Emmanuel Levinas on Overcoming Solitude (Part Two)

Sep 12, 2016, 12:00 PM

Concluding Levinas's Time and the Other (1948), in which we talk about the present being freedom, before there's even a will! This sort of helps to justify the counterintuitive existentialist insistence that we are responsible for the current state of our life even if it didn't result from our choices. We also get another formulation of selfhood: Identity is when we depart from ourselves (i.e., get interested in something external) but then are in some way pushed back into ourselves, such as by resistance. One of the chief things that resists our efforts is our own body, so being an individual, i.e., being free, is at the same moment being encumbered by, responsible for a body. As a correlate of this, our primary mode of dealing with the external world, before we get around to using things as tools or explicitly contemplating them as knowledge, is as material to nourish our bodies: we enjoy the world. This is in contrast both to Heidegger and to more dour versions of existentialism.

Finally, we get the end of L's story about how we can authentically recognize the Other as Other, and so overcome the solitude inherent in existence. Yes, there's ethics and death involved, and time, but new here is the erotic, not in the sense of ecstatically losing yourself in pleasure, but in actively, immediately, physically pleasing another person. So yes, this is a fancy chain of ontological reasoning that ends up telling you to get over yourself by going out and getting some good lovin'. Yay, Jewish existentialism! #philosophy #levinas #time #alterity #otherness #heidegger #ontology #phenomenology #being #death #ethics Go to the blog: http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2016/09/12/ep146-2-levinas/