The Ethical Meaning of Money in the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas

Ethical Perspectives 2 (2):85-90 (1995)
Abstract
In the view of the Franco-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas money has a multitude of anthropological and ethical meanings, not excluding contradictions. For money functions on different levels, namely on that of the I and the effort of its being, that of the relation with the other and that of the ‘third’, that is to say on the socio-economical and judicial level.It will have become clear that Levinas’ philosophical approach to money not only offers a phenomenological description, but also expressly formulates an ethical and thus normative dimension. It not only tries to understand what ‘is’ , but also opens up perspectives on what ‘should be’ . It is thus not a neutral, disengaged analysis, but literally a ‘pro vocative’ or ‘calling-forth’ approach that thereby calls the factual praxis of money critically into question regarding its ethical quality, or its humanity.This ethical approach lays bare not only the different sense but also the ambivalences and contradictions of money. In this respect, money is never a self-evident ‘good’ about which a naive sort of metaphysics or entrenched ‘doctrine of being’ could be developed, but a literally ‘ambivalent’ middle term that not only can enter the service of evil but, precisely through its so-called neutral objectivity, can bring to this same evil the seductive and misleading charm of the good
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