The Primacy of Disruption in Levinas Account of Transcendence

Research in Phenomenology 40 (3):363-377 (2011)
I present `disruption' as what is most fundamental to Levinas' account of transcendence. I argue that one should read his treatment of the Other as a modulation of transcendence, and prioritize the structures of positionality and solitude as the conditions that make transcendence possible. Hence, Being is transcended insofar as these structures have `always already' articulated the rupturing of the subject, which, for Levinas, constitutes her transcending. Included in my argument is a critique of reading Levinas' project as undermining the fundamentally solitary nature of human existence because of his focus on alterity. Such a reading reduces Levinas' account of alterity, instead of maintaining its signification as that which is `never there.' It is the solitary existent who is vulnerable before an `already gone by' alterity, such that her subjectivity is radically disrupted. For Levinas, an encounter with alterity is the agony of finding no one, or having nowhere, from which I can be granted wholeness or justification. It follows that transcendence is fundamentally concretized in a positioned solitude, and not in some inter-subjective space
Keywords disruption   transcendence   identity   il y a   Levinas
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DOI 10.1163/156916410X524457
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