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Negotiating the Way from Ethics to Justice in Emmanuel Levinas’s Ethical Thought

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Year: 2017
COI code: ICJE01_107
Paper Language: English

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Authors Negotiating the Way from Ethics to Justice in Emmanuel Levinas’s Ethical Thought

Mahdi Teimouri - PhD Instructor in English Literature at Khayyam University Emmanuel Levinas’s ethical philosophy is unique in its reconfiguration of


the question of ethics as a purely asymmetrical interpersonal relationship.Asymmetrical in the sense that it is not an I-Thou relationship of mutualrecognition and respect. At the individual level, Levinas’s innovative outlookis a breakaway from the prevalent conventional conception of ethicalrelationship which is premised on reciprocity. However, on a larger scale,Levinas’s definition of philosophy as wisdom of love rather than love ofwisdom entails the examination of the history of philosophy in a criticallyrevisionary light. For Levinas, ontological concerns have been in the spotlightof philosophy so much so that ethics has been considered as a derivative ortainted by ontology and epistemology. In defiance of such a tendency,Levinas describes ethics as first philosophy which means that ethical actionsare characterized by antecedency. Simply speaking, genuine ethical actionsshould not be affected by calculation, reciprocation or comprehensibility.Before one can think, before one can have cognizance of the other one isconfronted by ethics, in other words, ethics precedes every form of systematicthinking. Structurally speaking, systems are products of human thought. Weneed them because they give order and shape to an otherwise chaotic world.Systems are thus definitive, prescriptive, delineative and at the same timerestrictive. Every system precedes the individual productions and utterancesof that system. A system of morality contains moral principles and injunctionsinstructing individuals on how to behave in different situations. Levinas’sethical thought debunks morality in its prescriptive form on the grounds thatno moral system can be exhaustive and comprehensive enough to exemptanyone from their ethical responsibility vis-à-vis the other. Ethics is ultimatelya personal matter and the transition from ethics (a personal concern) to justice(a social concern) is a complicated process. This paper aims to address thistransition in the philosophy of Levinas. I would examine the process throughwhich Levinas negotiates his way from ethics to justice.


Levinas, asymmetry, ethics, justice, ontology, morality

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COI code: ICJE01_107

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Teimouri, Mahdi, 2017, Negotiating the Way from Ethics to Justice in Emmanuel Levinas’s Ethical Thought, Internationa Confeence on Justice and Ethics, مشهد, دانشگاه فردوسي مشهد, the text, wherever referred to or an achievement of this article is mentioned, after mentioning the article, inside the parental, the following specifications are written.
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