Emmanuel Lévinas , originally Emanuelis Lévinas

Emmanuel
Lévinas , originally Emanuelis Lévinas
1906
1995

Lithuanian-born French Philosopher, Ontologist, Ethicist and Talmudic Commentator

Author Quotes

Love remains a relation with the Other that turns into need, transcendent exteriority of the other, of the beloved. But love goes beyond the beloved... The possibility of the Other appearing as an object of a need while retaining his alterity, or again, the possibility of enjoying the Other... this simultaneity of need and desire, or concupiscence and transcendence... constitutes the originality of the erotic which, in this sense, is the equivocal par excellence.

The relation with the other will always be offering and gift, never an approach with ‘empty hands’.

We could formulate the result of our analyses in the following way: the existence of material things contains in itself a nothingness, a possibility of not-being. This does not mean that things do not exist but that their mode of existing contains precisely the possible negation of itself.

Nothing responds to us, but this silence; the voice of this silence is understood and frightens like the silence of those infinite spaces Pascal speaks of.

The sensible qualities of the sacred are incommensurable with the emotional power it emits and with the very nature of this emotion, but their function as bearers of 'collective representations' accounts for this disproportion and inadequateness.

What exists for us, what we consider as existing is not a reality hidden behind phenomena that appear as images or signs of this reality. The world of phenomena it-self makes up the being of our concrete life.

Obsession is irreducible to consciousness, even if it overwhelms it. In consciousness it is betrayed, but thematized by a said in which it is manifested. Obsession traverses consciousness counter-current-wise, is inscribed in consciousness as something foreign, a disequilibrium, a delirium.

The sentence in which God comes to be involved in words is not ‘I believe in God’… It is the ‘here I am’ said to the neighbor to whom I am given over, and in which I announce peace, that is, my responsibility for the other.

When the forms of things are dissolved in the night, the darkness of the night, which is neither an object nor the quality of an object, invades like a presence. In the night, where we are driven to it, we are not dealing with anything. But this nothing is not that of pure nothingness.

Otherwise than Being. It is a matter of stating the breaking apart of a destiny that reigns in essence whose fragments and modalities—despite their diversity—belong the ones to the others, that is…do not escape Order, as though the ends of the thread cut by the Parque were tied up again after being cut. It is a matter of thinking the possibility of being torn out of essence. To go where? To go into what region? To stand on what ontological plane? But to be torn out of essence contests the unconditional privilege of the question: where?…[This is a] uniqueness for which the out-of-self, the difference relative to self, is non-indifference itself in the extra-ordinary recurrence of the pronominal.

The small goodness from one person to his fellowman is lost and deformed as soon as it seeks organization and universality and system, as soon as it opts for doctrine, a treatise of politics and theology, a party, a state, and even a church. Yet it remains the sole refuge of the good in being. Unbeaten, it undergoes the violence of evil, which, as small goodness, it can neither vanquish nor drive out. A little kindness going only from man to man, not crossing distances to get to the places where events and forces unfold! A remarkable utopia of the good or the secret of its beyond.

While in moral pain one can preserve an attitude of dignity and compunction , and consequently already be free; physical suffering in all its degrees entails the impossibility of detaching oneself from the instant of existence. It is the very irremissibility of being.

Reason is alone. And in this sense knowledge never encounters anything truly other in the world. This is the profound truth of idealism. It betokens a radical difference between spatial exteriority and the exteriority of instants in relation to one another.

The solitude of the subject results from its relationship with the existing over which it is master. This mastery over existing is the power of beginning, of starting out from itself, starting out from itself neither to act nor to think, but to be.

Recurrence is more past than any rememberable past , any past convertible into a present. The oneself is a creature, but an orphan by birth or an atheist no doubt ignorant of its Creator, for if it knew it it would again be taking up its commencement . The recurrence of the oneself refers to the hither side of the present in which every identity identified in the said is constituted.

The whole acuity of suffering lies in this impossibility of retreat. It is the fact of being backed up against life and being. In this sense suffering is the impossibility of nothingness.

Someone may object that material things extend beyond the realm of our present perception. It belongs to their very essence to be more than what is intimated or revealed in a continuum of subjective aspects at the moment of perception. They are also there when we do not perceive them: they exist in themselves.

Things are never known in their totality; an essential character of our perception of them is that of being inadequate.

Spectres, ghosts, sorceresses are not only a tribute Shakespeare pays to his time, or vestiges of the original material he composed with; they allow him to move constantly toward this limit between being and nothingness where being insinuates itself even in nothingness, like bubbles of the earth...

This impersonal, anonymous, yet inextinguishable 'consummation' of being, which murmurs in the depths of nothingness itself we shall designate by the term there is. The ‘there’ is, inasmuch as it resists a personal form, is 'being in general'.

The anonymous current of being invades, submerges every subject, person or thing. The subject-object distinction by which we approach existents is not the starting point for a meditation which broaches being in general.

This way death has of announcing itself in suffering, outside all light, is an experience of the passivity of the subject, which until then had been active and remained active even when it was overwhelmed by its own nature, but reserved its possibility of assuming its factual state.

The comprehension of God taken as a participation in his sacred life, an allegedly direct comprehension, is impossible, because participation is a denial of the divine, and because nothing is more direct than the face to face, which is straightforwardness itself.

This world, in which reason is more and more at home, is not habitable. It is hard and cold like those depots in which are piled up goods that cannot satisfy: neither clothe those who are naked, nor feed those who are hungry; it is as impersonal as factory hangars and industrial cities in which manufactured things remain abstract, true with statistical truth and borne on the anonymous circuit of the economy, resulting from skillful planning decisions which cannot prevent, but prepare disasters. There it is, the mind in its masculine essence, living on the outside, exposed to the violent, blinding sun, to the trade winds that beat against it and beat it down, on a land without folds, rootless, solitary and wandering and thus already alienated by the very things which it caused to be produced and which remain untameable and hostile.

The expression 'in one's skin' is not a metaphor for the in-itself; it refers to a recurrence in the dead time or the meanwhile which separates inspiration and expiration, the diastole and systole of the heart beating dully against the walls of one's skin.

Author Picture
First Name
Emmanuel
Last Name
Lévinas , originally Emanuelis Lévinas
Birth Date
1906
Death Date
1995
Bio

Lithuanian-born French Philosopher, Ontologist, Ethicist and Talmudic Commentator