Subjek en etiese verantwoordelikheidsbesef : twee artikels oor die denke van Emmanuel Levinas

Terreblanche, Salomon Johannes (2000-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Article I: Subject and the realisation of ethical responsibility. The Idea of the Infinite in Levinas' Totality and Infinity. In Totality and Infinity Emmanuel Levinas writes about the categorical character of the ethical responsibility that the subject owes to the other. The confrontation with the suffering other puts the subject's natural self interest into question, and brings him to realise an ethical responsibility of which he cannot unburden himself. The question arises as to what in the constitution of the subject makes him susceptible to the realisation of ethical responsibility. This article illustrates that in order to accentuate ethical responsibility as strongly as he does, Levinas needs to take a quasi-metaphysical step. The "trace of the infinite" that "creation" has left on the finite subject, predisposes the subject to the appeal of the other. Levinas' use of words such as "God", "the Good", "creation" and "the Idea of Infinity" does not have a theological or a mystical underpinning. These metaphysical concepts are philosophical figures of speech that Levinas borrows from Plato and Descartes. Article II: Levinas and the question of socio-ethical responsibility in South Africa. The philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas contains far-reaching consequences for social ethics. This article gives an account of its significance for the South African situation. The lines that are taken up with regard to the question of guilt for the injustice in the South African social reality, are of two kinds. Either one is held guilty because of committing a gross human rights violation, or one is held guilty because of profiting from the apartheid system at the cost of others. Both these approaches depart from a concern with the historical processes that brought the injustices about. Levinas, however, offers an alternative approach. While he will more or less go along with the previous two approaches, he points to an ethical imperative with which the actual social reality confronts us. One can be held responsible, simply because one has always already done too little for those who are destitute. The ethical subject's pre-original openness to the appeal of others, makes him susceptible to the realisation of ethical responsibility. This is explained in a concise exegesis of Levinas' s work. The article concludes by considering the question of whether philosophers ought to give an account of the good social order, and whether they ought to tell us how it is to be reached.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Artikel I: Subjek en etiese verantwoordelikheidsbesef. Die Idee van die Oneindige in Levinas se Totality and Infinity. In Totality and Infinity skryf Emmanuel Levinas oor die kategoriese aard van die verantwoordelikheid wat die subjek aan die ander verskuldig is. Die subjek se natuurlike eie-belang word ter diskussie gestel deur die konfrontasie met die misdeelde ander. Dit bring die subjek tot die besef van 'n verantwoordelikheid wat hy nie kan ontloop nie. Die vraag kan gevra word na wat in die konstitusie in die subjek, die subjek vatbaar maak vir die verantwoordelikheidsbesef. Hierdie artikel voer aan dat Levinas - ten einde etiese verantwoordelikheid so nadruklik te aksentueer - nodig het om 'n kwasi-metafisiese stap te neem. Die "spoor van die oneindige" wat die "skepping" op die eindige subjek nagelaat het, maak die subjek ontvanklik vir die aanspraak van die ander. Levinas se gebruik van woorde soos "God", "die Goeie", "skepping" en "die Idee van die Oneindige" het nie 'n teologiese of 'n mistiese onderbou nie. Hierdie metafisiese begrippe is filosofiese spraakfigure wat Levinas aan die werk van Plato en Descartes ontleen. Artikel II: Levinas en die vraag na sosiaal-etiese verantwoordelikheid in Suid-Afrika. Die denke van Emmanuel Levinas hou verreikende implikasies in vir sosiale etiek. Hierdie artikel gee rekenskap van die betekenis daarvan vir die Suid-Afrikaanse situasie. Twee lyne van argumentasie word normaalweg opgeneem met betrekking tot die vraag omtrent skuld vir die ongeregtigheid in die Suid-Afrikaanse sosiale werklikheid. 'n Mens word skuldig gehou of omdat mens 'n growwe menseregte skending begaan het, Of omdat 'n mens uit die apartheidsisteem gewen het ten koste van andere. Albei hierdie benaderings het as eerste oorweging die historiese prosesse wat die ongeregtighede teweeg gebring het. Levinas bied egter die moontlikheid van 'n altematiewe benadering. Terwyl hy meerendeels sal saamstem met genoemde twee benaderings, wys hy op 'n etiese imperatief waarmee die sosiale werklikheid self ons konfronteer. "n Mens kan verantwoordelik gehou word, bloot omdat 'n mens altyd alreeds te min gedoen het vir diegene wat misdeeld is. Die subjek het 'n voor-oorspronklike openheid vir die aanspraak van andere. Die maak die subjek ontvanklik vir die etiese verantwoordelikheidsbesef. Die artikel sluit af met 'n bespreking van die vraag of filosowe konkrete rekenskap van die goeie sosiale orde behoort te gee en moet aandui hoe dit bereik behoort te word.

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