>Some Levinas stuff

August 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

>To Hold on to exteriority is not simply equivalent to affirming the world, but is to posit oneself in it corporeally. The body is the elevation, but also the weight of position. (TI 127)

The dwelling dwells in a world. Ethos is always place as well as habit and manner and culture.

The I is thus the mode in which the break-up of the totality, which leads to the presence of the absolutely other, is concretely accomplished. (TI 118)

The I accomplishes in enjoyment. Enjoyment is temporal. Happiness is the recognition of sufficiency with regard to needs, to have needs fulfilled.

What I do and what I am is at the same time that from which I live. We relate ourselves to it with a relation that is neither theoretical nor practical. Behind theory and practice there is enjoyment of theory and of practince: the egoism of life. The final relation is enjoyment, happiness. (TI 113)

What is essential to created existence is not the limited character of its being, and the concrete structure of the creature is not deducible from this finitude. What is essential to created existence is separation with regard to the Infinite. This separation is not simply a negation. Accomplished as psychism, it precisely opens upon the idea of Infinity. (105)

The bare fact of life is never bare. Life is not the naked will to be, an ontological Sorge for this life. Life’s relation with the the very conditions of its life becomes the nourishment and content of that life. Life is love of life, a relation with contents thate are not my being but more dear than my being: thinking, eating, sleeping, reading, working, warming oneself in the sun. Distinct from my substance but contituting it, these contents make up the worth of my life. (112).

In English, we get the word sorry from the Old German Sorge, which is the word Heidegger uses for care. It is care that puts humans in time for Heidegger, care for myself in my being-toward-death. For him, authentic actions arise from a gathering of self triggered by angst, the awareness of my mortality.

For Levinas, to be aware of this is always already to be in relation with the other. It is not that I would take up arms in action against death, owning my own-most, but that death itself is the other, precisely that which I cannot…

Interestingly, Levinas reads Heidegger’s conception of authenticity by relating it to Greek heroes, Achilles especially, who in choosing to fight shortens his own life, relinquishes world pleasures for immortality in memory – the memory of poets – but it is for Patroclus that Achilles also fights, for revenge. Patroclus had substituted himself for Achilles and died.

Patroclus’ spirit appears to Achilles after Achilles has killed Hector, spurring him to bury him correctly. And Priam, with Hermes’ help makes his way to the Greek camp to ask for Hector’s body for the same reason. He asks Achilles to think of his own father. Achilles says,

Let us put our griefs to rest in our own hearts,
rake them up no more, raw as we are with mourning.
What good’s to be won from tears that chill the spirit?
So the immortals spun our lives that we, we wretched men
live on to bear such torments – the gods live free of sorrows. (XXIV: 610-614)

Eating is another important part of the Iliad. In eating there is nourishment.

Nourishment, the fulfilling of need, marks the enjoyment of life for Levinas. The air I breathe, I enjoy. I am situated in this enjoyment of elements I can not always formalize. In enjoyment is the love of life.

The love of life does not resemble the care for Being, reducible to the comprehenion of Being, or ontology. The love of life does not love Being, but loves the happiness of being. Life loved is the very enjoyment of life, contentment – already appreciated in the refusal I bear against is, where contentment is refused in the name contentment itself. The love of life, a relation of life with life, is neither a representation of life nor a reflection on life. (145)

One flees toward life. Suicide appears as a possibility to a being already in relation with the Other, already elevated to life for the Other. It is the possibility of an existence already metaphysical; only a being capable of sacrifice is capapble of suicide. Before defining man as the animal that can commit suicide it is necessary to define him as capable of living for the Other and of being the basis for the Other who is exterior to him. But the tragic character of suicide and of sacrifice evinces the radicality of the lover of life. The primordial relation of man with the material world is not negativity, but enjoyment and agreeableness of life. (149)

Representation is necessary, says Levinas, for one to recollect and delay one’s labor in concern for the morrow. But unlike Heidegger’s concern, Levinas says that “Recollection and representation are produced concretely as habitation in a dwelling or a Home. But the interiority of the home is made of extraterritoriality in the midst of the elements of enjoyment with which life is nourished.” This, he says, is produced positively through gentleness: “By virtue of its intentional structure gentleness comes to the separated being from the Other. The Other precisely reveals himself in his alterity not in a shock negating the I, but as the primordial phenomenon of gentleness” (150).

With this, Levinas argues against the absurdity of Heidegger’s Geworfenheit [thrown-ness]. The absurdity is counteracted by the enjoyment of the hospitality of the other, which he will articulate through a discussion of eros.

Achilles then sacrifices for Patroclus, as Patroclus had done in substituting for his friend. Achilles’ sacrifice is also a suicide…an emerging theme in western religion.

Heidegger, after being suspended from teaching for five years after WWII due to his involvement with National Socialism, fell into a deep depression and attempted suicide.

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