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The Community of those who have nothing in common Levinas, Community and the Self Emilie Van Daele Ph.D. fellow OZR Department of Philosophy Free University.

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Presentation on theme: "The Community of those who have nothing in common Levinas, Community and the Self Emilie Van Daele Ph.D. fellow OZR Department of Philosophy Free University."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Community of those who have nothing in common Levinas, Community and the Self Emilie Van Daele Ph.D. fellow OZR Department of Philosophy Free University of Brussels (VUB) PROBLEM DEFINITION This research concerns the question of community. Traditionally community is understood as a group of interacting people that share some common values or beliefs, people that share a common history or location, or more generally: people that have something in common. We can say that this ideal of community participates in what Derrida calls the metaphysics of presence or Adorno calls the logic of identity, a metaphysics that denies difference. These forms of community can be very dangerous because they bear within them the possibility of exclusion, deportation and even eradication. Conversely, we would like to examine the possibility of a community of those who have nothing in common. We will develop this possibility with the writings of Emmanuel Levinas. METHODOLOGY The concept of the self in this study will be of central importance. We start from the presupposition that every concept of community bears within it a specific concept of the self. For example: In the debate between liberalism and communitarianism there are two conflicting conceptions of the self: the unencumbered self and the situated self. These different conceptions go back to different philosophical traditions and lead to different notions of community. We will confront Levinas redefinition of subjectivity with these conceptions of the self and see if this redefinition can lead to a different notion of community. Research questions concerning community: What do we intend when we use the notions community and sense of community? What different notions of community do there exist? What is the relation between community and the conception of the self? Research questions concerning the self: In which traditions can we place both the unencumbered self and the situated self? How do these traditions relate to Levinas redefinition of subjectivity? How does Levinas redefine subjectivity and can we read this subjectivity within a humanist tradition? Can this redefinition overcome the opposition between these conflicting conceptions of the self? Research questions concerning Levinas, the self and community: Can Levinas redefinition of subjectivity lead to a different notion of community? If so what would this community be like? If not what can we do with Levinas within communitarian thinking? 1.The Early Levinas In the early work of Levinas - De lévasion (1935), Le temps et lautre (1947), De lexistence à lexistant (1947) - the self is still defined in terms of being - what we will call situated. Although the self is trying to overcome being – because this being is seen by Levinas as a burden – and is trying to escape this burden of being, there is not yet the possibility of an otherwise than being – what we will call unencumbered. 2.Totality and Infinity In Totalité et infini (1961) and in articles that anticipate Totalité et infini - Lontologie est-elle fondamentale?(1951), Le moi et la totalité (1954) and La philosophie et lidée de linfini (1957) - Levinas deals with matters that are fundamental for his ethical philosophy. Here we can find a redefinition of the subject that can be seen as situated within being, but in the possibility to escape this totality in the face of the other. Although Totalité et infini is mostly concerned with the other – who is also situated and unencumbered – we will examine what happens to the self when it confronts the other. 3.The Later Levinas In Humanisme de Lautre homme (1972) and Autrement quêtre ou au delà de lessence (1974) the self is defined in terms of otherwise than being. The subject is decentralized but not in the way the anti-humanists conceived it. Anti-humanism disputed the freedom of the subject because the subject was determined by impersonal structures and totalities. Levinas only partly follows this critique on the modern subject. While the subjectivity of the subject became impossible in anti-humanism, Levinas proposes a redefinition of this subject. The uniqueness of the subject is defined by its responsibility towards the other. EMMANUEL LEVINAS: A SITUATED AND UNENCUMBERED SELF?


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