Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

A Levinasian Opening on the Affirmative Ethics of Care

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

A Levinasian Opening on the Affirmative Ethics of Care

Article excerpt


Levinas designs an ethics of human dignity, generated by the value of responsibility. It is a form of ethics encounter by, based on the awakening of the self towards Another; the overcoming of the in-Oneself in its gratuitousness beyond-one's-own-self-for-another; the vocation of the action for the Other (who is the defender of moral life), which involves responsibility. The concept of responsibility is the expression of the humanity's consciousness, including the entire seriousness of the love for the neighbour.

Responsibility claims a previous reflection upon the consequences of our decisions and requires our actions to be in accordance with to what was predicted. As an attitude regarding consciousness and practice - what has to be done is assumed and respected, fulfilled on the basis of belief - responsibility is a measure of freedom. The two categories of value can function only through interaction.

The call into beingness as a subjective duty

Kant bases his ethics on practical reason and on the concept of duty as its result. The concept of duty, which derives directly from reason and joins autonomous will, foreshadows the process by which one's consciousness, called by the duty towards the Other, falls away from it's own Ego. The true duty as an ideal form of respect for the golden law derives from the authenticity of the Ego's beingness and represents a movement of the spirit towards the Other as a form of responsibility1. A duty which results from pure reason, and does not imply a movement of the being towards the Other, is inauthentic. By following Heidegger's suggestion, authenticity is rather seen as care, not as existential angst and, more precisely as a form of care that results from a form of responsibility which transcends one's own being and constitutes it ontologically2. Duty, as an existential state, is the movement of the Ego, which lets itself to be filled with care for the Other. The expression of infinite responsibility is individualized under the form of caring, since being responsible even in an infinite manner can only conjure the Ego into beingness as pure potentiality. Responsibility potentiates the Ego, cleaving the transcendental subject from the Other. Singularizing the alterity under the form of face transforms responsibility into care. Calling the Other into beingness for one's self is done by caring. Thus, we separate the responsibility towards the Other, singularized as face, from the infinite responsibility towards Another, as absolute potentiality of any face.

The "Another" is a non-subject which makes the Ego responsible in the absolute sense. The "Another" is the non-Ego that descends the Ego into being by absolute denial, determining it as The One that is responsible. The relationship with the Other as Another which is determined not only as differing from the Ego, but as standing in front of the Ego, is characterized as the relationship of responsible knowledge or caring knowledge. It is a form of knowledge that understands the being and is selfvalorising. The understanding of the being is, at the same time, an "appreciation", namely an apperception of the value of the Other as receiver of responsibility and object of caring.

We are using the term appreciation as it is used in the appreciative inquiry, as valuing something or someone, as sensing what (s)he does for something to be good, to give it life and energy. Thus, we have brought up the term appreciation in the metaphysical relationship between subject and object, as a positive form of singularizing the Levinasian infinite responsibility.

The infinite responsibility calls the Ego into being for the aim of caring. Responsibility is an intrinsic state of the Ego which turns towards the Other. Leaving the self for the relationship with the Other is what makes the Self exist, bringing it in relationship with the Other. This Levinasian form of bringing the Self in relationship with the Other resembles Descartes' determination of the ontological centrality. …

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