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(2009) Essays on Levinas and law, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Getting down to cases

can a Levinasian ethics generate norms?

Diane Perpich

pp. 21-38

There is a widespread view according to which Levinas is not engaged in "ethics' in any of the usual senses in which philosophers, legal scholars, political theorists, or others generally employ the term. As one scholar puts the point, "Levinas does not treat "ethics' as one branch of philosophy amongst others. And neither does he attempt to construct a normative moral philosophy. Rather his work is a search for the significance of ethics and the ethical."1 The parallel with Heidegger's fundamental ontology is clear: just as Being and Time is not an ontology in the usual sense but a fundamental ontological inquiry into the question of the meaning of being, so too Levinas's thought is not an ethics per se, but a radical rethinking of the question of the meaning of the ethical. In Ethics and Infinity, Levinas himself seemingly endorses this view. Asked about the practical moral implications of his thought, he famously says, "My task does not consist in constructing an ethics; only try to find its meaning."2

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/9780230234734_2

Full citation [Harvard style]:

Perpich, D. (2009)., Getting down to cases: can a Levinasian ethics generate norms?, in D. Manderson (ed.), Essays on Levinas and law, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 21-38.

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