Totalite And Infinity An Essay On Exteriority

Totalite And Infinity An Essay On Exteriority-2
Without any externality, entirely unto oneself, the human person is a miserable being, exclaims Wahl (NP 167/112).The true sovereignty of the human consists in one's dependence on what is external to oneself, the other.One of the central themes in the thought of Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) is the relationship between 'the face and the Infinite'.1 This relationship puts us immediately in line with his thought about God, or rather with his thought 'leading-towards-God'.

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In and through the feeling that enters, without any diversions, into contact with the other, the subject reaches beyond itself towards the other than itself.

In this regard, the feeling is also longing and tension, literally also 'hyper-tension', precisely because it reaches from within itself towards something that is not to be found in itself: the other.

In concretising the metaphysical desire for the wholly Other, Levinas goes his own way -- with respect to Wahl -- in the sense that he discovers the deformalising of the wholly Other especially in the radical alterity of the face and in that he comes to trace the insatiable desire in the responsibility to which the face ethically appeals the 'I'.

We follow Levinas in his phenomenological explorations of the epiphany of the face, which points him to the path of the transascendence towards the wholly Other, the Infinite.

This influence is confirmed by the two studies that Levinas has dedicated to the thought of Wahl: 'Jean Wahl et le sentiment' (1955) and 'Jean Wahl.

Sans avoir ni tre' (1976).5 To begin, we briefly sketch Wahl's idea of transascendence in order then to reflect on the way in which Levinas points to the upward path to God ('au-del') on the basis of the epiphany of the face and the ethical appeal to responsibility.

Beyond logical and conceptual constructions, he seeks -- being strongly inspired by the anti-Hegelianism of Kierkegaard -- a direct and intense contact with reality.

For that purpose he sees some possibility in the feeling.

In this way, the person is lifted up above oneself, without ever going to be able to fall back into oneself (HS 109/ 73-74).

Levinas likewise characterises his metaphysical thinking in his first major work Totality and Infinity as an outward and upward movement, as 'transascendence' (TI 12/41).


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