On Hesitation before the Other

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 60 (1-3):9-19 (2006)
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Abstract

Hesitation is a phenomenological moment. One is disturbed when, unexpectedly, someone else is there. There is that sharp intake of breath which accompanies being taken by surprise, and even a suspension of time, before one exhales. The other person takes us by surprise and often jolts us out of self-complacency and self-contentment, but also introduces us and invites us into a situation of responsibility in which the ego is no longer for itself but for the other. This is declining subjectivity otherwise and in terms of the other. This short article takes as its point of departure a simple incident: one halts or gives way before someone pushing a child's pram. One says, 'after you.' With Levinas and Blanchot, this moment of 'giving way' needs to be phenomenologically frozen in that very moment of giving way, for hesitation is a hesitation in being. 'To be' is a reflexive verb, and existence is already fissured. Into this wound within existence, an other may enter, and provide an exit from ontology to ethics.

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References found in this work

Totality and infinity: an essay on exteriority.Emmanuel Levinas - 1961 - Hingham, MA: distribution for the U.S. and Canada, Kluwer Boston.
Otherwise than being: or, Beyond essence.Emmanuel Levinas - 1974 - Hingham, MA: Distributors for the U.S. and Canada, Kluwer Boston.
Existence and existents.Emmanuel Levinas - 1978 - Pittsburgh, Pa.: Duquesne University Press.
God and Philosophy.Emmanuel Levinas - 1978 - Philosophy Today 22 (2):127-145.
On escape =.Emmanuel Lévinas (ed.) - 2003 - Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

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