The ethics of responsibility : the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas

Van der Merwe, Willie ; De Voss, Vida (2008-06)

CITATION: Van Der Merwe, W. & De Voss, V. 2008. The ethics of responsibility : the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. Acta Academica, 40(1):1-30.

The original publication is available at http://journals.ufs.ac.za

Article

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Emmanuel Levinas’s ethics is based on the Other/other. He argues that we are in an asymmetrical relationship with our neighbour that pre-destines us to ethical responsibility even before consciousness or choice. In the face-to-face encounter an infinity and alterity about our neighbour is revealed, which is irreducible to our ontological grasp, and thereby compels us to respond to him. It is also through this relation that our humanity is released as our solipsistic “all-for-myself” becomes a “being-for-the-other”. Furthermore, the “I” is irreplaceable, thereby making each of us ethically responsible for our neighbour, even to the point of responsibility for his material misery. This paper introduces and, in the main, supports this idea of Levinas’s.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die etiek van Emmanuel Levinas is gegrond in die Ander/ander. Hy argumenteer dat ons in ’n asimmetriese verhouding tot ons naaste staan, deur wie ons (in sy metaforiek) “uitverkies” is tot etiese verantwoordelikheid, selfs voor ons keusevryheid as subjekte of bewussyn van onsself. In die gesig-tot-gesig ontmoeting, die ervaring van die “gelaat van die ander”, word die “andersheid” of alteriteit van die ander/Ander (wat Levinas ook “oneindigheid” noem) ontbloot en daardeur word ek gedwing om op hom te antwoord. Hierdie verhouding maak ons mensheid vry, omdat ons solipsistiese allesvir- myself ’n alles-vir-die-ander word. Die ek is onvervangbaar, omdat elkeen van ons eties verantwoordelik is vir ons naaste, selfs tot op die punt van sy materiële ellende. Die bedoeling van hierdie artikel is om ’n inleiding te bied tot hierdie ge-dagtegang van Levinas en dit grotendeels te ondersteun.

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