(2017) Human Studies 40 (3).

Otherwise than being-with

Levinas on Heidegger and community

Chantal Bax

pp. 381-400

In this article I argue that Levinas can be read as a critic, not just of Heideggerian being, but also of being-with. After pointing out that the publication of the Black Notebooks only makes this criticism more interesting to revisit, I first of all discuss passages from both earlier and later writings in which Levinas explicitly takes issue with Heidegger's claim that there is no self outside of a specific socio-historical community. I then explain how these criticisms are reflected in Levinas's own account, arguing that Levinasian subjectivity and alterity are precisely defined by their not belonging to a larger unity; to the extent that they partake in a multi-personal collectivity, this does not take the form of a traditional community. In the final section, I look into a different and seemingly opposing argument Levinas makes against Heidegger: on the basis of the latter's reflections on death, he argues that Dasein is anti-social rather than overly immersed in the socio-historical. Arguing that this rests on a misreading of Being and Time, I use this opportunity to raise questions about Levinas's interpretation of Heidegger and his "otherwise than being-with" more generally, for Levinas's account runs into several problems as well. Yet as I will conclude, this in fact offers a valuable insight, not just for the present-day reception of Heidegger, but also for thinking community today. It indicates that a radical break with human situatedness does not automatically fare better than a firmly enrooted account of (co)existence.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s10746-017-9432-x

Full citation:

Bax, C. (2017). Otherwise than being-with: Levinas on Heidegger and community. Human Studies 40 (3), pp. 381-400.

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