Do I "encounter" the Other if I do not know what my "responsibilities" to them are?

rather than formulating an ethical theory, Levinas developed his philosophy in opposition to both these aforementioned approaches. It takes the form of a description and interpretation of the event of encountering another person.[1] Giving rise to spontaneous acts of responsibility for others, the encounter unfolds, according to Levinas, at a precognitive level, thanks to what he called our embodied “sensibility”.


I have read Levinas, and recall that he seems concerned with a phenomenological analysis of the ethical encounter, by which I mean why anyone is moral. Myself, I found that his answer has something to do with their distance from me, how without ethics we are cut off from everyone else and are in effect solipsists.

Does he talk at all about the radical alterity as something that unique Others possess or is it more of an analysis of every Other thought universally? By which I mean, is my obligation to Others, which I guess exists independent of who/what they are, still constructed out of those facts about them, so that if I misunderstand another person then I misunderstand that I am obliged, not just what my obligations are?


Marion has criticized Levinas for failing to account for the individuation of the Other, thus leaving the face of the Other abstract, neutral and anonymous.


To grasp alterity in terms of concrete, observable differences would be to reduce an ethical concept to an ontological one

Do we need to individuate our moral responsibilities if we are to know others as Others at all?

Is there something analogous with authenticity and self ownership, so that without understanding myself and how I differ from others I am not just inauthentic but have forgotten that authenticity is even possible?

  • 1
    it might sound like a trivial/useless question. i guess i'm asking whether without moral knowledge we don't even know we should be moral, if it's all or nothing, moral knowledge or complete moral blindness.
    – user64727
    Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 20:14


You must log in to answer this question.