The ethics of responsibility : the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas

Van Der Merwe, Willie ; De Voss, Vida (2008)

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

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.

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