The Second Person in Fichte and Levinas

Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 41 (2):1-20 (2020)
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Abstract

Levinas never engaged closely with Fichte’s work, but there are two places in the chapter “Substitution,” in Otherwise than Being (1974), where he mentions Fichte by name. The point that Levinas underscores in both of these passages is that the other’s encounter with the subject is not the outcome of the subject’s freedom; it is not posited by the subject, as Fichte has it, but is prior to any free activity. The aim of this paper is to deepen the comparison between Levinas and Fichte, giving special attention to Fichte's own novel theory of intersubjectivity and the summons. One result that emerges from this treatment is that both Levinas and Fichte view the second person in a way that has no equivalent in the current philosophical landscape. On this reading, each thinker views responsibility to the other, not only as an immediate and particular obligation, but also as an asymmetrical relation that gives the other moral priority.

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Author Profiles

Michael L. Morgan
Indiana University
Owen Ware
University of Toronto, Mississauga

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