Quotes from Emmanuel Levinas
The Alterity or Infinity of the Other:
What does Levinas mean when he speaks of another human being in terms of “infinity”
Emmanuel Levinas, Is It Righteous to Be?, p. 49
…Alterity … cannot be summarized in the fact that the other who resembles me has, in
his characteristics, another attribute.
Normally we say that a thing is other because it has
There you have a piece of white paper, next to it a piece of black pepper
They are other also by the fact that the one is in one place in space and the
other is at another place in space; this is not the alterity that distinguishes you from me.
It is not because your hair is unlike mine or because you occupy another place than me—
this would only be a difference of properties or of dispositions in space, a difference of
But before any attribute, you are other than I, other otherwise, absolutely
And it is this alterity, different from the one which is linked to attributes, that is
This alterity is not justifiable logically; it is logically indiscernible.
identity of the I is not the result of any knowledge whatsoever: I find myself without
looking for myself.
You are you and I am I.
This cannot be reduced to the fact that we
differ because of our bodies or because of the color of our hair, or by the place we occupy
What does Levinas mean when he talks about “the face” of the other?
Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity, p. 85
…access to the face is straightaway ethical.
You turn yourself toward the Other as
toward an object when you see a nose, eyes, a forehead, a chin, and you can describe
The best way of encountering the Other is not even to notice the color of his eyes!
… The relation with the face can surely be dominated by perception, but what is
specifically the face is what cannot be reduced to that.
Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity, p. 86
The face is signification, and signification without context.
I mean that the Other, in the
rectitude of his face, is not a character within a context.
Ordinarily one is a “character”: a
professor at the Sorbonne, a Supreme Court justice, son of so-and-so, everything that is in
one’s passport, the manner of dressing, of presenting oneself.
And all signification in the
usual sense of the term is relative to such a context: the meaning of something is in its
relation to another thing.
Here, to the contrary, the face is meaning all by itself.
Emmanuel Levinas, Is It Righteous to Be?, p. 48-49