Emmanuel Levinas's Face-to-Face Ethics: Taking the Other Seriously

Dissertation, State University of New York at Binghamton (2004)

In an age that difference is acknowledged and celebrated more than ever, my dissertation explores possibilities that such a recognition of and search for difference point to in the field of ethics, which I believe will diversify ethics, and make it even richer. ;The main question that I will pursue is: How could ethics be thought in a different way? While critically reviewing traditional or conventional Western ethics, which I frame its tripartite structure as predominantly reason-oriented , masculine language-oriented , and act-oriented , I investigate the face-to-face ethics of Emmanuel Levinas. ;As a phenomenologist, Levinas's philosophical concern is primarily on the question of alterity: an alterity that is irreducibly different and wholly other indicates uniqueness that is exterior to all genus and transcends all genre. Taking a cue from his scholarly-disciplined attention toward the question of the other, I start with a question: "What would happen if we came face to face with Levinas's ethics?" ;Levinas's face-to-face ethics stands out amid ego-centered mainstream Western moral philosophy in which philosophical reflection conceptualizes the other in opposition to the self. I take particular note of his approach to difference and otherness as a path to creating an ethical possibility of philosophizing otherwise. His provocative obsession with the other as a profound and serious study of the other produces his idea of a dream ethics that starts from the "after-you" politeness at the door, through giving the other the bread taken out of my own mouth at the table, and reaches to the point of taking the place for the other in death, takes its interest in how the self meets the other. ;I suggest that Levinas's attempt to bring to light violence imposed upon the other, and redefine the relationship between the I and the other in such a way that the other is understood on a different plane will illustrate not only how the present manner of thinking of the other should be challenged and changed, but also what it takes to be ethically wise and turn to the other faces and voices
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