Levinasian reflections on somaticity and the ethical self

Inquiry 51 (6):603 – 626 (2008)
Abstract
In this article, I attempt to bring some conceptual clarity to several key terms and foundational claims that make up Levinas's body-based conception of ethics. Additionally, I explore ways that Levinas's arguments about the somatic basis of subjectivity and ethical relatedness receive support from recent empirical research. The paper proceeds in this way: First, I clarify Levinas's use of the terms “sensibility”, “subjectivity”, and “proximity” in Otherwise than Being: or Beyond Essence . Next, I argue for an interpretation of Levinas's thought that I suggest is buttressed by recent experimental work in both developmental psychology and neuroscience. I provide examples of research that I suggest opens up Levinas's phenomenological analysis in new and interesting ways. I also urge the importance of Levinas's phenomenological analysis in contextualizing the ethical significance of these empirical findings.
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