But Proust's most profound teaching (enseignement) - if, that is, the Greeks, in prophetic Judaism, in the preaching of Jesus' (VA2 57,
poetry (poesie) is capable of teaching - consists in situating the real PLT 184). According to one interruptive interpretation, the apsidal
in a relation with what remains for ever other, with the Other mosaic at Classe represents the second coming predicted by Elijah
112 · The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking 113

that will be salus mundi, the saving of the world (the words are in the thinking of poetry, however, we can take some encouragement from
12 the knowledge that we have the word of Levinas that the voice of
mosaic for those who have eyes to see).
Yet there is a sign of an astonishing transfiguration in Levinas's poetry is the voice of pro-phetic responsibility for the other. In asking
thinking of art. In 'Reality and its Shadow' the shadow is reconnected whether the other for whom poetry voices responsibility can be other
with reality only by criticism. In the essay on Celan, a quarter of a than the other human being, we shoul d remind ourselves that when
century l ater, Levinas agrees with the poet that a poem is no different Levinas agrees with Celan and Blanchot that a poem is an affirmation
from a handshake. A handshake is a convention by which two human of the one-for-the-other, no more than Heidegger is he speaking of
beings , Jews or Gentiles, say Hullo and wish each other Goodbye. It poetry in the sense of poesie or Gedicht as a genre of art (SMB 79),
can also be a gesture by which they clinch a deal. But if a poem is no though for much if not all of 'Reality and its Shadow' this does seem
differen t from a handshake, it is no other than an encounter with the to be the case. This does not mean that it is an accident that poetry in
other, a face t o face with the real. The shadow, the revenant, need · the more generous sense, poiesis, is embodied almost exclusively
never have lost its grip on the reality of all realities, the wonder of all throughout the n ext chapters in poetry as an artistic genre. Nor does
wonders, my responsibility to the other man. Not an interlude, but an it mean that t he agreement of Levinas and Heidegger that there is this
interruption of p lay, the poem is both the extreme of receptivity and more generous sense is an agreement on what that sense may be. At
the extreme of donation: 'a song reaches upward in giving, in the the moment the c hance s of this seem slight. At the moment it appears
one -for-t he other (NP 62, 66), like a hand reaching up to the hand
- ' likely that while Levinas attributes the generosity of poetry in the
that reaches down from the apex of the mosaic, the hand of God more generous sense to its being a giving to the stranger, Heidegger
which for Levinas is always the hand of the other man. will attribute i t to its being a gift of the strange, this difference being
The wonder of all wonders for Levinas is my responsibility to the marked by the title of the book in which Levinas opposes the sacri to
other man. This is a resp onsibility greater than that of anyone else the saint. But as Blanchot advises at the beginning of his article
according to his paraphrase of the lesson he hears being taught in o ne 'L'etrange et l'etranger' about the distinctions between philosophy,
of the works of art he most frequently invokes to help him express poetry and literature, perhaps we should not make any of these
what he himself would wish to teach. However, his paraphrase distinctions too clear-cut.14
conflates two statements that Dostoevsky has Markel make in The
Brothers Karamazov, and he is prone to omit the three words at the
end of the second of these. What Markel says is, first, 'every one of
us has sinned'. against all men, and I more than any', and then
'everyone is responsible to all men and for everything'. Markel believes
that he has sinned against 'birds, trees, meadows sky'.

Suppose we remember the 'for everything', as Levinas does not

always do when he reproduces Markel's words to assist him in his
exposition of responsibility for the other.13 Suppose we take seriously
his s tatement, p assed over in silence when we cited it in Chapter 3, Je
soutiens le monde (assuming that what I am s ai d to support here is not
only every human being, tout le monde). In that cas e we shall be
confronted with an embarrassing exegetical dilemma. If we seek
reasons spelled out by Levinas why we should widen the range of
pro to e thical responsibility to include direct, unmediated respons­

ibility for non-human (and non-divine) beings, we shall more easily

find him spelling out reasons why we shoul d not attempt to do this.
We must therefore look elsewhere. As we now look to Heidegger's
Ontological Responsibility 115

Poetry can awake a sense of responsibility toward nature by
Ontological Resp onsibility and describing the aesthetic beauty of natural things. One cannot be
indifferent to the survival of something of whose beauty we are
the Poetics of Nature aware. Holderlin's poetry of nature is not nature poetry of this kind,
at least not predominantly, nor is it for descriptions of the
aesthetically beautiful that Heidegger turns to it. In the essay on
Andenken included in Erliiulerungen zu Holder/ins Dichrnng Heidegger
writes that as early as the date of Hyperion Holderlin evinces a
Insofar as beings which linger awhile do not entirely dissipate distaste for descriptive poetry. This is one of the attractions Holderlin
themselves ni the boundless conceit of aiming for a baldly insistent holds for Heidegger. The former's distaste is matched by the latter's
subsistence, insofar as they no longer share the compulsion to aversion to the contemplation of landscapes, an aversion that
expel one another from what is presently present, they let order becomes easier to comprehend when we learn that Heidegger thinks
belong, didonai diken. of Betrachtung, contemplation, as an entrapment in representation
, . . ,
Martin Heidegger, The Saymg of Anax1mander CVA3 47-8. QCT 166-7). As thinker Heidegger is no more likely to
admire the spectacle of his surroundings than are the Swabian farmers
and foresters to whom he refers in 'Creative Landscape: Why do We
Stay in the Provinces?' (G13) or the peasant referred to in the first
Levinas argues that Heidegger is so preoccupied with. giving be ng
its � verse of Holderlin's Wie wenn am Feiertage . . . who, although it is on
bemg who IS my
due that he fails to do justice to the human the morning of a holiday that he is visiting his fields, is not there to
neighbour. It is arguable that Levinas is so preo�cu�ied with doing gaze at the view but to check how well his crops have stood up to
justice to the human being that he fails to do JUShce to . t � n?n­ � the thunderstorm that raged during the night. His main concern is for
human being, for despite his rare references to our responstbtltty for the future. 'Assured, he looks forward to the coming gifts of the field
everything' which we noted in the last chapter, these go unexplamed and the vine. Fruit and man are protected in the favour that prevails
and stand out as anomalies in writings which say or imply that d1rect, through earth and sky, securing what endures' (G4 51).
unmediated resppnsibility is responsibility to the other human being. Is not the first verse of Holderlin's poem descriptive? Heidegger
n ith
The question therefore arises whether Heidegger's pre.occupatio � himself says that i t is as though its aim were to describe a picture.
giving being its due allows human and n� n-hum n bemgs .to be gJVen However, it is not description for its own sake or for the sake of

their due? More particularly, does He1degge r s reflechon on the recording or impressing the reader with the aesthetic beauty or
question of being through Heidegger's poetics
of the holy
a l?w,� picturesqueness of the scene. The point of the description is to draw
perhaps even imply, a less exclusive view of dtrect re�pons1bthty? an analogy between the poet and the peasant. Like the countryman,
What light is shed on the Auseinandersetzung b�tween He1de��er the poet is supported by nature. Nature for Holderlin is not the
Hetdegg er and Holderlin ?
Levinas by the Auseinandersetzung between aggregate of stones, trees, animals, etc. The aggregate of such real
tion through the second is all the
An approach to the first conversa entities is the outcome of nature. Hence, although elms, poplars,
more apt on account of the tendency we ha�e found. �vinas � clouds, lightning, rivers and streams figure in his poems, they do not
displaying in some of his writings to impute 1rrespons1btlity do so for their own sakes. This might well be a disappointment to
poetry and to art in general. It is to be expe ted that he would anyone hoping to find in Holderlin a foundation for the construction
� .
find the poetry of Holder!in especially lackmg �� � sense of

. of a concept of direct human responsibility toward non-human beings,

of nature. Respons 1bthty, Levmas
responsibility in so far as it speaks that is to say, a responsibility to non-human beings which is not
maintains, is beyond nature, beyond phusis, metaphysical. derivative from responsibility to human beings (or to a super-human

116 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontolcgical Responsibility 117

being). Such disappointment would be misplaced if �t were the result pure beauty. Where there is pure beauty there is an accord of
of supposing that something can be approached for tts own sake only captivation and setting free, En.frr�ckung. Of all the beings there are
if it is approached in isolation from other things. Just as othe� human it is the gods who are pre-eminent in the capacity to make manifest
beings can be esteemed for their own sakes although the1r hve� are the captivatingly beautiful, as when one of them shows himself, like
inextricably bound up with those of other human bemgs and w1th a the god incarnate in Christ. A god is also the being best able to
non-human environment on which they depend for their existence, so provide mortals with an experience of Entri4ckung, as in the transport
non-human beings can be cherished for their own sakes despite or of mystical abandon. That is why the beauty of nature is called
because of such interconnection. True, it is not an ecolog1cal divine. It is called divine by analogy with the impure beauty of which
connection of a biological or social kind that Holderlin and the gods are capable. Only nature is capable of pure beauty, for this
Heidegger have in mind when they speak of the interconnectedn�ss requires not captivation masquerading as setting free nor setting free
entailed by their notions of nature; but the latter m1ght be an enablmg masquerading as captivation but both captivation and setting free
condition of the former: the ontological origin of the ontic relation- simultaneously, yet without the clear distinction between them
ship, the relationship of all other relationships. getting lost to view. It is as though Holderlin, after dreaming with
. .
If the poetry of Holderlin is nature poetry 1t 1s bec�use for his Hyperion and Empedocles of saving himself by losing conscious­
Holderlin nature is the always and already present. Ommpresent, ness of himself through immersion in nature or death, realizes that he

nature is present not only in what is set over ag.ains th� human. is dreaming and that he must wake in order, like Empedocles, to
Nature, in Wordsworth's phrase, 'rolls through all things . It 1s present shoulder his responsibilities, among then:� the special responsibility of
not only in stones, plants and animals. Its presencing embraces also the poet in the time of need. It is as though, having been inclined, like
the work and works of man, the history and destiny of peoples and Levinas, to equate art with reverie, intoxicated revelry, magic or
the so-called supernatural and divine. Nature as understood by mystical confusion, a Dionysian pick-me-up against the il IJ a, he
Holderlin has a beauty that is, he says, divine, but nature IS not a wants, like Celan, to show that a poem can reach out soberly to shake
goddess or a god. Nature in his sense holds together what are usually its reader by the hand.
contrasted as the natural and the supernatural. But this holding What Holderlin calls the pure and divine beauty of nature is not
together is not a neutral synthesis or undifferentiated intimacy. what we have been calling aesthetic beauty. The latter is the beauty
Although in Hyperion Holderlin treats of a desire to become absor ed� of the appearance of entities taken in isolation and framed, the beauty
in an undifferentiated one and all, very soon thereafter he emphas1zes of the world dismembered, in seiner Widerspenstigkeit auseinanderge­
the importance ;of difference, a shift that anticipates Hegel's dis­ spannt, as Heidegger says, or, as Michel Deguy and Fran\ois Fedier
satisfaction with the alleged night of Schellingian identity. Like Hegel, translate this phrase, icarte/e, rent in four. Their translation is inspired
Holderlin stresses the alterity (Andersheit) that invests the unity of perhaps by the conception of nature as a fourfold (Geviert) which
nature. In this apartness the extreme opposites, the higher and lower Heidegger draws from his reading of Holderlin. 1 An understanding of
in the classical chain of being, are at their most conspicuous and most Heidegger's studies of Holderlin's poems and of the notion of the
captivating. In the second edition of the Erliiuterungen (1951) fourfold of earth, sky, mortals and immortal divinities is advanced by
Heidegger notes, with Phaedrus 250 in mind: the reading of such pieces as 'The Thing', 'Building Dwelling
Thinking', The Origin of the Work of Art' and The Question
ekphanestaton Concerning Technology'. In addition to mapping out the topography
to /m/on of the fourfold the latter essays elaborate the difference between
eras mio aton . objects and things. Conversely, the interpretations of Holderlin
explain the role that the thinking poet plays in enabling the turn
Highlighted through extreme opposition, the appearance� are l�vable, from regarding beings as objects to treating them as things. This
lovely and captivating, das Beriickende. If this lovelmes� �s the turning is a turning from the everyday mode of seeing entities as
loveliness which the gods are capable of making appear 1t IS not either subservient to the achievement of human interest (zuhanden) or
118 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Onfological Responsibility 119

else temporarily disengaged from such service so as to become the that emphasizes God's utter and unutterable remoteness and denies
object of disinterested description and pure science (vorhanden). The the possibility of mystical union. On Heidegger's interpretation of
alternative way of being with beings to which the thinking poet and Holderlin the holy is beyond habitual experience and deprives every
the poet-thinker would have their readers attend puts the refere�tial experience of any firm base. Nature is no more a ground on
context (Verweisungsganzheit) that serviceability and even the project Heidegger's reading of Holderlin than earth in The Origin of the
of pure science presuppose in its place, locating it in the perspective Work of Art' is a sufficient ground. Only a being can be a sufficient
of a quite differently structured whole. Perhaps encouraged by the ground. What the denkende Dichter Holderlin calls nature is not a
thought that as well as meaning 'to refer' venoeisen can mean 'to being. It is what the dichtende Denker Heidegger calls being, and it is
displace', Heidcgger would say that the Venoeisungsganzheiten of what calls to be reflected on in its difference from beings. What
handiness and scientific method and system are ontologically second­ Holderlin helps Heidegger to say is that the relationship between man
ary to the totality hinted at when on page 70 of Being and Time he and nature is a belonging that does not annul the distinction between
writes of the power of nature, Nahmnacht, an allusion picked up the regions of the fourfold of which man is himself one member.
twelve years later in the lecture Wie wenn am Feiertage . . . where Rather as Sein in Being and Time is already presencing in Da-sein, so in
nature is called powerful precisely because it is divinely beautiful and the later writings man belongs to himself only when he belongs
omnipresent. Its omnipresence is an aspect of its beauty in that the listeningly to the other members of the fourfold. The fourfold is at
beautiful, the schiin, is the appearing, the Erscheinen, that shines from the same time a onefold. It is a four in one. Having proceeded to a
each thing regarded as a point of convergence of each region of the fundamental ontology judged to be neglected in Husserl's regional
fourfold. This belonging together of each partner in the fourfold is ontology Heidegger becomes discontented with the fundamental
what makes the difference between a being's being an object and a ontology of Being and Time and, assisted by Holderlin, outlines a
being's being a thing. The Ding is the meeting-place of the four quatemitology that takes up again the question of regionality and
members through .whose belonging together and responding to one insists that the regions are in-finitely (un-endlich) and internally (innig)
another the Ding is constituted a Ding : bedingf. (The Scottish town related (G4 163, 170).
Oingwall gets its name from the Norse Thingvollr meaning parliament But if only the regions as regions are internally related what hope is
field.) there of deriving from Heidegger's quatemitology pointers toward a
Just as pure beauty is beauty of nature, not of the gods, and the proto-ecological conception of responsibility? It is already beginning
beauty of nature is called godly by an analogy in which an attribute to become plain in 'The Origin of the Work of Art' and the study of
of a being is ektended to what is not a being, so the power which is Wie wenn am Feierfage . . ., and it has become quite clear in The
ordinarily attributed to the gods devolves upon them thanks to Thing' (1950) and Holder/ins Erde und Himmel (1959), that the
nature. Their life comes from nature which is divine and is now belonging together of the regions has immediate consequences for
named the holy, das Heilige (G4 64). The heil is the unbroken, the the interrelationships among things in the regions. The thinker as
whole. The holy is also pure on Heidegger's interpretation of such is primarily concerned with how the reciprocity among
Holderlin according to which, as we have seen, beauty is pure individual things of different regions exhibits the so to speak
because it respects the distinctness of the partners that belong in 'categorial' reciprocity among the regions, whereas the poet as such
the holy. Impure beauty is manifest where nature is confused with a is primarily concerned with the reciprocity among individual things.
natural being, hence where nature is identified with a god or an object This is why we can formulate the difference between dichtendes
of mystical communion. The holiness of which Holderlin and Denken and denkendes Dichten by saying that whereas the vocation
Heidegger speak shares with the Hebrew qadosh and its Arabic of the former is the being of beings, the vocation of the latter is the
equivalent this implication of apartness and. purity. The holy i: the being of beings. And this is why Heidegger can say that neither while
radicalJy other, das Un-nahbare (G4 63), the untouched and map­ 'nature' is a basic word for Holderlin nor when it is no longer a basic
proachable. However, its apartness is not the apartness of a being word for him does Holderlin understand being as such; any more than
such as the God of the Old Testament or of the rabbinical mysticisim plrusis is being as such for Heraditus. This does not mean that they do
120 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 121

not have what in Being and Time is called pre-ontological. that is to only, Heidegger says, 'in the domain of metontological-existentiell
say pre-analytical, understanding of being. All mortals have that: questioning . . . the question of an ethics may properly be raised for
Because the difference between the poet and the thinker is one of the first time' (G26 199, MFL 157). This preserves at least something
emphasis, a particular person may be both, as are both Heidegger and like a structural parallelism between Heidegger and Levinas -
Holderlin. Heidegger's relationship with Holderlin is an aspect of his something like only because what looks like a parallel turns into a
relationship to himself. an aspect of his own identity. But this notion chiasmus which preserves the deep difference between the two. The
of identity must be interpreted in the light of the fourfold. It cannot way for this Umschlag is prepared by Heidegger's statement in the
be based on a . constatation of scientific or metaphysical properties. Appendix that 'only the person who, in the course of action, can treat
Science, lay or professional, can provide an account of the identity of what is in each case seized upon as wholly singular, who at the same
an object or subject, but an object or subject is not a thing in the time nevertheless realizes the finitude of the activity. only such a one
sense explained by Heidegger in the essay entitled The Thing' and in understands finite existence and can hope to accomplish something in
'Building Dwelling Thinking'. When in these essays and elsewhere it'. Singularity and concreteness are the point of departure both for
Heidegger writes of what makes a jug a jug or a bridge a bridge he is Heideggerian fundamental ontology and Levinasian metaphysics. But
not substituting for descriptions of objects in terms of primary and whereas Heidegger says 'Metontology is possible only on the basis
secondary qualities descriptions in terms of functions. He denies and in the perspective of the radical ontological problematic' hence.
explicitly in his discussion of Wie wenn am Feiertage . . . that a thing is we are arguing, on the basis of fundamental ontological responsibility
what it does. The truth of the matter is that a thing does only what it or proto-ethics regarded as parts or aspects of fundamental ontology,
is' and every thing, including every human being. '"is" only according Levinas says that the basicness of fundamental ontology is taken
to the "way" nature, the holy, which draws its essence from itself, away by what he calls metaphysical ethics and what, to distinguish
remains present in it' (G4 65). Hence in the paragraphs where this from ethics in a traditional understanding of the term, we are
Heidegger writes that a jug, unlike a hammer or a scythe, permits calling proto-ethics and might now consider calling metethics. What
the pouring out of a drink or libation provided it is not empty, complicates this scheme is Levinas's readiness in Totality and Infinity
whereas the hammer and the scythe neither succeed nor fail in to announce that 'Being is Exteriority' and to describe the face to face
permitting this, he is not aiming at a classificiation of the functional as the entry of what is 'ontologically new' (TI 266; 290. 148; 17.3).
properties that provide criteria by which jugs are distinguished from Levinas's ontology of metethics only escapes being sucked · back into
other artefacts. What he is primarily concerned with is not properties Heideggerian ontology or metontology if the ontology of the former
that are possessed by objects and define their nature, but the is, as Levinas maintains, the 'emphasis' of the latter, the superlation
belonging of a thing within the fourfold of nature or being as a that takes being to its extreme, rather as the superhuman is taken to
whole in relation to which identification and classification into natural be the essence of the human by Kant and the traditional via eminentiae
or artificial kinds are of ontologically secondary concern. to which Levinas compares his own way of hyperbole.3 This does not
These may be of primary concern to what Heidegger calls mean that we shall find 'emphasis' and 'superlation' easy to under­
metontology in The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic where he says stand.4 But the difficulty of these notions may be diminished if we can
in an Appendix that it is a part of metaphysics along with reconcile ourselves to the idea that the destruction or deconstruction
fundamental ontology and that it is the result of the sudden of ontology may have to be conducted in the language of ontology.
overturning (Umschlag) of the latter. Not an ontic positive science, This is what Levinas reconciles himself to in Totality and Infinity. In
metontology aims 'to make beings thematic in their totality in the Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence what the earlier book calls the
light of [fundamental] ontology'. It would seem to be a prefiguration ontologically new is the saying as opposed to the said, but this
of the thinking of things within the fourfold and a refiguration or opposition is not one that enables the saying to dispense with the
reversal of the analysis of being towards death undertaken in Being said. This indispensability is one kind of con-cretion: the inseparability
and Time. While, we are suggesting, in Being and Time fundamental of separateness, alterity, difference, exposition and face from same­
ontological responsibility or proto-ethics is already on the scene, ness, proposition and phenomenal countenance.
122 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 123

Without the inseparability of the goodness of the nakedness of the responsibility toward non-human beings, including non-human beings
face from the empirical factuality of the world from which I live and that are not divine. We should be put on the way to such a
whose goods I enjoy I should have nothing to offer. Without conception however if the mode in which human beings belong to
concrescence in incarnation there is no enjoyment, vulnerability and the other members of the fourfold could be specified so as to yield a
suffering: no passion; hence no passivity more passive than passion, conception of what we might call ontological responsibility that a
no emphasis of responsibility in substitution for the other (AEAE human being could have toward a jug or a tree but that a jug or a
86-9, OBBE 68-71; OOVI 142). Inversely, the face o f the other is the tree could not have toward a human being. Is this specification
other's vulnerability, above all his exposure to being hurt by me. That provided by letting be or letting belong? Is Seinlassen or GehOrenlassen
alone, the other's neediness, whatever his specific needs may be, is what marks off man's belonging to the fourfold from the way in
what faces me with my proto-ethical responsibility for the other. We which non-human beings belong?
shall return in the Postface to this idea of the other's need. But our In the third verse of Wie wenn am Feiertage . Holderlin writes:
. .

immediate task is to enlarge the idea of need in step with our

enlargement of the idea of the other. For help with this task we return And they who smiling worked our fields for us,
now to Heidegger. Assuming the shape of labourers, now are known,
The all-alive, all-animating powers of the gods.

Heidegger comments that the word 'fields' here is a passing reference

11 to the first verse and stands for that on and from which man lives -
the uivre de treated so fully by Levinas and sometimes said to be
We are asking whether, following the account of belonging within
neglected altogether by Heidegger. It deserves comment too that the
the fourfold that Heidegger derives from Holderlin, we can derive or
Greek word for field or allotted abode is nomos, and that this is
forge an account of responsibility broad enough to accommodate
affiliated to nomos, usage or apportioning law. Man once cultivated
direct responsibility toward non-human beings. the fields without being insensitive to the omnipresence of the holy.
Is not Heidegger's account too accommodating? For is not the
But he has been in too much haste to subdue nature to his own needs.
reciprocity and mirroring of which his account speaks a correspon­
The poet is the one who can remind us that man is not the only
dence among all members of the fourfold? Hence, if an account of
participant in the fourfold that has needs. Man himself is needed by
responsibility is to be derived from the Holderlin-Heidegger account
the others, by the immortals, by the sky and by the earth. It is thanks
of the fourfold will it not be one that permits a responsibility not
to this recognition of needs other than human need that we can speak
only of human beings toward other human beings and non-human of human responsibility which is, if not yet ethical responsibility,
beings, but also a responsibility of non-human beings toward other already more than response as aesthetic Erlebnis. Earlier in the third
beings? verse Holderlin writes
To meet this difficulty we must look in what Heidegger and
Holderlin write for what they consider makes a difference between
A fire has been lit in the souls of the poets.
the belonging of mortals to the fourfold and the belonging of
And that which happened before, but hardly was felt,
immortals, sky and earth. This distinguishing factor must not be the
Only now i
s manifest, . . . .
ethical character of man's responsibility, for Heidegger denies that he
is dealing with a question of ethics. Of course, if he denies this
because, like Levinas and Kant, he holds that ethical responsibility, or The feeling here alluded to is on Heidegger's reading stabilized
at least direct ethical responsibility, is always responsibility of human through being attached to an ecology of reciprocal ontological need.
beings toward other human beings, this bodes ill for our hopes of When Heidegger reflects on the poems of Holderlin after publishing
learning from him how to see our way to a conception of direct Being and Time he does not abandon his analytic of Dasein. Although
124 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 125

he abandons the terminology in which he conducts this analysis, he is Heidegger with recourse to Holderlin and the Greeks bring with
keeping the promise he made in Being and Time to go on and reflect them a notion, albeit pre- or proto-ethical. of ontological respons­
on being, instead of concentrating his attention on There-being. At ibility. That it does is suggested by the way in which, in conformity
no time does Heidegger turn a deaf ear to the words of Parmenides' with his belief that if we are to think the eschatology of being we
-Fragment 6: chre to legein fe noein t'eon emmenai. Parmenides' chre is must think the Greek morning of the history of being through its
ontological need. It is this that is in Heidegger's thoughts when he hesperian departure (Abschied) and through the impending dawn
writes in Holder/ins Erde und Himmel, after citing Holderlin's fragments which is at issue for Holderlin and for us today, Heidegger interprets
Parmenides' Fragment 6 and the Anaximander fragment lcata to cJrreim;
Die Erde . . . . . . . . didonai gar aula diki11 lcai tisin allelois tes adikias. The translation of
Grossen Gesezen nachgehet, die Wissenschaft these words at which Heidegger eventually arrives is . . . enflang dem
Und Ztirflichkeit . . . . . Brauch; geh6ren ntimlich lassen sie Fug somif auch Ruch eines dem anderen
{im Verwinden) des Un-Fugs (H 342), for which David Krell's
'The earth "abides by great laws". The "laws" here named are the translation is ' . . . along the lines of usage; for they let order and
nomoi in the sense of the injunctions of great destiny that direct and thereby also reek belong to one another (in the surmounting) of
allot each thing to the place required by its essencing (nach seinem disorder' (EGT 57).
Wesen gebraucht)' (G4 167). Admittedly, it is verging on anachronism In the course of his discussion of the Anaximander fragment
,t.o employ the expression 'ontological need' in connection with Heidegger notes that the generally accepted Diels translation of
something Heidegger says as late as 1959. By then his thinking is kata to chreon and the translation that Nietzsche gives in Philosophy in
centred on and decentred by Ereignis and es gibt rather than on the the Tragic Age of the Greeks is 'according to necessity', nach der
contrast between 'ontic' and 'ontological'. We employ the word Notwendigkeit. Of this translation Heidegger writes: 'we err if we
'ontological' nevertheless because· it is handy to have an adjective adhere to this derived meaning exclusively' (H 337, EGT 51). This
cognate with 'being' and because it keeps in view the question of the suggests that the derived meaning is part of what the phrase means;
bearing of what Heidegger says about and through the word brauchen that some notion of Notwendigkeit must be included in our reading of
upon Levinas's response to Heidegger which continues to be cast in the Greek. Our suggestion is that the expression 'ontological need' be
terms of the ontological, the ontic and the ethical. More particularly, adopted to convey this notion. The adjective 'ontological' serves to
the expression 'ontological need' makes it possible to mark the warn that Heidegger considers 'it is needed' or 'it is necessary' on its
difference betwi!en Heidegger's brauchen and the vital needs of own inadequate and superficial (WHO 117, WCT 190), requiring
whose satisfaction and enjoyment Levinas treats in detail especially supplementation by some notion of usage or custom. The problem is
in Totality and Infinity. Levinas and other readers of Heidegger have to some extent that of keeping the connection between the noun
commented on his neglect of the topic of life, its enjoyment and, as Brauch, meaning usage, and the verb brauche11, meaning to need, of
we mentioned a moment ago, the idea of what we live on and from. reading Anaximander's kafa fo chreon along with Parmenides' chre and
That this neglect is not an oversight can be seen from his gloss on of reading Holderlin and Heidegger along with what is said by these
Brauch in The Saying of Anaximander' (1946). There we come across two Greeks and by Heraclitus.
the notion of what it is convenient to call ontological enjoyment The usage or custom at issue here is 'older' than the Sitten that are
which he explicitly distinguishes from enjoyment of biological. at issue for HegeL though like them it is geared to what is in some
psychological and any other animal or anthropological kind. Heideg­ sense useful, needed, called for or meet. Heidegger goes so far as to
ger would say that ontological enjoyment is phenomenologically say of brauchet in the lines of Holderlin's Die Titanen
more original than these ontic enjoyments. Levinas would say that
more original than both ontic and ontological enjoyment is ethical unter dem Maasse
responsibility toward the other man. Our question is whether Das Roherz brauchet es auch
ontological need and ontological enjoyment as explained by Damit das Reine sich kenne
126 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 127

measure demands that 'In this passage', Heidegger writes, 'the "meet" designates an essential
Crudity, coarseness, exist, so that belonging together of rock and well-shaft, earth and furrow. This
What is pure shall know itself essential belonging together is in turn determined by the nature of
welcome and abiding'. He adds: The welcome and the abiding are
'Perhaps we shall be able to hear Holderlin's language properly only what mark the dwelling of mortals upon earth. But dwelling, in its
when we comprehend the "it is meet" that is beginning to sound in turn, is not grounded in itself' (WHO 169, WCT 192). That is to say,
the chre of Pannenides' saying' and 'In this Brauchen is hidden a calling the welcome, accueil, which according to Levinas is a welcome of the
(Geheiss) and command (Anbefehlen)' (WHO 118-19, WCT 196). other person into my home, handshake and giving (see Chapter 9), is
Responding to this call is in die Acht nehmen. Corresponding to encompassed within a wider hospitality which Heidegger construes
ontological need is ontological heed, taking to heart in care and ultimately as the es gibt of Sein articulated by the holy fourfold of
esteem, schatzen, allowing a thing the enjoyment of flourishing nature with the aid of the German poet of poets and the thinking of
according to what is meet: ontological usufruct. The Concise Oxford being that is emergent in the Greeks. Abiding (Weilen or Verweilen)
Dictionary defines usufruct a s 'Right of enjoying the use and and hospitality (Bewirten), as represented in Holderlin' s poem by
advantages of another's property short of destruction or waste of sinking a well for water and ploughing a field to plant corn, are
its substance'. This conveys something of what Heidegger wants to contrasted in Heidegger's thinking, as accueil often is in the
have us understand by Brauchen and to chreon provided that philosophy of Levinas, with sheer persistence in being, Sucht des
ontological enjoyment is not confused with the ontic enjoyments of Beharrens (H 331, EGT 46), that is to say with what according to
human consumers. To prevent this confusion he refers us to the Levinas is typified by the conatus essendi in the system of Spinoza that
archaic German verb bruchen, to brook and to Augustine's gloss on shuts out from his Ethics the least trace of the ethical. Beharren is
frui as praesto habere, where the praesifurn or hypokeirnenon is 'that inconsiderateness, thoughtlessness, whereas Verweilen is taking time,
which already lies before us in unconcealment, ousia, that which the attentive and patient dwelling that is called for by 'the dwelling
lingers awhile in presence' (H 338, EGT 53). So brauchen in this (wohnen) of mortals on this earth'. Beings that abide rather than persist
context does not mean only to be in need of, benohgen. Its primary 'let order belong, and thereby also reek to one another', didonai . . .
'high' meaning is to let a thing be what it is and how it is, etwas in tisin allelois. But the other in Heidegger's thinking of being is not only
dem belassen, was es isf 1md wie es ist (WHO 168, WCT 191), 'to admit the other human being. The other is not only the human neighbour
into its essential nature and to keep safely what has been admitted'. In who is the centre of gravity from whose point of view my striving to
two words: Seinlassen and Gehorenlassen. persist is, in Levinas's metaphysic of ethics, accused. The other n i
Heidegger's retrieval of Holderlin and Anaximander includes other
mortals, but it also includes other regions of the fourfold. This
perhaps is one of the reasons why Heidegger 'presumes' to say that
Ill the Anaximander fragment cited, it will be recalled, in Nietzsche's
Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, puts into words an
In Der lster Holderlin writes: experience of beings in their being that is neither pessimistic nor
optimistic nor nihilistic but tragic. As Heidegger makes clear in the
Es brauchet aber Stiche der Fels 'Letter on Humanism' and 'The Saying of Anaximander', which date
Und die Erd', from the same year, he is not purporting to advance a metaphysical
Unwirfhbar wiir es, ohne Weile; or ethical view of the world. His purpose is to interpret the conflidual
belonging together alluded to in Heraclitus's remark that phusis is
It is however meet that the rock be broached polemical.
And the earth furrowed, We catch a glimpse of the non-metaphysical, non-ethicaL non­
Without welcome would it be else, unabiding; psychological and non-aesthetical essence of tragedy when we read
128 Tire Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 129

Anaximander's didont�i not just as giving away, Weggeben, but as tragedy according to Holderlin is the simultaneity of the 'monstrous'
granting, Zugeben. 'Such giving Jets something belong to another (ungeheuer) belonging together and apartness of men and gods, of
which properly belongs to him.' What belongs to him belongs to him mortals and immortals. In the Anmerkungen zum Odipus, reminding us
not as a consequence of a contract between him and me. To this of the 'monstrous' imbrication of the 'subhuman' and the 'superhuman'
extent Heidegger sees my giving to another human being, for n
i the vocation of man as discussed by Kant in Religion within lire
example giving him a drink as Levinas sees my giving to the other Bounds of Reason Alone and discussed by us in Chapter 4, he writes:
the bread from my mouth: as a giving of what is owed prior to
ethical, juridical and any other social contract. Both authors are The representation of the tragic depends above all on comprehend­
conducting a radical rethinking of the foundations of the traditional ing the monstrosity of the coming together of god and man and of
theories of natural justice and natural law. However, where Levinas the infinite union through demonic strife of the power of nature
argues for a meta-physical grounding or disgrounding, Abgrnnden, and what is most profoundly human, as the purification of infinite
outside the realm of nature, epekeina tes ousias, Heidegger's Abgriinden union through infinite separation.
is meta-metaphysical in the sense that it breaks with philosophy that
posits an ultimate principle of sufficient reason and yet, paradoxically, This is how Holderlin sees his own Trauerspiel entitled The Death of
it is also physical in the sense that it thinks phusis and nature as the Empedocles and the works of Greek tragic art which he translated,
being of beings, not, like metaphysics, physics and the other sciences Oedipus Tyrannus and Anligone, the last of these three being the work
of nature, as their beingness. containing the chorus which Heidegger discusses in the Introduction fo
Hence whereas for Levinas, following Plato, primary justice is non­ Metaphysics and elsewhere in connection with Holderlin and which
naturaL for Heidegger, following Holderlin and the pre-Platonic treats of the same theme of man's place in nature as is treated in lines
Greeks, original justice is dike 'thought from being as presencing' we have reproduced from Wie wenn am Feierfage . . . and Der lster. It
(H 329, ECT 43). Furthermore, according to Heidegger this primary is precisely in the work of art that there takes place this tragic conflict
justice or Fug is demanded of mortal beings toward every other of which Holderlin and Heidegger speak; in the work of art and in the
being, to whatever presences itself, whatever whiles (weilt), whatever poet who is the mediator between the gods and other men. This
comes to be and passes away in the totality which is the four in one. tragic separateness in unity holds for the bond between logos and
When mortals regard other mortals and non-mortal beings as no more phusis (EM 103ff.. IM 114ff.). It holds therefore not simply for the
than commodities to which we have recourse for the satisfaction of relations between man and man and between man and the gods. It
human need, greed and will to power, there is primary ontological holds too for the relation between mortals and all the other regions of
injustice, adikia. What in Totality and ln[it1ity Levinas considers to be the fourfold. We mus� now consider more closely the difficulty that
secondary justice arises only when the third person is taken into this consequence presents. In so doing we shall answer the still
account. Then I can be confronted with problems of distributive unanswered question about Seinlassen and Gehdrenlassen asked in the
justice and with moral dilemmas that may have the structure of second section of this chapter, whether Seinlassen or Gehorenlassen is
irresoluble tragedy. It follows from what Heidegger tells us however what marks off the belonging of human beings to the fourfold from
that the tensions between claims and counterclaims that constitute the belonging of non-human beings there.
this structure are there from the beginning. Indeed, they are already
there at the level of primary dual justice for Levinas too if the trace of
the third person is never absent from the second person's eyes. The
other other is always there in Heidegger's view because to be mortal IV
is to be Be-Dingf, be-thinged (VA2 53, PLT 181), bedingt, conditioned
both by other mortals and by non-human beings that call to be given The endeavour to elicit from Heidegger, Holderlin and the early
their due and to be seen not merely as objects but as things in the Greeks an ecologically broadened understanding of responsibility
high sense of the word that Holderlin teaches us. The essence of requires that in giving being its due we also do justice to beings.
13 0 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 131

This attempt would be embarrassed b y the supposition that objects and events. That way of perceiving them would be deemed
Heidegger makes in the Postscript to 'What is Metaphysics?' in anachronistic b y Heidegger because it appeals to an idea of
1943 that 'being doubtless prevails without beings, but a being· never objectivity and event that emerges only in a later epoch of Western
is without being'. Fortunately, in the 1949 version of the Postscript thought. If we reflect on this later conception, as he says we must if
this sentence is changed to 'being never prevails without beings, a we are to understand what it is for something to be a thing (V A2 58,
being never is without being' (G9 306, EB 385). As Heidegger writes PLT 185), we may recognize that perhaps it is because of the
in 'The Saying of Anaximander', 'to be the being of beings is the difficulty we have breaking away from this scientifico-methodologi­
matter of being' (H 335, EGT 50). We have seen that 'The Saying of cal conception that we find ourselves confronted with the dilemma
Anaximander' also says however that the alternatives of persisting from which we are trying to find an exit: the choice between
insistently in its own being and taking heed of what is due to other humanizing the Verweilen of non-human beings and dehumanizing
beings is open to every being, not to human beings alone. Does this the Verweilen of human beings in order to cope with the apparent
imply anthropomorphism75 That implication would incommode at implication of Heidegger's commentary on Anaximander that beings
least one participant in the 'Conversation on a Country Path', namely of all regions heed one another and let one another belong.
the man of science who, when asked by the man of learning 'What Perhaps this dilemma arises just because we have failed to think of
name should we give to the regioning of that which regions (das things in our reading of Heidegger's pages on the fourfold and
Gegnen der Gegnel) with respect to the thing?' responds 'It can hardly because we persist in conceiving them as individual objects in
be regioning with respect to man (die Vergegnis) for that is the relation isolation one from another or interconnected only by some physic­
of that which regions to Gelassenheif, and Gelassenheit is supposed to ally, biologically, psychologically causal or other scientifically
shelter in itself the essence of thinking, whereas things themselves do discoverable ontic relation. Whereas, as we have noted, Heidegger's
not think' (Gel 54, DT 75-6). This means that Gelassenheit, often exposition of the fourfold is a reversion to regional ontology and a
translated 'releasement' or 'being released', cannot be the family name revision of the Husserlian version in the light of the question as to
for Sein/assen, Gehdrenlassen and other formations with /assen to which the meaning of being as such. So the question of what Heidegger
Heidegger has recourse if the latter can apply to things that do not means by a thing can be answered only if we acknowledge its
think. inseparability from the question of the meaning of being. Now as we
One way of escaping the anthropomorphism that appears to be have said, Heidegger never turns his back on the thought he discerns
implied in our reading of Heidegger's reading of Anaximander would in Parmenides' Fragment 6. Whatever turn there may be n i his
be simply to decide that Heidegger is here putting his finger on an thinking of Dasein when he departs from his original plan for the
assumption made by Anaximander which we are free to set aside as completion of Being and Time, he continues to hold that being is n i
outdated and misleading for our purposes, and that we can take need of thinking and therefore in need of man because only man is
seriously only the account of Verweilen to be found in those capable of thinking the as such of being as distinct from representing
paragraphs of 'The Thing' in which the Verwei/en of the four regions it. The mirroring that thinking is is no more a portrayal of a likeness
is an aspect of their being coincident in a human practice such as than is the mirroring 'each in its own way' (VA2 52, PLT 179) with
pouring out a drink. We could say for instance that Anaximander is which the non-human regions of the fourfold also respond. We are
engaged in speculative natural science that posits an environment in representing and therefore misrepresenting the fourfold if we treat it
which organisms and other entities are engaged in a struggle for only as some sort of picture or diagram or landscape for our
existence, hence disposed to appropriate whatever they need for their contemplation, the Darstellen eines Abbildes (ibid.), just as we fatally
survival or to adapt themselves in other ways conducive to the misrepresent the Kantian schema if we reify it; taking as Vorste/lung
survival of the species. There is no reason to believe that Heidegger's what should be taken as Verfahren - or, Heidegger might say, as
interpretation of Anaximander and other early Greek thinkers is Erfahren. True, in conceiving the fourfold as a complex object or a
eclectic in this sense and no sign that in his glosses he perceives complex of objects we are not leaving man out of the picture, since
them as natural scientists speculating on physical, biological or other man is one of the four. But his belonging with the regions and their
132 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 133

belonging with him 'cannot be conceived at all as long as we want to statement there that beings which abide let one another belong
re-present it to ourselves. that is. forcibly bring before ourselves an (H 331, EGT 46). However. he writes a few paragraphs later that
objectively given relation between an obj ect called "man" and an whatever lingers awhile comes to presence 'in each case in accordance
object called "that which regions" (Gegnet)' (Gel 64, DT 83). If we do with its while', ]e und ]e ihrer Wei/e. So the letting belong will be a
so conceive it we shall imagine that when Heidegger calls the human letting belong which is peculiar to each different being and kind of
members of the fourfold mortals he is simply wanting to remind us being. If we remember this and differentiate the different ways of
that their lives come to an end. In 'The Thing', that is to say as late as letting be, the answer to our question as to the differentiating powers
1950, he writes that mortals are those who are capable of death. That of letting be and letting belong will be affirmative, assuming as seems
may sound like another statement of fact. If that is how we hear it reasonable that letting belong is a way of letting be.
what Heidegger means has not got home. Only when we become Gela.ssenheif. we have seen, is not the family name for the various
mortals will we begin to understand what is at stake in this formations of lassen to which Heidegger resorts. It is the name for the
quatemitology. That understanding will be a self-understanding. This kind of leHing be and belong that distinguishes beings that think from
does not mean that it will not be an understanding of others too. those that do not. In our quotation of one exchange in the
There is no self-understanding that is not at the same time an 'Conversation on a Country Path' we followed the published
understanding of others, of others of all four regions. translation which has one speaker saying that the name for the
But surely mortals are not understood by earth and sky, or by jugs, regioning of or in relation to things cannot be Vergegnis, 'regioning
bri.dges, rivers and trees? We do not want to be committed to saying with respect to man', human regioning. Although this phrase is the
that they are, do we, by the fact that in 'The Saying of Anaximander' translators' interpretation of Vergegnis and not a translation of words
Heidegger appears not to have any difficulty with the thought that explicit in the text, the text does go on to say that Vergegnis is a
beings of every region linger or abide, (ver)weilen 7 Although David relation of regioning to Gelassenheit and Gelassenheit involves
Krell's translation introduces an 'every' into his version of Heideg­ thinking; therefore neither Gelassenheit nor Vergegnis can be the name
ger's zum anderen Weiligen, that this conveys the author's sense is for regioning of or 'with respect to' things that do not think Here
clear from the beginning of the sentence in question: 'Only when we Ding is not being given the Eckhartian scope it is given in The
have already thought ta eon ta as what is present, and this as the Thing', where it is used also of beings that think. But the
totality of what lingers awhile . . . ' (H 332, EGT 4 7). The relevant 'Conversation', written five years before 'The Thing', and the address
distinction is not that between beings of different kinds, but that commemorating the birth of the composer Conradin Kreutzer, written
between different ways of being of every being, the way of persisting five years after, supplement the account which is given in The Thing'
and the way of lingering or abiding. This is confirmed by the trouble of the belonging together of the regions of the fourfold with a name
Heidegger takes to explain that when he translates Anaximander's for what is distinctive of the letting be of mortals.
tisis by considerateness or reek. Rucksicht, the word must be under­ Gelassenheit i s also the name for what is distinctive of human
stood in a neutral (but presumably not neuter) sense which permits responsibility. Just as the genitive of the letti ng be of mortals is
non-human beings being 'considerate' or 'solicitous'. The inverted 'speculative', ambiguously subjective and objective, so is the genitive
commas here are a guard against anthropomorphism, as too is the of the responsibility of mortals. It is a responsibility that they
qualification that each region of the fourfold mirrors the others 'in its exercise. But it is at the same time a responsibility that exercises
own way'. This is the key to the dilemma over anthropomorphism _
them. This is why it is first and last ontological responsibility.
and to the question posed in our second section whether Seinlassen or Heidegger asks at one point in 'The Saying of Anaximander' 'But
Gehorenlassen marks off man's belonging to the fourfold from the way to whom does whatever is present let the order of jointure belong?' -
in which non-human beings belong. It would seem that the answer to Wem aber lassen die Anwesenden den Fug der Fuge gehoren 7 (H 333, EGT
this question must be negative, since in the essay on the Anaximander 48) The dative wem is the dative of what is present, beings, but at the
fragment Heidegger attributes noJ only abiding. but also lettin? same time the dative of presencing, being. It is to mortals that es gibt
belong to every kind of being. This follows immediately from h1s Sein. It is therefore to mortals that is given the responsibility to give
134 The Middle Voice of EcologiCill Conscimce Ontological Responsibility 135

being to non-mortal beings. If, as Holderlin says, the poet is the gilt es, vom l.iberwinden abzulassen und die Metaphysik sich selbst zrl
mediator between gods and men, this is only because the poet is a iiberlassen). (ZSD 25, TB 24)
mortal whose responsibility i t is to mediate being to non-mortal
beings, and because a mortaL like Dostoevsky's monk Markel. can sin
This transition goes a step beyond, back beyond, the step described
not only against the gods, but against 'birds, trees, meadows, sky'.
in the Postscript twenty years earlier when he had written:
'Sin' is a word that Heidegger would be reluctant to use without
quotation marks and other precautions in the context of ontological
thinking. But Levinas would be no less reluctant to use it unreserv­ The question 'What is Metaphysics?' asks a question that goes
edly in his philosophy of ethics, notwithstanding his willingness to beyond metaphysics. It arises from a way of thinking which has
equate the ethical with the religious, in the sense in which the already entered into the overcoming of metaphysics. It is of the
religious is that by which - or by whom - we are obliged. He would essence of such transitions that they are, within certain limits,
never agree of course that ethics or proto-ethics is contained within compelled to speak the language which they help to overcome. (G9
Heideggerian ontology. But what does Heidegger mean by the 303, W 99, EB 38G-1)
ontological when in the 'Conversation' he has the scholar say 'the
relation between that which regions and Gelassmheit, if it can still be This different thinking is yet heralded already in the remark made
considered a relation, can be thought of neither as ontic nor as another five year earlier in the inaugural lecture itself that the thesis
ontological . . .'? Is this not inconsistent with our assertion that that Nothing is the origin of negation 'breaks the power of reason (die
Gelassenheit is what is distinctive of ontological responsibility? It is Machf des Versfandes) in the field of the thinking of being and nothing
not, for at the stage in the conversation at which these words occur and decides the fate of the mastery of "logic" in philosophy' (G9 117,
'ontic' is being employed for a relation such as the relation of cause W 14, EB 372). The thinking of the excluded middle of being and
and effect with which a scientist might be occupied, and 'ontological' nothingness here heralded is an 'overcoming' of overcoming whose
is being employed for the transcendental-horizonal relation that abandonment of power and Herrschaff and whose freeing from idols
occupies Husserl in his phenomenology of representation. It is just (Freiwerden von den Gotzen) invite comparison up to a certain point
from this that Gelassenheit, releasement, is a releasement. It is a with the emphasized feminine patience for which Levinas's thinking
releasement to ontology in the liberated sense it has when, for the seeks to find room. Up to a certain point, because overcoming is itself
reasons given above, we speak of ontological responsibiHty despite a Hmschaff that cannot be entirely abandoned. It prevails (herrscht)
the qualms Heroegger comes to have over using the word except of a even in 'the thinking that expressly lets itself into the advent of
s�yle of thinking he no longer wishes to pursue. 'Time and Being' disclosive appropriation in order to say It out from it and unto It',
(1962) announces a releasement which in all strictness would be a dasjenige Denken . . ., das sich eigens in das Ereignis einliisst, urn Es aus
releasement from the ontology to which we are released when we are ihm her auf Es zu - zu sagen. This saying is a provocative saying, not
released from thinking being as beingness to thinking being as being. the saying of what the inaugural lecture names the thesis ' Nothing is
It announces a releasement from the ontic-ontological difference. This the origin of negation'. But since Heidegger thinks that this
is a releasement of Gelassenheit from being Seinlassen only without it prepositional manner of the lecture is a menace continually at work
being its releasement from the Seinlassen of being and beings. In even in such saying (the word Being and Time supplies for this ever
words on which we have already had occasion to comment presently attractive activity of gravity is Verfallen) there will always
Heidegger describes this transition as follows : be an obstacle to overcome and so there will always be overcoming
to be overcome by leaving metaphysics be, over and over, unabltissig ;
To think being without beings means: to think being without incessament, as Levinas says in the treatment of scepticism which
regard to metaphysics. Yet a regard for metaphysics still prevails acknowledges the same threat and shows that he would endorse
even in the intention to overcome metaphysics. Therefore, our task Heidegger's statement that "'logic" disintegrates n
i the vortex of a
is to cease all overcoming, and leave metaphysics to itself (Darum more original questioning', adding only that the original questioning
136 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 137

disintegrates in the vortex of a proto-ethical responsibility which is hold sway without beings is to commit a fallacy somewhat similar to
'older' than origin and than 'the beginning of a responsibility where that of confusing what Russell calls knowledge by acquaintance with
the asking arises with renewed originality' and which is the reason what he calls knowledge by description, and to suppose that when
why 'the most genuine questioning is never stilled by the answer you divert your attention from something it ceases to exist. If, as
found' (G9 304, W 100, EB 382-3). Heidegger says, the task of thinking would be the exposure of
No one is more alert than Heidegger himself to the difficulty of his previous thinking to the voicing of the matter of thinking, then the
later style of thinking, in particular the difficulty of thinking es gibt task of thinking would be not to turn its back on previous thinking,
Sein without slipping back into representing being or Ereignis or Es as but to turn back to it with regard and respect, Rucksicht. So if we are
an ontological or proto-ontological principle and ground, a principle to have regard for the previous thinking that goes under the name of
of all principles, as Husserl would say. This is not simply a technical metaphysics, to let metaphysics be, to leave it to itself, we cannot
difficulty to be overcome by taking extra pains. It is an ontological think beings away. We must rather let beings be. And this means
or proto-ontological error in that being (for example!) itself conceals thinking of things, not thinking of beings only as objects as previous
itself in revealing itself in being. Men and women will forget, but at philosophy and phenomenology have done.
least with the help of the denkende Dichter and the dichtende Denker When phenomenology or philosophy in general forgets that there
they may come to remember that they are ontologically predi­ is more than objects represented, willed or desired by subjects it
sposed to become oblivious to their responsibility toward being and represents itself as onto-theology. It forgets responsibility. That it is
to the responsibility toward beings, human and non-human, that that irresponsible to construe responsibility onto-theologically is one thing
entails. on which it is certain that Heidegger and Levinas would agree. This is
We must be alert to the difficulty that would be presented to a one reason why they could both be described as humanists, despite
philosophy of ecological responsibility drawing on Heidegger's early their non-naming naming of, respectively, gods and God. Levinas's
and later thinking if it turned out that his latest thinking, when humanism is more thoroughly humanistic than Heidegger's in that it
perhaps the name for the task of thinking reads, instead of 'Being and allows direct proto-ethical responsibility only from and to a human
Time' or Time and Being', clearing and presence, Lichtung und being whereas, on our reading, Heidegger's humanism leaves room
Anwesenheit (ZSD 80, TB 73), reversed the revision in the fourth for direct proto-ethical responsibility to non-human beings as well.
(1943) edition of the Postscript to 'What is Metaphysics?' which Allows room, we say, because Heidegger insists that the thinking of
replaced 'being indeed holds sway without beings' by 'being never being must not be mistaken for ethics. It is because of this insistence
holds sway without beings' (G9 306, W 102). When the task of that care must be taken to anticipate a mistaken inference from the
Denken is the exposure or sacrifice (Preisgabe) of previous thinking to statement that his thinking of being is a humanism. If Heidegger
the voicing (Bestimmung) of the matter (Sache) of thinking (ZSD 80, insists that he is not aiming to develop a theory of ethics, he insists
TB 73) it does not cease to be aided by the Diclrten whose matter is no less that he is not developing a case for religious agnosticism or
the naming of things. Presence remains the presence of what is atheism; so in the sense in which humanism is one of these his
present (ZSD 73, TB 66). So when in the passage cited above dating thinking is not humanistic. When he writes of the gods as participants
from 1961 Heidegger says 'to think being without beings means: to in the fourfold he is writing of a region of thinking shared by
think being without regard to metaphysics' he is not reversing the theology and atheology, irrespective "of whether there is a god who
revision made in the Postscript to What is Metaphysics?', notwith­ can be present in or absent from his temple, synagogue, mosque or
standing that he may appear to be doing this when he writes on the church. Only if this is kept in mind can his ontology be called a
same page of Time and Being': 'The task of our thinking has been to humanism; only if we take seriously its claim to remain uncommitted
trace being to its own from the advent of disclosive appropriation to any specific theory of ethics. That is its power and that is why we
(Ereignis) - by way of looking through true time without regard to are taking seriously its power to clear space, even if it does not itself
the relation of being to beings', hence without regard to metaphysics. occupy that space, for an ethics of direct responsibility toward non­
To think that to think being without beings is to think that being can human as well as human beings.
138 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 139
With the support, as he sees it, of Anaximander, Heraclitus and The rose is without why; it blooms because it blooms;
Holderlin, Heidegger comes to think that Parmenides' Fragment 6 lt is regardless of its self, asks not if it is seen.
entitles us to say that although things do not appear by human
making they do not appear without human vigilance (VA2 54, PLT It is not true that if a rose is born to bfush unseen it wastes its
181). That is, if the movement of Heidegger's reflection is 'through sweetness on the desert air.
phenomenology to thought', it is 'through' in the sense that
phenomenology is not left behind.6 Thought remains a thought of
appearing - and disappearing. Now the part human beings play in. the V
appearing of the fourfold is twofold because it is reflexive in that its
being is an issue for the human being. Its being is ontological because Vierung is coming to be and passing away in good time with respect
in being toward death it is being toward there being nothing and no to the regioning of four-dimensional space. In the words of another
thing, hence being toward being - and hence Levinas's complaint. preacher-poet,
And just as we must take steps to prevent ourselves thinking of being
as a being, so we must take care not to represent the fourfold as an
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the
aggregate of objects. One of the steps Heidegger takes early on to heaven:
guard against the first error is to emphasize that Sein is a participle, A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck
not a simple noun. One of the steps he takes later on to minimize the up that which is planted;
risk of erring in the second way is to stress that the fourfold is a A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to
fouring, the Geuiert a Vierung and Vieren (VA1 53, PLT 180). build up;
Vierung is the Vorbeigang which the Verwei/ung of the beings that A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to
make up the fourfold makes manifest provided one of those beings, dance . . . .7
the human being, is in a mood to let beings be and belong to one
another. This human letting belong means, we have seen, letting each The poet who has been mainly in question in this chapter is the poet
participant in the fourfold belong in its own way according to its own of mourning and morning who writes in the elegy Brod und Wein :
way of being, fUgsam seinem Wesen (VA2 55, PLT 182). This means
that the Verweilung of non-human beings is not to be assimilated to One thing stands firm: whether it be near noon
that of human •beings. Gelassenheit prohibits anthropomorphism. It Or close to midnight, a measure ever endures,
requires that no peings be treated only as objects requisitioned in Common to all; yet to each his own is allotted, too,
order to calculate and as far as possible totalize the satisfaction of Each of us goes toward and reaches the place
human need and greed. that he can. (H 251, PLT 95)

A bridge may serve as an example for our reflections . . . . Even The place he reaches, be it noted, is the place he can reach. The poet
where the bridge covers the stream, it holds its flow up to the sky does not say that this may not fall short of the measure common to
by taking it under the vaulted gateway and then setting it free all and perhaps too of what is allotted to him, just as the preacher­
once more . . . . The bridge lets the stream run its course and at the poet leaves open whether every purpose under the heaven reaches its
same time grants their way to mortals so that they come and go time.8
from shore to shore . . . . The bridge gathers to itself in ifs own way When the thinker who has been mainly in question in this chapter
earth and sky, divinities and mortals. (VA2 26-7, PLT 15 2-3)
says that the thinking that must be given to the pas de quatre of
mortals, immortals, earth and sky is responsible remembrance,
There is also a lesson to be learned from the rose of Angelus Silesius, Andenken, he is responsibly remembering the title of the hymn by
whose words Heidegger cites in Der Satz vom Grund: that poet on which he dwells in one of the essays published in
140 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 141

Erliiutenmgen zu Holder/ins Dichtung and in the lecture published in the many' is dazzled by the fire of the sky (G4 189-90) the responsibility
Gesamtausgabe as Volume 53. A topic of this and other works of of loyally remembering the extraordinariness of ordinary beings,
Holderlin is the coming and going of the gods, and the absencing of whether they be human beings or not: 'the jug and the bench, the
past and future inherent in the presencing of things: Abschied and footbridge and the plough . . . tree and pond too, brook and hill . . .
Adieu or, as Levinas writes, A Dieu. Our discussion has scarcely heron and roe, deer, horse and bull . . . mirror and clasp, book and
touched on this question of historicity and the way it connects with picture, crown and cross' (VA2 55, PLT 182), where the book may be
the special responsibility Holderlin and Heidegger ascribe to the poet the Book or may not, its word the word of the prophet or the word
of mediating between the divinities and men, thereby running the risk of the poet, where the cross may be the cross of the Word, of the
of sacrilege, a risk of which, it deserves to be said, Holderlin is no less Trinity, or may not, because the cross of the word � the
afraid than Levinas, if by sacrilege is understood a failure to observe a Quatemity, and the burden of ontological responsibility it carries
proper distance from the holy (G4 62, 104). So afraid of this is with it, are prior to theistic and atheistic faith as well as to rational
Holderlin that according to Beda Allemann there is only one piece of onto-theology and onto-atheology.
textual support in the late works of Holderlin for the idea that the
poet is a demigod acting as mediator like Empedocles or Christ.9 And
is it not important for our interpretation of Holderlin-Heidegger to VI
play down this widely-held idea, for if the poets are entrusted with
the task of mediating between the divinities and men, does it not If ontological responsibility is also prior to ethics it may seem that
follow that there will be no responsibilities left for ordinary mortals7 the burden it brings is vanishingly light. It may strike the reader of
This does not follow. First, because there are other responsibilities the hundreds of pages in which Heidegger meditates on Holderlin and
than this special one ascribed to the poet, some of them, we have the early Greeks that there emerges and could be expected to emerge
been arguing, responsibilities to beings of the non-human regions of from them no directive whatsoever as to what their readers should do
the fourfold. Second, because those mortals whose responsibility it is other than, so to speak, wait upon grace. When asked by the young
to name the holy need the response of ordinary mortals, their hearers student Buchner with what authority the author of these pages says
and readers, for the preservation of their words; as Heidegger what he says in them Heidegger responds with another question:
acknowledges when in 'The Origin of the Work of Art' he writes Where do Plato and Kant get theirs? 'It never occurs to anyone to ask
'The preservers of a work belong to its createdness with an whence Plato had a directive to think of being as idea, or whence
essentiality equa1 to that of the creators' (H 58, PLT 71) - at least Kant had the directive to think of being as the transcendental
equal, we could, say if with Levinas we understood creation as character of abjectness, as position (being posited)' (VA2 58, PLT
adspiration by the other, the holding out to us of his hand and our 185). Although this response may sound arrogant, it is in fact a sign
response; and as Holderlin acknowledges in the final paragraph of the of humility. Thinking of the thing is 'a thinking that thinks about the
letter he sent probably in November 1802 where he asks Bohlendorff possible advent of the world, and keeping it thus in mind (andenkend)
to write soon because 'I need your pure accents. Communion with perhaps, in the humblest and inconspicuous matters, helps such an
friends, germination of thought in conversation and letter is necessary advent to reach the opened-up realm of man's nature as man'.
for artists.' As Celan notes, winning Levinas's agreement, a poem can Humility however is not ordinary passivity, any more than is the
be a handshake. And there is agreement between Holderlin and waiting on grace that, in both senses, calls for religious faith,
Heidegger and Levinas and Celan that ordinary mortals are extra­ paradoxically presupposing what it pursues, seeking what it must
ordinary, even if there is not general agreement among them on the already have found. It is not upon the advent of an object that poetic
reasons for saying this. One reason on which at least Heidegger and thinking waits. By now we have heard Heidegger say often enough
Holderlin agree is that the so-called ordinary mortal who hears the that poetic thinking is not (p)re-presentation, Vorstellen. And by now
poet's words must himself be a poet in his way. The ordinary mortal it should be clear that the waiting for which poetic thinking calls is
shares with the poet who is 'struck by Apollo' and whose 'eye too rooted in our belonging in that upon which we wait, and it is from
142 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 143

this that it receives its movement toward it, its Bewegung (Gel 51-2, when understood as expressions of the pre-criteriological authenticity
DT 73-4). The 'higher doing' (Gel 35, DT 61) that poetic thinking and propriety mentioned in the statement part of which was cited
calls for is neither activity nor passivity. It is less like the derivation above: 'lf authentic releasement (Gelassenheit) is to be the proper
of conclusions from authorized premisses than criticism if this critical (gemasse) relation to that which regions, and if this relation is
testing is taken to be not, as in Popperian criticism, the application of determined solely by what it is related to, then authentic_r.eleasement
· a method but rather the following of contours in the opening up of a must be based upon that which regions, and must have received from
way, where the opening up of a way is what Heidegger would call it movement toward it'. Gelassenheit is guardianship, Wiichterschaft,
Be-wigen and perhaps even Tao (US 198, OWL 92) ar.d where the and guardianship is vigilance, Wachsamkeit, motivated by what in
contours are a changeable configuration of the Vieren of the history of Being and Time is named Gewissenhabenwollen, wanting to have a
being. 10 To think the thing is to think being, and 'To think "being" conscience, an ontological conscientiousness which is prior to and
means: to respond to the appeal of its presencing (dem Anspruch seines unfixated by principles: Ent-schlossenheit, the authentic opening of man
Wesens entsprechen). The response stems from the appeal and releases for the open (Gel 61, DT 81).
itself (entliisst sieh) toward the appeal' (VA2 56, PLT 183 }. The Hermeneutically intermediate between his earliest unarticulated
response must be historical in that i t must be tested by listening thinking of being and his later Holderlinian topography of the
with one ear to words that have been spoken, for example by the fourfold are Heidegger's explorations of the dyad of earth and
early Greeks, and with the other for words that are on the way. The world in 'The Origin of the Work of Art' and his reflections on
response will not be an answer, but another question, for 'the essence early Greek thinking of dike as the order of worldhood as such which
of man is never an answer but essentially a question' (EM 107, IM is in tension with and against the propensity for disorder that erupts
118). Hence ontological responsibility is an Antwort/ichkeit ohne in the world when man, who in the words of the chorus of Antigone
Antwort. That is what marks it off from ethical responsibility that 'comes toward nothingness' (G53 92), suddenly finds himself struck
believes it knows the answer, and from calculative thinking that by the strange thought that there is a world and there are things.
believes it can prove which answer is right. Because the Prufung des World and things as such are sung into existence, it might be said, as
Gehdrs to which ontological responsibility must be open calls for 'the Arkady does say in Bruce Chatwin' s The Songlines of the Australian
complete concentration of care and caution toward being that has aboriginal world.
already come to language', already come to language, it calls for the
commemoratively thinking poet and the commemoratively poietic 'Some.times', said Arkady, Tll be driving my "old man" through the
thinker respectively to name the holy and to say the words for being. desert, and we'll come to a ridge of sandhills, and suddenly they'll
We have been . saying something about one of these words, to all start singing. "What are you mob singing?" I'll ask, and they'll
chreon, of which Heidegger writes that it is the oldest name for the say, "Singing up the country, boss. Makes the country come up
being of beings. Since we began this chapter by describing our quicker." ' 1
question as a question of doing justice, of doing what is due, to
beings, let us end it by returning to one of the other words in the World comes up quicker when it is sung. The waxing and waning of
fragment from Anaximander. the world as a whole is the unsaid. It is also in Wittgenstein's strict
Dike, the fugsam, as this emerges from Heidegger's intertextual sense unsayable. In Heidegger's strict sense it calls for the aboriginal
reading of Holderlin with Anaximander, Heraclitus and Parmenides Sagen for which the poet has an ear, 'the music of the spirit of
(Pythagoras with his qualitative understanding of number may be apartness that has been spoken to the poet' (US 70, OWL 188). The
about to come on to the scene), must not be identified with the fitting measure of the music, its nomos, is dike, the tempo of the music of
as this is conceived in theological, rationalist, nationalist or naturalist time, the measureless - demesuri, as Levinas would say, of my
theories of ethics. To do that would be to conceive Gesetz as Gestell. It responsibility to the other - measure of four-dimensional regioning,
would be to fail to recognize that ethical, theological and religious the 'principle' of all principles, the Abgrund below the ground base.
criteria and standards of propriety are appealed to responsibly only Dike in Heidegger's thinking of the Greeks corresponds in Holderlin's
144 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Ontological Responsibility 145

thinking of them to what Allemann names the royal principle. This is order to bring to mind the question whether my responsibility toward
the principle of organization and Ortschaft, the principle of return to the next man which Levinas counts to be primary justice and a
hearth and home. Dike is in tension with the violence of techne. Techne condition of ethical justice where three persons are gathered together,
corresponds to what Allemann names the Empedodean principle. This has as its condition in turn justice among the human and non-human
is the aorgic principle, the principle of Wanderschaft, the principle of beings of the quaternity. Although there is no question of deducing
departure and of exile, nomadism or walkabout. Holderlin's departure particular ethical responsibilities from this ontological justice, it makes
and return become on Heidegger's reading of him a journey to the room for the direct responsibilities toward human beings which
unheimisch and a return which together enable him 'to know the place Levinas holds to be the only direct ethical responsibilities we have,
for the first time', to know that the unheimisch is the home, the but for direct responsibilities toward non-human beings as well,
ungewdhnlich the Wohnung, and that being is the hearth, the human toward birds, trees, meadows, sky . . . .
habitation to which the man of science, the man of learning and the
teacher come back at the end of their conversation on a country path
where the teacher says 'perhaps we can express our experience during
this conversation by saying that we are coming near to and so at the
same time remaining distant from that which regions; although such
remaining is, to be sure, a returning' (Gel 67-8, DT 86). What
Holderlin's experience and the ebbing flow of the River Ister teach is
that Ortschaft is Wanderschaft, the royal principle and the Empedo­
clean principle are the same. When at the end of the hymn Andenken
Holderlin writes

But the memory

Is taken and given by the sea,

he 'names the law of being away from home as the law of

homecoming', though this law, Heidegger adds, reaching a point of
almost absolute �roximity to HegeL is but an empty ruJe uruess we
aJso name the essential trait in which the history of a historical people
resides (G53 166, cp 156 and 177).
Heraclitus says in Fragment 80 that we must remember that the
law of being is a law of laws, a Gesetz of the way order, dike, nomos,
belongs to setting apart, polemos, Auseinandersetzung (EM 127, IM
139). This Auseinandersetzung is then a Gegensetzung in which the gegen
is not only an against but also a toward. This law of being or nature,
phusis, is the law of the historical fourfold of mortals. divinities, earth
and sky that is named when the unsettling techne of the poet in man
and the orderliness of dike, both spoken of in the last strophe of the
choric song from Antigone, respond to each other in what Holderlin
calls the harmonious Gegensetzung of what Heidegger calls the
regioning, Vergegnis, of the fourfold. We call this law of being or
nature the law of ontological responsibility or ontological justice in
Saving the World Through Song 147

7 transformed into the invisible, and that to do this is man's, especially

the poet's, task. So, as against what Berkeley and Arkady's aboriginals
maintain, the visible must already in some sense exist before the
The Responsibility of Saving the singer comes on the scene. Although, because it is visible, its
existence will be more than existence 'as a concept in the mind', its
World Through Song existence will be deficient as compared with the existence conferred
by song. When Berkeley insists that he is not making things into
ideas but making ideas into things, he is wanting to have his readers
understand that in the dispute about the nature of material substance
he is on the side of people untutored in philosophy, and that he is
nous voila charges de la transmutation, de la resurrection, de la
doing no more than formulating what they take for granted. He is
transfiguration de toutes chases.
. merely making clear the everyday understanding of what it ·is for
Rainer Maria Rilke, letter to Sophy Gtauque,
something to be a physical thing. This can hardly be what Rilke is
26 November 1925
doing in his poems if he is right when he asserts in one of his letters
(17 March 1922) that there is not a single word in his poems that has
the sense it has in ordinary speech. 'Not a single word in the poem
(and here I mean every und or der, die, das) is identical with the same­
sounding word in ordinary usage and conversation'. This, he explains,
Arkady, who is of Russian origin, probably knows Dostoevsk)r's is because in the poem and in literary prose there. is a greater purity in
Brothers and his Markel. He certainly knows Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, the lawfulness in the way the words relate to one another, a greater
at least the most celebrated of these, the third of the first part density - a greater Dichl-ung, we might say. This poses a nice
containing the sentence 'Song is existence', Gesang isf D_
asein. How problem. How can what is said in the poem have a. bearing on what is
close to what Rilke means by this do Arkady and hts _ mterlocutor said in the language of daily life? And how does the language of
come in the following exchange? philosophy relate to the other two? There is no single answer to these
questions. The answers will depend on the philosophies and the
poems we have in mind. For at least some selections it will be
Aboriginals could not believe the counh� existed until they
important not to assume that there is no overlap among the three
could see and sing it - just as, in the Dreamhme, the country had
kinds of language, if indeed it is correct to talk of three kinds of
not existed until the Ancestors sang it.

'So the land', I said, 'must first exist as a concept in t e mind?
language here. Berkeley believes that between his language and
ordinary speech the degree of overlap is extensive. Rilke's view of
Then it must be sung? Only then can it be said to existr
the non-identity between the words of his poems and those of
everyday discourse does not exclude a dependency of the one on the
'In other words, "to exist" is "to be perceived"?'
other. And Heidegger's later philosophical idiom is an example of an
' interdependency of the language. of philosophy or, more precisely,
'Sounds suspiciously like Bishop Berkeley's Refutation of Matter.
essential thinking, Denken, and the language of poetry, that is to say,
in his sense, Dichtung, originary naming. Furthermore, Heidegger does
How like Berkeley's esse est percipi is Rilke's Gesang ist Dasein ? Not not hold that poetry, in particular the poetry of Rilke, is isolated from
very. It does not say esse est cantari. Berkeley's dictu� has it that the metaphysical philosophy. One of the reasons for his lukewarmness in
. .
being of matter is being perceived, for example bemg vtstble. The 'What are poets for?' over Rilke's right t o be counted along with
words from Rilke's most often quoted poem epitomize what he says Holderlin as a 'poet in the time of need' is that Rilke subscribes to the
in the most quoted of his letters, that by song the visible is metaphysics of Will to Power and Representation. Although Rilke


148 Tlte Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience
Saving the World Through Song 149
does not participate with Berkeley or any o�her �hilos�pher i� the
metaphysical dispute over the nature of matenal thmgs, hts poetics of
world, weltarm. In the letter of 25 February 1926, which Heidegger
cites, Rilke writes:
things, a ccor ding to Heidegger, is founded and foundered on
metaphysics. Heidegger's attempt to show this is conducted largely
By the 'Open', therefore, I do not mean sky, air and space; they too
with reference to Rilke's poems - a procedure that leads one to
are 'object' and thus 'opaque' and dosed t o the man who observes
wonder whether he can consistently do this and yet deprecate as
and judges. The animal, the flower, presumably is all that, without
abuse the attempt to extract a philosophy from the poems of
accounting to itself, and therefore has before itself that indescrib­
Holderlin or Rilke (H 252, PLT 96). He does not inhibit himself
ably open freedom which perhaps has its (extremely fleeting)
entirely from referring to Rilke's letters and other writings in prose.
equivalents among us only in those first moments of love when
Nor shall we.
one human being sees his own scope (Weite) in another, his
beloved, and in man's elevation toward God.

In 'What are poets for?' (1946), relying chiefly on lines improvised It is paradoxical that what in the classical great chain of being is
two years before the poet's death, Heidegger tells us that the below man's estate should be a pointer towards what in that chain is
metaphysics of Rilke's poetry is a gentler form ?f Nietzs�heanis n;. above. But the 'equivalents' are in a vital respect utterly different. The
Leaving aside the vexed question of the tenabthty _ of He1degger s letter that speaks of them is a reply to a request from a Russian
reading of Nietzsche (of which we shall speak briefly in Chapter 9), correspondent for elucidation of the eighth Duino elegy. This elegy
his reason for comparing Rilke's metaphysics with Nietzsche's is that says that the free animal and the flower have before them 'pure
for the thinking of both writers will and representation or idea are space', eternity, God, 'without no'. lmmer ist es Welt. Soon after birth
fundamental. And representation is fundamental because wilL specific­ and shortly after death this is how it can be with human being, if
ally the will to will, is fundamental. Both Rilke and Nietzsche inherit a indeed it is possible to speak of human being when
version of the Leibnizian metaphysics according to which Natura or
being is primitive active force, vis primitiva acfiva, that expresses �tself nearing death, one sees death no more
as a higher or lower degree of clarity or confusedness of c?nsCJ�us­ and stares forth, perhaps with an animal's wide gaze.
ness. Human willing is an expression of this force whtch Rilke
identifies with Life. And for the most part human willing expresses Rilke here has no such doubts as those voiced by Levinas over
itself as will to persist in its life, to which end it makes use of the rest whether an awareness of death can be discerned in the animal's eyes.
of nature as resource. This use calls for the representation of the rest Yet, later in the same elegy, we are told that even in the all­
of nature as objects over against the subject who employs them and encompassing look of the animal there is a hint of what is the normal
other human beings in calculating and manufacturing the most human condition:
efficient means. From this point of view language too is never
anything more than a utility. Animals and plants, ho:vev er, are n�t the memory
over against a world in this way. Their way of belongmg m _ na�ure ts
as if that for which we long
one of being in what Rilke calls the Open, a boundless whole, w1th no were once nearer . . .

awareness of distinction between themselves and their surroundings. Here all is distance,
Rilke's Open is not to be confused with the Open in Heidegger's there it was breath.
sense the unconcealedness of beings that lets beings as such be
prese �t. Animals are incapable of conceiving beings as such. This is
why in the Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics (�29/30) and t e � Hier ist alles Abstand, und dorf wars Atem 'for womb is all!' But the

child has hardly left it when he or she is violently roused from the
lectures on Parmenides (G54) Heidegger says that ammals are poor m
residual moments of 'quiet lostness' in unbounded pure space and

Tire Middle Voice of Ecological Coi'!Science
Saving the World Through Song 151

compelled to look at things, no longer beyond them. Henceforth life saying in the other that Reichtum is what the Bereich has rather than
' ·

what it is.
is a perpetual taking leave, immer Abschied. Although these 'shades of
So here some concession is made to anyone who, like Rilke, wishes
the prison house' may be momentarily dispelled when a person falls
in love, the fufilment of the promise of a return to the Open is
� o speak up for th� quality of animal life. Rilke also speaks of respects
m whtch ammal ltfe Js better than ordinary human existence. It is
frustrated because the loved one is there standing in his or her light!
better in so far as the animal, according to him, enjoys existence in an
From this cruel paraphrase we can conclude that in Rilke's
unbounded world, uninhibited in particular by the idea of its being
estimation there is a sense in which the life of the animal is more
bound for and by death. Human existence knows only those rare
whole and holy, heilig, than that of the human being, despite the .
equiValents of this . state which we referred to above. Heidegger, it
poet's admission that even the animal is burdened by 'the weight and
hardly needs stressmg, does not say in the sentence we have cited
care of a great sadness'. Perhaps the plant, Rilke's flower, is holiest of
that the richness of the life of non-humans is of a richness that the
all. And what would he say of the stone? What should we? And what
human world cannot know, or even that it is of a richness that the
about 'man's elevation to God'?
h�man world cannot know perhaps. He says that it is a richness of the
We have seen that Rilke says of the anim al lmmer ist es Welt, it is
kmd ?f which perhaps the human world can know nothing. It is not a
ever world. And we have also seen that according to Heidegger the
quesbon of compar� ng degrees of richness of quality of life. (We say
animal is poor in world. This does not mean that when Heidegger .
mor� ��out companson m the Postface.) Rather is it a question of the
says this three or four years after the publication of Being and Time he
is advancing a reason for downgrading the status of the animal below �osstbthty that we may be unable to have any experience of the
n:hness that may be a quality of animal life. Yet this does not prevent
that of man. Without entering here into the question whether .
hts makmg a d�tailed analysis of animal life the first part of his
Heidegger consistently stands by his resolve to eschew evaluation,
account of the dtfference between human world-constitution and the
and what exactly that resolution entails (we say something about this
in the Postface), it can be asserted without doubt that when in The .

animal's worl -poverty. This analysis goes into detail beyond what
w� ft�d m Bemg and Time, but the analysis of Weltbildung associated
Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics he says that the animal is .
Wt�h 1t IS put forward as an analysis of man as distinct from the living
weltarm, whereas man is world-forming or world-constituting or
bemg, a d the word Weltbildung seems to be used still in the fairly
world-picturing, weltbilderrd, he does not mean that the animal has a .�
unspectftc sense conveyed by the expression 'world-constitution' . We
world like man's, only one that is less rich. Tucked away in The
earlter gave 'world-picturing' as an alternative, and we might well
Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics is the statement that the
have added 'world-representation'. Heidegger states in The Funda­
poorness of th'i:! animal's poorness in world is, roughly speaking,
nevertheless a richness (G29/30 371). It may well be that this

menta Concepts of Metaphysics that he is there using the word
Weltbddung unspecifically so s to cover the idea of constructing a
statement is not as roh gesprochen as Heidegger says. It may be that . � .
he is treading delicately in order to allow Reichtum to be understood ;-rorld (Herstellen), the tdea of glVlng a picture or view of it, portraying
tt (Darstellen) and the tdea of constituting and enclosing it within a
(on analogy with Konigtum, kingdom) as realm in this statement and
frame (Ausmachen, Einfassen, Umfangen) (G29/30 414). The world as
the statement later in the same paragraph that the realm of life is one
represent�d or pictured is in The Age of the World Picture', Die Zeif
whose being open has a richness such that the human world can
des Weltbddes (1938), and 'Science and Reflection' (1954) specifically
perhaps know nothing of it at all, 'human speculation practically runs
and explicitly limited to the modern world of post-Cartesian science
out of alternatives' (VA3 70, EGT 116): Vielmehr ist das Leben ein
The Bild is a model, rule or framework of which an extreme fo�
Bereich, der einen Reichtum des Offensein hat, wie ihn vielleicht die
would be a Geste/1, pro- and pre-posited (vor-gestellfe) by modem man
menschliche Welt gar nicht kennt. Whether or not it would be too naive
who l �oks at the world, subjecting it to objecthood, unlike
to say that if Heidegger had wanted to exclude the interpretation of
Parmemdean man who is 'looked upon by that which is' (VA 1 61,
Reichfum as richness he would have done so explicitly, that he does
QCT 180; H 83, QCT 13D-1). However, it is not impossible that in
not want to exclude it is clear from his opposing this word to the
The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics Heidegger is thinking of man
word Armut in one of the two sentences in question and from his
152 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Saving the World Through Song 153

as a modern invention. Hence his preference for speaking in Being and Instead he notes only provisionally that the biologist has no occasion
Time of Dasein even when he means that being that 'is there'; and to talk in this way and that perhaps on reflection we shall have to
hence his hedging in the 'Letter on Humanism' when pressed to concede that the animal does not suffer a privation of world and that
declare whether h e is arguing for a new humanism. A year before the to say that it does is to talk only illustratively and analogically from
lecture Die Ztif des Welfbildes was delivered he was giving a lecture in man's point of view. Our understanding of what it is for us to b e in a
which he seeks to explain 'the fact that as a consequence of the will to world, and for us to be in the world for the most part in a way that is
dehumanize world interpretation Nietzsche is compelled to will deprived of the world's worldhood, the way of inauthenticity and
supreme humanization' in his doctrine of eternal return. The indifference, is taken as a metaphor of how it is all of the time with all
explanation is that for Nietzsche man itself is one of those animal life. Perhaps this furnishes us with a kind of truth, but a poetic
unquestioningly presupposed Vorbilde the formation of which, truth which, like the truth of myth, is a truth of a special sort. Still,
according to The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. distinguishes Heidegger adds, referring to Romans 8: 19, and to the apocryphal
man from animals. It is unquestioned because the question 'who man Esra 4: 7 and 12, the fact that not only preachers and prophets but
is ... cannot even be posed, much less answered, without the also poets speak in this way, as when Rilke attributes to the animal a
question of what being as a whole is', and this second question lingering, so to speak, metaphysical sadness, should not be dismissed
'embraces a more original question, one which 1uither Niefzsche nor out of hand. Perhaps this fact is evidence that what they say has a
philosophy prior to him unfolded or was able to unfold (G44, NI
metaphysical truth. The last words of The Fundamental Concepts of
364-5, trans. I! 105; Heidegger's italics). Metaphysics are words quoted from a poem - admittedly a. poem by
In connection with our earlier comments on the relationships Nietzsche. the poet in whose metaphysicsal wake Heidegger locates
between the language of philosophy, the language of everyday life Rilke (G54 235).
and the language of poetry. to which we should now add the These cautionary remarks are made at the end of more than a
language of the sciences (see note 1 of our Postface and the sentence hundred pages in which he has been investigating the structures of
to which it is appended), one cannot but ask whether the analysis of the openness of animal life. The reader of those pages might well
non-human life presented in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics have come t o think that in them Heidegger's style of philosophizing
could be slotted into the space opened up when i n Being and Time is surprisingly different from what we have been led to expect of him
Heidegger refers in passing to an area of human worldhood for the by the existential analytic of being and time.It is as though he were
understanding of which neither the existentials catalogued in that now engaged in an analytic of animal life from a basis independent of
book nor the c<1tegories of presence at hand and readiness to hand the life of human beings - indeed when he speaks now of ljfe, it is
suffice. After mentioning animal and other natural products he almost as though the phrase 'human life' were a contradiction in
observes that aside from this readiness to hand of natural things terms. There certainly is a difference in style between the two books,
and the presence at hand they may have for the botanist or zoologist if only because in the later one much of what he says is directed at
who collects and dissects them, things of nature, or, as Heidegger specific biological theories, whereas most of the references to biology
writes, 'Nature', may be 'the flowers of the hedgerow' (die Blumen am in Being and Time are made only where its author wants to issue a
Rain) or 'the springhead in the dale' (die Quelle im Grund). which is not general warning to his reader that its statements are of a category
the source that interests the geographer. These words in inverted quite other than those of biology. The difference of style does not
commas belong to the language of poetry, the language we use of the however amount to a basic reversal of approach. I n the Introduction
Macht der Erde, the Naturrnac/1t, Nature 'which "stirs and strives", of Being and Time he writes: 'biology as a "science of life" is founded
which assails us and enthralls us as landscape', enthralls man who upon the ontology of Dasein, even if not entirely. Life, in its own
lives poetically on this earth, who dichterisch, wohnet . .. auf dieser right, is a kind of Being; but essentially it is accessible only in Dasein.
Erde (BT 70; G39 88). Now, Heidegger asks, is not it only the poet in The ontology of life is accomplished by way of a privative
us who says that the animal is weltarm understood as suffering from Interpretation' (BT 49-50). As is beginning to emerge in those
lack of world? He does not answer his own question immediately. pages of Kant's Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone which
154 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Saving the World Through Song 155

Heidegger discusses in The Fundamental Problems of Phenomenology, terms of what is below. If we define having a world as having access
human being is not rational animality in the sense of an aggregate of to entities, then the animal that negotiates obstacles in its path has a
animal life and something else. The idea that it is continues to be a world. This is not, however, how having a world can be defined if
target in The Basic Concepts of Metaphysics, so there too we find it world is to be understood as the world that human beings constitute.
emphasized that the essence of life can be approached only from a Having a world is, among other things, having access to entities as
deconstrudive point of view, im Sinne einer abbauenden Betrachtung such. The 'as' is all important and several sections towards the end of
(G29/30 371), meaning by this subtractive back-translation from our The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics expand on what is said about
understanding of our own being in a world. the hermeneutic 'as' and the apophantic 'as' in Being and Time. It is
True, Heidegger says in the words reproduced from the Introduc­ only when this and other features of human worldhood are grasped
tion of Being and Time that biology as a science of life is not entirely that a return can be made t o the point at which the provisional
or exclusively founded on the ontology of Dasein. Why does he say analysis of the animal's Wellarmut was broken off.
this? Does he mean that there must also be an appeal to the The animal is open to that which inhibits or disinhibits its drives.
empirically present at hand data that distinguish biology from, for This being open is a being absorbed, wrapped up and rapt in its
instance, botany or psychology? As we have noted, The Fundamental instinctual life, hingenommen and benommen, benumbed or stunned, as
Concepts of Metaphysics makes fairly detailed references to these and we may say, recalling what Heidegger says in the Grundfragen der
to the theories of recent biologists. However, after those hundred Philosofhie (G45) about the way man is open to be astonished, er­
_ latter uncommon form of human openness to astonish­
stau.nt. Th1s
pages in which it seems that this book may not be taking the
ontology of Dasein as its point of departure there comes this ment before the common presupposes the capacity to accept or let be,
reassertion of the methodological canon of regressive analysis from sich ein/assen auf. . .. The animal does not have this latter capacity.
being in a human world followed by an unmistakable adherence to it Heidegger actually says, positively, that it has the capacity to not
throughout the rest of the book. This, however, is not the only accede or not let be. This is a surprising thing for him to say since it
apparent reversal. The book (lectures delivered in 1929 and 1930) has suggests that it at least makes sense to suppose that an animal could
two main connected topics: ontological boredom (tiefe Langeweile), accede to, accept or let something be - and did we not see in our last
corresponding to the topic of anxiety in Being and Time, and chapter that although non-human things of the fourfold are incapable
worldhood. (Boredom, anxiety and worldhood are all topics of of Gelassenheit, they are capable of letting things be? Maybe in 1929-
What is Metaphysics?', a lecture delivered in 1929.) One of the 30 Heidegger chooses to attribute positively to the animal the power
reasons why the watershed in the discussion of worldhood appears of not letting be rather than to deny to it the power of letting be
where it does is that the argument seems compelled to begin again because he thinks that only the positive attribution presupposes that
because it seems to have talked itself into a contradiction. U seems the animal enjoys a kind of openness. But, fortunately, this openness
that in the endeavour to explain what can be meant by saying that of animal life does not need arguing for in this curious way. It is, on
the animal is poor in world we have had to say both that the animal Heidegger's own account, already implied in the idea of the animal's
has a world and that it does not. This would be unacceptable to the absorption in its life and in whatever inhibits its drives. No such
logic of sound common sense, Heidegger says, but not to the logic of openness or openness of any other kind, he now adds, is possible for
metaphysics. It is not at all clear why he should say this, since he the stone. S o are we to say that the stone has no world? Is that what
goes on to say that the apparently contradictory statements do not is meant by saying that it is welt/os ? And is it we/flos because it has
speak of access to world in one and the same sense, a circumstance no having? Fortunately again, Heideg,ser does not need t o argue this.
that would surely remove any objection to their joint assertion that His aim is to show only that because the stone does not have the
might be entertained by sound common sense (G29/30, 293, 309, openness either that the animal has or that the human being has it
389-92). When the different senses are spelled out we learn that the cannot be poor in world, whereas because the animal does have a
animal's having a world is defined in terms of what is above it in the kind of openness there is room for it to be poor or deprived in some
classical great chain of being and its not-having a world is defined in regard, though not deprived of world, that is to say, not lacking in
156 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Saving the World Through Song 157

what it could be expected to have.Its not having a world is a straight ment' (G40 48, EM 34, !M 37). The misleadingness of the earlier
negation, not a privation, and its having is a having of a non-worldly description of the living as poor in world is acknowledged also in the
openness. With this somewhat laboured dismissal of the apparent Beitriige zur Philosophie (1936-8). There Weltarmut is replaced by
contradiction between the animal's having and not having, the second Welflosigkeil in describing life. Consequently Weltlosigkeit has to be
and intermediate thesis of the original three - man is welfbildend, the withheld from the stone. The stone is now declared to be not even
animal is weltarm, and the stone is welt/os - has been shown to be poor in world. The reason given for this is that the stone is without
justified only by being shown to have only heuristic utility. What his the darkening or dimming (not to say dimness) associated with
testing of it enables Heidegger to conclude is that the animal's not instinctual life (G65 277).
having a world is not a lower degree of world-having than that of A dozen years after the 1929-;-30 course one of the authors
man. Animal life - in Heidegger's argument vegetable life is glossed preoccupying Heidegger is Nietzsche, on whom he had recently
over as no( for his purposes as relevant - and human being are, he been lecturing over a period of four years. This fact goes some way
concludes, evaluaHvely incommensurable. This conclusion is what we to explain the more than usually shrill edge there is to his voice when
would be led to expect by his statement quoted earlier that there may he speaks then of Rilke. It may explain also why his determination to
well be a richness in animal life but it is not open to us human beings put Rilke in his place, which is a Nietzschean place according to him
to experience it. as we have seen, leads him to make two criticisms of the poet that are
not demonstrably consistent with each other. On the one hand Rilke
is suspected of humanizing animals (and plants), and indeed of
II equating them with the llber-mensch, on such grounds as the words
of the Eighth Elegy:
This conclusion, like this earlier quoted statement, makes a concession
to Rilke in the way that the agnostic makes to the theist a concession What is outside, we know from the animal's face
that the atheist does not. Other readers of Heidegger may find him alone....
much harder on Rilke than we have so far found him to be. They
might take Heidegger to be first objecting to Rilke's idea that the life On the other hand Rilke is charged with demoting human beings
of the animal is in a certain respect superior to human being and, from their traditional position above animals in the chain of being.
second, to be arguing that the opposite is the case. Our reading 'For Rilke human "consciousness", reason, logos, is precisely man's
agrees on the first point but stops short of agreement on the second. limitation, leaving him less capable than the animal. So are we
True, when Heidegger remarks that Rilke seems to be recommending supposed to become "animals"?'
that humans should become animals, his tone of voice is indistinguish­ It can hardly be said that if there is any inconsistency here it is not
able from that of someone who wants to endorse a time-honoured that of the critic but of the texts he is describing.One reason for this
opinion that animal life is as such poorer than human existence as is the failure of the words just cited to make a simple distinction that
such. In the lectures of 1929-30 Heidegger compares animality and is made by Rilke and by Heidegger himself elsewhere, the distinction
humanity ontologically in order to demonstrate that they cannot be between logos as calculative ratioCination and logos as poetic Sagen,
compared evaluatively. One of the authors he addresses in his which both Rilke and Heidegger also call Gesang. It i s precisely
sections on the animal is Jacob Johann von Uexkiil.l While Heidegger because human beings but not animals, not even blackbirds, have the
draws on that biologist's books he does s o in order to show how capacity, in Rilke's sense, to sing, that we are needed by them and by
misguided is the title of one of them, namely Umwe/t und lnnenwelt every other thing on earth.
der Tiere, as though he were already saying to Rilke that as regards
the animal Nimmer isf es Welt, it is never world, a statement with Yes, the Springs had need of you
which he comes out bold and clear in the Introduction fo Metaphysics
(1935) where we read: 'The animal has no world nor any environ- says the First Elegy. And
158 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Saving the World Through Song 159

all this here and now, transitory, needs us, It is because in the midst of life man is toward death that he, the most
and concerns us strangely. Us the most transitory of all transitory, is needed by the transitory things of this world, beings
whose openness has the freedom of being toward life but untoward
says �he Nin�h. Rilke's word for need being the same as Heidegger's, death, free of this other toward or regard, this anderen Bezug, as Rilke
brauchen. The 'us' who are needed is the poetic heart in man, needed says, because their transitoriness (Verganglichkeit) is, as Heidegger
to save what is threatened by the wholly cerebral structures of an says, perishability (Verendlichkeif), not mortality (Sferblichkeit). The
increasingly desacralized world. Rilke's Klagelied on this subject unprotected need those that are even less protected because of the
touches a chord that sounds in Heidegger's remarks on technology, dangers they, human beings, incu'r through their being able to speak
for example those made in the 1946 essay on Rilke which are a good and to sing, to sing elegies and hymns of praise, as though through
deal more sympathetic to the poet than he had been three years mourning perishing were avenged by being turned into death. In
earlier. A fundamental difference remains, the difference between what human beings non-human beings find their voice. In the human hymn
each of them means by the word 'Open', despite the possibility that of praise their transitoriness passes away. There, in the poem, in
both of them came across it in Holderlin. The conceptual structure, sculpture, in the painting, they become 'realized' in the sense in which
the erdachtes Gebild, of the Seventh Elegy is not remote from what in Cezanne uses this word, the word that reappears in Heidegger's lines
'The Question Concerning Technology' Heidegger refers to as on Cezanne in Gedachtes.
enframing or installation. Ge-stell. And when a few lines later we read Cezanne, Rodin and Jens Peter Jacobsen played a significant part in
enabling Rilke to break with his earliest manner of writing where
Temples he no longer knows what is paramount is the expression of his own feelings. These artists,
he says, taught him to attend more closely to the things around him
it is impossible not to recall what Holderlin and Heidegger say about and to concentrate on eliminating imprecision in depicting them in his
the unmissed missingness of the gods. even if the comparison of the literary works. It could be said that after directing his attention first to
newly fabricated church to a post office on Sundays is unmistakably his own feelings and then to the objects around him, he learned to
Rilkean. There are lines in his poetry, in his letters and in other fuse the subject and the object in the last two decades of his life,
writings in prose in which Rilke speaks fondly of old and familiar above all in the Sonnets to Orpheus and in the Duino Elegies. When at
things. things with which people have lived, like the worn doorstep the beginning of this chapter we commented upon the reference i.n
of a house and the partition walls whose interior surfaces have been Bruce Chatwin' s The Songlines to the third of these sonnets and to
exposed by the ;partial demolition of a block of P� ris apartmen s. � how its Gesang isf Dasein is linked there b y Arkady and his
More than a page of the description of these walls m Malfe Launds interlocutor, presumably Chatwin himself, with Berkeley's esse es/
Brigge is reproduced in The Basic Problems of Phenon:enology whe:e percipi, it may have come as a surprise to anyone who had read
what Rilke calls 'the tenacious life' of former inhab1tants that sbll
Heidegger's comments on this sonnet that Arkady and Chatwin
clings to the surfaces Heidegger prefers to call being-in-the-world. should suppose the existence in question in Rilke's words to be the
Rilke's description of the surviving evidences of this life is an urban existence of what is sung rather than the existence of the singer. That
equivalent of the description of van Cogh's painting of the r; asant's Rilke is thinking of the latter is clear from what he asks in the very
shoes given by Heidegger in 'The Origin of the Work of Art . These
next line: 'But when are wer Wann aber sind wirl where, as Heidegger
evidences of life, of course, are also evidences of death: points out, the emphasis is not on the 'we', which might have implied
that until then what had been in question was the existence of
And from those walls once blue, and green, and yellow, framed by
something else. However, if the full story is to be told it must be said
the outlines of the destroyed partitions, the breath of these lives that what is in question is the existence of both the singer and the
came forth, the obstinate. sluggish, fusty breath which no wind
sung. They each achieve existence together in the space and time of
had yet dispersed ... the sicknesses and expirations (das Ausgeat­ the song, which is the 'inner space of the world', the Weltinnenraum.
mete) . . . .
This space is, as Rilke explains to von Hulewicz. not the space of the
160 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Saving the World Through Song 161

galaxies of the world of physics, the infinite spaces whose -eternal Ripe apple, pear, banana,
silence terrified Pascal. lt is, if we are to be thinking of Pascal, more Gooseberry ... All this speaks
like his space of the heart. But Rilke's 'heart' is not Rainer Maria Death and life in your mouth ... A hint...
Rilke's heart or any other person's subjective feelings. Michel Haar Read it on a child's face,
indicates reasons for thinking that in this open inner space of the
world which for Rilke is also the space of the heart the private when it tastes them. From far away it comes.
individual is no longer as such on the scene to append his signature Is your mouth not finding itself slowly without names?
to the poem.2 It is as though Rilke wants to say, like Mallarme in a There where once words were ...
letter to Cazalis, 'I am now impersonal, and no longer the Rainer you
knew.' The Monsieur has been suppressed. Erde .., says the Ninth
. And, among others from the second part, of this line from sonnet 10:
Elegy, Namenlos bin ich zu dir entschlossen. 'Earth . . . I am open
toward you without name'. Words retreat quietly into the unsayable.
It may be more accurate to say, as Haar does, that the heart, which
he identifies with the Invisible into which it is the poet's task to And of these from number 6:
transform the visible, is a 'mutation' of the Open of the Eighth Elegy.
It looks as though the mutation is a Rilkean analogue of the non­ We have heard your sweetest name being called to us
Hegelian, non-dialectical logic of the relation between the animal and across the centuries by your fragrance:
the human considered in the first part of this chapter.But why does suddenly it hangs in the air like praise.
Haar refuse to go along with Blanchot (and Paul de Man? See below Yet we know not how to name it, can do no more than guess .. .
Chapter 8) in including in the equation the poetic text?3 Why is that
not the Invisible too, or at least what gives it a local habitation and a Some of these and other passages may well be saying poetically
name by transforming it into what is heard? Is it exactly because the something like what Bergson and many other philosophers have said
poem gives it a name, whereas Rilke's poems frequently invoke what (tautologically, if by 'to name' is meant to apply a common noun)
is beyond the name's reach? Thus, what is nameless according to his about the powerlessness of words to name unconceptualized quality.
reading of Namenlos bin ich zu dir entsch/ossen is the speaker who is Though even Bergson allows they have the power to suggest. The
without a name not only for himself but for aH the things of the earth second of the cited passages may be read however as not about the
- which things, if should not be forgotten, include words, the words shortcomings of words before the experiences of taste, but about the
of a poem for example which may, like Slake's evening star, speak way the words in the mouth have the taste and texture of the fruits
silence. A similar reading is proposed for the following lines of they name. Later in the poem comes the challenge to
number 5 of the first part of the Sonnets to Orpheus:
Dare to say what 'apple' names.

Raise no memorial stone. Only let the rose blossom

It is not impossible that at least one of the conceits here is what
every year for his sake.
Heidegger expresses in saying that when we go through a wood it is
For this is Orph eus. His metamorphosis
also the word 'wood' through which we go (H 286. PLT 132).
in this one and in that. We should not strive
Or perhaps we could say that the poem names at least the
namelessness of things, somewhat as YHWH is said to name
for other names. Once and for all
unpronounceably the namelessness of God. The analogy (to which
it is Orpheus when there is song.
we shall return) fits in well with what we have quoted from sonnet 6
of the second part.Where we cannot name we can nonetheless praise.
And of these from sonnet 13 of the same first part: For at least some of the later poems this is perhaps the most
162 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Saving the World Through Song 163

appealing solution to what another commentator on Rilke, Hermann The second voice, the singing voice of poetry, is a middle voice,
Kunisch, regards as an insoluble paradox: that th� poet's task is to and it is a middle voice in two ways. It is middle in the sense of
find names for what is beyond the reach of names. No name can do Greek and Sanskrit grammar, the sense reflected in the Heideggerian
what the poet might wish he could do, find the name that completely notion of letting being and beings be. If this noHon is indeed
describes the thing whose name he seeks. But Rilke sees the poem as applicable to Rilke we must reject Kunisch' s assertion that Rilke
a Leistung, a performance which is not a description. The poet is an subjects things to his masterful control, zwingf die Dinge in seine
inventor of names by which we may praise the thing. Instead of Gewalt. If that assertion were valid, so too would be Heidegger's
setting out to map the thing as it already is he makes another thing, a judgement that Rilke belongs to what the former thinks of as the
Kunsfding, which is less like a map than an icon that helps him and us Nietzschean epoch of subjectivity and will to power. Haar and
to sing its praises. This means that although for Rilke the poem is, as Kunisch himself demonstrate that the mature poems of Rilke cannot
Haar maintains, a loss of voice, it is the gaining of another. Whether be called subjectivist if by that it is meant that they are turned inward
it be a second or a third or the first we have refound, the singing to the poet's feelings or other itats d'ame. A careful reading of Rilke's
voice is another voice, quite different from the voice in which we allusions to the Weltinnenraum and the heart demonstrate that Rilke is
ordinarily speak. You can sometimes be struck by this when you look not a subjectivist in that sense. Even so, one suspects that Rilke
at someone preparing to sing. It is as though you were looking at the remains a subjectivist for Heidegger in the sense that his poetry is not
driver of a vehicle feeling for another gear. That Rilke agrees with a questioning of being. To break out from the psychological subject
this is confirmed by the end of the third Orpheus sonnet which says in order to honour the object is not to escape from what Heidegger
that singing is 'another breath': understands by the metaphysics of subjectivity, not even when the
opposition of subject and object is overcome, if this overcoming is
In Wahrl1eit singen, ist ein andrer Hauch. thought in terms of the opposition of conscious subject and the object
Ein Hauch urn nichts. Ein Wehn im Gott, Ein Wind. of which it is conscious. For the metaphysics of subjectivity to be
overcome there has to be an overcoming of the post-Cartesian
Further confirmation is the statement from the leHer quoted at the metaphysics of consciousness.
beginning of this chapter where he distinguishes the words of his What we have just said begins to explain how attention to what
poems from those of everyday speech, a statement which, incident­ Rilke says about the inner space of the world also brings out the
ally, only seems to be irreconcilable with the philosophy of the second sense in which Rilke's singing voice is a middle voice. It is
language of poetry set out in the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads where middle because the inner space of the world, the 'pure space' which
Wordsworth explains why for the poems in that volume he made 'a the poem itself generates, somewhat as the productive imagination in
selection of language really used by men'. As soon as the most Kant is the generator of pure time, is a centre, a Mitle, where the
ordinary words are surrounded by the blank spaces of the verses on polarization of opposites is non-dialectically overcome. The inner
the page their extraordinariness shines out. Sung, they receive the space of the world is the place where the conceptual construction of
touch of madness necessary if the visible is to be not merely referred calculative reason wnich the Ninth Elegy describes as 'imageless ad',
to and described but transfigured into the language of the invisible, Tun ohne Bild, is fended off by the Welfbildung of art. If the analogy
the language of death which confers on them new life: 'how sustain, with Kant is to be pressed still, the Bild with which comparison must
how save the visible, except by making of it the language of absence, ultimately be made is not the mathematical schema of the first
of the invisible? And how speak this language that remains dumb, Critique but its correlatives in the second and third, unless, of
unless it be sung to distraction, altogether regardless of whether it course, the Kantian view of the spatia-temporal presuppositons of
makes itself understood' (letter of 26 November 1925). Holderlin too mathematics is turned more in the direction of art and, in Mill's
says of poetry in a time of need that it is thorig. We might say as phrase, the art of life.6 Furthermore, if Rilke's presuppositions of art
much of a reflective science, besinnende Wissenschaft, in. a time of are not to be embarrassingly restrictive, it must be recognized that,
paradigm change. once more like Holderlin and Heidegger, he does not limit the
164 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience SarJing the World Through Song 165
denotation of the word 'poet' to the elite of wordsmiths like
The performance of this task is assisted by what in the mythology
Holderlin and himself. Heidegger stresses that the interpreters of of the Elegies is called the Angel. The Angel of the Elegies
the poem, whom he calls its preservers, are in their way p�ets . too, corresponds in some respects to the Orpheus of the Sonnets. The
responsible for what comes off the page. To be a human bemg JS to Angel sets a standard. But this standard is one that not even the poets
dwell on this earth dichferisch in the linguistic precinct of being.
can attain because - and this is important - the poets do not cease to
Likewise, allowing for what Heidegger would regard as the d�ep love the visible and what is otherwise sensorily perceived. This is
difference to which our previous paragraph referred, when Rilke why Orpheus cannot be identified with the Angel. How could the
addresses the preservers of the things on the hiesige earth, things musician and the poet ever suppress or sublate that love? When the
which include ordinary words that have through Herzwerk to be won women of Thrace tore Orpheus apart and threw his head into the
- words like 'apple', 'house', 'bridge', 'brook', 'gate', 'jug', 'fruit-tree', Hebrus it was still crying out 'Eurydice, Eurydice' as it was carried
perhaps 'column' and 'tower' - he is addressing us human b�ings �ho down to the Aegean sea. The mortals may be shareholders in the
are reading him. The fact that there are great poets hke Rtlke,
. invisible, but they are invested in the visible as well. They themselves
Holderlin and Hopkins who are prepared to live dangerously m the depend for their salvation on the things of the visible world that at
world with words does not mean that lesser mortals do not share the
the same time depend on human beings for theirs. They, we, depend
Auftrag der Erde. The 'we' in the question 'But when are we?' asked in for example on the example of animals, in the way the Eighth Elegy
the third of the Sonnets to Orpl1eu.s may be primarily the poet explains. The Angel on the other hand does not have this earthly tie.
understood in a narrow sense, but how Rilke sees the relation of That is why Rilke says that for us mortals the Angel is 'terrifying':
the poets in this narrow sense to the rest of us is explained in �is schrecklich, like the numinous and sublime. Supporting man on the side
. .
letter to van Hulewicz. There he writes of a respons1b1hty opposite that of the animal and the flower, the Angel serves him like
(Verantwortlmg) that we all have as perhaps the last generations to an Idea in the Kantian sense, as if he, she or it were no more than an
know things that enter into and are infused with our daily Lives 'as if'. Rilke explicitly rejects any Christian interpretation of the
before they get swamped by the undifferentiated products of the Angel, and in the von Hulewicz letter it is to the angel of Islam that
assembly line, agri-business and the other spheres of mass techno­ allusion is made. .In the same letter there are references, though in a
logy. The earth has no other refuge except to become invisible: different connection, to the Greek Orpheus, to the Roman gods of the
household and to the Egyptian cult of the dead. The scrambling is
in us who wi�h one portion of our nature have a share or at least deliberate. Rilke wants as oecumenical a mytho-cosmological econ­
share-certificates in the invisible and can augment our holding in omy as is consistent with the confinement of transcendence to the
invisibility during our being here (Hiersein) - only in us can this immanent here and now, with what is, as Wahl says, 'perhaps the
intimate and lasting transfiguration (Umwandlung) of the visible greatest transcendence . . . the transcendence of transcendence, i.e.
into an invisible no longer dependent on visibility and tangibility falling back into immanence'.7
be performed, as our own destiny is ever becoming at once more
closely realized (vorhandener) and invisible within us. The
Elegies set up this norm of existence. JJ[

Does Rilke's attempt to transcend transcendence end in a stifling

That is to say, the saving of the things of the world, preventing them domesticity? And is the openness at the heart of his Weltinnenraum an
from becoming mere objects, is a task set for us all. In carrying out openness only to the past? An affirmative answer to one of these
this task we are at the same time saving ourselves. And it is the poets questions would be a reason for answering the other affirmatively
among us to whom we may look for I_T'odels of that towa�d which too.
, .
this twofold task is aimed. The poem ts a Noah s ark admtssJon to If the Angel is no more than an 'as if, a regulative principle to
which is not restricted to sentient creatures. guide the poet in his task of overcoming the opposition of the
166 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Saving tm World Through Song 167

strikes in our air becomes air that has already been breathed, ausgeatmet. The least
aesthetic and the anaesthetic, then the Schreck the Angel
g in the dark. that can be said of Heidegger's treatment of the animal. vegetable and
hearts becomes something like the opposite of whistlin
in order to scurry mineral is that, like the Douanier Rousseau, he recognizes the
We are like children who invent objects of fear
from which, Unheimlichkeit and Unheimatlichkeit of a frontier when he sees one,
back, screaming, to the lnnenraum of the womb
into an even if he recognizes also that the frontier is not predeterminably
screaming, we came forth. Or like Kant turning the sublime
least lets the fixed. This holds not only for the place where the jungle or the rain­
epiphenomenon of our humanity. Where Heidegger at
around forest begins. It holds for the wilderness at the last frontier too.
wild animals be wild, Rilke, apparently, will have us slip a lead
of the earth into For each single one of us in the world, Heidegger says, the end of
their necks and take them and all the other things
and laraJ worth'. his life is before him. This is what enables Heidegger to give the
the security of the home. to preserve 'their human
unlike analysis he gives in Being and Time of how our being toward death
The Lares, primarily gods of the home, were of human origin,
Romans they were pervades our being tout court. Because of the place or non-place at
the Penates, whose origin was divine. But for the
the skin of a dog and which he draws the line between being-in-the-world and life strictly
represented by monkeylike statues enveloped in
door, sometim es with understood, that is to say, strictly, not understood, there is, as Derrida
set up in a niche near the hearth or the
care. notes, some difficulty for us in understanding what Heidegger can
figurines of barking dogs at their feet to symbolize their vigilant
d to the city, to the mean by our death, since we usually contrast that with our life.8
Gradually the range of this care was extende
It is as though by the Where there is no life there is no death. Is this difficulty dissolved
countryside, to roads and to the sea.
helped to colonize the precisely by the unintelligibility of non-human life and by an intended
domestication of animals the Romans were
ed for them a service like implication that human life as bios is unintelligible too because it is
world. The barking of their dogs perform
of the lyre screened by Da-sein? Is Dasein's finitude not only its Sein zum Tod,
that which Orpheus performed for the Greeks. His playing
so spellbin ding, we are told by but also the Unmimlichkeif of its Sei11 zum Leben, its being toward
inherited from Mercury or Apollo was
not but listen, the rivers ceased what in the Parmenides lectures is referred to as the enigma or riddle,
Lempriere, that the mountains could
forest forgot their wildnes s'. Is Riitse/, and mystery, Geheimnis, of life (G54 239)7 In those lectures, in
to flow, and 'the savage beasts of the
f TCTOtlen by Rilke too? The wildnes s that is remem­ the immediately preceding paragraph, Heidegger writes: 'In fact it
this wildness D
bered by Hopkin � w�n in sight of the mountains at lnversnaid he would require a more original poetic power to foreshadow the
asks and pleads hiddenness of the living, a poetry of which what is demanded is
more, higher, essential because essentially ownmost (Wesenf/iches, weil
What would the world be, once bereft Eigenwesenfliches), in contrast to that which degel}erates (verfiillt) into
Of wet and wilderness? Let them be left, humanizing plants and animals'. Here Rilke is pronounced to be a
0 let them be left, wildness and wet; poet in need rather than a poet needed in the time of need. The
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet. phrase 'it would require', es bedurffe, does not in itself imply that the
more original poet has been or could be found, whether this would be
It sometimes sounds as though Rilke would be in sympathy with Holderlin, for example, or Trakl or another. But what Heidegger says
the author of a recent article in The Scotsman pleading for more and here about original Dichten, when taken in conjunction with 'The
more of the Cairngorm mountains to be transformed for what he calls Origin of the Work of Art' and the sections on life, nature and the
(six times in not so many paragraphs) human 'use', meaning that earth in the Beilriige zur Philosophie, reminds us that animals, plants
permission should be given for as yet inaccessible glens to be opened and stones are encompassed by what Heidegger calls Erde. Although
up by his weltbildend buddies in the construction business so that the in the section of the Beitriige entitled 'Das Leben (in quotation marks,

full potential of the range could be developed for the benefit of skiing following a section entitled Leben, without quotation marks) the word
mankind. Not content, like Vuillard, with depicting domestic interiors Erde is put in quotation marks, these are absent when the word is used
as interiors, Rilke, like Bonnard, appears to want exteriors brought in the next section which is entitled Die Nafur und die Erde. This is a
indoors where foliage takes on the appearance of wall paper and fresh transition from employment of the word in the context of references
168 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Saving the World Througlt Song 169

to the science of biology to its employment in Heidegger's thinking translator which say that the care we must take of our inheritance
in conjunction with Welt. This transition is Heidegger's way of should be vorsichtig, literally forward-looking, and how fitting it is (es
marking the dependency of the meaning the word has i� th� conte� t gilf : he puts it no more strongly than that) for us mortal human
of science and biologistic metaphysics upon the meanmg 1t has m beings to recognize that there are other no less fragile non-human
The Origin of the Work of Art' where earth is distinguished from beings with whom we share this earth and that they are therefore not
world and in later essays where earth is distinguished from and only not to be hurt or demeaned, but call for their praises to be sung.
belongs with sky, mortals and immortals. In the 1930s earth st�nds What singing!', quel chant!, Rilke exclaims with reference to certain
for the darkness whose indispersability the work of art bnngs to light, paintings by Sophy Giauque in the letter written to her on 26
the self-concealment to which Heraditus says phusis inclines. November 1925 which likens the artist and his or her work to petits
Whether or not Heidegger is beset by this problem of finding a cimetieres . . . contenant tant de corps difunts qui nous dema11dent de
place for death where there appears to be no place for life, it i: not timoigner de leurs ames. With his own death behind him, as the death
one that arises for Rilke. This is why he is able to say that the mner of the animals of which the Eighth Elegy treats is said there to be
space of the world is a totality in which, along with many other behind them (and perhaps this is another way in which they are
oppositions, the opposition of life and death is overcome. In a letter exemplary), Rilke is free to think more about the mortality and
written at Muzot in 1924, two years before his death, in paragraphs transience of other beings instead of being preoccupied with his own.
in which he makes observations akin to those made in the pages of (The animal is preoccupied with neither. In this the animal is not
Matter and Memory where Bergson employs for consciousness the exemplary, and depends on the human being.) This opens room for
metaphor of a cone, he compares the geometry of this space to that more stress to be put on responsibility toward other beings of
of a pyramid. Since his early youth he has suspected that a cross­ manifold kinds than is put even in Heidegger's economy of the
section near the base of this pyramid of consciousness would reveal fourfold with the stress it puts on letting beings be. This difference is
being in its instantaneous simplicity, he writes in a sentence that firstly a difference of degree of stress, for Rilke's oecumenical
Heidegger could have written: das einfache Sein konnte zum Ereignis economy is still an economy of mutual need. Admittedly, in the
werden. We have already seen that in his letter of the following year letter to von Hulewicz he says of other things that they are in our
to von Hulewicz he refers to the Egyptian cult of the dead. But he Besitz, that is to say possession or, at least, in line with Genesis, in our
also says there that the responsibility exercised by what we might stewardship or care. The Biblical and Heideggerian metaphor of the
describe as his own poetic cult of the threatened things of the world shepherd is to be found as well in Rilke. Also to be found there, in the
is not only that of remembrance, Andenken. It is also that of same sentence with Besitz, is the word Freundschaft, used to describe
preserving their human significance, ihren humanen und larischen our relationship with all other beings of the great chain and
Wert. He goes on to explain that that means a care for our reminding us of Rilke's early admiration for Saint Francis, even if
inheritance, and that this is not possible without giving thought to what first attracted Rilke to him was his vow of poverty and his work
death. But whose death, or the death of what? In a notebook entry of with the widow, the orphan and the poor rather than his practice of
1913 which to some degree foreshadows his later remark about what addressing himself to the animal, the plant, the stone and death as his
he has thought since his early youth, we read: beloved brothers and sisters. The word leads us to think too of what
Levinas has to say about fraterniti. And so does the way Rilke diverts
He had, really, been free long since, and if anything prevented his
his gaze from his own death in order to meet without mediation the
dying, it was perhaps simply the fact that he had already
gaze of mortality that looks out from the face of the others.
overlooked it at some time somewhere, so that, unlike the rest, Not that the ontology of even the early works of Heidegger is
he did not need to go forward to it, but only to go back.9
incompatible with ethical altruism. And as ontology, that is to say as
prior to a theory of ethics, provision is made for my being concerned
This sentence puts a different face on things, a different face on things,
that others should be toward their death no less authentically than I
especially if it is set alongside those sentences written to his Polish
am toward mine. But the ambience of this allegedly pre-ethical
170 The Middle Voice of Eco logical Conscience Saving the World Th rough Song 171

concern or solicitude is, for each one of us, our own ordering of a imply that you ought to do whatever you can do. In possibility thus
world, what The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics calls Weltbildung. understood, in antic practical possibility, possibility as Heidegger
Whereas in Being and Time as much emphasis is placed on my intends it to be understood in these words has not come into its own
thrownness (Geworferrheit) as on my projecting of myself ahead as ontological possibility. They are an evocation of what we have
(Entwurf), which are equiprimordial with each other and with falling called ontological responsibility and, although they give weight to
(Verfallen), nevertheless we are told there that 'The primary pheno­ the 'we' who bind ourselves in being bound for our own death, there
menon of primordial and authentic temporality is the future' (BT 329), is an adjustment of weighting toward the balance spoken in the
so it is not surprising that in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics middle voice when more than three decades later Heidegger refers to
it is to projection that special attention is given. Worldhood is the thinking which is 'more sober', niichterner (degrise1), than
constituted by projection. And this has three moments, we are told: calculation because i t is thinking that 'gives voice to a bond that
the disclosure of the being of beings; totalization, though the word binds all thinking, providing that thinking submits to the call of what
that Heidegger uses, Ergiinzung, also means supplementation; and must be thought' (ZSD 79,25, TB 72, 24; compare VA3 25, EGT 78:
being held confronted by what we shall dare to call obligation, das 'The word of thinking is poor in pictures and without charm' (bildarm
Sich entgegenhalfen von Verbindlichkeif. This is a threefold structure, and
- und ohne Reiz), it 'rests in the sobering quality of what it says'. This
its moments are as interdependent as in the first edition of Kant's first call (Geheiss) of the thinker's responsibility or task, of what it behoves
Critique are the moments of the threefold synthesis of apprehension in him to do (Es gilt), is the echo of the command (anbefehlen) which in
intuition, reproduction in the imagination and recognition in a Chapter 6 we learned is hidden in the chre of Parmenides (WHO 118,
concept. But this Kantian synthesis, which is a theory of the WCT 196). This re ligio beyond religion and ethics is indeed the
prepositional copula, presupposes, Heidegger maintains, the three­ obligation 'to trace being to its own from E reignis - by way of
fold synthesis which constitutes a world as described by him, a world looking through true Hme without regard to the relation of being to
which is neither a totality of things nor a totality of facts. This is the beings' (ZSD 25, TB 24), but as we argued in that same chapter, this
ultimate condition of the possibility of what Kant calls objects and brings with it an obligation to let things be things in the manner
subjects and of 'things' in Rilke's Dichten and in Heidegger's own Holderlin enables Heidegger to see. And as Rilke enables us to see,
fourfold dichtendes Denken of the great chain of being. This ultimate this obligation brings with it an obligation to respond to the
condition is a truth which is prior to the truth of theoretical assertion, vulnerability of beings other than ourselves, both non-human as
and an obligation which is prior to that laid down in the judgements well as human, and to respond to them as individuals.
of what we usuaUy mean by ethics. The totalizing which these two In the discussion that followed the reading of the paper by David
conditions entail is effected, Heidegger holds, by our being toward Krell referred to in note 2 at the 'Reading Heidegger' conference at
our own death. Hence this fundamental obligation originates in me, the Unjversity of Essex in 1986 the author of the paper said:
however much at the level of ethics or the law - or religion - it is to 'Heidegger reduplicates, without any critical distance, Hegel's eleva­
the other that I am bound. In the final section of The Fu11damental tion of die Ga tfung or species as the universal. He simply reduplicates
Concepts of Metaphysics he writes: 'Hence projection is in itself the and says: This is the death of the individual. Thus Heidegger
coming to pass (Geschehen) that lets obligation (Verbindlichkeit) as such reiterates the most striking move that Hegel makes in the advance
arise (enfspri11gen liissf), in so far as this always presupposes an from philosophy of nature to philosophy of spirit . . . the move of
enabling-allowing (Ermoglichung)' (G29/30 528). But, he adds, rethink­ metaphysics'. Thus one comes away from these texts of 1929/30,
ing now in terms of 'free binding' the thoughts of the second Critique with 'ultimate disappointment'. While sharing that ultimate disap­
and of the third chapter of The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of pointment, the author of this chapter has concentrated on what in
Morals, 'The possible comes into its own (west) in its possibility only these and other texts may be read as signs of an antepenultimate
if we bind ourselves to it in its enabling-allowing'. These words hope. There is a sign of hope even in the phrase Vorrang der 'Gattung'
supplement Kant's words 'ought presupposes can', du kannst, denn du which occurs in Heidegger's discussion of instinct and life in the
sollst, with the words 'can presupposes ought'. They do not of course Beifrage zur Philosophie (G65 277). Over what, we may ask. does genus
172 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Saving the World Through Song 173

or species have pre-eminence? Over individuality or 'individuality': that those on the other side of the ha-ha have Weifof!ensein and
'Gattung', der kein 'Einzelnes' als selbstisches kennt. This seems to say Umweltoffensein the way is open for acknowledgement that if they are
that the animal has individuality, but an individuality without in our environment we are in theirs. But what is called for most of all
selfhood. In his commentary on Schelling - hence in a text which - and on this I believe Krell and I agree - is a little less self-certainty
may not without caution be taken as directly representative of the as to where lines are to be drawn, a little more circumspective care
commentator's thinking - Heidegger writes: The animal is an and generosity regarding genus, gender, generation and genre - in a
individual this (ein einzelnes Dieses). It could not be this if the craving word, Geschlecht - than Heidegger is sometimes prepared to show,
for individuation were not in it. But the animal never comes to itself, despite his being the thinker who would prepare the way for
in spite of this craving. It rather merely serves, again, the species in Gelassenheit and letting beings be.
spite of this craving. And it could not perform this service if a
universal will did not strive within it with the particular will at the
same time' (G42 242, S 168; 140}. It may be that through a craving
for domestication which would make them gods, but household gods
(familiars, friends, Romans), Rilke, the penultimate hope, fails unaided
to point a way by which not only the lizard but also the lichen, and
the rock beneath them may come to their selves. Our ultimate hope is
that Levinas, aided by the Gesang of Rilke's elegies, by the Dichten of :
Holderlin's hymns and by Heidegger's Denken of Gelassenheit, may
enable us to judge how distance, Abstand, and proximity belong
together in the neighbourhood of a metaphysics of singular
responsibility that outmoves the move of the metaphysics of
ultimate universality of spirit.
In his inspired and inspiring discussion of Derrida's De /'esprit
Oavid Krell refers to the Hegelian, Heideggerian, indeed German
'domesticity of spirit' (p. 225). In this chapter we have been
referring to the threat of what might be described as Rilke's
domesticity of ;animal spirit. Krell also writes: 'If Weltoffenheit
characterizes humanity, Weltoffensein characterizes animality. Yet
how does -sein differ from -heit, indeed in such a way that Heidegger
can be assured that an abyss separates human beings from animals, as
though the world were constructed like one of those modern,
cageless, animal-friendly zoos?' (p. 215). Among the interpretative
hypotheses tried out in this chapter is that if Heidegger's weltbildend
human beings do dig a ditch between themselves and those that are
characterized by Welfoffensein but not by Welfo!fenheit (those that lack
not world but worldhood?), at least the Open in which they live is
not humanized, colonized, Romanized, conqut;red ('Everest Con­
quered' the headlines proclaimed. Will Machapuchre, the abode of
the gods of the wilderness, be next?). At least by digging a ditch
Heidegger allows them to be themselves. If it were a laughing matter,
the laugh would be on us. If Heidegger is prepared after all to allow
The AbsolHJe Master 175

8 This preoccupation with proper death as the condition of the

propriety of the I pervades Rilke's earlier work. In The Book of Hours
he writes, recalling the lines of Ecclesiastes which we reproduced in
The Absolute Master Chapter 6:

0 Lord, give each one his proper death,

the dying that issues from that life
its whole being has been seized with dread; for it has experienced in which he knew love, meaning and need.
the fear of death, the absolute master.
G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit With the generosity of this eigene Tod he contrasts the kleine Tod, the
little death which is death not looked in the face, death treated as no
Death is not this master. Always future and unknown it gives rise more than an event that befalls one, a limit at the end of a life instead
to fear and flight from responsibilities . . . . Death, source of all of a 'princely death' like that of Christoph Detlev Brigge 'which the
myths, is presenf only in the Other, and only in him �es it
� chamberlain had carried within him and had himself nourished during
summon me urgently to my final essence, to my responstbtltty. his whole life'. So, at the time of Ma/fe and earlier, Rilke's idea of
Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity inauthentic death resembles Heidegger's in some respects. Appalled at
the way in which, like so much else in the industrialized world, even
death becomes an impersonal, dehumanized, 'American', happening,
Rilke, as Blanchot says, becomes obsessed by the thought

Saul Kripke. in Naming and Necessi y expli�tes1 ide� tity in t�rms of
of a self that wants to die a self, the residue of a need for

originarity, a being's being from ongm or btrth. He• eg�er, m Berng
immortality, concentrated in the very fad of dying, in such a way
and Time, explicates the identity of each hum� bemg m te�s of that my death is the moment of my greatest authenticity, towards
. .
terminality, its being towards its death. Termina!tty ts the prmctple of which 'I' project myself as though towards the possibility that is
jemeinig individuality, what separates me from the impersonal absolutely mine, that belongs only to me and holds me in the hard
undifferentiated one (das Man). It separates me in my autobiographi­ 2
solitude of this pure self.
cal existence, it js tempting to say, not from the viewpoint of an
observer recording events in the story of my life, the viewpoint from My death, not my bringing it about, achieves a first person
which Kripke's criterion is applied. It separates m� out in my li':'ed singularity. What, speaking of Rilke, Heidegger refers to as man's
existence, it might be said, were it not for the anhpathy to speakmg 'going with the venture', mit dern Wagnis mifgehen (H 257, PLT 103),
of human as distinguished from animal life which we have dtscerned may or may not be an expression of the will to power and the will to
already in Heidegger's references to biology in Being and Tirne, in Th� will. Rilke quite explicitly decries suicide because it would do violence
Fundamental Concepfs of Metaphysics, in his treatment of Rilke, and to death. In the language of Heidegger - though the word
elsewhere. Being toward my death is being on the way toward Gelassenheit is used by Rilke too - we must let death be,

myself, hence, via the manifold meanings of eigen, o� t e way to he � acknowledge its absolute alterity. So there is a tension between this
possibility of authentic being. Although Heidegger mststs . that bemg recognition of death's noli me tangere and the wish to die a death that
in the world is being with others and that it is not only w1th _tts own carries my fingerprints. It is the second of these incompatibles that
mortality that each Dasein is concerned, my concern fo� the mortality has given way by the time the last Elegy has been composed. Now
of others is, according to the account given in Be tng and T1rne, the dehumanized impersonality from which the earlier Rilke hoped to
inscribed within the circle of the project whose origin is the each-for­ rescue death by giving it his name makes way for a humanized
himself jerneinig I, the projectile, if not subjectile, je. impersonality.

176 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Absolute Master 177

Is this a subjection of the subject by death, the absolute master referentiality'? What he means is that the word functions only in its
who back-handedly saves the singular by losing it in the spirituality aspect of phonic signifier. Citing Barthes, he says on the next page:
of the Singular Subject? Is the move Rilke makes from his earlier to 'this "liberating theory of the Signifier" also implies a complete

his later. conception of death a move back from a Heideggerian to a drying up of thematic possibilities'. But he immediately raises the
Hegelian one? Not quite. Thanks to the song. We saw in Chapter 7 question whether this drying up can be as complete as Rilke imagines
that the song is nameless both because the personality of the singer it might be when he entertains, indeed 'programmatically thematizes'
does not obtrude and because he does not sing about things, but this possibility in his poem 'Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes'. 'Could any
simply sings things. Any naming of a thing in the song is not poetry, including Rilke's,' he asks, 'lay claim to the purity of such a
referring to it by its name but giving it a name as though for the very semantic askesis?' Paul de Man's own considered view is indicated
first time, as in the Introduction to Metaphysics Heidegger says when he says that Rilke's figurative rhetoric implies 'the absence of a
Sophocles does for the sea in the opening strophe of the chorus reliable referent'. What he first calls 'loss of referentiality' is to be
from Antigone. understood as loss of a reliable referent. 'The notion of a language
To transfigure visible things into invisibility as Rilke's New Poems entirely freed of referential constraints is properly inconceivable. Any
do is on Paul de Man's reading of them to transfigure them into utterance can always be read as semantically motivated, and from the
figures of speech.3 The Weltinnenraum of the poem is a space of moment understanding is involved the positing of a subject or an
lingual sound between the subjectivity of the poet and the objectivity object is unavoidable'. To put this in a Derridean way, the putatively
of the visible world. The poem, the song, is a new thing, a Kunst­ purely phonic poem is written, even when it is literally sung. That is
Ding, in the way that a plaything (such as the ball of which Rilke to say, the so-called signifier cannot be securely anchored to a
writes) inhabits a space of its own with its own separate centre of signified whether the latter be understood as a concept or as an object
gravity (of which Rilke also writes). But is that not to turn one's back falling under it. The signified is never confined in a living presence
on things, to fiddle while Rome bums? Is it not the extreme of with the signifier, but from this it does not follow that on 'the
irresponsibility toward visible things to deny that the centre of liberating theory of the Signifier' the signifier is set at liberty to
gravity is in them? And what of those poems that treat not of things freewheel. To speak of it as a signifier is already to commit it to some
with which we readily play, but of serious matters of life and death? signified or other. But there is an unavoidable and absolute alterity of
We saw that Rilke does once say that he has put at least his own signification, an absolute absence of mastery which is the being
death behind hi!ll. Is it the poet's task to do the same with the death toward death of the sign's alleged living present.
of others and V.:ith the fleetingness of things? Is not to make music of If no safe and sure meaning can be sealed within the sign, the same
them to make mock of their call and to betray them in their need? must be said of the song. It. like the sign, will inevitably fail to live up
When Rilke says that it is as though his own death is behind him to its promise of a living present to come. Rilke's programme at the
this does not mean that it is forgotten. On the contrary. To take ; time of the New Poems was for a poetry in which the meanings which
anything into the inner space of the poem's world is to make sure words have in everyday speech - even der, die and das - are
that it is erinnert. True, Rilke says that the poem is more than a chiasmically reversed on to self-contained patterns of the poet's
memoriaL but it is that at least. And when you put something into own invention: fictions, fables. The successful carrying out of this
words, you neither shut it off from itself nor encapsulate it within a programme would have confirmed Levinas's judgement that the poem
hermetically sealed inside. Whatever is erinnert in words is at one and is, like the dream, an interlude from living, an aesthesiological
the same time entiiussert, publicly expressed. But is this not because suspension of the ethical. But since his songs are not songs without
words are already outside themselves in foro externa, because, as has words they cannot be self-contained. However eperdument their words
been earlier suggested, when you walk through a wood you walk may be sung, the possibility of meaning something or other is never
through the word 'wood', because words have reference? If this is so, entirely lost. However careless the singer may be about whether or
however, what can Paul de Man mean when he says that in the inner not they are understood, the words uttered in this second voice are
space of the poem Rilke's rhetoric of figuration implies 'loss of apt to find unpredicted meanings accruing to them, and these may
178 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Absolute Master 179

include the pre-dicted meaning of the words as spoken in the first transfigurin� them into the invisible means transfiguring them into
voice of everyday sane and sober. digrisi speech, for example the purely aud1ble eqwvalents, pure song, the messianic-cum-figurative
allfaglich 'Bonjour'. The chiasmic reversal is liable - Heidegger would programme breaks down. Or does Rilke persuade himself that the
say bound and obliged. verbunden - to be reversed. �
�rogram?'�'s b�eak own is at least a second-best success? Perhaps this
Therefore, although the great themes of life and death may be held ts what IS tmplted m the Orpheus sonnet which condudes
at arm's length when the author of the New Poems gives priority to
lexis over logos, and creates phonic figures of little, gering things as a Star patterns may deceive
child might make for himself 'an entire poetic universe' out of but it pleases us, for a while,
brightly-coloured stones or hold conversation with a between-worlds to believe in the figure. That is enough.
being, a doll, there is no way by which these themes can be kept
definitively under lock and key. And this is because no theme is a Is a deception enough? It is enough for Rilke perhaps only for a while.
pure signified. To every signified there corresponds a signifier and �o does Rilke agree after all with the Levinas who says that the poem
every signifier is exposed to the chance and necessity of migration rs no more than an interlude, a fleeting shadow of the world? But
from one context to another, a migration which is at one and the what if the world itself is fleeting? Would this not make it possible for
same time an alteration of the signified. As de Man and Derrida put Rr.lke to agree also with the other Levinas, the Levinas who agrees
it, work procedes simultaneously on both sides of the mirror. Hence WJth Celan that a poem may shake its reader by the hand? It is to
the chiasmic structure is not only to be found in the primarily P?ems b� Paul Celan that Paul de Man compares some of the poems
figurative New Poems. These are chiasmically related to the 'messianic' Rrlke wntes from New Poems onward, pieces no longer than the haiku,
Sonnets and Elegies which themselves retain a chiasmic figuration the poetic form that Rilke so much admired.
notwithstanding that this is likely to be and has been overlooked
because of their clamantly exhortatory and apocalyptic tone, just as it One might well . consider them to be Rilke's most advanced poetic
is easy to overlook the messianism of the more formally figurative achrevement. It rs through them that he is related to poets such as
poems because they purport to dispense with signification and the Trakl or Celan. The figure stripped of any seduction besides that of
never-to-be-fulfilled promise of presence that that brings. its rheto�ical elas�icity can form, together with other figures,
constellahons of frgures that are inaccessible to meaning and to
The messianic reading of Rilke is an integral part of a work that the senses, located far beyond any concern for life or for death in
could not ex�st without it. The full complexity of this poetry can the hollow space of an unreal sky (p. 49).
only appear in the juxtaposition of two readings in which the first
forgets and the second acknowledges the linguistic structure that How could a poem be said to be a handshake if it is far beyond any
. and death? U this can be said of any of Rilke's poems
concern for life
makes it come into being (p. 51).
one would have thought they would be found among the messianic
. .
It is the messianic reading of Rilke that has absorbed the attention of Eleg�es wh1ch occupy themselves explicitly with the great themes of
most commentaries, including most of our own. This is because it is deshny and death. How can there be anything like a fraternal
that reading which has received most commentary from Rilke in (so:ori �l, paternal, �aternal) welcome or farewell about a poem
letters and elsewhere, so that by attending less to the formal and �
wh1c IS so purely ftgurative that it is 'inaccessible to meaning', a
figurative reading than to what he writes explicitly concerning the contnved constellation like The Horseman in the sky of Rilke's poem
salvation of the world we stand more chance of getting guidance on of that name which is unreal because the stars that make it up only
appear to be all m . the same plane? This begins to look possible as
this latter topic, sa/us mundi, which is also our concern. However, as
Paul de Man enables us to see, the two readings are chiasmically soon as it is remembered that the strength of the fraternal bond which
interdependent, the one enabling the other, and at the same time the more self-consciously philosophical poems of rescue tie between
disabling it. For in so far as the saving of visible things by the poet. the reader and the recognizable visible things of the world
The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Absolute Master 181

of which the poem is to preserve die noch erkannfe Gestalt is the are initiated. What Derrida shows in his Introduction to Husserl's The
fleetingness and fragility they share. Now that impermanence is Origin of Geometry and in Speech and Phenomena is that Husserl's
reflected and performed in the trompe l'oeil of the illusory constella­ dilemma is based not on an in-principle avoidable contingency but on
tion in the sky and in the trompe l'oreille of the most purely figurative �he unavoidable prn i ciple of contingency itself, a principle that affects
and interlusory figment of poetic art. The purer the signifier and the not only writing in the ordinary sense of the word, but orality and
greater the space between it and the signified of which it dreams the •
oreilliti themselves. The principle that there is no principle. No
_ _
more closely it mimes alterity and the more it meets the respons1b1hty
principle of principles. Only a supplement of origin: the Urschrift
to be faithful to death, looking it in the face by prefiguring it. that is responsible for the Ur-teil of the judgement that speaks death.
Of necessity the communication is a communication, is itself, only if it
is not an itself, only if it has already severed the umbilical chord that
II is alleged to tie it to its author, and only if it anticipates the
contingency of its author's being dead. A sign communicates with its
But as well as the alterity of the signifier which is written, spoken or signatory and the reader who signals 'Roger', meaning 'I have
sung, the alterity that marks the incompletion of the sign, there is the understood', only by way of discommunication through the no
alterity of the Other, Aufrui, the Signifier who sings and signs 'Thou longer being there, the never having been fully present there of the
shalt not kill'. It is the distance and proximity of these alterities that is Signifier who sends and of him or her who responds.
the topos of the meeting between Derrida and Levinas. The alterity of So at the very moment when the seignorial Signifier says 'thou
a what and the alterity of a who. The mortality that marks the word shalt not kill' his commandment is condemned to death. His
and the mortality of him that speaks it. To move from the former to imperative is already a sign of his mortality. If, however, he is
the latter, one might think, is to move from a purely metaphorical finite, there is no confusing the Signifier with God, whether the God
mortality to the real and literal thing, from death as a figure of of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or the Deity of Descartes. Yet it is the
engraved speech to the silence of the grave. However, the m�ve is Infinity of Descartes's third and fifth Meditations that Levinas invokes
one that marks time. The mortality of the said and the mortahty of to introduce us to Autrui. Is this signifying Other both finite and
the sayer were never far apart. For it was always the assistance of the infinite then at one and the very same time? How can this be7 How
speaker at his word that was supposed to enable the speaker to keep can it be possible? Because the question is not simply a question of
his word, and to keep the word alive. That is for Husserl the being or possibility. And because it obliges us to let the question be
condition of rest>onsible speech. And it is what Levinas means by interrupted by the command, the command 'thou shalt not kill'. As far
being sincere: being there to answer for one's word. Husserl's as ontology goes, the other man is very finite. That is why he calls to
dilemma arises because while endorsing this condition of the us in his need. But the call he makes is infinitive. As the infinitude of
possibility of responsibility he recognizes that the possibility of Descartes's God precedes and exceeds any idea of it that I can form,
rigorous science posits writing as its condition. The transmission of so does the command to respect the life of my neighbour slip through
a scientific truth from one generation to another and the idea of a the fingers of my conceptual grasp. The difficulty of understanding
i order that
scientific community call for results to be written down n �ow my neighbour can be at once finite and infinite is not a problem
they may be used as points of reference for practitioners who, if like that of comprehending how my mind and my body can be both
science is to make any advance, must take at least some parts of the substantially different and yet connected. That problem is a problem
tradition for granted and not insist on doing the original demonstra­ in ontology. Nor is the difficulty a problem concerning the
tions and experiments for themselves all over again. Put this way, connection of ontology and theology, though there are points of
Husserl's dilemma sounds like one that is based on a contingent desire formal resemblance between it and the problems or mysteries
to make the best use of one's time. It could be said that with associated with the via mtalogiae and the via negativa. The difficulty
sufficiently dose teamwork the problem could be overcome, rather as is not a problem if a problem is a question. It is more like a mystery
an oral tradition can be kept alive if parents make sure their offspring as described by Gabriel Marcel, 'a problem which encroaches upon its
182 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Absolute Master 183
own data and invades them, and so is transcended qua problem'.4 The consciousness cannot traverse, and where a leap will somehow be
problem is transcended because it is dissolved by the withdrawal from produced from death to me' (TI 211; 235). The will . . . on the way
a demand for a prepositional answer to an acknowledgement of what to death but a death ever future, exposed to death but not
is this side of constatable prepositional knowledge, somewhat as the
immediately, has time to be for the Other, and thus to recover
source of ontological wonder is so close, so geheim, according to
meaning despite death.' The 'absolute master' is mastered by the
Heidegger, that it gets overlooked and mistaken for an object of antic passivity of undergoing which is 'mastery itself' (Tl 216; 238). Once
interrogation. According to Levinas, this side of ontological wonder is again 'I can' implies 1 ought'. However, whereas in the version of this
the wonder of my neighbour's ethical command 'thou shalt not kill', implication hinted at in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics the 'I
astonishment before the Other. ought' has its origin in the 'I can' of my own projected possibility and
Hence the difficulty with which Levinas faces his. reader, the states that the bedrock of all obligation is an obligation of pre-ethical
difficulty of the postulate that the Other is both finite and infinite. loyalty to myself, here the obligation comes toward me from the 'I
How can this be possible? It is not a matter of possibility, whether
cannot' of the impossibility to be read in the Other's eyes, the
logical or phenomenological, any more than it is a matter of
impossibility of possibility, your being bound to die.5
ontology, whether metaphysical or phenomenological. lt is not a A question that will be raised is whether the 'thou shalt not kill'
matter of saving the appearances, for more than appearance and
comes toward me from God, as it came to Moses on Mount Sinai. An
reality is involved in this mystery. And what is at stake in this affirmative answer to this question would place Infinity over against
mystery is not just possibility, not even the ultimate possibility of my the finite human being and separated from him by a great divide, or
being towards my death, the possibility of the impossibility of being
else close that gap by construing Infinity as the Aufhebung of Holy
there. For me to be met by the mortality in my neighbour's eyes is to Spirit mediated to the human being by the God-man. The former
be encountered by the impossibility of possibility. The intentionality alternative would, like Heidegger's, leave man with finitude alone.
of my cognitive and conative persistence in being collides with the The second alternative would be tantamount to the Hegelian doctrine
reverse intentionality of the look which says the ethical impossibility that man can leave his finitude behind. Levinas fears that if man can
of murder inscribed in the very possibility of carrying out any be finished with either finitude or ethical infinity there is in the former
intention to murder the other in whose eyes I read j'accuse, as case no exit for him from the 'there is' or from the langweilig neutral
though I were already respo�sible for the other's death without bad infinity of the pursuit of one egological, though not necessarily
having committed an identifiable dateable crime (TI 209; 232-3). For egoistic, project after another which led to the crisis of accidie suffered
to be totally contemed with my own to-be-or-not-to-be is to stand in by the young John Stuart Mill; in the second case there is no exit
my neighbour's light. It is to take the bread from his mouth in�tead of from the loss of individuality and difference in the totality of a
giving him the portion I am about to put in mine. The porbon, n�t
Parmenidean or Hegelian One. An exit is effected in both cases not
my portion. For where two are gathered together I am always m by an authentic being toward my death, albeit with others who are
second place. Only the other can be an apology for my existence. My
authentically toward theirs, but only by the Other who breaks into
existence starts not from the autonomy of an T but from the the otherwise windowless monad from outside (HQO 262-4).
heteronomy of a 'me' declined in the accusative case by the
Other's accusing regard. He and I are both economic beings with
biological needs and cultural interests but with finite resources and III
finite time to achieve their satisfaction. But my freedom to pursue the
interests of my domestic economy is ethically justified only in so far The thinking of Heidegger is not atheistic if atheism is understood as
as it is put in the Other's service in response to his silent call. The the denial of the existence of god. Nor is it the opposite of atheistic,
Other's vulnerable finitude together with my finite ability to assist any more than are the writings of Holderlin, Rilke, Derrida or L�vinas
him imply the arithmetically impossible infinity of his ethical claim on which we are drawing in this book. Perhaps this is a book for
and the infinite time of the infinitesimal 'last n i terval which my readers who are willing to suspend the question whether the great
184 Tlte Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Tlte Absolute Master 185

chain of being is suspended from the surpassingly existent being ancilla of the thinking of being as such, ancilla philosophiae.
called God or for whom that question is, if not dead, only middlingly Furthermore, only through the thinking of being as such is it
and muddledly alive, as it is for Philip Lar�in's churchgoer who says possible to think the essence of the holy.

But superstition, like belief, must die, Only from the truth of Being can the essence of the holy be
And what remains when disbelief has gone? thought. Only from the essence of the holy is the essence of
divinity to be thought. Only in the light of the essence of divinity
and answers, referring to the church, the synagogue, the mosque . . . can it be thought or said what the word 'God' is to signify. ( G9
351, W 1� 1-2, BW 230)
A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air aU our compulsions meet, Thinking or saying what the word 'God' is to signify is not to be
Are recognised, and robed as destinies. confused with religious revelation or faith. It would be more difficult
And that much never can be obsolete, to deny that such thinking or saying is at least a part of what goes
Since someone will forever be surprising under the name of theology and hence that the thinking of being is
A hunger in himself to be more serious, ancilla theologiae. But Heidegger does deny this. Marking a departure
And gravitating with it to this ground, from the scholastic doctrines studied as part of his Catholic training,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in, at least as early as the 1920s Heidegger endorses Luther's assertion
If only that so many dead lie round. that, as Heidegger puts it in 1954, Theologians should stay in the
exclusivity of revelation' (HQD 335). Questioning is the piety of
The writers on whose philosophical or poetic work this book thinking, but, as Luther's Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the
chiefly draws share one of this book's preoccupations. In their very Romans holds, revelation i s not question, but demand or claim,
different ways they show that there is an application for a notion of Ansprnch, and this must not be confused with the Zuspruch which,
the holy that does not wait upon an answer to a question of onto­ as Heidegger writes in The Nature of Language' (1957-8), is the
theology. This is shown in The Holy and other publications by Rudolf addressing itself to us of the language itself and so is presupposed by
Otto in his particular way, a way which Husserl characterizes as the revealed demand and by the true or false affirmation which he had
phenomenological. That way remains too neo-Kantian for Husserl, as called Zusprechen in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics nearly
it does for Heide'gger, who became a colleague of Otto's at Marburg thirty years earlier. However, he explains, in the passage of the 'Letter
when neo-Kantianism was still very active there. The holy cannot on Humanism' which speaks of the meaning of the word 'God', what
remain an a priori category of knowledge without its being is in question is the god of the poets and the daimon of Heraclitus's
domesticated by man as Kant and Schiller domesticate the sublime. saying ethos anthropoi daemon, The (familiar, geheure) abode is for man
Nor can the holy remain an a priori category of knowledge if it is to the open region for the presencing of God (of the unfamiliar one, des
remain at the prior level of the thinking of being. Nor can the Un-geheuren)' (G9 356, W 187, BW 234). Whereas for Luther the
thinking of being remain a thinking of the beingness of beings, albeit Epistle to the Romans is direct revelation, being face to face with
the highest of these. Hence the asseverations throughout Heidegger's God,
works that the thinking of being is neither theist nor atheist.6 Hence,
in response to all three of these impossibilities, the recurrence When the thinker listens to a poet like Holderlin, something totally
throughout the present work to the thinking of the prophetic and different is at stake, a listening in a domain of 'manifestation' at the
poetic medial voice that mediates a bid which is never a takeover bid. basis of which the poet participates in an essential way, unlike the
As the guardian of the holy the poet is he from whom the holy revelation of the word of God which is always already decided.
receives the names which may anticipate the advent of another ethos The thinker speaks of the manifestation of being; but the word
and another epoch of the history of being. The poet is therefore the being is a non-theological word.
186 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Absolute Master 187

Levinas insists that the face to face with the Other is non­ directly related to the comparison of religions than to the history of
theological, but it is also beyond being. The inviolable transcendence religion or to the history of being. But we see first that asking this
of. the Other, his holiness, has nothing of the numinous which Otto question of him is a particularly effective way of making clear why
associates with holiness (Tl 169; 195). 'It is only man who could be we are asking it of the philosophers and poets whose writings we
absolutely foreign to me - refractory to every typology, to every have been discussing.
genus, to every characterology, to every classification' (Tl 46; 73). We are seeking a notion of ecological responsibilHy oecumenical
Does this mean that God could not be absolutely foreign to me? Not enough to allow direct responsibility not only toward other human
if 'It is our relations with men . . . that give to theological concepts beings but to non-human beings as well. If we were to maintain that
the sole signification of which they admit' (TI 51; 79), from which it human beings are directly responsible toward a Creator God, we
follows that when in expounding his philosophical metaphysics of could be expected to maintain that all other responsibilities are
ethics Levinas refers to the Bible and to the metaphysical theology of indirect ones to His creatures. Levinas avoids this corollary by
Descartes's Meditafions these references are only illustrative. They maintaining that what significance there is to the word 'God' is
take their orientation from the human face to face, so that it was with given by the ethical proximity of the human Other. It might seem
the other man that Moses was face to face on Sinai, it would seem! that a corollary of this would be that there are only indirect
When Levinas says that discourse is discourse with God and not with responsibilities toward God. Levinas can avoid this in either of two
equals (Tl 273; 297), the word 'God' is best understood as a ways, both of which, I believe, he follows. He can say that ethical
translation of Plato's Good beyond being: responsibility toward God is ethical responsibility toward the human
Other. Or he can say that the embarrassing corollary arises only
this notion of the being above being does not come from theology because we are thinking ontologically, thinking of the human Other
but from Plato. If it has played no role in the Western philosophy and God only as beings, and to do that is to commit blasphemy and
issued from Aristotle, the Platonic idea of the Good ensures it the to deface the ethical encounter, to de-visage the Other through
dignity of a philosophical thought - and it therefore should not be mistaking the face for a phenomenal countenance at which we
traced back to any oriental wisdom. (Tl 194; 218) stare. This still leaves us, so far, with only indirect responsibilities
toward the non-human and non-divine. With the help of Heidegger,
Of course, it is Judaeo-Christian theology of which Levinas is Holderlin and Rilke - so far we have only stumbled upon hints that
speaking, not the Aristotelian science of the divine. Had he wished, ultimately Levinas himself might be prepared to come to our aid - we
he might have npted that in Aristotelian nous which 'comes in from have tried to show that there is no reason why there should not be
outside' there is a principle analogous to Plato's epekeina tes ousias. He room at least for proto-ethical responsibilities toward what Heidegger
does not wish b because this principle is not in his sense provisionally describes as the weltarm and welflos, that is to say
metaphysical or ethical. As for Aristotelian ethics, that is eudaemonis­ animals, plants and even the inorganic things of the world, whether in
tic and teleologically totalitarian, in his view, whereas Platonic ethics, their natural state or shaped by the work of man.
despite the politically totalitarian development it suffers in the The reason why we could afford to be cursory in our treatment of
Republic, contains a seed that could develop quite otherwise. Holderlin's gods was that we accepted Heidegger's comment that
they are the gods of poetry, rather than the gods of revelation and
faith.When we turn to Rilke we discover that this distinction is one
over which we have to be more circumspect.This is partly because,
So much, all too cursorily, for the atheology of the two philosophers although in our comments on Holderlin it is not only his poems that
and, still more cursorily, for the atheology of one of the poets to we have cited;-" ip our comments on Rilke we have drawn heavily on
whom one of them appeals. Holderlin's atheology is that of a the letters, like those commentators who at the same time warn
historical interregnum. We shall see that asking where Rilke stands against the dangers of doing this, for instance Heidegger and Paul de
in regard to theological and religious belief opens up a question more Man. We noted that in the most frequently cited of these letters Rilke
188 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Absolute Master 189

denies that the Angels referred to in the Elegies are meant to be th_e regard to them, to metaphysico-ethical monotheism before the regard
angels of Christianity. The gods to whom he mostly refers there, in of the Other. The separated being must run the risk of the paganism
the Sonnets and elsewhere are the gods of pagan mythology, the which evinces its separation and in which this separation is
gods of poetry, in Heidegger's phrase. In Levinas's phrase, �hese are accomplished, until the moment that the death of these gods will
the faceless gods. They are the gods of the elements, of 'wind, earth, lead it back to atheism and to the true transcendence' (TI 115-16;
sea, sky, air'. The element is that in which we bathe. Our enjoyment 142). The monotheism of this true transcendence is an ethical and
of it - and the enjoyment of life, Levinas observes, gets short shrift in humanistic 'religion', Levinas's answer to the religion of humanity
Being and Time - is not the enjoyment of the smooth functioning of preached by Comte in the Course on Positive Philosophy, and endorsed
an object of use or the self-contained enjoyment of an objet d'art, by Mill in Utilitarianism and the Essays on Religion but with an
since, whatever the element may become for science, it does not yet infusion of liberal individualism in the - Levinas would say vain -
fall within the category of an object or substance with an identity. It hope of preventing it sliding into totalitarian holism. H is a non­
is resistant to every category other than that of quality. 'Quality', humanistic monotheism that is endorsed by Rilke in a letter of 1904
Levinas explains, probably thinking of Bergson, 'does not resist addressed to Lou Andreas-Salome in which he writes: That was my
identification because it would represent a flux and a duration; rather Easter, and I think it is sufficient for a whole life; with strange largesse
its elemental character, its coming forth from nothing, constitutes its the message was given to me in that Moscow night, given me in my
fragility, the disintegration of becoming, that time prior to repre­ blood and in my heart. I know it now: Chrisfos voskres!' However,
sentation - which is menace and destruction' (TI 115; 141).7 does he still know this on 22 February 19237 On that day he writes a
Representation is the first response to this menace, either as a letter in which he repeats what he had said thirteen years earlier
named natural thing, or as something worked upon, a piece of about how Russia taught him to be 'a little more human' (letter of 30
equipment or a work of art, this last being Rilke's response to the August 1910) but records a change in the way he sees how human
fragility and transitoriness that still menaces visible and handlable and other beings in the great chain are interlinked with God:
things. Sheer quality, Levinas says, is the apeiron prior to the
distinction between the finite and the infinite. Only through the I began with things, which were the real confidants of my lonely
ethical infinite, of which the mathematical and scientific infinite is for childhood, and it was quite an accomplishment for me to be able to
Levinas as derivative as for Descartes the finite is derivative from get as far as animals with no outside help . . ,. . But then Russia
God, is there a prospect of escape from the whispering menace of the came into my ken and presented me with brotherliness and the
il y a which persists even when we are outside the insecure enjoyment darkness of God, in whom only is there community. So I then
of the elements i n the enjoyment and employment of substantial finite named him too, the God who had broken in on me (den r:iber mich
things. This spoonful of honey, as Descartes reminds us, remains hereingebrochenen Gott), and lived a long while in the narthex of his
vulnerable to becoming a remainder, to dissolution into elements name, on my knees . . . . Nowadays you would scarcely ever hear
whose qualities are conveyed by ideas that are either confused and me name him. There is between us an indescribable discretion, and
obscure or by the idea of an exterior space of the world - a where there was once proximity and penetration (Durchdringung)
We llaussenraum - the infinite variability of whose contour and new distances stretch, like in the atom that modem science also
extension is a reliable object of knowledge according to him only conceives of as a world in miniature. What one takes hold of slips
by the grace of the infinite goodness of God. That is to s�y. there is, through one's fingers, is transfigured; instead of possession one
es gibt, a stable world according to Levinas only when we recognize learns regard (den Bezug}, and there arises a namelessness that, to be
that the substantiality of finite things consists in their being not complete and unevasive, must begin again with God.
things we can possess - property and estate, ousia or Anwesen - but
things we can give to the Other in response to the infinite exteriority What in heaven's name or on earth does Rilke mean by this
of the face to face. This recognition is achieved by a passage from the beginning again bei Gott? Judging by what he goes on to say in
theism of the faceless pagan gods of the elements, through atheism in this letter it looks as though he means that we must go back from the
190 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Absolute Master 191

New Testament to the Old, an interpretation that receives some in his song to the Sun, which was more glorious to him as he lay
support from his statement a year earlier that if we are not to be on dying than was the cross, which only stood there to point into the
our guard against a certain debasement to which Christianity is sun.
exposed we would do better to stick to the Old Testament and the
Koran (letter of 1 1 and 15 February 1922). In this statement there come together also the light and the darkness
which, as Plato teaches, overcomes the eyes that would look into the
The experience of Christ becomes more and more peripheral; it is light's source. Emmanuel Levinas hands on that lesson when he
infinitely outweighed by the most ancient God. The idea that reminds us that the sun is Plato's figure for the Good, and that the
sinfulness and need of redemption are the way to God is face of the Other is the trace that remains unseen, like the face of God
increasingly objectionable to a heart that has been seized by the according to Exodus 33: 23.
earth. Rilke has the cross pointing away to God. This makes it easier for
him to say that if Christ has helped us say the name of God, well and
The uralle Goft and his angels hover between the ancient of days and good, 'but now at last leave him out of the question. Do not always
the pagan gods of the elemental heaven and earth. Why invoke a force us back into the labour and sorrow that it cost him to "redeem"
supernatural heaven beyond this natural earth, a new life for the us, as you put it. Let us, at last, enter into this state of redemption'.
attainment of which a mediator has to be invoked to raise us from Thi s is what one might consider to be a healthy, Nietzschean sense of
this earthly abyss? For this Abgrun.d is itself full of the darkness of being emancipated from the incubus of the idea of sin. And it is
God. noticeable that even in the Book of Hours there is little sign that the
author ever has any sense of ever having sinned, even although that
Only to him for whom also this abyss was a dwelling do the book is the book of a monk, like the monk Markel whom Rilke could
postponed heavens return, and all that is profoundly and intimately have met in Russia, who believed he had sinned against birds, trees,
here, which the church has conjured away to a beyond, comes back; meadows, sky. Which, given what we have just heard Rilke say about
all the angels, singing its praises, open their wings toward the God, is surprising i£, as Nietzsche says in The Will to Power (160), sin
earth. is a Judaic or pagan idea. Perhaps Rilke would have allowed that
Judaeo-Christianity could not 'leave him out of the question' had he
The complaint is not about Christ but about a church which makes of seen Christ not only as a sign pointing to the sun or God, but as also
the Cross an l�ol instead of a pointer. A pointer to what? To the a mediator through whom God points to man, to Rainer Maria Rilke,
Creator or to his creation? Or to both at once? To the one as the as, in the word of Emmanuel Levinas, the Other, like Lord Kitchener
other and the other as the one? A year earlier he had written: 'When I in the recruitment poster, points a finger at me.8 Nietzsche's
say: God, that is a great conviction in me, not something learnt. It genealogy of sin notwithstanding, sin is not a word one is
seems to me, the whole creation speaks this word . . .'. If this is some continually coming upon in the philosophical writings of Levinas.
kind of pantheism or panentheism it is also some kind of Arianism or Let us not insist on a sense of sin. A sense of responsibility will do.
semi-Arianism, for it wants to hang on to the radical alterity of the But it will not do for this sense of responsibility to be limited to
First Person of the Trinity from the Second, and to the Second direct responsibility to God or to man. Why should it be7 That this
Person's secondarily. It also wants to hang on to the radical alterity need not be is what the poets and philosophers we have been
of God vis-a-vis us. What else can Rilke mean by the abyss that is full considering help to show in different ways, the poet Rainer Maria
of the darkness of God? Both of these radical alterities come together Rilke, for example, and ultimately the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas.
in Rilke's statement: What Levinas contributes to the philosophical theory of proto­
ethical responsibility is a theory of the limits of theory which shows
To take a good hold of this life, with warm affection and wonder how political justice can be saved from doing violence to the
. this it was which Saint Francis of Assisi thought to write down
. . individual person by refusing to let go of provocativity or address,
192 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Absolute Master 193

by insisting that the said can always be unsaid, the dit reanimated, always foils our attempts to appropriate it by making it the content of
respired, by face to face Zusage or dire, a possibility or rather what is properly propositionally said, is construed not through the
necessity and obligation that may explain why scepticism, though Scotist categories of matter and form but through the instance of the
it continually defeats itself in the modality and Hme of the non-categorial, non-quasi-categorial, reversed existential, reversed ek­
proposition of ideas and the constatation of form, continually raises static, in-static, i/leiU of the Other who addresses himself to me face
its head again in the modality and time of exposition, provocation to face and to whom I can respond hineni, 'I am here'. Admittedly, this
and performance that de-fo rms. This is the response Levinas makes to would appear to forfeit the scope of the Scotist doctrine which is not
Hegel and in general to philosophies of system, however individualis­ limited to beings that can speak. But we have already found reason to
tic they may be. The individualism for which we have taken Mill as a allow that we have direct responsibilities to beings that are
model, like any other theory conceived sub specie aeternitafis, is in traditionally thought to be unable to speak, namely animals, what
principle mechanistic, treating individuals on analogy with centres of Heidegger at least provisionally names the we/farm, Rilke's panther,
force of which the resultant of interactions among them is a matter Levinas's Bobby. The reason we found was that whether or not the
for calculation by an unprejudiced observer mindful of an 'original animal is poor in world, he or she is no less capable of pleasure and
position' before the lots are drawn, a blindfold weighing upon scales. pain than what Aristotle calls the rational animal and what Heidegger
In this it is no less a philosophy of totality than a theory which calls the weltbildend. As Mill and Bentham maintain, if our ethics is
argues explicitly that the individual is an epiphenomenon of the utilitarian it must include all sentient beings. Whether from a non­
whole, be it the Platonic Republic, the Kantian intelligible kingdom or utilitarian point of view we consider that we have direct responsibi­
the Hegelian and neo-Hegelian Absolutes. Such primarily political lities to animals is likely to be dependent on how we see the linkage
morality is immoral and unjust, Levinas maintains, unless there is between humans and animals in the great chain of being. We have
prejudice at its anarchic beginning, not a prejudice in favour of the noted how differently Rilke and Heidegger see this. But the problem
totality, as with Hegel, a prejudice in favour of the mortal 'we' such was already posed in our discussion of Heidegger's reflections on
as Levinas sees in the personalisms of Buber, Scheler and Marcel, or a Kant. Posed there already too, especially by Religion within the Bounds
prejudice in favour of the mortal T, as with Heidegger, but a of Reason Alone, was the problem of the nature of human respons­
prejudice in favour o f the mortal Other, of the infinitive 'to say' of ibility toward whatever being there may be above human beings in
the face to face beyond the said and beyond the 'to be' which the classical hierarchy. We have seen that this problem, transmitted
transcends the beingness of beings. through the writings of Philo, Plotinus, Rabbi Ha'im of Volozhin and
If this is the only way that space can be left for what Kant and the their epigones is very much alive in the writings of Levinas. Whether
Stoics call dignity, for what Heidegger and the existentialists call the problem be that of the linkage downward or that of the linkage
authenticity, and for what Levinas calls the holy, it would appear to upward, the view taken of the directness, indirectness or non­
be a waste of time considering the alternative answer to Hegel that obtaining of responsibilities usually turns on the degree of kinship,
might be thought to be offered by Duns Scotus's doctrine of never the difference, that is judged to hold either in the dimension of
haecceitas. On the most widely-agreed reading of this doctrine there animality or in the dimension of rationality. This leaves the plant, not
is a unique thisness that attaches to the forms, the matters and their to mention the stone and the artefact, distinctly out in the cold. It is
combination in each thing below the level of universality. Because left to the poet, the thinking poet and the poet-thinker to bring them
this individuality is below the level of universality, below the in, for example the poet Rilke, the denkende Dichter Holderlin and the
Aristotelian lowest species, it is below the dignity of science because dichtende Denker Heidegger. Levinas would say that Rilke's
below the level of what can be propositionally said. lt does not Weltinnenraum and the four-dimensional space of the Geviert of
follow that it is below the dignity of poetic invocation and praise, as which Holderlin and Heidegger set out the geometry are either a
Gerard Manley Hopkins demonstrates as well as anyone, though space whose coordinates have no origin or one in which the origin is
inevitably with him the glory goes to God, not directly to the the first person singular whose primary care is the egological, if not
dappled things.9 But suppose the quasi-phenomenal haecceitas, which egoistic, satisfaction of its needs and the drive to sustain its own
194 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Absolute Master 195

being towards its own death: the transcende�tal unity of �pper�eftion

stretched. Compare the questions posed in §282 of the same book: 'Is
and the transcendental unity of digestion. Pnor _ to th1s ongm of
it false or nonsensical to say that a pot talks? Have we a clear picture
geometry, prior to this theoretical 1 think', and prio; to this practical
of the circumstances in which we should say of a pot that it talked?
'I can', cutting across t�e disHndion between ac hon �nd pass1. on,
(Even a nonsense-poem is not nonsense in the same way as the
Levinas maintains, is the proto-ethical passivity of my bemg a subJect_
babbling of a child.)' If we do not have a clear picture of the
only because subjected to and called to responsibility b� the regar of � circumstances in which we should say that a rose or a pot talked, and
each and every mortal Other (HAH 91), the cynosure m a pre-eth1cal
if we require that a thing must be able to talk if it is to be capable of
_ :

space whose dimension of depth we might _ no ' c l der andere Be�ug.
being that toward which there can be responsibility, it follows that
Prior to the for-oneself, the pour soi, the fur s1ch, IS the proto-eth1cal
we shall be unclear whether it is false or nonsensical or true to say
for-the-other. that such things as roses and pots are things toward which we can
But can the Other who calls me to responsibility, whether direct or
have responsibilities. But why do we lay down this requirement?
indirect, be a being that cannot speak? The response to this q�estion
Apparently because we require that for every responsibility it must be
must be the further question, Why not? As Bentham and M1ll and
possible to make a correlative claim. Even if this were a valid
Saint Francis would hope to have persuaded us, the capacity to speak
requirement, it does not follow that the claim has to be one that
is not a necessary condition for being the prime mover of
can be articulated by the being to whom the responsibility is directed.
responsibility, and they would hope to have persuaded those of us
Those who make this requirement allow that it is sufficient if the
who needed this persuasion quite independently of whether we hold
claim can be articulated or the right expressed by an agent or trustee
that certain animals can speak. Nor, though history shows that th1s _
of the being in whom it is invested. True, they are likely to restrict
has sometimes been denied, is the capacity to speak our language
agency and trusteeship to circumstances in which the being on behalf
such a necessary condition, where 'our' is variously defined. It is ofte�
of whom the agency or trusteeship is held is one who could
argued that, although neither of these conditions is necessary, _1t IS
conceivably speak for him- or herself. This is because the context
necessary that any being to whom responsibilit� is �wed s o�ld b� � of these claims and rights is one of legal or ethico-legal contract. Yet
capable of acquiring language or of having acqUired 1t .m pnnc1ple 1f
even within this context of systematic reciprocity it is conceivable
not in practice. This brings the human embryo, f�etus, mfants and
and does not demand much, if any, stretching of the imagination to
mentally-deficient human beings of whatever age m from the cold.
recognize that a person may have responsibility as agent or trustee
Whether it brings in what, Heidegger notwithstanding, I shall go on
toward a rose, a pot, a rainforest, a river, a mountain, meadows, birds,
referring to as : other animals would then depend again on :'hat trees, sky, fish, whales, the sea. Perhaps indirect responsibilities
species of animals we have in mind and on what we count as havmg a
toward such things will be readily conceived and imagined at the
language. But why do we have to make the answer to the question of
level of systematic, contractual or custom law. But direct responsibi­
responsibility depend on the answers to this question about language?
lities toward such things are conceivable there too, and it must be
Whether or not this or that animal has language, we know that they
direct responsibility that is being conceived at the pre-contractual and
have needs, and needs we can recognize without the animal that h�s
pre-customary level of the proto-ethical face to face; for in so far as
them having to put them into words. Perhaps his need of words IS
this is the proximity of a dyadic neighbourhood and because the first
one of the animal's most crucial needs. For if he or she had words,
responsibility is to the Other, not to myself, there is no room for

they would certainly include 'Help!', 'Spare me' or at least · et me be'.
indirection. My responsibility stares me in the face as the Other's
And that is what we could expect to hear if non-senhent bemgs �oul � poverty, hunger, nakedness - need. This need stares me in the face. So

speak. Granted, the possibility of entertaining such an expec ahon IS
we are this side of symmetry and calculative, totalizing system. There
restricted by the difficulty of imagining what . would sahs the� is no reason why this dissymmetry should be lost when we adapt it
hypothesis. To adapt a question put by W1tt enstetn _ m the
� to the fourfold economy of Heidegger and Holderlin or to Rilke's
Philosophical Investigations, 'Where should a �ose �
tongue have
inner space of the world in which the needs of non-human beings are
been7'.10 If the question is to be answered the 1magmahon must be
acknowledged alongside those of Levinas's Aufrui. And this adapta-
196 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience

tion does not imply that we must believe or make believe that these 9
other beings can feel and/or talk if they are to be provocative of an
ethical or proto-ethical response. lt suffices that we recognize the
ecological interdependence of things, in other words the mutuality of The Feeling Intellect
need, whether that need be experienced, unexperienced or unexper­
iencable, articulated, unarticulated or unarticulable. The acknowledge­
ment of this need does not presuppose sympathy, for the need may
be a need of a thing that does not feel. The mutuality is not or not Comment formuler, voire formaliser ces operations de bascule qui
only the mutuality of sympathy or intimate love, and it is a mutuality renversent un terme dans son contraire tout en les maintenanf a
which does not fall into the violence of purely political universality as d'aut-res points de vue a distance?
long as there is someone who recognizes that before the mutual Jean-Pierre Vernant, 'Raisons du mythe'
responsibility and justice of the human community, the condition of
its possibility as justice and of its impossibility as principle, is the par confiance envers cette idee que l'idenfite du moi est Dire de
anarchic, dissymmetrical responsibility toward human and non-human subversion, Dire d'in-quielude pour /'Autre, il faut en terminer avec
beings of which he or she says 'This responsibility falls on me.' fouf Dit, fut-il mifaphorique, qui donne a penser cette inquietude se/on
deux regimes, l'un masculin, /'autre [eminin.
Catherine Chalier, Figures du fiminin

Proto-ethical responsibility is a responsiveness which is a respons­

ibility because it is a response to another's need, whether or not that
other be a human being. lt is proto-ethical, not ethical in the usual
sense, because the responsibility is inevitably mine. These are the two
main theses of our book. They describe more than one chiasmic
encounter. The most improbable of these must be that of Martin
Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas. The chiasmus remains improbable.
It is bound so to remain. This is what one discovers in reading
Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man. A chiasmus is neither an eclectic, a
collocation of externally related parallel lines. Nor is it a dialectic, a
synthesis by which two apparently contradictory opposites are both
internalised in a neutral stabilising third. If it is not a dialectical
contradiction, however, neither is it a contradiction of classical logic.
In some sense the parties to a chiasmus belong to each other,
complement and supplement each other. It will have long since
become clear that no amount of ingenuity will make everything that
Levinas has written sit comfortably with everything that has been
written by Heidegger. Such an outcome, even if it were desirable, is
not one we should expect, given the fact that not everything that
either author has said in one place agrees with what he has said

198 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling Intellect 199

elsewhere. But bland agreement between them is not desirable. We, how I comport myself vis-a-vis fellow human beings, how I naturally
their readers, would be the losers. We should lose the obligation to respond, and this response is as much one of feeling as of cognition, a
think again that is imposed by a chiasmus, when two lines of thought response in which the other is disclosed through, as Heidegger puts it
come closest then proceed to move apart, each a supplementary step in Being and Time, a joint operation in which understanding (Verstehen)
ahead of the other, as indicated by the dissymmetry of the Greek and mood (Stimmung) are jointly adverbs of each other. Hence when
letter chi, X· We should therefore lose a chance of a new way of the way the world discloses itself undergoes a fundamantal change
seeing that such a chiasmus gives. It is perhaps not without symbolic the change is one of Grundstimmung no less than of fundamental
significance that vision depends on a chiasmus of the optic nerves principle or absolute presuppositon. Now the world is not my world.
between the retina and the brain. Is it a duck or is it a rabbit? Maybe It is ours. So it is as unfair to complain if a philosopher says only
it is some third thing for which we do not have ,a name, something 'Wait' as it would be to complain that Humpty Dumpty cannot decide
we will therefore be prone to think of as an unthinkable unthing, a by fiat what a given word is to mean.
monstrous I do not know what. It is however not true that Heidegger says that all the dichfende
Our attempt to reach some third thing via the crossing of Denker or the denkende Dichter can do is wait. They can prepare the
Heidegger and Levinas, something to which neither on his own is way. They can do this, without any privileged insight into the future,
obviously on the way, has more than once been impeded by the by recognizing that one of the needs of the time of need is for
difficulty that where we should like to be reaching literal sense we thinking that thinks otherwise, for what Heidegger calls das andere
seem to reach only anthropomorphic figures of speech. How can what Denken, a thinking which is a doing that is a response to the
has no mouth or eyes be said, literally, to make a claim? What can it command of what Levinas calls the autremenf dire.
mean to say that one may murder an animal, a plant or a stone? At the crossing of the paths of these two thinkers, our particular
Confronted by this difficulty, is there nothing more to be done than difficulty is that the thinking otherwise which we hope for is a
assert that whether it can be overcome is in the lap of history, in the thinking commanded by an autrement dire which, like a ventriloquist's
lap of the gods, as Heidegger would say? Is it true that 'Only a god doll, must borrow its voice. Where one of the needs of the Other
can save us', and what does this statement mean71 History and the from which the command comes is the need of a voice of its own we
gods have come and gone, and hindsight appears to show that such must, as Rilke does, speak on its behalf, borrowing words from
difficulties have been overcome. But they have been overcome not thinker-poets like him or Holderlin or Hopkins or Jeffers and from
only by waiting, though there will have to be a good deal more of poet-thinkers like Heidegger to help us meet this need. This need
that. When it is: complained that the only message Heidegger has is may be the need of a mouth to have words put into it to say that it
expressed in the .single word 'Wait', this is both unfair and false. also needs food. When, as with a tree or a stone there is neither
It is unfair because it supposes that a fundamental change in mouth to speak or eat nor eyes in which mortality can be read, it is
historical outlook is in principle no different from a changing of one's not easy to suppose a face. But it may not remain impossible. As is
shirt, whereas it is much more like the changing of one's skin. To perhaps shown by Levinas himself when, since writing his fine essay
suppose this is, in Collingwood's terms, to mistake an absolute about Bobby, he comes, as we saw in Chapter 3, to experience less
presupposition for a relative one, a conceptual frame for a true or difficulty with the notion that an animal at least may in his sense have
false belief.2 There is a difference in principle because there is a a face. But do we have to stop there? If the dissymmetry of me vis-a­
difference between a principle and a proposition. However, this is still vis Autrui can be retained, it can save the ecosystematicity of the
a too purely intellectualist way of characterizing what Heidegger fourfold from total violence and injustice just as well as it saves
means by an epochal revolution in the history of being. We begin to systematic ethics and politics from these. The responsibility to make
understand this when we begin to understand, for example, why the notion of the Other wider and more welcoming in this way still
Wittgenstein says 'My attitude towards him is an attitude towards a has the same foundation, namely need, the need of whatever is
soul. I am not of the opinion that he has a soul.'3 The Einstellung, necessary to enable it to persist in its being. Although an unviolent
though this is perhaps not a word that Heidegger would here use, is ecological ethics cannot have my persistence in being as its
200 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling Intellect 201

foundation, there is every reason why it should be called for by yours Malebranche that we att�ibute the doctrine that our ideas are in the
and your needs or those of the other Other, the animal. the tree or mind of God. This doctrine would lend itself to the teaching that my
the flower and the stone, the artefact constructed by weltbildend centre of gravity is outside my conative or desiring self. It would help
human beings or indeed by the non-human weltarm or weltlos. to explain why behind my minuscule desire is a Desire with a
majuscule D for Dieu. Levinas has qualms over Descartes because 'In
Descartes there remains a certain ambiguity . . ., the cogito depending
II on God while grounding the existence of God: the priority of the
Infinite subordinates itself to the free adherence of the initially
Levinas's account of my responsibility to those who (in both senses of autonomous will' ('La philosophie et !'idee de l'Infini', 1957, DEHH
this expression) come after me beyond the Other who faces me here 174). Yet it is Descartes, not Malebranche, that the later writings of
and now is connected, as he expounds it in Totality and Infinity, with Levinas regularly invoke. This may be in part because of the
his account of erotic love and fecundity. Many of his readers have importance Heidegger gives to Descarles as the philosopher who
found it difficult to accept .what they regard as the sexual bias of his typifies above all the modem thinking of the subject and the world it
treatment of these topics. Of Levinas's use of the concepts of represents, so that it would be an especially. telling tour de force with
paternity, the feminine and filiality we shall say only at this point special impact upon the ontological programme of Being and Time if in
that they are no more intended to be understood in a purely the writings of Descartes of all philosophers could be read the
biological sense than are Freud's conceptions of sexuality and the message that prima philosophia is not ontology but metaphysics
family scene or Hegel's recourse to the concepts of the human and understood as proto-ethics. In any case, does not ·the ambiguity to
holy families on which Totality and Infinity is as much, if less which Levinas refers disappear as soon as we distinguish, as Descartes
explicitly, a critical commentary as it is of Being and Time and that does, the order of being from the order of coming to know?
book's setting aside of questions regarding the enjoyment and pains Levinas is arguing for an ethical or proto-ethical reading of
of alimentary, productive and reproductive life - which, be it noted in Descartes's Meditations concerning first Philosophy which is in some
passing, are set at the centre of some sentimentalist and utilitarian regards akin to Kant's reinterpretation of the idea of God as an Idea
philosophies of man.4 The effectiveness of Levinas's applications of of which the application is primarily practical. Levinas is arguing that
the familial terms would not be lost if they were employed under prior to order as conjunction is order as injunction, prior both to the
erasure or regarded as fictional or metaphorical, though he would not order of being and to the order of theoretical knowing is the order, or
welcome any L�canian implications this way of regarding them might disorder, of proto-ethical or primary justice. Furthermore, he is
suggest. One of the striking features of Levinas's thought, most making the seemingly insane claim that this justice is not only
noticeable in Othe�ise than Being or Beyond Essence, is that he has the outside contract in the usual sense, but is insinuated already even
audacity to locate the opening on to the ethical in the most in 'the erotic caress the intentionality of which is outside contact,
elementary experiences of what would in the traditional Aristotelian toward ever renewed search. In one of the essays included in En
terminology be called the animality of the rational animal, though decouvrant /'existence avec Husserl et Heidegger he writes:
Levinas would be no happier with this terminology than is
Heidegger. Even what some would call the divinity of man, the Only the idea of infinity, where being overflows the idea, where
respect in which he is said to be made in the image of God, is the Other overflows the Same, breaks with the interior play of the
incipient in the so-called beast in man. We mentioned earlier Levinas's soul and deserves the name of experience, of relation with the
appeal to Descartes's Third Meditation to enable him to explain what outside. Hence it is more cognitive than knowledge itself and every
he means by the Other that overflows any idea of him that we can objectivity must participate in it. (DEHH 174)
have. Now if the question at issue were one of onto-theology we
might be at a loss to understand why in an early essay Levinas The voluptuosity of erotic love which the Old Testament names
indicates a preference for Malebranche over Descartes. It is usually to knowledge is an intimation of this anarchic quasi-transcendental
202 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling Intellect 203

condition that transcends all transcendental categories and is the 254; 264, 276). But withdrawal into mystery and equivocation is a
passing, la passe, and the immemorial past that is passed over, Levinas withdrawal from the frankness of the face and of linguistic expression,
contends, by Heidegger's table of existentials. The voluptuosity of a retreat from the uprightness of a you facing me to the intimacy of
nakedness is a prefiguring of the nakedness of the face, where the the I with the thou. Neither the desire for knowledge of an object or
face, Levinas tells us, may be the nape of the neck, the hand, the for power, erotic love is not a desire for possession or being
entire vulnerable body: 'it is the incarnation of human subjectivity possessed. The romantic idea of the mysteriousness and modesty of
that guarantees its spirituality' (El 104; 97). The discovery of the woman is a mark of the alterity and duality that prevents erotic love
body in voluptuosity is ambiguously a deux. The nakedness of the fusing into fusion, and a mark of the fact that the fission-it retains is
face to face into which erotic love is a non-initiative initiation - for not one of a conflict of free wills, in the manner described for example
'there is no initiative at the birth of erotic love, which arises in the by Sartre. The other is refractory to our power not because his or her
passivity of its pangs' (TI 248, cp 254; 270, cp 277) - is ethically power is greater, but because the power of alterity is its being outside
speaking unambiguously a Dieu. The frank presence of the contact power (TA 80, TO 87). Voluptuosity is neither mastery nor bondage,
between eyes in the face to face is a tact outside contact that inherits but the femination and being moved 'which the heroic and virile I will
from the caress an absence which, in the form of Abstand, the distance remember as one of those things that stand apart from "serious
· kept by ethical care or respect, is a form of the absence of form, of maHers"' (TI 248; 270) where, since they are . philosophical, not
eidos, of image and of representation for which Levinas introduces the biological, concepts, the virility can be that of a woman.
word 'trace'. It is because this trace is anticipated in erotic love that
Levinas says that erotic love is an exit froi:n 'tragic egoity' (TI 251;
27 3). It is an exit not only because 'the pathos of voluptuosity is Voluptuosity hence aims not at the Other but at his [ her!
voluptuosity; it is voluptuosity of voluptuosity, love of the love
made of duality' (TI 254; 276), but because this a deux is at the same
of the other. Love accordingly does not represent a particular case
time an a trois. Levinas's view of erotic love as described by Freud
seems to be that it is a un or a une, like solitaire or the 'as thyself' of of friendship . . . : friendship goes toward the other; love seeks
what does not have the structure of an existent, the indefinitely
Rousseau's self-affective dangerous supplement.
future, what is to be engendered. (TI 244; 266)
One gives onself pleasure ready made; one reasons on the basis of
it. What remains unrecognized is that the erotic, analysed as Although Levinas's insistence that the familial relationships of which
fecundity, breaks up reality into relations irreducible to the he is treating are to be understood philosophically rather than
relations of .genus and species, part and whole, action and biologically may, far from placating some of his readers, distress
passion, truth and error; that in sexuality the subject enters into them all the more, it would be a pity if the shock of discovering that
relation with what is absolutely other, with an alterity unforesee­ he calls engendering paternity, adding only as though it were an
able in formal logic, with what remains other in the relation and is afterthought that The notion of maternity must be introduced here
never converted into 'mine', and that nonetheless this relation has . . .' (TI 255; 278), blinded us to the subtlety of his description of
nothing ecstatic about it, for the pathos of voluptuosity is made of filiation. Since filiation is being explained philosophically, the fact that
duality. it is described as a relation of father and son does not mean that the
relation cannot hold between a mother and daughter. After all, it can
The duality consists in the masculine being in relation with the hold between a teacher and pupil - and not only when the teacher is
feminine Other, where the feminine is what Levinas has earlier literally in loco parentis, like James Mill. So when Levinas refers to
described as the welcome in the dwelling, whether or not in the paternal love philosophically understood, he is referring to a relation
dwelling there is anyone of the female sex (TI 131; 158); in that a biological mother or father may have for her or his biological
voluptuosity the feminine Other withdraws into mystery and daughter or son, and to a relation that may hold between persons
equivocation on the hither side of linguistic expression (TI 241, who have no blood relationship at all. 'The love of the father for the
204 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling lntellecf 205
son accomplishes the sole relation possible with the very unicity of identical, yet without our non-identity being attributable to some
another; and in this sense every love must approach paternal love' (Tl discernible qualitative mark.
256; 279). But how are we to undertand th is 'approach' (s'approcher
deJ? Dialectically? This word is often employed in Totality and Infinity The son is not only my work, like a poem or an object, nor is he
to describe the movement of its thought, despite the fact that it is to my property. Neither the categories of power nor those of
the danger of what he considers to be the totalizing movement of knowledge describe my relation with the child. The fecundity of
Hegel's thought that Levinas would have us acknowlege infinity as the I is neither a cause nor a determination. I do not have my child;
the check. Now emphase is another word that Levinas often employs I am my child. Paternity is a relation with a stranger who while
to describe the movement of his thought. His philosophical descrip­ being Other . . . is me, a relation of the self with a self which yet is
tions proceed by the hyperbolization or superlation of the very not me. In this 'I am' being is no longer Eleatic unity. (Tl 254; 277)
notions whose claim to hegemony he challenges. And he goes on
using the same words, as we have seen him do with the word Nor is it, we may add, Hegelian or 1-Ieideggerian being. One may
'knowledge', saying that infinity is more cognitive than cognition. well wonder whether the difficulty of this thought is made greater by
This is what he is doing also with the word 'dialectical'. And this the expository rhetoric of Totality and lnfinify which continually refers
makes space for us to say that although in a sense every love to itself as a kind of ontology - for instance, 'Fecundity is to be set
approaches the paternal. it does not leave entirely outside maternal or up as an ontological category' - and maintains that Being, admittedly
at any rate feminine aftendrissement, meaning by this being 'touched' 'emphasized' out of itself, is Exteriority, or on the other hand by the
by the other, a hetero-affedion that gets under the skin of self­ rhetoric of Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence which attempts to
affective egoity. True, if, following HegeL we say that the paternal elide the verb 'to be'. But the aim i s quite clear. It is to show that
love which erotic love approaches retains the latter in some way, we unicity or uniqueness i s not absorbed by the Eleatic One. And
shall have to say presumably that self-love is retained too. This still Levinas's attempt to achieve that aim passes via his analysi s of the
leaves us wanting to know, if Levinas is following Hegel up to a son. The son is unique because he is unique for his father.
certain point, where the point is reached beyond which he refuses to
go. We want to know, for instance, how infinity as more cognitive And because the son owes his unicity to the paternal election he
than cognition differs from absolute cognition, bearing in mind that can be brought up, be commanded, and can obey, and the strange
the latter is a Resr1ltat which, unlike the result of an operation of .
conjuncture of the family is possible. Creation contradicts the
arithmetical addition, may be a Satz vorn Grund, a sa/to rnortale, a leap freedom of the creature only when creation i s confused with
into the light. There should be a good chance of understand n i g ni causality. Whereas creation as a relation of transcendence, of
some way the discontinuity in the movement from Hegel to Levinas union and fecundity, conditions the positing of a unique being,
if we apply to it what the latt er says about filiation, granted his own and his ipseity qua elected.
assertion that one example of a filiative relation is that between pupil
and teacher and assuming that an example of this latter relation is that The uniqueness here referred to is neither a qualitative nor a
of Levinas to Hegel. If this assumption needs any support it receives numerical uniqueness, but a uniqueness through election. When one is
it when, having asserted that filiative connections obtain in nations, chosen one is singled out. Levinas asks 'where can I be chosen, if not
he adds: 'The originality of this resumption (renouement), distinct from from among other chosen ones, among equals7' It is not obvious why
continuity, is attested in the revolt or the permanent revolution that
the one chosen should not be chosen from among unequals. However,
constitutes ipseity'. Levinas's 'permanent revolution' against Hegel is since qualitative differences and comparisons are not relevant here, it
a resumption of the conversation with him, a retying of its threads.
is reasonable to infer that the one chosen will be chosen from among
The knot between father and son which resumes the threads of equals. For what am I elected? To say that I am elected is to say that I
history is - trinitologists will be interested to read5 - a node through am not merely among equals but to face my brothers and serve them.
which I am substantially in my son without him and me being My being elected i s my being put on the spot, released by the other
206 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling Intellect 207

from the self-position of my identity persevering in and preserving its The feeling intellect is that grace which dwells between one
being, called to a responsibility from which no one c�n release n:e. I possibility and another, perceiving and revealing a pattern beneath
am both unique and non-unique in the sense that a ph1losophe� might the surface of experience without wishing· to impose a style upon
find himself wanting to say not just that everyone IS . responsible for
it. It is as much a talent for saying nothing, for submitting to the

everyone, but that each I is an I among many each of w om is more supposed meaning or meaninglessness of life, as for deliberate
responsible than any other. However, would not sa� mg that be speaking out. It is a profounder concept than Keats's 'negative

saying something logically and in Levinas's sense ethtcal y absurd: capability' because it recognises and celebrates the will as just
logically absurd because ethically absurd in Levinas's meamng of the possibly in some circumstances a 'humbler tenderness'. Rilke of all
ethical? It will be recalled that the answer we gave when we discussed twentieth-century poets had this power6
this predicament of predication in the second section of Chapter 2, �s
that it is indeed ethically impossible for me to say that another ts The description 'feeling intellect' suggests that this power of
more responsible than I. For the ethical is my openness to you who poetry might be a power of wilL as Nye here says it is, if it has to
are a second person grammatically but the first person ethically - or, be classified according to the traditional division of the faculties of
more precisely, proto-ethically, if we limit the ethical to the usual the mind into cognition, conation and emotion. So, although a
sense in which it involves the plurality of third persons, whether they capability, like that to which Keats refers, of 'being in uncertainties,
be my contemporaries or the posterity of the innumerable future as Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason',
which, Levinas says, paternity is produced. it will be a transfiguration of reason, and rather than being a
Having said something about paternity and the masculine, it is ·
preference such as Keats expressed in his 'Adam's Dream' letter for
about maternity and the feminine that we must now speak. 'Sensations rather than Thoughts', this power will be an overcoming
of this opposition. If it is a power of will, it is a peaceful power, a
celebration of the will which is an expression of respect: a 'humbler
tenderness' or a 'humble patience' of 'the thinking heart', die einfache
Langmut of the denkende Herz which is 'the in-sistence in releasement
III ( Gelassenheit) to that which regions' and which is 'the real nature of
the spontaneity of thinking' (Gel 62, DT 82), a more subtle
We have mentioned more than once a broadening out in Levinas's spontaneity than that of Kantian pure reason.
thinking beyond his earlier determination to keep ethics at �ms This poetic andere Denken is Andenken, commemoration, because it
length from art to a readiness to agree with Celan that to wn�e a is a remembrance of what is of high birth. It gives thanks for what the
poem can be to shake its reader by the hand. We have also underltned thinker is given by the grace (Nye's word again) of being, the es gibt
the kinship acknowledged by Kant between the poietic imaginatio� in of Sein. The problems or mysteries that surround the manifold
the first Critique, respect in the second and the dodnne . of the subhme theological conceptions of grace have their counterpart in Heideg­
in the third. Whether or not with Heidegger's support we pursue the ger's reflections on the thinking of being. Indeed, as his remarks about
idea that these are three stems that go back to a single common root, theology mentioned in the previous chapter would lead us to expect,
there remains at least a kinship in structure. Allowing the word he maintains that the latter is an investigation of that to which the
'feeling' to include sensibility, the aesthetic feelings and the feeling of former must come back. In a paragraph of Being and Time which is
moral respect, allowing the word 'intellect' to include what in the also directly relevant to our earlier references to sin and the holy and
narrower sense Kant calls reason, and bearing in mind the above­ to our preoccupation with the relationship between my and your
mentioned doctrine of Being and Time that Verstehen ist immer salvation and the salvation of the world, he explains that
gestimmtes, this common structure could be desig�ated the feeling
intellect. After referring to Wordsworth' s use of thts phrase _m 'The our existential-ontological Interpretation makes no ontical asser­
Prelude', Robert Nye writes: tion about the 'corruption of human Nature', not because the
208 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeli ng lntellecf 209

necessary evidence is lacking, but because the problematic of this ity because it lies outside the sphere of the will. More precisely, it is
Interpretation is prior to any assertion about corruption or the end-state of a will not to will, wollen wir das Nicht-Wol/en (Gel 57,
incorruption . . . . Ontically, we have not decided whether man DT 79).
is 'drunk with sin' and in the status corrupfionis, whether he walks in The composed patience of the Gelassenheit of commemorative
the status integrifalis, or whether he finds himself in the intermediate thinking as will not to will has an 'unsung precursor', David Krell
stage, the status graliae. But in so far as any faith or 'world view', observes, in Nietzsche's description of learnjng to see: 'habituating
makes any such assertions, and if it asserts anything about Dasein the eye to repose, to patience, to letting things come to it . . . what is
as Being-in-the-world, it must come back to the existential called in unphilosophkal language "strong will-power": the essence of
structures which we have set forth, provided that its assertions it is precisely not to 'will', the capacily to defer decision'. The capacity,
are to make a claim to conceptual understanding. (BT 180) kiinnen, here referred to is a mastery, but a mastery over oneself, as is
confirmed when Nietzsche goes on to compare learrung to think with
acquiring the Meislerschafl or technique of dancing.7 So is what
The problems or mysteries that surround the theological doctrines Heidegger calls Gelassenheif also a technique, though a technique
of grace are anticipated ni the double genitivity of the preposition in turned toward the subject rather than the object? If so, there would
the phrase 'the thinking of being'. They are linked up with seem to be some basis for extending to Heidegger's later thinking
Malebranche's doctrine that our ideas are ideas in the mind of God Levinas's description of Bei ng and Time as a philosophy of 'I can'.
and, as we shall in a moment discover, they are not unrelated to his Even the thinking of Gelassenheif would then be a philosophy of the
occasionalism. Further, just as in the history of theology the exercise of egological power, a philosophy of the subjectivity's ltisus
differences among the conceptions of grace have been differences and conatus essendi, a philosophy indistinguishable in principle from
over the notion of will, Heidegger's thinking of the history of being the Leibnizian and Nietzschean philosophies of will to power as
as Andenken calling for Gelassenheit has been a conversation with Heidegger describes these in order to show that they fall short of 'the
Nietzsche on the part played in this thinking by will. Hence, we could other thinking' of being (The Word of Nietzsche "God is Dead'", H
ask why, if Andenken is remembrance of what is of high birth, namely 21 Iff., QCT 72ff.). Heidegger writes that the ancient metaphysical
being, there is so much hesitancy over saying that the Gelassenheif it thinking of the beingness (ousia) of the hypokeimenon or subiectum
calls for is the highest willing. Is it because Heidegger wants to show changes into 'the subjedness of assertive self-consciousness, which
Gelassenheif witp regard to the will, to be humbly patient and tender now manifests its essence as the will to will' (H 218, QCT 79-80). Is
toward it - and toward Nietzsche and his will to power? Why is not his thinking itself a thinking of that subjectness after all? Can it be
the poetic power pf the will itself will to power? defended against the unlikely claim that it is without exposing it to
In the 'Conversation on a Country Path', dating from 1944-5, the the more familiar claim that it is a thinking of quietism and inaction?
middle of a period of years during which Heidegger was writing We have already begun to see that there is room for a middle way, a
prolifically about Nietzsche, one of the participants, the research way to wruch we have pointed when from time to time we have
scientist, says 'The composed patience in which the nature of coopted from Greek grammar the admittedly still insufficiently
releasement rests, might be what could correspond to the highest clarified but nevertheless heuristically provocative notion of middle
willing, and yet this would not be possible'. Das verhaltene Ausdauern, voice. The utility of this notion for our purposes was first suggested
wodurch die Gelassenheit in ihrem Wesen ruht, wiire das, was dem to us by Derrida, but no more than he do we wish to exaggerate the
hachsten Wollen entsprechen konnte und es doch nich t durfte. This relevance of the original grammatical ideas covered by trus phrase.
hovering in what is not quite a contradiction is what we have been Without the flesh we have been putting on it thanks, for example, to
prepared for by an exchange earlier in the conversation where it is the sentences reproduced above from Robert Nye, the chances of its
granted that Gelassenheit contains a higher doing (ein hoheres Tun) but advancing the question concerning the difference between Heidegger
denied that it is an activity (Aktiuitiit), on the grounds that and Nietzsche on the subject of the will may seem slim, given that
Gelassenheit lies outside the opposition between activity and passiv- Charles ScoH sees the middle voice as the key to an interpretation not
210 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Fee ling Intellect 211

ne on eternal The published English translation gives 'occasion' for Anlass. The
only of Heidegger but also of Nietzsche's doctri
recurrence and will to power .8 It is significant that. on Scott's French translation published in Questions 1l1 gives incifafion. 10 What
will to power and eternal recurrence are the word is designed to exclude is effecting or causing, as is made
interpretation of Nietzsche,
way Heide gger describes when he clear by the statement that the relinquishing no longer stems from
two sides of the same coin in the
writes: (kommf aus) a willing and by what the scholar goes on to say. This is
an exclusion both of mechanistic causation and of a ground or motive
Inasmuch as the will wills the overpowering of itself, it is not which would be cited as why or how the relinquishing takes place.
satisfied with any abundance of life. It asserts power in over­ The logic is similar to that of Kant's account of the manner in which
reaching - i.e. in the overreaching of its own will. In this way it the feeling of respect plays its indispensable but not central role in an
continually comes as the selfsame back upon itself as the same. action determined by the moral law. But how can the trace of willing
(H 219, QCT 81) be dispensed with once it has played its indispensable role in the
achievement of Gelassenheit, in the consequent state of willed
as 'strong self-will' relinquishment of will? For if Gelassenheit is, as we are told, a
Not only does power overpower itself, somewhat
' thinking of the verhaltenes Ausdauern, a composed steadfastness or patience which,
masters the self's wilL but, if Nietzsche's 1ight-footed
idea of will to
will to power is to be successful. it must fail: 'the as the noun says, endures, then it would not be unreasonable to infer
nt that Nietzsche's that the will cannot be only prevenient but must be sustained as long
power is itself transvalued into something differe
true to itself, imagine'. Into the discourse of as the endurance is maintained if only to resist forces that might
discourse could not,
otherwise lead it to lapse. However, this inference is not compelling.
Heidegger or Levinas or Derrida7 . . .
tc reading of Remembering that not all deists or theists required a God to sustain
The invocation of a middle voice is apt for a chtasm
Heidegger with Levinas because it marks the ver .

: spot at w ich their the universe in existence after its creation, it is arguable that although
Ity, rarely mdtcated the will would be necessary to reach a state of Gelassenheif, once
paths cross, the place between activity and passiV
fad that the na�e reached the state could remain steady in the way that having a
on maps of so-called Western thought, despite the
e - and desptt e disposition or habit is being in a condition in which the behaviour
we are giving to that place comes to us from Greec
Plato's cross- bred expressive and definitive of it could be said to be precisely that
the fact that that place or non-place is prepared in
us. 9 Both Levinas and Heidegger aim to condition in which willing is now otiose. So among other disanalogies
thinking of chora in the Timae
e the categories of between the place occupied in Heidegger's thinking by Gelassenheit
make their readers sensitive to a dimension outsid
ergon and energeia, a
active and pas��\le potentiality, beyond dunamis , and the place which Kant ascribes to the holy will is this absence of
case, but also m will from the former, an absence that is guaranteed if the trace of the
dimension of non-allergic height in Levinas's
caus�, and b�yond 'trace of willing' admitted by Heidegger is not like a trace of oil in
Heidegger's case a dimension beyond effect and
man theones �f water, which is of the same stuff as that of which it is a trace, but like
the quasi-dynamic conflict of wills typical of Newto
the word An/ass IS the dried trace which high water leaves on the sand - or the trace of
human relations. In that case it is not obvious how
a Country Path' the the face in Levinas's sense which is unlike the countenance in that it
to be understood when in the 'Conversation on
scientist says: has no phenomenality at all. If Heidegger· does mean that the
admitted trace of the will is not in pare materia with the will, that
Releasement is indeed the release of oneself from transcendental re­ it retains not even a soupr;on of its power, then, albeit at the cost of
presentation and so a relinquishing of the willing of a horizon. Such presenting us with the problem of understanding how the trace can
relinquishing no longer stems from a willing, except that the Anlass then be the or part of the Anlass, he presents us with a way of
for releasing oneself to belonging to that-which-regions requires a avoiding a certain problem that threatens Levinas. Perhaps a symptom
trace of willing (einer Spur des Wollens). This trace, ow�ver, � of this latter problem, which we might call the problem of the activity
vanishes while releasing oneself and is completely extmgutshed of receptivity, is the doubling of welcome, accueil, as Levinas proceeds
in releasement. (Gel 57," OT 79-80} from Totality and Infinity, where welcome is associated, as the Timaeus
212 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling Intellect 213

associates chora, with femininity and maternity and is beyond willing, first part of this sentence signals that the desire here referred to is the
to Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence where welcome is active, non-erotic Desire we earlier spoke of in connection with the essay
virile. assuming, accepting or taking into one's possession, even when 'God and Philosophy' originally published in 1975. Erotic desire,
it is suffering that is accepted, as it is in Sartre's analysis of passion although concupiscent, is not virile assertion of power. As explained
where there is always a trace of action in passion and where the trace in detail in Totality and Infinity, it is effemination and hospitality, my
is in pare materia with that of which it is the trace. The passivity of an being host or hostess which is the vestibule or narthex of my being
object on this Sartrian account is its being used as a means by a hostage to the other in responsibility, which in that book is described
conscious agent. The passivity of the subject is also in this way as welcome, but not welcome as described in the second part of this
subordinate to the free act of choosing to suffer or not to suffer the sentence from Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence This latter

suffering. ln both cases the activity and the passivity are simultan­ welcome is an act, hence incompatible with absolute passivity and
eous. It is the shortcoming of the Sartrian analysis of the latter thought to be compatible only because absolute passivity is confused
simultaneity that is being singled out for criticism when Levinas says, with the a priori receptivity of the data of cognition which is younger
The term welcome of the Other expresses a simultaneity of activity than it. 'Receptivity with regard to the given, a modality of cognition,
and passivity which places the relation vvith the other outside of the is not adequate for it, for precisely the a priori that cannot be
dichotomies valid for things: the a priori and the a posteriori, activity excluded from it lets all the weight of the given be welcomed. This
and passivity' (Tl 62; 89). Sartre's analysis does not penetrate to a would still be an act" (AEAE 109, OBBE 192). Soon after this dismissal
passivity whose simultaneity with activity is at the same time a of welcome from absolute passivity Levinas writes, The passivity of
diachrony, a double time, arhythmia. In this simultaneity it is not affection is more passive than the radical receptivity Heidegger
activity which dominates passivity, as in the account given by Sartre, speaks of in qmnection with Kant, where the transcendental
but passivity which rises above · domination by being a patience more imagination offers the subject a "pigeon-hole of nothingness" so as
passive than the passivity of allergic interaction, by being ethical, by to precede the given and assume if. The immemorial past of ethical
being metaphysical, by being beyond being: beyond the being of the passivity precedes the a priori we come to know with the help of
object, the being in-itself whose being beyond the opposition of anamnetic midwifery. Its prior apriority is at the same time an
activity and passivity it is Sartre's aim to demonstrate in his aposteriority. That is why in Totality and Infinity Levinas speaks of
discussion of this dichotomy in the sixth section of the Introduction it as welcome, to underline that the Other is adventitious or, as
to Being and Nof�ingness ; and beyond the being of the for-itself which Derrida says, an in-vention, meaning not just my invention but the
Levinas maintains is under the ordinance of diacony for the other. So other's invenience, the invention de l'autre . 11 The sentence we have
the problem is to understand how this for-the-other can be welcome just cited demonstrates just how wrong we could be in simply
without its being an acceptance or assumption tainted by at least a assimilating Levinas's treatment of the absolute passivity of proto­
trace of willing as the purity of water may be tainted by oil. ethical responsibility to an analysis of Gelassenheit read out of or into
The problem is to understand this welcome otherwise than it is the doctrine of schematism as developed by Kant and further
understood in those places of Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence developed by Heidegger. This is why we must try to make do with
where to welcome is to will. In this book Levinas says that before the the much more complex relation which we are calling chiasmus. And
choice between good and evil, jenseits van Gut und Base, so before this is why we should now return to a conside�ation of Gelassenheit -

even the prereflective choice of a project in whose referential totality but not before making two further remarks about Levinas's various
would arise the distinction between the good or the instrumental and statements concerning welcome.
the evil or the detrimental, I am chosen by the Good. It assigns me First, in saying what we have just said about the two conceptions
before I designate it. The fact that in its goodness the Good declines of welcome which we discern in different places in Levinas's
the desire it arouses while inclining it toward responsibility for the publications we are not saying that he is inconsistent. There is no
neighbour, preserves difference in the non-indifference of the Good, reason why he cannot work consistently with two notions denoted
which chooses me before I welcome it' (AEAE 158, OBBE 123). The by the same word. Our reason for embarking on this analysis of the
214 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling Intellecf 215

difference was to underline the degree of difficulty that besets the of itself for . . . ' which Heidegger proposes as a translation of ethelo
astonishing claim Levinas makes regarding responsibility toward the instead of the wollen of the Diels-Kranz rendering of Heraclitus's
other, a difficulty of which no one is more keenly aware than he is Fragment B 32: 'The One, which alone is wise, does not want and yet
himself. does want to be called by the name Zeus', En fo Sophon mounon
Second, not the least astonishing part of Levinas's claim is the part legesthai ouk ethelei kai ethelei Zenos onoma. Heidegger comments:
which says that to welcome as woman is to give. He says, giving us 'ethelo does not mean merely to demand something, but rather to
another reason to take great care when we turn again to Heidegger allow (zulassen) something a reference back to itself.' The mediality of
and approach Gelassenheit &om another side: this phrase, which echoes that of the phraseology of the last part of
Gonda's characterization of the middle voice reproduced in our
Things are not, as in Heidegger, the foundation of the site, the Preface, is confirmed by Heidegger's following remark that the
quintessence of all the relations that constitute our presence on the phrase should be interpreted in the light of the middle-voiced verb
earth (and 'under the heavens, in company with men, and in legesthai which appears earlier in this Fragment. The middle voice
waiting for the gods'). The relationship between the same and the occupies the 'middle region' excluded by the either-or of (I) and (2),
other, my welcoming of the other, is the ultimate fact, and in it the where (I) corresponds to the overwhelming power spoken of in the
things figure not as what one builds but as what o,ne gives. (TI 49; first part of Gonda's account and (2) corresponds to the interest of the
77) subject. Heidegger asks:

Data are first donanda, things to be given. And welcome, the Does mortal legein remain only an image corresponding to the
superlation of passivity, is the superlation of generosity, my already Logos, which is itself the Fate in which presencing as such and for
having responded to the Other by giving my word, giving the bread all present beings rests?
I am about to eat, giving myself and giving thanks for being able to Or does such questioning, which attaches itself to the guidelines
give thanks. But, the lmmanuel Kant in us will ask, as well as the John of an Either-Or, not at all apply, because its approach is from the
Stuart Mill, how can all this giving be goodness if it is not a giving start inadequate to the inquiry here undertaken? If this is so, then
with good free will7 Perhaps the answer to this question is the neither can Logos be the overcoming of mortal legein, nor can legein
Kantian one contained in the first part of the sentence which we be simply a copying of the archetypal (massgebend) Logos. Then
quoted three paragraphs ago: since we are here concerned not with whatever essentially occurs in the legein of homologein and in the
concupiscent erotic desire but with Desire of the non-desirable, the legein of the Logos has a more primordial origin - and this in the
hospitable giving in which my welcome of the Other consists is not simple middle region between both. Is there a path for mortal
something that I want; or, put more carefully, it may or may not be thinking in this place? (VA3 21, EGT 74-5)
something I want in the sense of lower-case desire, but as the object
of an upper-case ethical Desire it falls outside the field of want. This These questions anticipate those raised in our discussion in
would not mean that it falls outside the fieid of pure rational will as Chapter 4 of Kant's Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone.
understood by Kant. The difficulty of deciding whether the answer Related problems are raised by Aristotle's description of prohaeresis
we have just proposed is correct is aggravated by the fact that the as 'either desireful reason or reasonable desire', desire and reason not
single French word vouloir covers or papers over the distinctions being added externally to each other, but each being the necessary
between (1) a Kantian idea of will which he calls pure practical reason supplement of the other (Nichomachean Ethics I139b4). This delibera­
and to which ethelo would be the nearest Greek antecedent, (2) the tive choice, in which W. D. Ross sees the beginning of a notion of
idea of desiring want or inclination, boulomai, and (3) conation defined will, is not mere wish, since one can wish for what one believes is not
as 'the exertion of willing that desire or aversion shall issue in action' within one's power to obtain. Aristotelian prohaeresis is not only for
(Cancise Oxford Dictionary). Straddling the first and second of these what one believes is in one's power. It is also an exercise of power or,
but falling short of the third is the idea of willingness or 'being ready as we say, free will. This cannot be said of Levinasian Desire, it would
216 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feelitrg Intellect 217

seem, unless in saying it we mean that it is an expression of the Heidegger describes orexis dianoetike and the Scholastic appetitus
hyperbolization of freedom and will where the power of free will is intellectualis as both rational desire (Begehren) and voluntas or will
taken to the utmost extreme of passivity. So the susceptibility of (Wi/le). And he places Nietzsche in the same tradition of thought.
Goodness would be the exteriority that completes the free good will What makes it look as though Nietzsche belongs to a counter­
of power by exposing its essential incompleteness and impower. rationalist tradition is his practice of describing will as affect, passion
Perhaps it can be said therefore that welcome as feminine giving and feeling. He writes, for example, that 'To will is lo command: but
can be welcome as wilL and that it is only self-will that Levinas rules commanding is a particular affect (this affect is a sudden explosion of
out, vouloir, will, understood as pouvoir, power, and as will to power energy) - intent, clear, having one thing exclusively in view,
even if this is manifested no more spectacularly than it is by the pilot innermost conviction of its superiority, certainty that it will be
in command of himself and in command of his boat. In saying that obeyed- '. Now what is having one thing dearly, intently and
this is how the soul is not in my body Descartes is opening the way exclusively in view, Heidegger asks, but the faculty of representation
for Levinas to say - combining what Aristotle says in De Anima which Kant and the German Idealist tradition call intellect? Here then
about the soul as 'the essential whatness' of a thing (11, I, 412b 13) is further support for the critical ambiguity of will or conation n i the
with what Aristotle says in the passage of De Generatione Animalium traditional trichotomy of faculties. Undoubtedly further distinctions
which we have already had occasion to cite (Il, 3, 736b 28) and not need to be made in all three compartments, and Heidegger makes
without relevance to our remarks on Duns Scotus and Gerard Manley some of these. For example, he distinguishes affects, like the anger
Hopkins - that the soul to which is due my singularity is the soul that and joy with which I can be overcome, from passions (Leidenschajfen)
comes in from outside. Levinas does tell us that welcome is a reversal like love and hate. Anger is blind. Love is not; it is perspicuous.
of the hypostatization of self. This answer is inadequate however if to
will is to ad, for Levinas denies that the giving of welcome is an act. To passion belongs a reaching out and opening up of oneself. Such
It is a giving, as we have seen, prior to my freedom. We must infer reaching out occurs even in hate, since the hated one is pursued
that it is therefore a giving prior to acting and to will. This inference everywhere relentlessly. But such reaching out in passion does not
is supported by his treatment of the will in Totality and Infinity where, simply lift us up and away beyond ourselves. It gathers our
he explains, at the same time explaining the ambiguity of vouloir to essential being to its proper ground, it exposes our ground for
which we have just referred, will is either self-will or Self-will, the the first time in gathering, so that the passion is that through
identity of each depending on which way the will faces in the which and in which we take hold of ourselves and achieve lucid
traditional trichotomy of faculties into feeing,
l conation and cogni­ mastery over the beings around us and within us. (N1 59, trans. I
tion. The identity of self-will derives from the will's association with 48)
each particular person's desire for happiness, its complicity with desire
and the sensuous side of human nature uppermost in such euc.iaemo­ This lucid mastery of passion - or great passion, as we should more
nistic teleologisms as that of Mill. The identity of Self-will derives carefully say - 'possesses . . . necessity to submit'. Passion thus
from the loss of particular identity through the identification of will understood is a due to what Nietzsche means by will to power. Will
with reason as in the theory of pure practical reason in the to power is the 'root' of passion, affect, feeling and intellect. It
deontologism of Kant and 'which is the ultimate intention of subverts the traditional terminology but must employ it in order to
idealism, . . . opposed by the entire pathetic experience of human­ do so, as Nietzsche does again when he says that will (here Wollen) is
ity, which the Hegelian or Spinozist idealism relegates to the feeling, the feeling of pleasure supervening on the increase in power,
subjective or the imaginary' (TI 193; 217). This ultimate intention state of attunement, Zusfand als Gestimmfheit, being in good voice, as
of idealism is the concept of the will to which Nietzsche's so-called we could perhaps say: didonai diken.
'emotional' concept of the will is popularly opposed, Heidegger Anyone who writes about the will nowadays cannot do so without
observes in one of his discussions of Nietzsche's doctrine of will to having the ghost of Gilbert Ryle breathing down his neck. But
power (N I 65-6, trans. l 53). In his comments on De Anima 433a 15f. although when writing of this topic Nietzsche indulges in the
218 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling Intellect 219

vocabulary of pushes and pulls, for example when he says that . Wille Nietzsche's analysis of will as a precursor of Heidegger's analysis of
can be comprehended as an 'impelling feeling' - which, Heidegger resolved openness, Ent-schlossenheit, Levinas's analysis is one which,
explains, is not only a feeling of being impelled but itself an impelling, although it must include an analysis of will and power, cannot have
other statements Nietzsche makes about the will, for example his these as its arche or anarchic base. Let us return to the idea that on his
reference to it as 'this so complex thing for which people have only analysis of will will is welcome and giving.
one word' (Beyotrd Good and Evil 19) and his statement that 'There is
no will - there are treaty drafts of will . . .' (The Will to Power 715)
show how jejune it would be to dismiss his account of it as one more
misguided endorsement of the paramechanical hypothesis deemed to N
be a myth in The Concept of Mind. Nor are we committed to this
hypothesis in distinguishing two senses of vouloir and wollen. The How is this g1vmg to be conceived positively? As impositive
distinction between wanting and willing can be made without having impouvoir. As non-virile conception or maternity. We have noted
recourse to this alleged myth. When Kant enjoins us to act only that in Totality and Infinity maternity is explicitly mentioned far less
according to maxims that we could will to become laws he invites us often than paternity. Paternity is treated in the fourth section of that
to put ourselves in the position of a legislator who lays down wha� book under the heading 'Beyond the Face'. Paternity is my relations
the law is to be. This laying down is a legislative or executive to my posterity, sons who are not my possessions but, in defiance of
stipulation, a non-constative performance, here the casting of a vote the Parmenidean logic of being and identity, both are me subsistently
or, as both Kant and Nietzsche would say, the pronouncement of a and are not. We noted too Levinas' s remark, made in the course of his
commandment or command. It may be that one cannot in this sense discussion of paternity and filiation in that section of the book as
will what one does not in some respect want, but that does not mean though it were an afterthought, that 'the notion of maternity must be
that there is no distinction to be made. Nietzsche, certainly on introduced here'. But the idea of maternity, if not the word, was
Heidegger's reading, and Heidegger on ours, share the concern of already in the foreground in the second section of Totality and Infinity
Ryle's ghost to exorcize the ghost in the machine. entitled 'lnteriority and Economy' which treats of vulnerability and
What Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche once more reveals, in the welcome into the oikos and precedes the section entitled 'Exteriority
wake of his reading of Kant, is the shortcomings of a traditional and the Face'. Further, thi s third section precedes itself in so far as
opposition of action or activity or active voice and passion or trauma is the exteriority of the welcomed Other coming in from
passivity or passive voice. It reveals that it may be worthwhile to outside into the hypodermic inside. Accueil, the a priori-a posteriori
experiment with what for want of a handier phrase we are gesturing which is prior to any anarnnetic recueil, gets articulated much more
toward with the help of something like the traditional Greek and explicitly as maternity in Otherwise titan Being or Beyond Essence as
Sanskrit syntax of middle voice. Perhaps this may enable us to get a though to compensate for the virilization the concept of welcome
clearer if not simpler understanding of why it is that when we talk acquires in that book and as though to answer or anticipate the
about the sel f or the Self we continually come up with the dilemma objection that the use made in the earlier book of the concepts of
that what is of the innermost essence of the self is either that which is gender is indefensibly one-sided, however non-biological and non­
above it in the great chain of being, angelic reason, coming in to it sexual that use is claimed to be. In From the Sacred to the Holy,
from outside, or what is below it in that chain, the animal, the inmost commenting on a text of the Guemara, Levinas notes that the word
instincts which yet drive it like demons . from outside. Levinas's Rakhamirn, which is cognate with Rakhmana, the Merciful One,
response to this dilemma is one that breaks away from the tradition derives from the Aramaic Rekhem, meaning uterus or womb (SS
which bases an analysis of selfhood on desire. In this his analysis 158). The paternity of God impli es maternity, his virility the
agrees with that offered by Nietzsche for whom desire is, as weakness without cowardice of the so-called weaker sex, the
Heidegger puts it, die Ermatfung des Willens, the wilting of the will. patiently waiting tenderness which goes by the name of
But, whether because he fails to see or because he succeeds in seeing aftendrissement in Totality and Infinity. This helps to explain why n i
220 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling Intellect 221

Efhics and Infinity Levinas can say that the fear of God is not the fear another. In Four Talmudic Lectures he cites from the Guemara the text:
of a jealous God, since this fear is not a fear for myself but is, along 1f a man commits a wrong against another man and appeases him,
with Angst according to Being and Time, an exception to the rule that God will forgive; but if the wrong is against God, who can intercede
verbs of emotion are reflexive in French and German (El 128-9; 119). for him? Only repentance and good deeds.' Then, referring to Rabbi
God's strength is God's sensibility, as the responsibility commanded Yosef bar Habo's thesis that the universal law is supreme and that
by the so-called other man is incipient in the response of the most there is no Idea capable of reconciling someone who is in conflict
sensitive zones of the skin. However phallogocentrically masterful the with reason itself, he comments:
concept and its Begreifen appear to be, it is (to date) the woman . after
all who conceives. Neither simply active nor simply passive, if the It is against this virile, too virile, thesis in which certain echoes of
middle voice of responsibility has a gender it is that of the middle Hegel can be anachronistically perceived, it is against this thesis
sex. The middle sex is not neuter. It is chiasmically bisexual. But what putting the universal order above the inter-individual order that the
we are talking about here is humanity prior to the sexual difference. Guemara text raises its voice. (QLT 44)
We are talking about the feeling intellect prior to the distinction into
feeling or sensibility and intellect or Begriff. As Levinas observes, This voice is the voice of femininity calling respect for pure reason
implying that when the rib is taken from Adam it is taken from back to its root in the rationality beyond reason of respect for the
humanity, not from man, the derivation of Ischa from Isch is not a individual where respect recalls that it has one of its two sources in
mark of the second class status of the feminine, as though woman and passion and where responsibility toward the Other could indeed be
maternity were an afterthought. It is a mark of the dichotomy of called amour sans eros so long as the sans is seen as a sign that the
humanity into the masculine and feminine (SS 132). Some interpreters erotic, which in Levinas's meaning is not a desire to possess, is· this
hold that what is called the rib is in fact the face, and Genesis 5: 2, love's sine qua 110n, namely the enclosure of the Rekhem, the receptacle
says that God created male and female at the same time. What a or chora out of which it is delivered, a sign of the merciful charis of a
marvellous idea, Levinas speculates, noting its resemblance to one God who is perhaps none other than, as Levinas says, a permanent
advanced in the Symposium, if the cote, the rib, were the cote, the other refusal to abandon our private griefs to the indifference of universal
side of man (SS 140-1; DL 56). As Derrida observes, Isch and Ich are history.
the inverse of qui and chi, and the pronouns for God and the Other The objection that Totality and Infinity is paternalistic was already
which he runs ,through in 'En ce moment meme . . .' range from Il anticipated in that book by the importance given there to the fact
through El for Elohim and E. L. to Elle. 12 This is another way of that vulnerability is interpreted as a corollary of incarnation, where
saying with Levioas that human relations take priority over sexual this in turn implies the idea of matter not only as apeiron and its
relations, notwithstanding the historical priority of the male human menacing if y a, but as the mater-iality and matriciality that promises
being's graduation to the status of civil universality (SS 148). This an escape from that unventilated claustrophobic condition where
perhaps 'provisional' priority of the masculine in the history of there is no vent de crise (ADV 9, El 12 7; 118) to fill the sail of the boat
humankind is balanced at the level of individual biography by the to which Mill likens himself in his spiritual crisis, and no star by
priority of the feminine -as the vestibule to the law. Prior to this 13
which to steer, as Blanchot writes in describing la pensee du des-astre.
priority would be androgyny and a bicameral chiasmus of the two An escape from vulnerability by vulnerability, this is the inescapable
hemispheres of the brain, a tough tenderness and tender toughness of ambiguity of incarnation which exposes us on the one hand to animal
mind and heart, EastxWest, JewxGreek. In Levinas's interpretation of contentment with enjoyment of the goods that subserve our
Sophocles Antigone's relationship with Haemon would be the persistence in being - like a dog, not Bobby but 'a dog that
beginning of a passage to public law which for her is suspended recognizes as its own Ulysses coming to take possession of his
halfway through her obsession by the law of the oikos. But in goods' (AEAE 100, OBBE 79-80). It exposes us on the other hand to
Levinas's interpretation of public law universality, pure reason, must the burden of a responsible signifying and saying that 'escapes the
remain bound by an umbilical cord to the relation of one individual to animal flair'. Maternity is 'a body suffering for another, the body as
222 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience The Feeling Intellect 223

passivity and renouncement, a pure undergoing', non-act, pur subir. His phrase echoes words that Heidegger uses in 'The Origin of the
My being subject is my being subjected to the Other in the ethical Work of Art' to make his claim that it is in the work of art that the
face to face such that this acme of my humanity, personality or materiality of matter comes into its own, thereby marking a
spirituality, my being for the other, corresponding to Infinity in the divergence that would be turned into a convergence between himself
Meditations of Descartes, is inextricable from my sensibility, corre­ and Heidegger if the work of art turned out to be gift, the offering of
sponding to Descartes's obscure and confused passions and ideas. a hand. So the maternity which is the mother of materiality because it
This sensibility, sensitivity or pain is not the pain caused by .an is the mother of the in-vention of the other is a 'pre-naissance of pre­
obstacle that frustrates my will. It is prior to the Cartesian and nature' (AEAE 95, OBBE 75); maternity is 'the very gestation of the
Kantian conative free will left behind by Heideggerian Gelassenheit other in the same', la gestation mime de /'autre dans le mime. 14
and which according to Descartes is the one respect in which human Incidentally, what a marvellous idea, we might speculate, that
being is an image of the infinity of the being of God. And it owes its because, as we noted in Chapter 5, adam, meaning man, is cognate
sense not simply to the contribution it makes to the achievement of with adamah, meaning earth, mother earth should also be paternal, a
clear and distinct ideas, for instance as ideas of secondary or tertiary crossing which, by the way, is effected by Heidegger when in The
qualities serving as occasions for ideas of primary ones. Sensibility Origin of the Work of Art' he says both that earth is recessive self­
achieves sense only when the complacent enjoyment of my self­ concealment, hence feminine according to a certain stereotypical
centred ego is disturbed by my exposure to wounding by the other. figuration, and that earth juts and towers through the world,
My sensibility is obsession by the other, suffering the other's durchragt (H 37, PLT 49).1
suffering, including the other's suffering on my behalf. From what Levinas says about the matrix it follows that if the
If it is suffered unassumingly, is not this adverb incompatible with powers or faculties of the mind as distinguished for example by Kant
this suffering's being medially-voiced? Is what it calls for not rather a can be traced to a common root which may be the root of the three
superlatively passive-voiced verb, a verb that deprives the voice of its Critiques conceived as the root of Being and Time, this root is not of
breath and its very verbality? Mediality is called for notwithstanding one simple substance with itself, it is not planted in a proper natural
because the very senselessness of pain, its being 'for nothing' is what place, and it knows no common time. The receptacle in which the
enables it to regain sense by being for the other. The middle voice teaching of Levinas's De Anirna embeds the receptivity of the Kantian
here straddles and mediates non-dialectically the sensuous and ethical theoretical imagination is diachronically out of phase with itself
poles of the ambiguous word 'sensibility', translating the response of because it must accommodate animation both as masterful conative
psychological 'sHinulus and response' into ethical responsibility. The control and animation as maternal exposure. One of the questions we
middle voice expr.esses my expression, expresses my saying to the have been asking throughout this book is how much, if any, of this
other 'Here I am' in my obedience to his call. It, rather than the uncomfortable doctrine Heidegger accommodates in a reading of Kant
passive voice, expresses that my passivity is not 'limited to the sphere which sees the theoretical imagination of the first Critique in its
of the subject' (Gonda). Yet my passivity exceeds the passive voice intrication with the theory of practical will and respect of the second
not on account of an infinitely free will 'that causes me to know that and with what is said in the third about the aesthetic imagination and,
in some manner I bear the image and similitude of God' (Descartes), above all, the sublime. Does not the sublime in nature and works of
but on account of the "'anarchic" trace of God' in that passivity art wound my complacency? Does it not put my auto-telic vitality in
(AEAE 150, OBBE 196). its proper improper place? And do not the needs of natural or other
things appeal to my maternal sensibility, calling for my respect or for
me to Jet them be?
V Levinas's analysis of responsibility as maternal sensibility is in the
neighbourhood of responsibility as Gelassenheit and letting be. And
Maternity, being host or hostess, is offering hospitality 'in which this confirms that the Sagen of Gelassenheit and the Dire of
matter shows itself for the first time in its materiality', Levinas says. asymmetrical signifying are both middle-voiced. If there is a concord
224 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience

here however it may, like that of Heidegger's poet and thinker, be 10

one that is at the same time also a discord.Or, less than a harmonische
Entgegensetz.ung, less than a concord of faculties which is also a conflict
of faculties, the Auseinandersetzung between Levinas and Heidegger Something Like the Middle
may have turned out to be one in which something on each side must
give and each must give something to the other, with the Voice
responsibility of maternal sensibility. Such is the tender violence
called for by a chiasmic exchange.

approche d'autrui
Emmanuel Levinas, Ethique et lnfini

How much more attuned the ear may become to the middle voice of
Gelassenheit if it is orientated toward Biblical doctrines of grace
depends on whether these doctrines require faith from the person
in the state of grace, as does the doctrine of the Jewgreek who wrote
Ephesians 2: 8-9, on whether faith requires will and on whether will is
my initiative. lt is not at all easy to see how anything, including faith,
can be my initiative on a reading of that account which exclusively
opposes faith or trust to my works and deeds. The King James
version has 'For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should
boast.' If my faith were my doing, an act of faith willed by me, or the
outcome of my initiative, it would be something of which I might
boast, something for which I might take credit. The New English
Bible translates dia pisteos (per fidem) as 'through trusting him', namely
Christ. That this is a deed for which I am responsible is underlined by
Galatians 2: 15-16, for which the NEB has 'We ourselves are Jews by
birth, not Gentiles and sinners. But we know that no man is ever
justified by doing what the law demands, but only through faith in
Jesus Christ; so we too have put our faith in Jesus Christ, in order that
we might be justified through faith, and not through deeds dictated
by law; for by such deeds, Scripture says, no mortal man shall be
justified.' Although 'we have put our faith in' says more than the King
James version's 'we have believed in' and more than is demanded by
episteusamen, the purposiveness of the 'in order to' construction
mirrors the force of hina in the Greek, which in the Vulgate becomes

Something Like the Middle Voice 227
226 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience
r�sponsibility is anallergi�, outside the scope of symmetrical coopera­
an ut of which the final rather than consequential nature is confirmed _ ,
hon. But Levmas s doctnne does not exclude prevenience. What he
when the next verse speaks of seeking to be justified.
calls recurrence is prevenience and may well contribute to an
But how relevant to an understanding of what Heidegger means by
�dersta�ding of the Christian doctrine of grace, always remember­
Gelassenheif are these excursions into the Biblical doctrines of faith
mg that tf and when those doctrines speak of God as a transcendent
works and grace? In particular, how can they shed light on th�
obje:t ?f belief (and they do not always do that) Levinas speaks of
relation of Gelassenheit to will? For is it not plain from the cited
the tlleJty of the other human being. This must be remembered even
Galatians passage that Paul at least is concerned not with the relation
. �hen Levinas himself uses 'the extraordinary word' God, as he does
of grace to the will but with the relation of grace to the law? It is not
m the following remarks on recurrence whose relevance to those
plain. The beginning of this passage corresponds to the end of
doctrines of prevenience and grace cannot fail to strike us when we
Romans 3 which picks up the question of what we are in danger of
al so remember that charis can mean both the gift received and the
boasting about treated in the passage cited from Ephesians. It says _
giVIng of thanks, saying grace: mercy and merci.
that what excludes human pride is faith rather than keeping the law.
To bear witness to God is precisely not to state this exhaordinary
For our argument is that a man is justified by faith quite apart from
word, as though glory would be lodged in a theme and be posited
success in keeping the law. Do you suppose God is the God of the . .
as a thesis, or become bemg's essence. As a sign given to the other
Jews alone? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Certainly, of
of this very signification, the 'here I am' signifies me in the name of
Gentiles also, if it be true that God is one. And he will therefore
God, at the ser�ice of men that look at me, without having
justify both the circumcised in virtue of their faith, and the . .
�nythmg to Identify myself with but the sound of my voice or the
uncircumcised through their faith. Does this mean that we are
ftgure of my gesture - the saying itself. This recurrence is quite the
using faith to undermine law? By no means: we are placing law .
opp�s1te of return upon oneself. self-consciousness. It is sincerity,
itself on a firmer footing. (Romans 3: 28-3 1)
eff�swn ?f one�:lf, 'extraditing' of the self to the neighbour.
Wttness IS hw m!tty and admission; it is made before all theo­
Conceit is kept at bay when law is transvalued by faith. However,
logy; � t is kerygma and prayer, glorification and recognition. But
where faith is required how can there be no requirement also for an
what JS proper to all the relations that are thus unfolded - and
act of will, a demand for an 'effort of decision or strenuosity'?1 And if
what a disappointment for the friends of truth that thematizes
that further requirement is made, how can one avoid a return of the
Being, and of the subject that effaces itself before it! - is the fact
risk of conceit, boastfulness or pride? The answer given by Augustine
that the re�urn is sketched out in the going, the appeal is
and others is the doctrine of prevenient grace according to which the
��ersto�d m the response, the 'provocation' coming from God
act of will is possible only thanks to God. And from this doctrine it is
IS m my mvocation, gratitude is already gratitude for this state of
a short step to a doctrine of predestination, if not to a doctrine of
gratitude, which is at the same time or in turn a gift and gratitude.
predetermination. Our faith, at least if we are among the elect,
(AEAE 190, OBBE 149)
becomes indistinguishable from the faith of the one through whom
we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand (Romans 5:
What may strike us too is the relevance of these remarks to our
2), the one in whom we have our being (Acts 17: 28), so that
inventions on the 'middle voice', our variations on a theme that seems
although Paul can say that he worked harder than any of the apostles,
destined t? re�urn itself continually to the melting pot, to remain
he immediately adds 'though it was not I, but the grace of God which
anathemabc: etther as the middle voice of Dichten, hymn, anthem,
is with me' (I Corinthians 15: 10).
eul?gy, elegy, sonnet and song (the rereading of the third Critique)
When we refer these teachings to the teaching of Levinas we learn
which may at the same time and in different times be, as we have
that I am one of the elect. According to him I am the one uniquely
come to see, the middle voice of antiphonal phrophecy, responding
chosen to bear the greatest responsibility. I have to work harder than
for another human or non-human being whose accusation alone
any of the others. And I have to work without synergy, since my
228 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Something Like the Middle Voice 229

makes me stand out alone and thereby makes me me, so that what is the topology of the Spielraum of recollective gelassene thinking is
voiced is altered from the sacred to the holy, du sacre au saiY!f ; or, as going to be very schematic if it is going to be oecumenical, rather as
we have given reason for preferring to say, so that what appears to Locke's abstract general idea and Kant's schema of a triangle must be
be irresponsibly numinous, pagan, and aesthetic shows itself to be unspecific if, as the former author says, it is not to include mutually
inspired by responsibility for the human and non-human other (the contradictory features such as those which distinguish an equilateral
rereading of the second Critique) ; or as the middle-voiced 'methinks' from a scalene triangle. Not that the topology of the fourfold is an
or be-thinking of Denken and Danken (the rereading of the first abstraction or subtraction from religious, ethical or poetic concep­
Critique), which may be, as we have come to see, at the same time tions. These provide hints without being bases from which inductive
dichtendes Denken or denkendes Dichten in which the thinker and the inferences are made. And there is no reason why Heidegger should
poet are not effaced before being if the genitive and the generative not find one conception, be it Paul's, Augustine's, Eckhart's, Luther's
belonging together in need of the thinking of being preserves alterity or Holderlin's, pedagogically more helpful than others. This does not
in sameness through speaking itself in the listening middle voice, the exclude the possibility that some of his readers will be helped more
voice in which speaking and listening are one and what the speaker by yet other conceptions, for example, those of Taoism, in· particular
regards in speaking is the other's regard (DL 21). The middle voice its conception of non-virile conception.
lets the otherness of all beings be, hence not only the othemess of the
being of the being that is be-thinged but the otherness also of the
being of the being who be-thinks. lJ
When with Heidegger the Andenken of being is distinguished from
Andachf, prayer to a being like the prayer from the Cross 'let this cup Virile Baconian, Cartesian and Kantian conception. is grasping and
pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt', and when taking. It is no less an exercise of free will than is judgement on the
the one in whom we have our being is the same, das Selbe, being as Cartesian and Kantian account, for Cartesian and Kantian conception
such, religious faith and grace do not come into play. This does not is not reception. At the very least i t is trying . to understand. What
mean however that Andenken does not open the Spielraum for Taoism calls wu-wei is not trying, and therefore not even trying not
Andacht, faith, grace or gift. Nor does it mean that questions are to try. In the words of the Tao Te Ching, 'It loves and nourishes all
begged if we find ourselves describing the topography of that· things, but does not lord it over them.' In contrast to the
Spielraum through the religious concepts, any more than questions purposiveness of Paul's putting faith in Christ in order to be justified
are necessarily begged when we take the concepts of ethics, law, the by faith, and in contrast to the idea of a synergy of human faith and
sciences or faculty psychology as leading threads. To make .the point divine grace, wu-wei is non-teleological and non-active. Its 'power', te,
in the terminology which is superseded in Heidegger's later works, is a kind of stupidity, the stupidity of wonder for which in the
and with the help of a Kantian figure of speech, the ontic must not be Fundamental Questions of Philosophy Heidegger reserves the word Er­
confused with the ontological and the former is blind without the staunen, which is the primary thaumazein in which philosophy, philo­
latter; but the latter is empty without the former. Hence the Judaic, sophy, begins rather than the secondary inquisitiveness that demands
Christian or Greek ideas of predestination and fate, if handled with an answer to a problem or solution of a puzzle.2 It is, like the ethical
discretion, can be of heuristic assistance in indicating the way towards face to face which for Levinas .is the wonder of all wonders, outside
the beginning of an understanding of · the historical meaning or all synergy because outside all energeia, non-allergic: parergonal. Its
destining of being, provided this theological Sendung is not confused aimlessness is that of an obedience, that is to say a hearing, which,
with the ontological or proto-ontological Geschick des Seins. And like the rose of Angelus Silesius, is without care for itself and does
provided the understanding of the latter is referred back ultimately to not ask why. And it is interesting that Heidegger, if not Levinas,
the things themselves. Without this latter provision there can be no should be attracted by Silesius's invocation of a plant to illustrate the
non-arbitrary way of selecting among the mutually incompatible clues sublime stupidity of human being to which he gives the name
that are offered by different religious or ethical doctrines. Inevitably, Gelassenheit, and that he should consider that the overcoming of
230 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Something Like the Middle Voice 231

purely calculative thinking by recollective thi�g in Gelassenheit passive nor purely active, but an adynamical or, as Levinas would say,
might enable us to attain a new understandmg of Johann �eter anallergic alternative: not a prime mover but, as Derrida would say,
_ .
Hebel's words: We are plants which - whether we hke to adm1t It to an always secondary mouvance. Neither the Kantian space and time of
ourselves or not - must with our roots rise out of the earth if we are matter in motion nor spatiality and temporality, understood in their
to be able to bloom in the ether and bear fruit' (Gel 28, DT 57). Not phenomenological originarity as Heidegger understands them, are
that these citations go far to fill the silence which The Fundamental active or passive. They are the anactive, apassive presuppositions of
Concepts of Metaphysics maintains on the t?pic of the vegeta le � matter and motion and action and passion. When temporality and in
_ _
members of the region of the weltarm, assummg 1t IS to that reg•on the final analysis spatiality become with Heidegger the key to the
and not to the region of the welt/os that plants belong; and the� ca n sense of being and when being, phusis, is understood as language,
hardly be seen as a revocation of his insistence in that book and m h 1s
logos, the power of imagination exchanges its concealment in the
comments elsewhere on Rilke that since the welt/os and the weltarm depths of the soul for the concealment-unconcealment of language.
can be understood, in so far as they can be understood, only by The soul becomes language which, Heidegger says, is the house of
deconstrudion (Abbau) of the weltbildend, this last cannot be under­ being. Heidegger also says that this is a clumsy phrase (US 90,
stood by construction from or addition to either of the f�rn:er, as the OWL 5). Jt is clumsy because it conceals as much as it reveals that
classical account supposes when it maintains that human1ty IS rational being is the house, being is language, not just language's address. The
animality. . . 'of' of the phrase 'house of being' registers an apposition, not a

This remark is a reminder that if to be human is to be weltbtldend 1t position or opposition.

is also to be weltabbildend, weltabbauend. The power to construct and Once the power of imagination, which in its productive and
construe, for example to construct and construe propositions, is a transcendental form in Kant is the fount of schematic Bildung and
power to deconstruct and reconstrue, an op:ni�g . for ?las�ost and of exemplification through the Type, is interpreted by Heidegger (and
perestroika, as the power of productive, pmehc 1magm�t10� was Gadamer and others) as the power of speech it is apt for construal or
always at one and the same time a faculty for the application of deconstrudion by Derrida as archi-writing and literal font outside the
rules and a faculty for deregulation, a critical faculty for the conA1ct oppositions of production and reproduction, transcendental and
no less than the concord of faculties. (The Chinese character for 'crisis' empirical, synthetic and associative. Except that the phrase 'decon­
is made up of two components, one which si?� ifies danger, and one strudion by Derrida' is misleading as to what Derrida means by
which signifies opportunity.) This power of dereglement de taus les s�s deconstruction. For it suggests that deconstrudion is something
is a power for. the deregulation of every sense in e:�ry sense, th�t •s Derrida does, something for which there is a method or procedure,
to say, a power ,for the deregulation of both s�ns1blhty and me�nm�, a mode d'emploi. This is as misleading as it would be to suppose that
a faculty of rules for the indirection of the mmd where the m1nd � s when Kant writes that the schematism of the imagination is a
understood as the complex of faculties or powers whose umty _ IS
procedure or performance (Verfahrm) it provides rules for applying
owed to what German Idealism names Einbildungskraft, the imagina­ rules, a supposition that would commit Kant to an infinite regress
tion which in Sanskrit and Greek is middle-voiced. For Kant this which is not implied in what he says. To forestall and correct this

power is a mediator between the passive power o se�sibility and �he misapprehension, and after noting that in Of Grammatology 'decon­
active power of the understanding and reason which lffipose mea�mg struction' translates, among other things, Heidegger's Dekonstruktion
on sensibility, sense on sense. So its own power can be ne1ther and Abbau, Derrida writes that what he means by 'deconstruction' is
passive nor active in the manner of the faculties it unites. If this neither analysis, nor critique in the Kantian sense, nor method. It is
power hidden in the depths of the soul is understood as the common not analysis, because it is not a regress to simple elements but to an
source of sensibility and reason, the fount of bme _ or spabo­ indecidable intrigue of chiasmically crossed supplements.3 For the
temporality, as Heidegger, following Kant, understa�ds it, it begins same reason it is not critique, division into faculties and allotment to
to be understandable how this power for construction and decon­ them of distinctive jobs. But Kant himself acknowledges in practice
struction can be a hybrid or low-bred mongrel which is neither purely that critical analysis is not complete unless we recognise that the
232 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Something Like fhe Middle Voice 233

elemental faculties it distinguishes are aspects of a complex synergic­ possibility. Derrida is no less interested in bringing out the respect
ally synthesizi ng whole the unity of which he attribut es to in which the conditions of the possibility of a concept or practice
Einbildungskraft and the unity and wholeness of which Heidegger include conditions that are also conditions of its impossibility, as
attributes respectively to the temporalising ecstases of care and the possi bility and impossibility are conceived traditionally in modal logic
imagination of my death, imagination which stretches my imagination and metaphysics and even by Heide gger in his rethinking of these
beyond the possibility of (p)representati on (Vorsfellung) and the modalities in Being and Time. Thus also when Levinas maintains that
(p)representation of possibility. However, what prevents decons truc­ death is the impossibility of possib ility, not, as Heidegger says, the
tion bei ng analysis or critique is not simply complexi ty. Jt is the kind possibility of impossibility, he, like Derrida, is subverting from within,
of complexity, a complexity which is unstable because it analyses and and not simply imposing from outside a boundary to the parabola of
dissolves itself, se deconstruif (as was shown by the deconstruction of possibility, as the said is not allowed to lord it over the saying. This
the concept of rational animality inspected in the first section of holds not only of the prosaically constative said. It holds too of the
Chapter 7). This is why 'Deconstruction is not a method and cannot poetic said when, endorsing what is said about the poem by Celan,
be transformed into one.'4 It is because of the grammar of the Levinas allows that a poem may have a proto-ethical signifiauce as
ostensibly reflexive verb se deconstruire. And this also explain s why well as semantic signification. And one would therefore suppose that
deconstruction is not an achievement or an act or operation but an Levinas ll would allow that this holds for Heidegger II's dichfendes
operation which is not an operation, as Derrida says. To have Denken.
recourse once again to his passing hint, deconstruction is written in 'A "poem"? How is that to be translated?' asks Derrida at the end
something like what Sanskrit and Greek grammars call the middle of the letter to the Japanese friend who had asked him to explain
voice, n either active nor passive. And, he tells us, this is not o nly what he meant by 'deconstruction'. The only kind of explanation
because deconstrudion is more passive than the passivity that is there can be of 'deconstruction', Derrida writes, is one 'in which in a
opposed to activity, where the 'not only' does however allow the certain context it replaces and lets itself be determined by so many
possibility that this passivity and therefore perhaps the superlative other words, for instance "writing", "trace", "supplement", "hymen",
passivity of which Levinas and Blanchot speak enter into the syntax "pharmak on ", "margin", "entame", "parergon" and so on' indefin ite ly
of decons trudion. The force of deconstruction cannot be likened across so-called language-barriers including that between and, since
without qualification to that of the middle voice since the official 'the threshold is the centre', in French or English and Japanese.
middle voice of Greek grammar is sometimes tantamount to a Having already expressed doubts over the Heideggerian idea of
reflexive verb/ whereas deconstruction 'does not return to an diachronically divided epochs distinguished from each other by the
(individual or collective) subject who would take the initiative and different ways in which being conceals and reveals itself such tha t
apply it to an object, a text, a theme, etc.' even if the object be the 'deco nstrudion', for example, would be the destiny of modernity,

subject itself. And if there is no individual or collective subject, Derrida is no more comfortable w ith synchronic divisions, as one
neither is an impersonal subject involved, despite the unavoidability would expect in the light of his mistrust of a simpl e opposition of the
of the form ra se deconstruil. No definition or analysis of deconstruc­ synchronic to the diachronic. Hence his questioning of the contrast
tion is possible other than something like Russellian definition in the between the Jew and the Greek and between the East and the West.
con text of use, though Russell, following Frege, has a more cosy There are frontiers, but they are not herrnetically sealed againt all
conception of context than Derrida. Wittgenstein broaden s that dissemination.
conception in his later writings, but he does so in the interest of
reminding philosophers of the way meaning is to be understood as The chance, first of all the chance for (the) 'deconstruction' would
use, where use is an actual practice and definition in use definition in a be that another word (the same and an other) be found or be
practice. With him, as with Husserl, the imagination of possible · invented in Japanese to say the same thing (the same and an other),
practices is in the interest of testing the limits of a concept, testing to speak of deconstrudion, and to lure it elsewhere, to write it and
the concept to de st ruction to bring out the conditions of its transcribe it, in a word which will be also more beautiful.
234 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Something Like the Middle Voice 235

When I speak of this writing of the other which will be m�re to, and the formation of concepts different from the usual ones will
beautiful, I clearly understand translation as involving the same nsk become intelligible to him. .
and chance as the poem. Compare a concept with a style of painting. For is even our style
of painting arbitrary? Can we choose one at pleasure? (The
Egyptian, for instance.) Is it a mere question of pleasing and ugly?
If we are ready to say that the poem is untranslatable or that its
translation is another poem, we should be ready to say the same of
In Glas and elsewhere Derrida performs experiments that show how a
what is not thought of as a poem or a fable, namely assertions in
linkage that at first sight seems unnatural. artificial. forced or
apparently flat prose. The same story must be told of meaning quite
inconceivable might become conceivable and naturaL thanks to a

generally. Meaning as such se deconstruif. Wor s in the sam� or
leakage between the natural and the artificial which enables the quirks
different languages which have the same meanmg have meanmgs
of so-called false etymologies and allegedly accidental similarities in
which in that very sameness differ from and defer to each other. Why
spelling and misspelling (e.g. the Freudian slip) to exercise a
do they not have the same meaning? Once 'a chain of possible
motivating force. And thanks to the chiasmus of discovery and
substitutions' has begun to stretch itself out, what prevents it
stretching all of the way until every word or every word of the
This last chiasmus is a repetition of that between passivity and
same grammatical category has been linked in and we have one great
activity and between sensibility and understanding which is marked
absolute idea? If that were possible a terminus would have been
by the Derridean rewriting of Heidegger's rethinking of Kant's theory
reached at which there would cease to be any difference between the
of the productive imagination: the redrafting of the schema in which
brief catechism Derrida's letter to a Japanese friend contains and its
the already given of thrownness (Geworfenheit) and the outlined future
inversion. Derrida writes: 'What deconstruction is not? Why, every­
(Zu-kunft) of projection (Entwerferr) are tied to each other and to what
thing! What deconstruction is? Why, nothing!' Under the hypothesis
Saussure unhappily names the 'material envelope' of the word. It
of the possibility of unlimited substitution i t would be equally
hardly needs repeating at this late stage that D�rrida's focus on the
possible to say: 'What deconstruction is not? Why, nothing! W at � inscription that marks the word is only provisionally a focus on what
deconstruction is? Why, everything!' That is to say, the oppostte
is ordinarily meant by the written as opposed to the spoken word,
answers would mean the same, namely nothing. But Derridean
and that he has in view the 'common root' or common rootlessness of
deconstruction of limits, de-limitation, does not allow that every
these in proto-writing. This explains why it should not need
substitution is pqssible. What it allows and affirms is th�t �ny
repeating either at this stage that his denial that 'proto·writing',
substitution could become possible. That is, freedom of subsbtubon
'deconstruction', 'differance', etc. are strictly speaking concepts or
is limited by neces§ity. There is law. But the necessity of law is not
words (despite his using the word 'word' of 'deconstruction' for
such as to prevent presently prohibited translations from becomi�g
example in sentences quoted from his letter above), is not a denial
legitimated. This is not a generalisation of poetic licence to the pomt
that there are concepts and words. It is a questioning of a certain
of arbitrariness, for rights of passage have to be demonstrably already
philosophical conception of the concept and the word, a questioning
there or manufacturable as motivation.
he tries to justify with the help of neographisms, like 'deconstruction'
Wittgenstein writes in the Philosophical Investigations (p. 230):
of which Derrida writes to his Japanese friend that he does not think
it is un bon mot and that it would be good if a more beautiful
I am not saying: if such-and-such facts of nature were different substitute for this bad language could be found in Japanese, though
people would have different concepts (in the sense of a hypothesis). presumably here again it is not a mere question of pleasing and ugly.
But: if anyone believes that certain concepts are absolutely the Derrida's correspondence with his Japanese friend in 1983 is a
correct ones, and that having different ones would mean not repetition (same and other) in writing of a spoken Gespriich von der
realizing something that we realize - then let him imagine certain Sprache, called by its translators a 'Dialogue on Language', that took
very general facts of nature to be different from what we are used place in 1953-4 between Heidegger and a Japanese and which is
236 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Something Like the Middle Voice 237

already a repetition of dialogues he had had with another visitor from that it is about or on thinking, aber das Denken. The Dialogue of
Japan at Marburg in the early 1920s. Thus does 'deconstrudion' and nearly another decade later is a dialogue of or from language, von der
its series of Derridean displacements find itself in correspondence Sprache, in accordance with the distinction made in the course of it.
with Gelassenheit. For although, unlike what we must now refer to But even a dialogue of or from language or thinking remains too
more fully as the 'Conversation on a Country Path about Thinking' of dominative for Derrida, one suspects, if it is guided too closely by the
approximately ten years earlier in which the word Gelassenheit is reading of logos given by Heidegger in his eponymous lecture; and it
being mentioned continually, in the Dialogue this word is not may be that here lies the reason why das gemiisse Wort is still missing
mentioned once, both exchanges indicate that leaving a notion to even today.
namelessness is consistent with its being a central topic (US 121, For although in the lecture entitled 'Logos' the essential saying of
OWL 29). But Heidegger's approach by non-denominative indirection language is understood through the middle-voiced legesthai, following
is neither psychological nor, in a strict and narrow sense, methodo­ Aristotle's account of legein as middle-voiced apopMinesthai 01A3 4, 9,
logical. It is, in a broad but still strict sense, logical. It is called for by EGT 60, 64; BT §7b), Heidegger's translation of this is that this saying
logic and language, logos. This means that the non-naming of is gesammelt-sammelndes beisammen-vor-liegen-Lassen, a letting-lie-toge­
Gelassenheit is called for by Gelassenheit. For Gelassenheit is the way ther-before which gathers and is gathered. This lays more stress on
in which the thinking of language and the language of thinking are unificatory assembly than Derrida would like, particularly when it is
released from being the domination of and by denomination and taken in conjunction with Heidegger's reading of Gelassenheit as
assertive pro-position into letting things be. This is why after Gelesenheit through the analogy he draws between the gathering
employing the word Gelassenheit freely throughout the Conversation (lesen) of grapes and reading (lesen) and with his tying of gathering to
he avoids it in the Dialogue. In that Dialogue Heidegger explains that the idea of sheltering and safekeeping (bergen}. While tying 'decon­
he discontinued having recourse to the words 'phenomenology' and strudion', 'differance', 'trace', et al. to the family of middle-voiced
'hermeneutics' because they were in danger of becoming mere verbs formed with lassen, and while acknowledging the example of
catchwords. Now in that Dialogue Gelassenheif has joined them so Heidegger's penetration beyond the opposition of philosophy and
that letting be can be let be. Yet the Dialogue resorts twenty-five literature to dichtendes Denken, Derrida questions whether Heidegger
times to constructions with lassen, just as Derrida allows himself to acknowledges sufficiently the radical alterity that is allowed and
continue to resort to the middle-voiced verb se laisser despite his enabled by the proto-writing and proto-reading that expose Sagan,
reservations regarding one aspect of the way in which Heidegger the root of thinking and poetry, like the word 'poem' mentioned at
resorts to lasseri in his interpretation of the essence of logic and the end of his 'Letter to a Japanese Friend', to the traductive chances
language. In the ,Dialogue Heidegger's Japanese interlocutor regrets of translation, chances which are both risks and opportunities, like
that the topic of language had not been more fully treated in Being those run when es gibt gets translated by il y a which Heidegger
and Time. Heidegger says in response that he had attempted to go points out in his 'Letter on Humanism' to a French friend, perhaps
too far too soon in that book and that although he had written about with more pessimism than Derrida would consider called for.
language and logic there and in his doctoral dissertation of 1914, it Heidegger's pessimism is a consequence of harbouring what Derrida
was not until the course entitled 'Logic' given in the summer of 1934, would be inclined to consider a misplaced 'Heideggerian hope', the
contemporary with his first public pronouncements on the hymns of same hope that is manifest in· Heidegger's talk of epochs, dispensa­
Holderlin, that he ventured to treat of these topics in class. In fact his tions, and destiny, words that Derrida reinscribes, but without the
topic was the logos, and 'it took nearly another ten years before I was idea of telos and final destination still apparent in Heidegger's
able to say what I was thinking - the fitting word is still missing even admission that he had still not found the mot juste, as if such a
today'. This points to the importance of the lecture entitled 'Logos' word could ever be finally found or, come to that, invented. It
delivered in 1944 and of the 'Conversation on a Country Path about sometimes seems as though Heidegger renounces the renunciation
Language' committed to print in 1944-5. Note that the latter title is (Verzicht} which the poet has learned, forgets the secret that in the
more dominatively denominative than a title need be in that it says end and in the beginning it is not a question of there being a word, Es
238 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Something Like tfre Middle Voice 239

gibf .das Worf, but of Es, das Wort, gibt, the word gives - and gives voiced. This seemed to license our regarding the imagination as
way, bricht and gebrichf, falls away. The lapse of memory may be not middle-voiced in the sense that it is neither purely active or
spontaneous, as reason and understanding are for Kant, nor purely
a merely contingent but an essential and original lapse. On account of
this propensity for this necessary accident the seeker after the 'as passive, as sensibility and passion are for him. But this is a switch
such' needs the poet to remind him that 'the word is denied . . . held from a grammatical contrast of active and passive to a contrast
back', and that the poet's astonished singing of the word is an between activity and passivity that it is tempting to describe as
unremitting seeking 'to say otherwise or more than he said before' dynamical, though it applies not only to mechanical systems but also
(US 194, OWL 88). to conflicts between wills which are in a broader sense allergic, as
The further loosening of Dekonstruktion that happens when it Levinas says. Fortunately, the grammatical contrast does seem suited
crosses the Rhine and is translated into deconstrudion - or when the to the quasi-dynamical one, and although the nemesis of failing to
latter becomes transatlantic, 'deconstruction in America' - does not notice that a switch is being made is inscribed in the awkward fact
weaken the claim of the poetic middle voice to be the voice of proto­ that in Greek and Sanskrit 'to suffer' is active, this awkward fact may
ethical responsibility. On the contrary, that claim is strengthened by be an argument for the validity of Sartre's analysis of passion as what
the increased freedom of motivated, i.e. non-arbitrary, movement, the is suffered always in an active sense of suffering. It may also be part
supplement of mouuance, which this crossing licenses for crossing over of the explanation �f. or explained by, the fact that, as Levinas notes,
lines drawn between classes simply opposed or additively-juxtaposed 'the passivity of sensibility . . . moves into activity' (TI 212; 235).
to each other in the classical logic of genus and differentia. If This is one reason why what he calls patience is even more passive
deconstruction is to be construed as middle-voiced and this means than the passivity that is contrasted with the activity of a system of
that it breaks the bounds of classical decision procedures of definition forces. This patience is that of obedience prior to hearing the other's
or terminating analysis, allowing at best quasi-analysis down to the command, a pre-echo, a response which is a priori - an ethical
non-elemental or indecidable and only definition in the context of analogue of an effect that precedes its cause - yet a response which is
practice or use, responsibility to the other is increased. It does not at the same time a posteriori n i that it is utterly adventitious.5 Since,

mean that deconstruction is unbound from responsibility, for the however, this advent of the Infinite Other, the trace of illeity of the
repercussions of keeping or breaking a law are likely to be less other human being, is what in the language of transcendental egology
extensive than those of making it and still less extensive than those of would be said to constitute me, my ipseity is that of an autonomy or
breaking or unmaking the law. Further, definition in the context of freedom other than that of freedom of will. It is the .difficult freedom
practice or use wilf be the only sort of definition we can hope to give due to heteronomy which frees me from my will: a freedom which is
of the catachretic ,quasi-concept middle voice; and as the context not the initiative of an ego jealous of its persistence in being, but a
alters so will that which we are trying to define, for example, as its freedom which initials, countersigns or affirms, or rather, since this is
context alters from Greek to Hebrew or from Heidegger to Levinas. beyond any act or contract of commitment, finds itself already having
The middle voice is always ahead of itself, playing hard to get, letting testified in witness of a proto-ethical responsibility which is
itself be quasi-analysed only in the middle voice, allowing itself to unconditional upon possibility and power, a du sollsf which, giving
deconstruct. This means that our responsibility is all the greater to the other a blank cheque, takes no notice of whether dt4 kannsf (ADV
fine-tune our ears to the alteration in tonality as between Heidegger's 176). Perhaps this having willed before will, this first will and
middle voice of poetry and Levinas's middle voice of prophecy. At testament, is a Levinasian translation of our suggestion that in the
the outset we warned that we should not expect too much guidance Critical analysis of faculties will is medial between the activity of pure
from what Greek grammarians say, for there is little that is shared by reason and the passivity of feeling, a suggestion that would not go
all the various examples they catalogue other than the negative over into a Levinasian version of the middle voice if will were always
property of being expressed neither by the active voice nor by the conation. Non-conative will would be what Levinas writes as Desire,
passive. In our reading of Kant and Heidegger we have nevertheless modelled on the Desire without lack of the Republic, the ethical
welcomed the fact that in Greek and Sanskrit 'to imagine' is middle- superlation of desire as concupiscent wanting which, along with will
240 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Something Like the Middle Voice 241

as commitment to act, is one of the meanings of ambiguous vouloir.

Perhaps, finally, there is a trace of this already having been freed from Man speaks, Heidegger says at the end of the lecture, in so far as he
free will, power and will to power in the past participial having been listens to language. The speaking of mortals relies on its regard,
let free from selt-will of Gelassenheit. Bezug, for pure language, the reine Bezug, Rilke would say. Putatively
That is enough to say that there is a chiasmic interchange between pure language is pure poietic language, the oxymoronic lingua
autonomy and heteronomy in Levinas's pro-phetic proto-ethical naturans where the opposition between nature and convention
responsibility which is at once similar to that of the hearing­ collapses into chiasmus. It is Dichten, tihton, Heidegger says in the
belonging together of, on the one hand, thinking and being in Dialogue, and, as the lecture on 'Language' explains, is opposed not
Heidegger's repetition of Parmenides and of, on the other hand, to prose but to the prosaic and to everyday language, whether
poiesis and beings in our reading of Heidegger: a chiasm of chiasms. spoken or written, when that becomes 'a forgotten and used-up poem,
Because it is beyond being and possibility the similarity is also a from which there hardly resounds a call any longer' (US 31, PLT 208).
difference, but the difference is not so great that we should abstain Mortal speaking is a response (Entsprechen) to the call (auf den
from marking the similarity by describing each as an example of the heissenden Ruf) and need (Brauch). But this is a response to the call
middle voice, so long as we allow that examples can be Bei-spielen of and need of things because language is the house of being. and being
each other and that a voice can speak or sing in different tones. is always the being of beings, in the sense of the participial, middle­
voiced Sein that advenes, ereignet and es gibf. This twofold of beings
and being is mirrored in the fourfold of mortals, immortals, earth and
sky, condensed, erdichtet, in the twofold of things and world which
are invoked, called to come, respectively in the first and second
stanzas of Trakl's poem. The third stanza calls the twofold of things
and world into the onefold of the dif-ference, Unter-Schied, which is
What has a fine ear for nuances and Wechsel der Tone (for example in
the call of language itself. The onefold of the dif-ference is the
the title of Chapter 3) to do with ecological responsibility? Every­
threshold spoken of in Trakl's third verse, of which Heidegger writes
thing. As is shown in Heidegger's reflections on Trakl's poem 'A
that 'it is the middle in which the two, the outside and the inside,
Winter Evening' in a lecture entitled 'Language' which is none the less
penetrate each other. The threshold bears the between (das Zwischen).'
about things and the world.
It is painful because it is the place or no-place of exits and separation,
Scheiden, but of separation that at the same time draws everything to
Window with falling snow is arrayed. itself, like the drawing of a plan or sketch, Heidegger adds, reminding
Long tolls the vesper bell, us of Kant's comparison of the temporal schematization of
The house is provided well, Einbildungskraft to the drawing of a line. And Kant's insistence that
The table is for many laid. the schema is not a static picture but a proceeding or procedure
comes to mind when Heidegger says that 'The dif-ference stills the
Wandering ones, more than a few, thing, as thing, into the world' and adds that this stillness is not to be
Come to the door on darksome courses . confused with rest understood as motionlessness, but as rest or, as
Golden blooms the tree of graces Derrida might even say restance, that 'is always more in motion than
Drawing up the earth's cool dew. all motion and always more restlessly active than any agitation',
Wanderer quietly steps within; This Bewegung or waymaking of which Heidegger speaks here and
Pain has turned the threshold to stone. elsewhere might seem to be the opposite of what Levinas, with
There lie, in limpid brightness shown, Blanchot, calls the passivity more passive than the passivity which is
Upon the table bread and wine. the polar opposite of activity. But is it? How much violence has to be
242 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Something Like the Middle Voice 243

done to Levinas's astonishing notion before it can be brought into If man is looked at and needed in this way in the great age of the
proximity with Heidegger's no less astonishing construal of the poetic Greeks, might not poetic thinking enable man to rediscover that he is
middle voice? Heidegger writes: looked at and needed in this way today, in the age of technology? 'As
Andre Marchand .says, after Klee: "In a forest, I have felt many times
Speaking comes to pass in what is spoken in the poem. It is the over that it was not I who looked at the forest. Some days I felt that
speaking of language. Language speaks. It speaks by calling the the trees were looking at me, were speaking to me . . . . I was there,
called, thing-world and world-thing, to come to the between of the .
I.1stenmg . . .'".6
dif-ference. What is so called is commanded to arrive from out of Poetic thinking is not incompatible with technology understood as
the dif-ference into the dif-ference . . . . The calling of language applied science, the availability of labour-saving appliances and the
commands the called thus to the calling of the dif-ference. The dif­ mastery of the skills required for their use. The poetic, Heidegger
ference lets the thinging of the thing rest in the worlding of the says, is the capacity for human dwelling. It is sometimes suggested by
world. The dif-ference expropriates (enteignet) the thing into the commentators on Genesis that when man is said to have dominion
repose of the fourfold. Such expropriation does not diminish the over things, the word dominion has to be understood through the
thing. Only so is the thing exalted into its own, so that it holds up Latin domus, which is its etymological root, not through dominus.
world (Welf verweilt). (US 28-9, PLT 206) which is .the root of domination. Whether or not there is a common
root to these two notions, there is every reason why human beings
Why should there be any diminishing of the person when the thing should make use of science and technology in their human dwelling
of which Heidegger speaks is a mortal human being and we regard with the non-human, provided this use is guided by the responsibility
the human being as Levinas regards the Other, as the origin of the that lets things be. What stands in the way of this ecological
command Thou shalt do me no harm'? My proto-ethical respons­ responsibility is not technology thus understood, but the essence of
ibility to the Other is neither greater nor less whether the Other be a technology understood as the prevailing of the unreadiness to regard
second person or a third, because proto-ethical responsibility is not things and human beings other than as objects or stock, the incapacity
comparative or commensurable and like true love is (wonder of to think of ecology in terms other than those of the economics of
wonders) not diminished or divided when directed to more than one monetarist enter-prise which breaks and enters and takes and where
human or other being. So why should my proto-ethical responsibility profit ( Verdiensf) has priority over proffering (Oiensl). But this
be in any way diminished if it is a responsibility to non-human as well incapacity to think otherwise is not absolute. Holderlin:
as human being&? Why should one not regard a non-human being as
an other Other that concerns me, qui me regarde, in Levinas's phrase,
Vo/1 Verdienst . . .
so that it could be said of it too that On regarde un regard (DL 21) and
so that it could be said, as Heidegger does say, speaking of man in
Full of merit, yet poetically, man
the great age of the Greeks, 'man is the one who is regarded by that
Dwells on this earth.
which is (der vom Seien.den Angeschaute)'. He is the cynosure of the
perspicuous belonging together which Heidegger calls Ereignis and
which we might call Eriiugnis given the connection he claims the Although, as Heidegger speculates prophetically in 1955, 'calculative
former word has with Auge, eye (10 28-9; 100-1). Hence in order to thinking may someday come to be accepted and practised as the only
fulfil his essence man 'must gather (legein) and save (sozein), take up way of thinking' (Gel 27, DT 56), he also writes that the time of
and preserve, what opens itself in its openness' (H 83-4, QCT 131)7 deepest need is, like the darkest time before the dawn, the time most
Sa/us mundi. If the human being is looked to and needed in this way, ready for a revolution of thinking, a Kehre. Holderlin:
the other human being is not the only neighbour I am called upon to
love and not the only being toward whom my responsibility is But where danger is,
undividedly direct. Grows the saving power also.
244 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience

When Heidegger proclaims 'Only a god can now save us' he is not Postface
saying that there is nothing at all that we can do. Such extreme
fatalism would be out of keeping with his often repeated statement
that being, hence beings, things and the world need man, and with his
Das fo/gende Nachworf ist . . . ein anfanglicheres Vorwort.
statement that Ge-stell, the disposition to classify everything and
Martin Heidegger, Nachwort zu: 'Was ist Metaphysik?'
everyone as manageable stock, the cancellation of Gelassenheit, 'is no
blind destiny in the sense of a completely ordained fate' (T 45, QCT
47). What we can do is think poetically, in particular think the essence
of technology, since for us in the age of technology that is the way
to become mindful again of our forgetting of the question of being
My proto-ethical responsibility, the direct and so to speak prima facie
and our consequent 'injurious neglect of the thing'. 'Only when man,
responsibility of the face to face, de-systematizes the ecological
in the disclosing coming to pass of the insight by which he himself is
economy of the world of which Heidegger with Holderlin and Rilke
beheld, renounces human self-will and projects himself towards that
describe the fourfold space. It does so by disrupting its symmetry. On
insight, away from himself, does he correspond in his essence to the
the other hand, Heidegger with Holderlin and Rilke indicate how the
claim of that insight.' It is Heidegger who says this, but it is
ran�e of that responsibility may be extended more widely than
something to which Levinas could perhaps say Amen, emphasizing
Levmas - or as should now perhaps be said, Levinas I - is ready to
by way of supplement that notwithstanding the entrapment in purely
allow. This extension is not necessarily an extension from the proto­
calculative thinking of some politically powerful men and women
(their want of femininity and maternity in Levinas's ethical sense not

e hic�l to the ethical such as takes place when the two-person
uahon g1ves
s1t way to that in which the third is brought" into the
being necessarily a lack of these in the biological sense of the words),
centre of the scene. It is an extension beyond humanity of the range
the chiasmus between the responsibility of poetic thinking and the
of beings with which I can be face to face.
responsibility of prophecy · produces a responsibility that is invested
What licences this extension, it was argued, is need. It is not only
here and now in me. Prior to the opposition between freedom of will
�he other human being that can be hungry, thirsty, orphaned, cold or
and constraint by other wills and my wider environment. it is a
m some other way in need. And if my not giving the other food is
responsibility which gives ear to the others and to the salutary
tantamount to murder it is not only the other human being whom I
thought that before they are part of my environment I am part of
murder or culpably kill. My culpability extends to other animals.
theirs, who or (pace Martin Heidegger) whatsoever they may be, and
Some difficulty was encountered over the way Levinas and the
that beneath the strident clamour of egological enterprise, of the
Bible oscillate between Thou shalt not murder' and Thou shalt not
unconditional play of stock-market forces and stocking-masked greed
kill'. It was suggested that the concept of murder is usually restricted
calls the still small middle voice of neighbourhood and ecological
in its application to human or human-like beings whereas 'Thou shalt
not kilJ' would admit of application to animals as well - and indeed, it
can now be added, to whatever can die, including plants. It can also
now be said that whereas Levinas makes little of the difference
b�tween the two formulations because it is culpable killing he has in
mmd and so can equate this with murder, the word 'murder' is more
suited to the project of expanding the range of direct responsibility
beyond that admitted by Levinas and Kant just because it marks, as
the word 'killing' does not, the legal or ethical wrongfulness of the
deed. To this it will be objected that this project is hindered rather
than assisted by this preference precisely because it bursts the concept

246 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Postface 247

of murder at its seams. There is something in this objection. But there (trans)literal. Even if historically an incipient reclassification never
is something amiss with the notion that a concept is sewn up like a catches on, whether in lay discourse or the discourse of specialists, it
cricket ball from which maltreatment can result in all its sawdust may have profound repercussions. And even if it does not catch on in
seeping out. What is right is that no one has it in his power to move the sense of coming to be taken literally, it can catch on as a figure of
the limits of the employment of a word anywhere he likes and still be speech. The most daring departure from tradition is for that reason
sure of being able to get that word to do all the jobs it used to do. �erhaps least likely to become part of it except as consciously
This is illustrated by the fact that anyone who stipulates a use too figurahve speech. As such its consequences are incalculable.
remote from the usual one will find himself either failing to be There is no denying the daring in Levinas's claim that when he
understood or being given the word to use it as he wants by people drinks his coffee and eats his croissant he is murdering somebody. To
who, when in his company, will coopt a new word or phrase for the say, as Levinas would be reluctant to say, that to kill a non-human
job for which the old one was employed. However, the compensatory animal could be murder is also a claim that will not go without
conservatism of language is consistent with conceptual change, challenge. These claims can be taken seriously, it will be said, only if
though the conservatism is also reflected in the fact that where they are taken as figures of speech. Indeed, it will be said, they cannot
there has been conceptual change it may seem in retrospect that no � �
e taken (li erally) as claims, but as the exercise of poetic licence. This
IS what w1U be said too when the dichtendes Denken of Martin
change has taken place. An illustration of this phenomenon of
conceptual deja vu was provided by the idea that although at an Heidegger comes up with the thought that man can be the murderer
earlier point in the history of a civilisation a group of people, for �
(Mdrder) of Be n� or when Levinas, despite his protestations that
example women or infants or slaves, may have been treated as Totahty an� Infrmty is philosophy and that philosophy is not to be
chattels without any rights at all, we are inclined to believe that they confused With poetry, employs the word 'justice' of the dyadic face to
nevertheless had them, and that their having them was independent face . In his most recent writings he reserves for this word its
of anyone's then acknowledging that they did. What should have customary third-personal employment. Whether or not these second
been acknowledged is what matters. However, we may be mistaken in thoughts are evidence of a failure of nerve and whether or not they
thinking that the ancient Athenians, for example, had the concept of are better advised, Levinas continues to insist that the dyadic face to
right that we have but simply denied as a matter of fact that face is the ethical par excellence, and to insist still on this, it will be
particular rights were possessed by certain minorities. The exclusion said, is still to do violence to the customary notion of the ethical
of a group from ,the range of application of a word can be indicative which the objector will maintain is universalistic.
of a difference 'of concept. Whether or not it is depends on the Levinas will not disagree. To say that the dyadic face to face is the
consequences of going on using a particular word as against using it ethical par excellence is to admit that the exigency of the face to face
with a qualifier in a certain context or not using it there at all: excels the ethical as this is customarily understood. It is the
consequences such as those which accrue if we include non-humans customary notion's excession or, in Levinas's word, emphase. The
among those whose being killed is reclassified as murder. If the face to face is n�t strictly the essence of the ethical. To say that
consequences of such a reclassification are to be that in other respects would be like saymg that God is the being that most of all is. If the
too we come to treat non-humans in ways which we previously ethical is beyond being, the face to face must be more than its
reserved for our treatment of humans there must be some semantic essence, other"':'i �e than being and beyond essence, however great
continuity; it must be possible for the extended use to come to be may be the d1ff1culty of getting this idea across without having
seen to be at least partly implicit in the original. Only then is the recourse to the language of being and the idea. The Other, like God
reclassification likely to be more than shortlived, as it is likely to be if �xceeds being and the idea. But our saying that it does wil i
all that is carried over from the old to the new application is the �cessantly decline into a categorized propositional said. What an
emotive force of the word. 1rony that the very word 'accusative' to which Levinas resorts in
Where reclassification is underway then (tautologically) the order to describe the exigency of the Other's look should be the one
extended application will be more or less (trans)figurative and that most faithfully reflects the idea of being arraigned which is at the
248 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Postface 249

Greek root of the notion of the category. and yet that this exigency being be being' (H 239, QCT 104). When Heidegger writes that
is what Levinas tells us exceeds, resists, what since Aristotle 'value does not let being be being' and that value murders being he
philosophers have referred to as the category. Greekjew is Jew­ means that we have come to think that the world is no more than
greek. Prophecy declines into philosophy. what there is, and we think this even at the very moment that we
There is some irony also in the fact that the mechanism of think that what there is is not how it ought to be. not its Sollen. To
declination, like that to which the notion of the ethical succumbs. think the latter is to represent what ought to be as a norm in relation
though described by Levinas himself. for instance in Otherwise than to which the value of what is can be measured, to represent it, to put
Being or Beyond Essence. gets its most thorough examination, after it before us as a teleological object, a summum bonum for which we
Nietzsche, in the hands of the author of Being and Time. Jewgreek is can at least hope, but which, as an object of representation, is
Greekjew. For when Heidegger says that we have murdered being he destined to be a god that failed, that failed, to mention one case
is indulging in what Levinas would describe as emphase, emphaino, only, the young John Stuart Mill.
hyperbole that brings out what is concealed through the propensity When Heidegger writes that man is a murderer of being implicit in
of language to become reduced to the common denomination or what what he says is what Levinas says when he writes that the Other is
Nietzsche calls the language of the herd. otherwise than being. They are both saying at least that the human
It is yet another irony that Heidegger's reference to the murder of being is not a being on whom one can place a value. To say even that
being is a reference to Nietzsche's revaluation of values. The a human being is the most valuable being of all is to treat him or her
dethroning of the transcendent values of Platonism and Christianity. like a commodity that can be bought and sold. The human being is
Heidegger maintains, leaves in place the notion of value. Reading werf-los. beyond the measuring scales of value, price and worth,
Nietzsche through the glass of Lotze and his own neo-Kantian mentor beyond compare. This is to say that the human being is beyond being
Rickert, Heidegger contends that their doctrines of value invite a described as better than another human - or non-human being. as he
charge analogous to what he regards as the blasphemy of describing is described in the words of Matthew 10: 31: 'Don't be afraid: you are
God as the highest being. To describe God as a being is deicide. No worth more than many sparrows'. A desire to avoid such comparative
wonder that God is dead. He has been killed by belief in his existence. evaluation seems to be at the bottom of Levinas's restriction of direct
I am not of the opinion that there is a God. Likewise when the Good responsibility to the sphere of the human vis-a-vis the human. Perhaps
is represented as a value regarded as a subsistent entity, as a it is at the bottom of Kant's introduction of the word 'dignity' when
superimposed �ertiary quality or relation. As such explaining what he means by an end in itself. Kant and others,
however, equate this notion with that of what has intrinsic, inherent
or absolute value or worth. Although this succeeds in marking a
Value is the objectification ( Vergegensfiindlichung) of needs as goals,
difference from instrumental value or worth, it fails to exclude
wrought by a representing self-establishing within the world as
altogether the idea that what is being referred to is a maximum on
picture. Value appears to be the expression of the fact that we, in
a scale. This may be no cause for alarm where what is being said to
our position of relationship to it, act to advance just that which is
be of intrinsic value is an abstraction like benevolence, knowledge or
itself most valuable; and yet that very value is the impotent and
virtue. There is cause for concern however where the phrase 'intrinsic
threadbare disguise of the objectivity of whatever is, an objectivity
value' is predicated of human beings and other beings one considers
that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for
to be ends in themselves. For the description of a value as intrinsic, as
mere values. (H 94, QCT 142)
not being instrumental or otherwise extrinsic, is consistent with and
perhaps suggests the idea of one value's being lower than another.
These are sentences that could well have been written by Levinas Now although ethical decisions will sooner or later involve compar­
to say what he means when he writes that goodness is otherwise than ison and ranking, for example where the question of distributive
being. He could even endorse Heidegger's statement that if goodness justice is at stake, it is n
i order to avoid the hierachizing of human
is not otherwise than being as beingness then 'value does not let and non-human beings regarded as ends in themselves that we are
250 Tite Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Post[ace 251

trying to find proto-ethical space for incomparability in the sphere of 98, QCT 131, 147), the question arises whether we are also
the human vis-a-vis the other human or non-human being. murdering being when we treat other members of the fourfold as
This last sentence must not be misunderstood. It does not say that no more than commodities. We already know what Heidegger means
what we are seeking, absurdly, is incomparability in the sphere of the when he says with Nietzsche that we have murdered the immodals.
human in comparison with the human or non-human being, or indeed But what of the other regions of the fourfold, the earth and the sky?
incomparability where the class of comparision is animals or other Do not the fruits of the earth include commodities, that from which
non-human beings. There is no question here of a class of comparison we live, les nourritures terrestres? So surely the sense of 'murder' cannot
or a comparison of classes. The vis-a-vis, the face to face, is not a be extended so far that it can cover the idea of murdering the things
lateral relation but the vertical dimension of height or depth in which of the earth? If the things of the earth are commodities and we
I am devant, before and obliged by the other. It is not one in which murder when we treat something as a commodity there is no
my position and the position of the other are up for appraisal before alternative to murdering these things; but if there is no conceptual
me, before him or her or before anyone else. However inclusive or space for not murdering these things there is no conceptual space
exclusive the notion of the Other is allowed to be, we must either for murdering them. They are either already dead or not dead
distinguish on the one hand lateral or horizontal comparison such because they were never in the appropriate sense alive, even if the
as that upon which we have just touched, where as though from the things we are speaking of are thriving animals and plants.
point of view of a Grand Exagminer creatures are given higher or I t depends on what is meant by 'things'. In the sense of the word in
lower marks, and on the other hand the primary and proto-ethical which a thing is a member of the fourfold it is not just a commodity.
hierarchy of the Other vertically vis-a-vis me. The earth and the sky of the fourfold are not objects or raw material.
When Levinas writes that 'Goodness consists in taking up a So, if we wish to go along with Heidegger's extended notion of
position in being such that the Other counts more than myself' (TI murder we can extend its range to every thing. To murder a thing
225; 247) he only seems to be making a comparison, because as a will be to treat i t as no more than more or less valuable stock.
philosopher he cannot avoid taking up a third-personal point of view. We do not have to go along with Heidegger's hyperbole, but
But, as we explained in Chapter 2, the point of this third-personal before we decide not to we should at least take time to consider the
assertion is missed unless the reader grasps that he is being invited, possibility that we are acting irresponsibly if we eschew all modes of
called, perhaps commanded, not to forget that with respect to its speech other than those which go along with the conventional
author and every other human being he is in the position of an classifications of the prose of the world, if we turn a deaf ear to
addressee, even though he is being commanded to command. He is, I what must be otherwise said by the poet-thinker and the thinker­
am, I hereby ack11owledge I am, at the pointed end of an accusative poet.
provocation. So when I endorse the philosopher's assertion about the
Other counting more than myself. the 'about' disappears and along
with it the relation between myself and the Other that would be II
presupposed by any comparison. The 'more' of the Other's counting
for more than myself is not relative and comparative, but the Among the parts of the exposition conducted in the preceding
absolutely superlative proto-ethical claim which is the quasi-transcen­ chapters that may seem most vulnerable to criticism are those in
dental condition of the possibility of third-personal ethics and of the which poetry is invoked to help convert the disagreement between
justice that compares ethical or political claims. Heidegger and Levinas into a chiasmic exchange. It was in those parts
When, as Heidegger puts it hyperbolically, man is the murderer of that we had to face the embarrassment of appearing to rest the
being, man is the murderer of man. But mortal human beings are possibility of this conversion on metaphors and other tropes, pathetic
participants with other beings in the fourfold. Hence, remembering fallacy, anthropomorphism and the unargued postulation of animism.
Heidegger's statement in later editions of the Postscript to 'What is In these final pages we shall say something about argued animism.
Metaphysics?' that being never holds sway without beings (cp H 83, But let us first repeat rapidly what we have already said more than
252 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience Postface 253

once about poetry and tropes. Although the art to which we have implants the thought that perhaps we murder beings which in
most frequently referred has been the art of poetry it is through them everyday discourse we think of only as beings we kill or cull or
to poiesis or Oichten that we have appealed, meaning by this destroy - the thought that if we can shift talk of destruction from the
language in the making, where the chatter of machines calculating destruction of an inanimate thing (like a building) where it most
cost benefits is remote enough for the middle voice to be heard. The comfortably belongs to that of an animal ('The Rottweiler had to be
middle voice of poetry speaks in several tongues. destroyed'), perhaps we can shift talk of murder from the killing of
On at least one occasion even the scientist as such is said to dwell human beings under certain circumstances to the killing of animals
dichterisch on the earth. In a paragraph of Holder/ins Hymne 'Andenken', under certain circumstances, eventually perhaps to the destruction of
lectures dating from the early 1940s (G52 40), we are told: The forests and inorganic things.2 Poiesis is not legislation. Law is
Dichfen of astronomy and meteorology, the "Dichten" of modem instituted only when the poet's vision becomes public opinion and
explanation of nature is of the calculative and planning sort.' Why public opinion becomes enshrined in a public concept, when meine
Heidegger reaches for quotation marks half-way through this sentence Meinung becomes veriiffentliche Meinung and veroffentliche Meinung
becomes clear in the next: 'Planning is also a Dichten, namely the becomes Bedeutung or vouloir dire.3
counter-essence and dis-essence of poetry (das Gegenwesen und So it may seem that all that poetry can do is prepare us for a
Abwesen der Oichtung).' One cannot help wondering whether he different disposition of and toward the world by a softening up which
would be willing to pay a similar back-handed compliment to the will have to wait upon the discovery of good hard reasons justifying
scientist by allowing that the scientific explanation of natural induction into that new disposition by demonstrating the cash value
phenomena is a kind of essential Denken or 'Denken', if only because of the poetic musings which will otherwise remain vulnerable to the
it is the dis-essence or counter-essence of essential thinking. The charge of being n o more than the playing of a refined and rarified .
furthest he is willing to go in this direction i s to remind his readers sport. This is the charge we would like to think we have at least
that the scientist ,as a thinking human being is capable of essential begun to meet in the preceding chapters. We can at most have begun
reflective Besinnung, something Heidegger's conversations and corre­ to meet this charge because most of our space in those chapters has
spondence with certain eminent scientists of the day put him in a been given to arbitrating between Heidegger and levinas, relatively
position to verify at close hand. If he had not assumed that it was little being given to independent arguments for any of their doctrines
unnecessary to remind his readers of this more often his other or some other. We have done little more than attempt to remove
assertions about science might have had a less antipathetic reception objections explicit or implicit in what each of them says regarding
among some of ! them (VAI 62, QCT 181-2. Nl 372-4). That what is said by the other. And what we have said regarding the
reception would h�ve been still warmer if instead of repeating that poietic middle voice of art has taken the form of a response to
modern science is a thinking that 'captures' space and time in a net of Levinas's assertion 'Perhaps art seeks to give a face to things and it is
numbers, as he does in Hiilderlins Hymne 'Der lster' (G53 45-6), he had in this that resides at once its grandeur and its delusion' (DL 22). The
recognized that in pure scientific research there is a moment of risk of delusion that the ludic character of art brings with it is worth
responsive and responsible letting be, what could be called, in the running not only because there are laws that require to be subverted
light of what we shall say below, the poietic moment of science or as well as ones to be kept, whether these be laws of language or laws
the moment before the law.1 of the land. As well as the grandeur which art can attain by saying
We have spoken, perhaps at unnecessary length, of the middle the unsaid, signifying the as yet unsignified, there is that which it can
voice of poetry being at the threshold of strange worlds, before new attain by unsaying the said in the face to face with the Signifier, the
legislations. Poets are not exactly the unacknowledged legislators of other human being, as levinas I!, who may be a contemporary of
the world, as Shelley would have them be. Poetry in the sense of Levinas I, concedes. We have wanted him to take a further step, to
poiesis or Dichten is before the law and before its enactment, more concede that art does not always lie when it tries to give a face to
like a parliamentary white paper. At the hinge between one paradigm things. We have tried to show that the middle voice of poetry is or at
or episfeme and another, Heidegger' s remark that we murder being least is in concord with the middle voice of prophecy, but that the
254 The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience
Posfface 255

other to whom it responds is not only the other human being. To

rather than the 'what it is', where this 'rather than' postpones the
show this we enlisted the help of Heidegger and the poets with
implication affirmed by the words 'and that is' in the dass es ist und das
whom he speaks.
i$t, was es ist of Heidegger's Grr.mdfragen der Philosophie (G45 174).
In appealing to the mutuality of need that binds the regions and
Qualitative difference may be a further reason why I should seek to
individuals in Heidegger's Holderlinian fourfold world we were
preserve something in its existence, for instance where o�timal
appealing at the same time to the notion of needfulness to which
breeding conditions or the quality of life call for heterogeneity of
on Levinas's metaphysics of ethics responsibility is a response. It is
kinds. But the naked alterity of a finite vulnerable thing suffices to put
the needfulness of the other that matters, the other's being besogneux
me under a direct responsiblity toward it.
(DDVI 156). That is already enough to put me under a responsibility,
Hence, conversely, qualitative similarity is not required. This means
although I shall of course want to know what the other's actual needs
that the responsibility does not require that the being toward which I
are if I am to be able to exercise my responsibility n
i a fitting way. To
am directly and immediately responsible be, ike l me, characterized by
do that I shall also want to know about the characteristics of the
consciousness, sentience or life. In The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue
particular other, but again that knowledge is not a condition of my
Kant writes: 'beneficence toward those in need is a universal duty of
primary responsibil