SUBJECTIVITY AND ALTERITY
Blanchot, in questioning the promotion of being in the question of "the whole (tout)," indicated that what is actually placed in question by the question is being itself, and hinted that the question of being and its meaning is not actually the most fundamental question. Rather, questioning relates us to what refuses to be present to questioning, to what withdraws from all questioning and exceeds all power of questioning. The most profound question is a question beyond being and other than presence; it is a questioning that proceeds by way of the detour of speech. Questioning is a detour, as Blanchot says, that "speaks as a detour of speech." What we wish to argue in this chapter is that subjectivity is not primarily to be understood as the being-present-to-itself of being, but as a relationship with the utter alterity of the other, which Levinas articulates in terms of the idea of the infinite in me, and the turgescence of responsibility in me. Before it lapses into ontology, subjectivity is fundamentally ethical, and it is this ethical foundation of subjectivity which will need to be reduced by taking Husserl's phenomenological reduction further.
Key to Levinas' understanding of subjectivity will be the notion of separation, as we saw in the previous chapter where he criticised the reversibility of the intersubjective relation in Buber's thought. Alterity cannot be conceived in terms of the same; the other is not a part of the same, but always apart from the same. The other remains utterly transcendent and infinite with respect to the subject, impinging on the subject in its very infinition; subjectivity is "the-Other-in- me," experienced not in itself, or kath'auto, but in the responsibility for-the-other which is provoked and evoked in me.
Being, in the Western onto-theological tradition, has always been thought in the present tense, and it is always conceived in terms of presence. The subject is one who stands in the presence of being, one for whom to be is to be conscious of being. But this intentional