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Religions 2019, 10(3), 170; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030170

Levinas’s Political Chiasmi: Otherwise than Being as a Response to Liberalism and Fascism, Humanism and Antihumanism

Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
Received: 24 January 2019 / Revised: 25 February 2019 / Accepted: 3 March 2019 / Published: 7 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Levinas and the Political)
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Abstract

In this article, I approach the relationship between the ethical and political in Levinas from the perspective of the hermeneutic strategy he employs when engaging with political thought. I argue that, in two key texts—“Reflections on the Philosophy of Hitlerism” and Humanism of the Other—Levinas situates seemingly opposed traditions of political thought in chiastic relation to one another: liberalism and fascism, and humanism and antihumanism, respectively. Furthermore, I argue that Levinas’s views on the relationship between the ethical and political in Otherwise than Being can be read as a response to the chiasmi found in the above texts. The relationship between the ontologies of liberalism and fascism is chiastic, because the latter’s fatal embrace of embodied and historical existence relies on the dualism the former establishes between the subject as transcendent and the body as immanent. Humanism and antihumanism are in chiastic relation in terms of the question of violence. The latter critiques the former for the violence of its Platonist devaluation of historical cultures, and argues instead for the equivalence of cultures; however, in locating intelligibility in structures of which specific cultures are merely configurations, antihumanism repeats the devaluation of specific cultures. In an altered manner, it is, therefore, also a potentially violent view of intercultural relations. Levinas’s analysis of sensible proximity to the human other is an attempt to account for the gravity of culturally situated meaning without turning it into an irrevocable fatality. I argue that the ethical does not detract from the situatedness of intelligibility, but demonstrates that we are bound to our cultural situation, not by fate, but by responsibility. View Full-Text
Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas; politics; ethics; sensibility; embodiment; antihumanism Emmanuel Levinas; politics; ethics; sensibility; embodiment; antihumanism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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van Eeden, R. Levinas’s Political Chiasmi: Otherwise than Being as a Response to Liberalism and Fascism, Humanism and Antihumanism. Religions 2019, 10, 170.

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