The Monist 103 (1):38-62 (2020)

Authors
Irene McMullin
University of Essex
Abstract
For both Levinas and Løgstrup, the moral encounter is characterized by an asymmetrical prioritization of the other over the self. Some take Løgstrup’s account to be an improvement on Levinas’s, however, insofar as it appears to both foreswear the hyperbole of the latter’s view and ground the ethical claim in the natural conditions of human life. This paper argues, in contrast, that Løgstrup’s own account is equally hyperbolic in its characterization of the self as fundamentally evil, and that his attempt to ground the ethical demand in structures of ‘life’ raises serious difficulties. I will argue that Levinas’s stronger commitment to phenomenology both rules out the problematic metaphysical claims on which Løgstrup’s ontological ethics depends and helps explain the methodological function of Levinas’s own hyperbole. Unlike Løgstrup, Levinas insists that the challenge is not eradicating the claims of the self, but rather resisting its pretention to a global normative priority. In making this case I refute the argument that Levinas, unlike Løgstrup, is committed to a ‘command’ view of morality—whereby it is the other person’s authoritative status that underwrites the moral force of the claim, not the content of the claim itself. But on Levinas’s view, ‘demand’ and ‘command’ accounts merge in his understanding of the face-to-face encounter because responding to the content of the demand—that I treat the other’s claim as reason-giving— just is to see the other person as an authority capable of making legitimate claims on me.
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DOI 10.1093/monist/onz026
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References found in this work BETA

The Ethics of Emmanuel Levinas.Diane Perpich - 2008 - Stanford University Press.
Being and Nothingness.Frederick A. Olafson - 1958 - Philosophical Review 67 (2):276-280.
The Problem with Levinas.Simon Critchley - 2015 - Oxford University Press UK.
The Phenomenology of Moral Normativity.William Hosmer Smith - 2017 - Comparative and Continental Philosophy 9 (3):274-279.

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