The More-Than-Human Other of Levinas’s Totality & Infinity

Daniel Cook


Emmanuel Levinas’s writings militate against an ontological way of thinking that he claims dominates the history of European philosophy. In their drive towards truth and knowledge, Levinas argues that thinkers like Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger efface the alterity of the Other, the Other’s “otherness,” by appropriating alterity as a moment of self-consciousness or Being. This ontological thinking, Levinas argues, attempts to violently reduce the unthematizable excess of the Other by systematically assimilating the Other in the concepts of totalizing thought. Levinas articulates his opposition to this tradition at length in Totality & Infinity by insisting upon an irreducible heteronomy: an Other who remains radically outside of any relationship that I might have with them.


Levinas; humanism; the Other; ontology; ethics

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