L'idée de l'infini : Descartes dans la pensée d'Emmanuel Lévinas

Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 92 (1):54 - 66 (1987)

Abstract
Le projet d'E. Lévinas — manifester l'intelligibilité de la transcendance — le conduit à rencontrer, comme une figure exemplaire, l'expression cartésienne de l'extérionté, le thème de l'idée de l'infini. Jusqu'où va cette similitude ? Selon Lévinas, la responsabilité — pour autrui — inscrit déjà la transcendance, comme relation avec un au-delà, dans l'immanence à soi de la conscience, en tant que son en deçà, sa condition. « Par suite, l'idée de l'infini est le mode d'être, l'infinition même de l'infini ». Ici apparaît la divergence : le substantialisme cartésien ne permet pas d'affirmer avec Lévinas que : « Il n'y a pas d'idée de Dieu ou Dieu est sa propre idée ». E. Lévinas' philosophical attempt to make clear the intelligibility of transcendence leads him to Descartes' version of the concept of metaphysical exteriority, i.e. to his theme of the idea of the infinite. How far does this resemblance reach ? According to Lévinas, the responsibility — for — others already places transcendence, as a relation with a beyond, within the immanence in oneself which characterizes consciousness, as its condition. Consequently, « the idea of infinite is the mode, of existence, the infinition itself of the infinite ». Here, the difference points out : cartesian substantialism does not allow to assert, as Lévinas does, that « either there is no idea of God, or God is the idea of himself ».
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