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Ethics And Infinity

Emmanuel Levinas


Let’s hope Emanuel Levinas ISN’T right. For Levinas, face-to-face is the opening to the infinite, the human face withstanding and prevailing over our attempts to control (know) every facet of reality. It is during this expanded engagement with the human face that we take responsibility for the Other and experience a transcendent ethical state. E-mail doesn’t count. Txting either. Facebook, with its endless stream of disembodied information, might be the worst.

       It’s a nice thought, but it feels more like an elaborately constructed world of desire than an observable or actionable state of affairs. Too bad. Heightened awareness sounds so much more inviting than the usual sausage we make of human relations.

       Constructed as a series of conversations, Ethics and Infinity is easier to comprehend than most of Levinas’s writing and gets to various points quickly. Still, it’s a long way from conversational, so buckle up. Levinas may be more visionary than philosopher, but maybe that’s the point.

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