Levinas and 'Finite Freedom'

In Joe Saunders (ed.), Freedom After Kant. London: Blackwell's (2022)

Abstract

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.

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Author's Profile

James H. P. Lewis
University of Birmingham

References found in this work

Free Agency.Gary Watson - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (April):205-20.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 2003 - In Gary Watson (ed.), Free Will. Oxford University Press.
Do We Have Normative Powers?Ruth Chang - 2020 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 94 (1):275-300.

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