August 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

>pain is described as being close to oneself

Yes, one can think that there is fidelity in the work. Any instrument, any tool you make, will have a “destiny” through those other than myself who will use it; but it is, nevertheless, a signification where alienation is much more radical than in that of written work, or a work of art. The others who enter by reading and by interpretation will participate more in my destiny than by using a machine which I have constructed. A great text, a great work, participates in that essence of writing, in the religious sense of the term, and calls for an interpretation. There is a whole new interpretation. There is also filiality in the relation to this future reader who is me, who has a relation of filiality to me and who, at the same time, will freely read the work which is from me and wil interpret it according to his own being. (Levinas, IIRTB 60)

I agree with this statement mostly. But I also think it’s important to both interpret machines and to recognize the filiality involved in using them, for in this is much of my responsibility to the other and much of my guilt, even if it be a faultless guilt.

Yet Levinas will write a few years later…

My responsibility is the exceptional relationship in which the Same can be concerned by the Other without the Other being assimilated to the Same. A relationship in which one can recognize the inspiration for attributing, in this rigorous sense, spirit to man. It does not matter! Cutting across the rhetoric of all our enthusiasms, in the responsibility for the other, there occurs a meaning from which no eloquence could distract — nor even poetry. (OGWCTM, 13)

I guess the distiction here is between filiality (trace) and an always-already responsibility I am in. One question I have for Levinas then is: Will I not be responsible through my trace after I die? Surely I am not responsible for the interpretations others will make of my work, and yet signification itself must transcend me and my intentions. If I, for the other signify, not just in intentional work but in being-for-the-other, if my reception and care for the other signifies a kind of holiness — even in the “after you, sir!” — then signification itself works through the worker. Wouldn’t responsible work be a channeling?

The romantic and liberal conception of channeling in America is truly something to be suspicious of. But so is any form of exceptionalism…even Israel…even me.

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