The Desire of the Other (Null and Void)

I’ve decided to share another text. This one isn’t as relevant as the last piece I shared, but someone might still find something of value in it. This is a lecture I gave last January on Levinas. Here’s the scenario: I was in a course based on the annual faculty colloquium, where each week a faculty member would present a paper, with all of the papers being variations of a common theme. The theme this past year was “responsibility.” So each Tuesday, a professor would give a public lecture, and two days later, a student would give a response to it. I was responsible for the first response of the year, responding to a paper which basically outlined Levinas’ ethics of the Other, infinite responsibility, etc, etc.

The lecture I gave is titled “The Desire of the Other (Null and Void)” and was written largely immediately following the Tuesday afternoon Levinas lecture, cleaned up a bit the next day, and presented essentially as you see it the day after that. Minor changes have been made since then, a couple of references had to be tracked down, and some of the wording was different, but this is basically the lecture as I delivered it.

As for the substance of the piece, I critique Levinasian ethics from three different perspectives, beginning from my anti-humanist (vitalist) perspective, moving on to a metaphysical critique, followed by an ethical critique. The last of these comes from my background as someone who was at one time much closer to Levinas, having been swallowed up by the whole “theological turn” in phenomenology and hermeneutics for a time, while the other two are perhaps closer to my current views (the first critique, the critique from vitalism, being the one I am most confident in). Feel free to respond to this piece. It is pretty short, as I had to allow for not only the response to my response from the professor of the initial paper, but also for a shared Q&A session on both of our lectures. It is also probably the only piece on Levinas to contain references to Barrack Obama, The Simpsons and The Fly!



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2 responses to “The Desire of the Other (Null and Void)

  1. Mariborchan

    To what extent (if any) would you say that your text has been influenced by Žižek?

  2. I think that it is heavily influenced by Zizek; I cite an essay of his on Levinas a number of times (as well as The Parallax View and The Sublime Object of Ideology). I doubt he would be pleased with the first of the critiques I raise, since he’s no friend to vitalist metaphysics (though the anti-humanism might be welcomed), but I think the rest is closer to his own views.

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