The Imperative [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 53 (2):462-462 (1999)

Randolph Wheeler
Towson University
In The Imperative, Lingis not only critiques Kant’s famous moral imperative but also attempts to rectify the imperatives of phenomenology’s “things themselves.” For Lingis, neither empiricism’s positivist physical determinist doctrines nor the existential assessments of perception as an exercise of freedom in the positing of perceptions are satisfying accounts. Lingis wants rather to show that such interactions of humans with their environment are best understood as responses to the directions emanating from the environment. These responses are thus neither the reactions of stimulus-response determinism nor only the intentional acts of the standard phenomenological doctrine of perception. Lingis insists on the pluralism given in experience. We do not perceive only figures against backgrounds, as with the phenomenological model; we also experience the night, the elements, sensory levels, and inhabited spaces. These are not things of a single order; each requires its own description. Lingis enumerates these examples and formulates general assertions about their specific natures, as when he describes things losing their separateness in twilight. After night has arrived, there is no longer anything to see. Yet we still hear cries, murmurs, and rumbles in the night. They, however, no longer locate separate beings signaling one another or colliding with one another on observable coordinates. In the night, we see and do not see nothingness; we see the darkness. The night is not a substance but an event; it pervades space freed from barriers and time.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
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The Imperative.Alphonso Lingis - 1998 - Indiana University Press.
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