Anthropology through Levinas (further reflections): on humanity, being, culture, violation, sociality, and morality

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Abstract

The philosophy of Levinas poses a challenge to anthropology. For Levinas, the ‘secrecy of subjectivity’, the absolute incomprehensibility of one individual to another, is the fundamental fact of human being. It is also the foundation of morality, and ethical system, acknowledging the irreducible mystery and integrity of individuality as preceding any claim to knowledge, any legislation of culturo-symbolic construction. This article outlines some of the major tenets in a Levinasian metaphysic. It traces their biographical origin in Levinas’s experience of the Holocaust, and their intellectual origin in a reading of the Old Testament where Abraham answers ‘Here I am’ to a divine presence of which he has no possible experience. According to Levinas, each owes to the human Other the same ‘inspired’ response as to the incomprehensibility of divinity. The article concludes by mooting a passable solution to the Levinasian challenge: a cosmopolitan anthropology that looks to write the individual life imaginatively while writing the human species systematically.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-90
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Volume60
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jan 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

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