As “the other” philosophy and began to fulfil

I watched Schindler’s List, while
keeping Levinas’s core concepts in mind about ethics, I was able to do a
comparable analysis between the film and the text. Schindler was an ambitious
man as well as a former German spy. He desired to create his own manufacturing
company producing pots and pans. This included getting Jewish financiers to
invest in his company and get it off the ground. Schindler used the Jewish
prisoners that were placed into the “non-essential” workers group and
transformed them into “essential workers”. Schindler increasingly became
bothered by the sights of these Jews getting killed in the middle of the
street. This demonstrates Levinas’s idea of the face; the most exposed,
vulnerable, and expressed. The Jews would be the face as the living presence
around Schindler and the irrefutable reality of the massacre was a situation
that could not be suppressed mentally. This demonstrated the other’s infinity
presented by Levinas. Levinas believed, “The face presents itself and demands
justice.” The face, being the Jews, could not gain freedom or help alone and
Schindler knew this. He began to sacrifice his own wealth to provide job
openings, food, and shelter for those he could transform into essential
workers. He took on “the other” philosophy and began to fulfil the ethical
obligation towards risking his own life at times, to bribe Nazi officials for
the safety of the Jews. Although he began seeking justice for them, he was
never satisfied to make himself believe did enough. In fact, he believed he
could’ve done more; maybe even sold his car. Once he began to take on the role
of “responsibility for the other” he developed a genuine motivation to help
accomplish justice. This film as well as Ethics
and Infinity reveal that a smart way to accomplish ethics and justice is to
move throughout society strategically, like a game of chess. Everyone will not
put others before themselves in various social conflicts and situations.
However, the main theme that was given to the audience throughout the text and
film is that individuals can always do more for the other; and while doing so
for the other not only are you proving to be of good ethics, you are also
potentially providing justice for the other. Levinas places a high value on the
human life. Through his philosophy the audience is shown the importance of
unity and the achievements that could be done personally.  

“In Otherwise than Being I speak of responsibility as the
essential, primary and fundamental mode of subjectivity. For I describe
subjectivity in ethical terms. Ethics, here, does not supplement a preceding
existential base as Heidegger would have it; the very node of the subjective
is knotted in ethics understood as responsibility.”

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Levinas mentioned that there is a
metaphysical explanation as to why we have this yearning to answer. This is due
to substitution. Firstly, the person has a transcendence that the inanimate
object does not have. Next, we already substituted ourselves for the other. Levinas
stressed the desire to help the other develop. The ‘I’ is held hostage by the
other to the core of their being, while in substitution, the ‘I’ is made to
stand for the other. This is before freedom and reason comes into play.  Moreover, Levinas’ believes in the ethical
responsibility. This said responsibility, which goes along with the idea of
responsiveness, means that in being a subject, the “I” is already in the grip
of the other. This also means that all thoughts enter on the mind after the
recollection of the other in the face to face; meaning that the other person leads
my ethical subjectivity, and the ethics lead any conceptual science. Responsibility
is the foundation for all interpersonal relationships and with this
responsibility individuals need to find a means to pass from a meeting with the
real, other person into ethics. Levinas wrote: 

The proximity of the other stresses
a response. Levinas believes that proximity is responsibility, or at least the capability
to respond. Proximity has to be thought of as a weight placed on the individual
that comes from the outside. Levinas was able to discover the possibility of
ethics and when ethics first reveals itself. Soon, the self attains a different
characteristic; a primary projection towards the other as a move of
responsibility to the other. The true meaning of being a social subject is to
be for the other.  Levinas wrote,
“Subjectivity is being a hostage.” Meaning, subjectivity comes from
confrontation with the other person where the other is dominant. They can never
be of the same domain. In this context subjectivity means subjection to the

The moment of ethics in which the
moral “ought” to reveal itself is found, Levinas preludes to the
level of sensibility when the egoist self, approaches something that it wants
to enjoy and make itself a part of but cannot. What the self wants to enjoy but
can’t is the other person. This is because they can’t enjoy the other person if
they are not rooted in some deficiency of sensibility. The other person is that
who pushes back and doesn’t allow their self to be consumed in the egoism of the
enjoyment. The other battles consumption. The presence of the other on this level
is unknown. The other person comes across as a weight against me.  Levinas believes the other has some power
over the individual. The other is a transcendence that comes from beyond the
categories of their thought that is beyond the world and the other side of being.
Pertaining to the recollection of the other in the face-to-face, the face states
“I am not yours to be enjoyed. I am other.” Levinas mentioned, “thou
shalt not kill.”  This is an element
of catching off-guard and is also important. Here we focus on the presence of
the other as opposed to the perception of the other. “Catching off guard” makes
me aware of the presence of the other as one I am concerned with. This is not
because I choose to give it to the other, but more so it is demanded of me. I may
want to consume the other, however, I can’t. There are two of many steps
explain this course of action that we can focus on; proximity and substitution.
These ideas can help us understand the ethical responsibility within Levinas. First,
it has to be known that responsibility doesn’t originate from these two ideas
it does correlate.  Levinas stated that
proximity is felt as immediate contact. “… the proximity of the Other is not
simply close to me in space, or close like a parent, but he approaches me
essentially as far as I feel myself—as far as I am—responsible for him. It is a
structure that in nowise resembles the intentional relation which in knowledge
attaches us to the object—to no matter what object, be it a human object.
Proximity does not revert to this intentionality; it does not revert to the
fact that the other is known to me.” (Levinas)


“Nourishment, as a means of invigoration, is the
transmutation of the other into the same, which is the essence of enjoyment; an
energy that is other, recognized as other, recognized … as sustaining the
very act that is directed upon it becomes, in enjoyment, my own energy, my
strength, me.” (Totality and Infinity, Levinas.)


Levinas wrote: 

If the other is introduced to my realm
of ideas and cuts off contact with the other, then we are assuming that contact
with the other has already been established; but if contact with the other can’t
be recognized through ideas, then we must search somewhere else. Levinas doesn’t
search for reason as much as he does sensibility in hopes to find the real,
other person.  Sensibility was said to
originate before thoughts and the ordering of a world into totality. Also, sensibility
is not as active as thought but is passive and is considered mostly by enjoyment.
Life is lived as the satisfaction of being filled with sensations as well as feeding
on the environment.

Through Levinas we have learned that
if someone were to take the person in their idea to be the real person, they
have then closed off contact with the real person. Furthermore, they have cut
off ties with the other which is essential if ethics are to mention real, other
people. This is known to be a central violence to the other that denies the other’s
autonomy. Levinas calls this type of violence totalization and it occurs whenever individuals limit the other to
a set of rational categories: racial, sexual, etc. This happens when an
individual already knows what the other is “about” before the other has spoken.
Totalization is described to be denial of the other’s difference or of the ‘otherness’
of the other. If ethics assumes the real, other person then totalization,
itself, will be unethical.

Levinas’ moral “ought” includes
the assumption that ethics always happens in relation to another person. If
asked how to define ethics, most likely the answer would contain an important
reference to other individuals. This doesn’t mean that it is impossible to be without
at least two people, however, it is with Levinas. Ethics is an important
subject matter for us because it administers the way in which we coordinate
with one another. If ethics were concerned with the other, then it would then fill
out a complete account of ethics; and the way two people meet one another will
be very important. The main concern of Levinas is to create the method of
contact between individuals or the interpersonal meaning. Sequentially, one the
meaning is found Levinas is then able to find the ethical.


“And yet modern sensibility wrestles with problems that
indicate…the abandonment of this concern with transcendence. As if it had the
certainty that the idea of the limit could not apply to the existence of
what is…and as if modern sensibility perceived in being a defect still more
profound.” (On Escape, Levinas)

developed a project that approached transcendence considering individuals complex
desire to get past their own physical and social situational limitations. His
transcendence is less transcendence within the world than the transcendence due
to sensibility. This approach towards transcendence grants the question of
mortality and infinity. Moreover, Levinas acknowledged Heidegger’s arguments;
they deemed that a human being experiences itself while casting into its world,
with no regulation over beginning or end. Heidegger’s describes the time within
someone’s life as projecting itself toward diverse possibilities and can
potentially provoke its own mortality. Heidegger describes the projective
element of transcendence which he described in The Basic Problems of
Phenomenology as a “stepping over to…as such,” and Levinas took interest;
Levinas would still ask, to what are people ‘stepping over’? After that what
are they ‘stepping over’? Levinas mentioned the following:

descriptions are used to describe the origin of discourse. Levinas used
principles from the face-to-face encounter with the other. He states that
initially, there were human relations and these relations are the basis as to
why humans are interested within ethical questions. Levinas primarily wanted to
make it clear that face-to-face encounters were the beginning of human
communication. His philosophy included to set aside any prejudices about
objects and subjects. Then any signs of conceptualization are to be diminished
so that experience can be revealed as it casually comes. When this comes to
“light” it verifies what is ethical (when ‘I’ can determines who they are as
they are acknowledged by the other from through looking). This
look is inquiring and authoritative. It basically says, “don’t kill me” while
the ‘I’ evades it with difficulty. This command transpires because human faces
have the ability to impact us affectively; this is what Levinas calls
‘interruptions’. The face of the other is initially expressiveness which can be
compared to a force. It is necessary to use everyday language to translate the
affective interruptions. Doing this will clarify any difficulties that one may

“To approach the Other
in conversation is to welcome his expression, in which at each instant he
overflows the idea a thought would carry away from it. It is therefore to
receive from the Other beyond the capacity of the I, which means exactly: to
have the idea of infinity. But this also means: to be taught.” (Emmanuel
Levinas, 1978) Although Levinas shared his view about ethics he mostly
concentrated on existence, transcendence, and the human other. These were the
three main themes of his works. His key concepts centered around the encounters
and interactions with another person. Levinas manages to provide numerous
perspectives and approaches on these encounters that are presented to be
internal and external. He also explains the non-reciprocal ways of an individual
and their relations with responsibility. This responsibility is transcendence
and is specific to a human experience.


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