Embodied ethics: Levinas’ gift for enactivism

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 20 (1):169-190 (2020)
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Abstract

This paper suggests that the enactive approach to ethics could benefit from engaging a dialogue with the phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas, a philosopher who has given ethics a decisive role in the understanding of our social life. Taking the enactive approach of Colombetti and Torrance as a starting point, we show how Levinas’ philosophy, with the key notions of face, otherness, and responsibility among others can complement and enrich the enactive view of ethics. Specifically, we argue that Levinas can provide, on the one hand, a phenomenological characterisation of ethics itself, of its nature and fundamental meaning, and on the other, an account of how sociality, affectivity and embodiment, as presented in Colombetti and Torrance’s work, combine to bring about the ethical experience. However, we also point out that introducing Levinas to the enactive approach could be challenging. It is not obvious how sense-making and value-making, as centred on the precariousness and potential death of the subject, would account for the ethical experience as grounded on the precariousness and potential death of the other.

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Mario Villalobos
University of Edinburgh

References found in this work

Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind.Evan Thompson - 2007 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Totality and infinity: an essay on exteriority.Emmanuel Levinas - 1961 - Hingham, MA: distribution for the U.S. and Canada, Kluwer Boston.
Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity Between Life and Language.Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Elena Clare Cuffari & Hanne De Jaegher - 2018 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press. Edited by Elena Clare Cuffari & Hanne De Jaegher.

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