Totalite And Infinity An Essay On Exteriority

Totalite And Infinity An Essay On Exteriority-11
We first reflect on the hard alterity of the other, and later enter into the vulnerable alterity.The alterity of the other is hard insofar as it presents itself as that which is irreducible to myself and my own attempt at being ('conatus essendi'), which I attempt to substantiate in a continuous 'struggle for life' -- 'by trial and error'.

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Afterwards, we trace Wahl's idea of transdescendence, which then forms the point of contact in order to make explicit how Levinas gives this shape by means of descending into the subject ('en dea') and discovering there the immanence of God as the Infinite and Good, thanks to an ethical and religious redefinition of the subject.

For a proper understanding of the thought on transascendence of Jean Wahl, we must begin with his stubborn resistance against all intellectualistic (coercive) systematism.

One of the central themes in the thought of Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) is the relationship between 'the face and the Infinite'.1 This relationship puts us immediately in line with his thought about God, or rather with his thought 'leading-towards-God'.

His view on the ethical epiphany of the face of the other indeed offers the 'concrete phenomenological conjuncture and circumstances' where God authentically makes his 'entrance' as the Infinite One (DVI 7/XI).

Now, not every alterity with which the subject comes into contact -- like for instance the environment, the world, the other -- is to the same extent and in equal radicality a metaphysical transcendence.

All too often, one reduces the other around oneself into food, an instrument, a possession and a finality for oneself: spontaneous materialism.In and through the feeling that enters, without any diversions, into contact with the other, the subject reaches beyond itself towards the other than itself.In this regard, the feeling is also longing and tension, literally also 'hyper-tension', precisely because it reaches from within itself towards something that is not to be found in itself: the other.In this way, the person is lifted up above oneself, without ever going to be able to fall back into oneself (HS 109/ 73-74).Levinas likewise characterises his metaphysical thinking in his first major work Totality and Infinity as an outward and upward movement, as 'transascendence' (TI 12/41).And even on the level of the absolute alterities there are also false or bad transcendencies in circulation, insofar as it concerns imaginary projections.In this regard Wahl also describes the absolute other as the 'extra-ordinaire': the other is only absolute when the subject that strives towards the other surpasses its own striving and, at the same time, when it does not absolutise into a final object that towards which it strives for out of its desire.As a being that strives for transcendence the subject cannot remain fixated on the 'object' or 'final goal' striven for; on the contrary it is a movement towards a term, going over and beyond this term, a movement without an end point, synthesis, rest and completion precisely because it concerns the radical Other that can never surrender itself into a concrete object or goal.The metaphysical Other can only be absolute in the literal sense of the word: 'ab-solute', detached, separated, irreducible, so that the feeling becomes an inexhaustible, infinite desire (NP 168-169/113-115).6 In the metaphysical movement towards the wholly Other, the person finds oneself in total disproportion with oneself: an unbridgeable chasm gapes between the searching person and the wholly Other, which the person strives for.The path of transascendence for Levinas has clear phenomenological points of contact.The idea of God, as an idea of the Transcendent and Infinite One, can only dawn on me in an authentic manner in a context of anteriority, exteriority and superiority (TI 267/291).


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