An-Archy and Justice an Introduction to Emmanuel Levinas's Political Thought


Emmanuel Levinas's political thought is best understood as a tension between an-archy and justice. Levinas claims that the aim of philosophy has most often been a search for an arche, or a neuter term that accounts for all of reality. Levinas argues that the reduction of reality to an arche obliterates all transcendence and subordinates man to a totality. ;Against the predominance of totality in the Western tradition, Levinas proposes a philosophy of transcendence. This transcendence is not found in the direct relationship with God, but in the face of the other person, the Other. Since the face of the Other cannot be thematized, it calls the sovereignty of the ego into question. The ego is called to respond infinitely, concretely, and asymmetrically. Thus, Levinas establishes ethics without positing a fundamental arche. ;Levinas's philosophy moves from this an-archical, ethical relationship with the Other to the totalizing realm of politics with his phenomenology of the third person, the Third. With the appearanee of the Third, the ego must respond to more than one Other. The ego must decide whom to respond to first. This decision is the foundation of all politics. ;Although the Third universalizes the an-archical relationship with the Other into politics, it does not supplant the original ethical relationship. Instead, there is a never-ending oscillation between ethics and politics. The world of institutions and impersonal justice must be held in check by the an-archical responsibility for the Other. Levinas calls for both an-archy and justice. ;By establishing a tension between ethics and politics, Levinas's thought changes the foundations of modern political thought. Against the selfishness of the liberal state, Levinas proposes a heteronomous political thought, that is, a politics based on the Other. Against Hegelian totality, Levinas proposes a radical pluralism based on the irreducible alterity of the Other. This pluralism places the Other person, not the State or impersonal history, as the ultimate value. Thus, Levinas's heteronomous philosophy is a humanism, a humanism of the Other
Keywords Levinas, Emmanuel
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 739107038
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 51,668
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Prospects for A Levinasian Epistemic Infinitism.J. Aaron Simmons & Scott F. Aikin - 2012 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (3):437-460.
Levinas, Bureaucracy, and the Ethics of School Leadership.Andrew Pendola - 2019 - Educational Philosophy and Theory 51 (14):1528-1540.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Rethinking Justice: Levinas and Asymmetrical Responsibility.Sara E. Roberts - 2000 - Philosophy in the Contemporary World 7 (1):5-12.
The Possibility of an Ethical Politics: From Peace to Liturgy.John Drabinski - 2000 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 26 (4):49-73.
The Ethics of Emmanuel Levinas.Diane Perpich - 2008 - Stanford University Press.
Levinas and the Palestinians.Jason Caro - 2009 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 35 (6):671-684.
Transcendence and World: The Problem of Politics in Levinas.Philip J. Harold - 2004 - Dissertation, The Catholic University of America


Added to PP index

Total views

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes