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4 Ethics as Critique

Michael L. Morgan Indiana University Press ePub

In chapters 1 and 2 I have argued that for Levinas one role of the ethical is to serve as a ground of critique of political conduct, policies, norms, and institutions. Levinas himself says that politics is subject to ethical critique. Since the ethical is a dimension of every relation and every relationship and insofar as it is constituted by our responsibilities and obligations toward other persons, Levinas must mean that politics is subject to evaluation by the standard of such obligations and responsibilities. Levinas calls the latter charity or love, and as we have seen, he says that it makes a difference whether society and the state are founded on a kind of individualism and personal competitiveness or on charity and justice. How well or how poorly do our political conduct and programs meet the standard of the ethical?

I have also, in chapter 1, compared Levinas’s conception of ethical critique with Avishai Margalit’s arguments in behalf of a decent society, one that seeks to avoid humiliating its citizens and others or degrading them. What is especially interesting about Margalit’s argument for a decent society is that it is similar formally to Levinas’s account of how justice is not sufficient for the best society or form of state. Justice is one thing, and we may feel strongly that a good society must be just. But justice may not be sufficient to make a society a good one; for that we need also an attention to our care and responsibilities for the other person. But what exactly does Levinas mean? If Margalit is concerned especially about respect and self-esteem, Levinas is not in the same sense. Nor is fairness or equal treatment sufficient. Levinas argues that as human beings we want and need more. He is concerned with charity, kindness, and generosity.

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II. The resonating

Martin Heidegger Indiana University Press ePub


The resonating of the beginning

(hidden in its inceptuality; the first and the other beginning are concealed)

Modernity and the West

Modernity; metaphysics as episode

The consummation of metaphysics; the passing by

The episode; the first and the other beginning

The abandonment by being; beinglessness

The abandonment by being; the devastation

Devastation and erosion

The bondage of nihilating and of passing away

is the first and most proximate indication of the other beginning. It indicates accordingly the transition from the first to the other beginning; it indicates this transition as a mode of inceptuality; but the inceptuality is at the same time counter to the advancement of the first beginning into metaphysics.

The resonating indicates metaphysics as the episode constituted by the dominance of beings and of their truth.

The resonating indicates the overcoming of metaphysics, an overcoming that eventuates out of the twisting free of the disentangling.

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8 The Tragedy of Cratylus

Shane Montgomery Ewegen Indiana University Press ePub

Cratylus's silence rings throughout the Cratylus, serving as the very backdrop for Socrates’ and Hermogenes’ long conversation regarding the correctness of names. Cratylus's single utterance at the beginning of the text—“If it seems so to you” (Eἴ σοι δοκε) (383a)—serves to draw our attention to his long silence that follows, announcing the character Cratylus before immediately drawing him back into silence for the following forty-four Stephanus pages. One might say that, behind the long and difficult λόγος on λόγος that is the Cratylus, a silence speaks.

There are, of course, many ways of keeping silent. The Greeks, from at least Euripides on, were aware that sometimes silence can be interpreted as signifying agreement.1 The Socrates of the Cratylus is aware of this type of silence, and at one point infers Cratylus's consent (συνχώρησιν) based upon his silence (435b). One might suppose, then, that in keeping his silence throughout the long etymological comedy Cratylus has indicated his agreement with Socrates’ performance and the philosophical position it is meant to expound and clarify. (Indeed, Cratylus will soon voice his approval of the etymologies [428c], thereby finally breaking his silence.)

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16 Wild

John Sallis Indiana University Press ePub


Woods near Boston


Although the day was overcast with a thick, steely gray cloud cover, the deep orange of the bird’s breast – a color not unlike that of a robin – shone almost as on a bright summer day. This coloring, along with the distinct white bands on the feathers of its broad, fan-shaped tail, made its specific identity nearly unmistakable. But the dark red patches on its shoulders, which, when it was in flight, broadened to form much of the leading edge of its wings, served to dispel all doubt. The bird was a red-shouldered hawk.

When I first noticed it, the huge bird was on the ground, stirring up the crisp, brown leaves that at this time of year form a thick covering on the floor of the woods. The hawk had come as if from nowhere; and having most likely caught a glimpse of a mouse, chipmunk, or other small creature amidst the leaves, it had alighted momentarily on the ground. Then a moment later it had flown up to a branch of a nearby tree, and there it sat, its majestic posture matching perfectly the superior height from which it surveyed the woods all around. Gripping the branch with its sharp talons, it sat perfectly upright, its tail feathers extending below the branch. For a long time its body remained completely still as it swiveled its head almost full circle, an exemplary model of a creature utterly attentive to everything around it. I noticed how the end of its beak curved slightly downward and how this feature made the hawk appear all the more ready to swoop down to the ground, should some small creature suddenly come into sight. The bird’s eyes were fixed, and yet its stare was intense. As with most wild things, they had that strange look, that uncanny remoteness, that, once one has experienced it, leaves no doubt but that a chasm separates humans from living things that are truly wild. This unbridgeable separation across which genuine communication is virtually impossible – however delightful and even significant birdsongs may be to us – is not an indication of rank or superiority, for it is all too evident that in many respects the capacity of wild creatures such as the hawk far exceeds that of humans. Though there are of course many affinities that we have with wild things, affinities that we can grasp with some assurance, the difference that separates us from them, perhaps attested most strikingly by the eyes of such creatures, is such that all our concepts fall short of it. At best, we can get a glimpse of the wildness in the eyes of such an animal and can acknowledge on the basis of this experience that wild things are irreducibly other.

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The Escape from What Is

J Krishnamurti Krishnamurti Foundation America ePub

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