The ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas is typically associated with a punishing
conception of responsibility rather than freedom. In this chapter, our aim is to explore
Levinas’s often overlooked theory of freedom. Specifically, we compare Levinas’s account of
freedom to the Kantian (and Fichtean) idea of freedom as autonomy and the Hegelian idea
of freedom as relational. Based on these comparisons, we suggest that Levinas offers a
distinctive conception of freedom—“finite freedom.” In contrast to Kantian autonomy, finite
freedom constitutively involves standing in certain social relations with others. And in
contrast to Hegelian relational freedom, the social relations involved in finite freedom are
not defined by mutual recognition, but by feelings of separation and even antagonism.
Along the way, we promote a reading Levinas’s Totality and Infinity as a Hegel-style story of
Bildung (development), and show how, on Levinas’s view, freedom can develop or mature in
the life of the individual.