Mystery and Method: The Other in Rahner and Levinas

By Michael Purcell | Go to book overview

the gracious summons to ethical responsibility. The existential in which a person finds himself is already and always super-natural in that it is ordered towards the Other whose presence cannot be commanded, but who freely and graciously draws close in absolute proximity. However, just as Maréchal indicates no logical or moral incompatibility between a natural desire and the failure of its fulfilment, one can say that there is no ethical incompatibility between the summons and the failure of response. Ethical imperatives do not thereby become ontological necessities.

One must further say that Desire distinguishes itself from need in terms of responsibility, both in its primordial sense of an a priori openness -- an oboediential potency -- which enables response, and in the sense of assuming responsibility for the needs of the other. "The I before the other (Autrui) is infinitely responsible" ( Levinas 1987, 97). In other words, Desire, as an experience of utter alterity, manifests itself in the fact of the self being rendered as responsible by the Other for the Other. The idea of the Infinite finds its correlate not in the Infinite but in the infinite responsibility which the self experiences through the proximity of the infinite Other. Whereas objects within the world can satisfy my intentional appetite, as in need and enjoyment, the Other, though I am related to him, is always able to slip out of the relationship, to extricate himself from its demands, whereas I experience all the weight and obligation of him on my shoulders. The signification of self is the excess of responsibility felt in the presence of the excessiveness of the other; it is as if the whole of creation rested on my shoulders. Such a responsibility is humbling. Its weight bends me. "In front of the face, I always demand more of myself" ( Levinas 1990, 294).


5-5 SUMMARY

We began by asking about the possibility or otherwise of experiencing the Other. Whereas, for Heidegger, Dasein is to be understood in terms of its own possibility-to-be, Blanchot draws attention to the impossibility of being. Human life is ultimately impossible, for it is not in the gift of the subject. Any possibility which the subject has is situated within the wider context of the relationship with the Other who, in his or her approach, gives my subjectivity its proper meaning of "for-the-Other." As a self, the I is impossible; it is the Other who make possible my possibility.

Now, the Other cannot be experienced kath'auto, not only on account of the self's own limitation but on account of the Other's

-246-

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Mystery and Method: The Other in Rahner and Levinas
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Introduction xii
  • Endnotes xxxiii
  • 1. Method 1
  • 1.7 Summary 56
  • Endnotes 59
  • 2 Philosophical Origins 119
  • Endnotes 121
  • 3. Questioning Presence 129
  • 3.5 Summary 166
  • Endnotes 169
  • 4. Subjectivity and Alterity 171
  • 5. Desiring the Other Or, the Prevenience of Grace 223
  • 5-5 Summary 246
  • Endnotes 248
  • 6 the Sacramentality of the Face, Or, Sacramental Signification 251
  • Endnotes 294
  • 7. Being Ethical 297
  • Endnotes 333
  • 8 the Mystery of the Other 335
  • Endnotes 357
  • Bibliography 359
  • Index 383
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