The joy of Desire: Understanding Levinas’s Desire of the Other as gift

Continental Philosophy Review 51 (2):193-210 (2018)
Sarah Horton
Boston College
In this paper, I argue that if we understand Levinas’s Desire of the Other as gift, we can understand it as joyful—that is, as celebratory. After presenting Levinas’s conception of Desire, I consider his claim, found in Otherwise than Being, that the self is a hostage to the Other, and I contend that, paradoxical as it may seem, being a hostage to the Other is actually liberating. Then, drawing on insights Richard Kearney offers in Reimagining the Sacred, I argue for understanding Desire as a gift that is the condition of possibility for joy. If I offer hospitality to the Other, I thereby accept the gift that makes joy possible, and this joy is not egoistic but is the proper response to the gift. Finally, I ask whether Desire can be joyful in practice, given that the pure gift is an originary condition and never a historical one, and I conclude that imperfect joy remains possible. Moreover, this imperfect joy is better than any solitary enjoyment I might experience in the total absence of the Other.
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DOI 10.1007/s11007-017-9416-6
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References found in this work BETA

Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence.Emmanuel Levinas & Alphonso Lingis - 1984 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 17 (4):245-246.
The Many Faces of Levinas as a Reader of Kierkegaard.Merold Westphal - 2008 - Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 64 (2/4):1141 - 1162.
The Disqualification of Intentionality.Jeffrey L. Kosky - 1997 - Philosophy Today 41 (9999):186-197.
Total Altruism” in Levinas’s “Ethics of The Welcome.M. Jamie Ferreira - 2001 - Journal of Religious Ethics 29 (3):443-470.
Judaism and Philosophy in Levinas.Adriaan T. Peperzak - 1996 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 40 (3):125 - 145.

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