Levinas claimed, in , that he was developing a “first philosophy. In his essay “Peace and Proximity,” Levinas is more favorable to. Keywords: Levinas; political theory; postmodern ethics; liberalism. Politics left to .. edge,” is how Levinas puts it in “Peace and Proximity,” his most sustained. discussion of Emmanuel Levinas, “Peace and Proximity”. November 11, Today I would like to open our discussion on Levinas with some remarks on our.

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Emmanuel Levinas on Peace | Philosophical Explorations

Log In Sign Up. War, Peace and Love: It is irst of all a logic of negation: It is also a logic of airmation: It is an airmation of a utopia too: Proxikity do not need obscure fragments of Heraclitus to prove that being reveals itself as war to philosophical thought … Harsh reality … war is produced as the pure experience of pure being.

War does not manifest exteriority and the other as other; it destroys the identity of the same. Worse, philosophy, proxjmity least as it is practiced in the West since the Greeks, has played an peafe role in this universal and totalizing warfare by providing it with the very basic conceptual determination: Yet, in contrast to traditional Western humanism or rationalism, peace cannot be obtained by means of the intellectual authority of the noble but frigid height of a sovereign and unitary Reason.

Instead, peace is possible only by attending to our proximal relationship with the stranger and the Other as our fellow human being and neighbor le prochain: And, it is an airmation of a utopia too.

Peaec trying to demonstrate such a logic, the present author is ready to accept the challenge of committing a performative contradiction. Such an endeavor is itself paradoxical. On the contrary, it entails utopic airmations.

War and Philosophies of Totalization: Philosophy of Totalization as Totalitarian Philosophy It will not be too much of an exaggeration to say that the history of hu- manity coincides with the history ans wars: Kant hoped to bring about peace by calling an the power of a Universal Reason, Reason with cosmopolitan intent equipped by a suicient self-under- standing of the limits of human knowledge and her amd of action, to limit her own will to power in order to lay down the rules of paciic co-exis- tence of diferent peoples in a new world order.

He denounces the West- ern philosophical tradition which, by declaring her intellectual neutrality, has acted as the provider of the concept of totality that has served as an alibi to in- stitute a state of permanent warfare throughout the entire realm of being.

Western philosophy has most often been an ontology: Guarding her freedom means maintaining her own identity, in spite of the impenetrable strangers which bar her road to sovereign Truth. It would be moving toward auto-nomy, a stage in which nothing irreducible would limit thought any longer, in which, con- sequently, thought, not-limited, would be free. When the Other can only be grasped as an object of knowledge, she is merely a generic porximity, she loses forever her unicity leace irreducible alteri- ty.

She is always the same, she can never be the diferent Other. Since Hegel, we are accustomed to thinking that philosophy exceeds the framework of anthropology. Reducing the Other to the Same, suppressing all boundaries within the realm of being to create a vast space of homogeneity: In order not to wnd them become rooted and set in this isolation, thereby breaking up the whole and letting the [communal] spirit evaporate, government has from time to time to shake them to their core by war.

By this means the government up- sets their established order, and violates their right to independence, while the individuals who, absorbed in levina own way of life, break loose from the whole and strive after the inviolable independence and proixmity of the person, are made to feel in the task laid on them their lord and master, death. Spirit, by thus throwing into the melting-pot the stable existence of these systems, checks their tendency to fall away from peac ethical order, and to be submerged in a [merely] natural existence; and it preserves and raises conscious life into freedom and its own power Hegelpp.


In order to ensure that individuals will not be attracted to, and remain isolated in, the comfort and pleasure of independence, war and the threat of death is a necessary means of government. In its function to realize the Freedom and autonomy of the Spirit, the Leinas is a greater individuality than the single person. Let us explain this in detail.

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Hence the phenomenological reduction practiced in Sein und Zeit, the conversion of the gaze from beings the ontical order to the Being of beings the ontological orderis a reduction of leinas Other to the Same. Just as the Hegelian Spirit enjoys freedom over the individual moments of the dialectical movement, Being in Sein und Zeit enjoys freedom proximith beings: Secondly, let us consider from the side of Dasein.

But this is true only in the everyday inauthentic state. Authentic Dasein cares for its properness or ownness Eigentlichkeit. Yet in such a consideration, authentic Dasein can only consider its own death.

In the contemplation of its own death, Dasein can have no solicitude for any Other. Whatever authentic Dasein can relate to is nothing other than its ownness. For Heidegger it simply makes no sense to talk about the death of other Dasein: At its death, the other Dasein is just a corporeal thing, like a stone that we proxikity to step on in our daily walk!

A terrible conclusion of the author of Sein und Zeit! It is no wonder that he could publicly utter such terrifying words after the revelation of the Holocaust: Now it becomes clear what ontological neutrality means for Heidegger: Has not the irmness of this primordial ontology already gone through the axiological alternatives and chosen between values and respected the authentic and disdained the everyday?

How is peace possible? Exit from totality, transcendence towards the Other! But how to rejoin the Other after two thousand years of domination of philosophies of identity?

But peace in this case will no longer be reducible to a simple conirmation of human identity in its substantiality, anchored in itself, in its identity of I.

Levinas: Peace and Proximity

It will no longer be a question of the bourgeois peace of the man who is at home behind closed doors, rejecting that which, being exterior, negates them.

It will no longer be peace in conformity with the ideal of the unity of the One that all alterity disturbs. Can peace be obtained by arriving at consensus among rivals through discussions under the governance of a unifying and sovereign Communicative Reason—the famous ethics of ,evinas advocated with so much fanfare by Habermas and his followers?

For each of the interlocutors engaging in dialogue, the language they use serves to enter into the thought of the other, with the aim of coinciding with one another under a unitary Reason which settles the diferences between them. In other words, the proximify and disputes caused by diference of opinions are paciied by the dialogue regulated under proxinity unitary Reason.

But this has to pay a high price: A nobility of idealist renunciation! An efacement before truth, but also a power of domi- nation and a possibility of cunning: It is a predominantly cognitivist or intellectualist model of sovereign Reason. It ignores the fact that each subject entering into dialogue is an absolutely unfathomable subjectivity. It is ignorant of what Husserl has shown in the 5th Cartesian Meditation: We can only imagine our entering into the soul of the Other by appresentation, which is presentation in an analogical sense.

We never know how two phantoms embrace each other when they greet one another, whereas as carnal beings we embrace by the cheek, by the lips snd by the whole body.

But we are never sure whether we can touch the heart of the person we hug or kiss, if this very proximiry of hugging or kissing is just a convention of reciprocal politeness.


discussion of Emmanuel Levinas, “Peace and Proximity” | Law, Justice, and Global Political Futures

Consensus is obtained by virtue of the uniication of the voices of the multiple. It will be successful peacce at the expense of ascertaining the tyranny of the unitary Reason of communication. It levnas then nothing other than an old version of philosophy of totalization covered by a new but already worn out dress.

In fact, communicative rationalism, cognitivism or intellectualism—or whatever name we call it—are all philosophies of relection. As such they are always preceded by the pre-relective life of incarnated subjects in their everyday life-world. To phenomenological philosophers, this state of afairs is already well known from the rich descriptions and analyses of the later Husserl and Merleau-Ponty.

Yet we must above all wonder whether the elevation of this peace by the Rea- son relished by noble souls owes nothing to the prior non-indiference to the other man; whether it owes nothing to the social life with peaec which would be a relation to the neighbor, a relation other than the representation of his existence, his nature and his spirituality.

Only through this speciic backward questioning is it possible to understand how peace is possible. If in a war, xnd human being is just like a pure object under mechanical control, we cannot see how it is possible to create a crack within this domain levinaz totality.

What is paradoxical peqce warfare is that in actual fact, war is far from simply an immanent domain of totality, precisely because the individuals who take part in the war refuse to be simply an object of mathematical calculation or mechanical manipulation. On the battleield, peaxe one is sure that he will be on the side of victory. In order to save their own life, soldiers in an army facing defeat will choose to surrender or even to defect. In this case, they refuse to be part of the original community.

In choosing defection, they even transgress the law. By these acts, they exit from the totality. War therefore is to be distinguished from the logical opposition of the one oevinas the other by which both are deined within a totality open to a panoramic view, to which they would owe their very opposition. In war beings refuse to belong to a totality, refuse community, refuse law; no frontier stops one being by another, nor deines them.

Since in war no one is sure of victory in advance, tactics and strategies are important. On the battleield, attack by surprise is one of the keys to victory.

But as both sides prepare attack by surprise, counter attack by surprise has to be taken into account too. Nothing is absolutely decided in advance. Again because the actors involved are human beings of blood and lesh. By means of their antagonism with respect to one another, a space of exteriority is opened up.

War presupposes the transcendence of the antagonists: It lies at the limit of a supreme conidence in oneself and a supreme risk. Yet a question immediately follows: But this is only a temporary answer which remains purely formal.

From the point of view of content, a further issue arises: What kind of relation do two antagonistic soldiers entertain with one another? So it is their very mortality which relates them together. As a soldier, my mortality is related to the Other. But at the same time he risks being killed. If he succeeds in killing the irst enemy he sees, he is not sure whether he will not be killed in subsequent confrontations.

But this phenomenon deserves further analysis with respect to temporality, freedom, transcendence proximitty otherness. As a soldier, to the extent that I am still alive and able to kill, I enjoy freedom.