Death and the Other: The Origin of Ethical Responsibility
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
What is the origin of ethical responsibility? What gives us our ability to respond? An ethical response involves responding to myself: I answer the call of my conscience. It also involves answering to the Other: I respond to the appeal of my neighbor. Is one form of response prior to the other? Contemporary thinking about these questions has been largely taken up by the debate between Levinas and Heidegger. Responsibility, according to Heidegger, begins with our concern for our being.1 The “call of conscience” originates in our responsibility for what we are. By contrast, Levinas sees this “call” as beginning, not with ourselves, but with our neighbor. Its origin is “the face of the other.” So framed, the debate can be expressed in the opposition: self-responsibility against responsibility for the other.2 My purpose in what follows is to establish two claims. The first is that behind this opposition, there is a fundamental agreement concerning the origin of our ethical obligations. Both philosophers hold that ethical responsibility ultimately springs from our encounter with death. Their real quarrel concerns its location. Where do we first confront death? Is the “first death” our own or that of the other person? Do I confront death in the anxiety I have over my own demise or does it make its primary appearance in what Levinas calls “the face as the very mortality of the other person”?3 My second claim is that, whichever we choose, we cannot really base ethical responsibility on this encounter. This is because death for both philosophers is nontransferable and, hence, ultimately isolating. Furthermore, to face it is a traumatic experience. A traumatised self, however, cannot act. It can only flee. Given this, the response death actually provokes is avoidance. To adequately ground ethical responsibility, we must, I conclude, turn from seeking its basis in death understood in terms of absence and passivity. We must rethink this ground in terms of life taken as presence and affectivity. §1..
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library||
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
A. T. Nuyen (2000). Levinas and the Euthanasia Debate. Journal of Religious Ethics 28 (1):119 - 135.
Saitya Brata Das (2010). (Dis)Figures of Death: Taking the Side of Derrida, Taking the Side of Death. Derrida Today 3 (1):1-20.
Peter Singer (1996). Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics. St. Martin's Griffin.
R. G. Frey (2005). Intending and Causing. Journal of Ethics 9 (3-4):465 - 474.
Nader El-Bizri (2006). Uneasy Interrogations Following Levinas. Studia Phaenomenologica 6:293-315.
Sara E. Roberts (2000). Rethinking Justice. Philosophy in the Contemporary World 7 (1):5-12.
Marina Solodkaya (2008). A Time as the Basis of the New Paradigm of Responsibility. Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 50:1011-1018.
Richard A. Cohen (2006). Levinas: Thinking Least About Death: Contra Heidegger. [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 60 (1/3):21 - 39.
Shelly Kagan (2012). Death. Yale University Press.
Patrick E. Murphy (2009). The Relevance of Responsibility to Ethical Business Decisions. Journal of Business Ethics 90 (2):245 - 252.
Lawrence Burns (2008). Identifying Concrete Ethical Demands in the Face of the Abstract Other: Emmanuel Levinas' Pragmatic Ethics. Philosophy and Social Criticism 34 (3):315-335.
Michael D. Barber (2008). Autonomy, Reciprocity, and Responsibility: Darwall and Levinas on the Second Person. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 16 (5):629 – 644.
Steven Luper (2009). The Philosophy of Death. Cambridge University Press.
Added to index2010-12-22
Total downloads14 ( #114,438 of 1,101,565 )
Recent downloads (6 months)1 ( #292,059 of 1,101,565 )
How can I increase my downloads?