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Through six heterodox essays this book extracts a materialist account of subjectivity and aesthetics from the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. More than a work of academic commentary that would leave many of Levinas s pious commentators aghast, Sparrow exhibits an aspect of Levinas which is darker, yet no less fundamental, than his ethical and theological guises. This darkened Levinas provides answers to problems in aesthetics, speculative philosophy, ecology, ethics, and philosophy of race, problems which not only trouble scholars, but which haunt anyone who insists that the material of existence is the beginning and end of existence itself.
and unintelligible, visible in light and shrouded in darkness. It paradoxically expresses the inexpressible, which is why Levinas calls it an enigma. This is the Other’s “condition of being a stranger” (TI 75). Language, perception, and thought allow us to grasp the strangeness of the Other, but they ultimately leave us incapable of adequately understanding this entity that Timothy Morton calls the strange stranger. The face of the Other, then, is essentially the site of an excessive strangeness.
sighs, and moans in us, and with them, inducing a sense of the pain.”69 Our response to the other is first and foremost the incontestable response of our bodies to the imperative that only our bodies can detect. The face of the other is the face of every other, an infinity of others whose sensuousness claims us. Lingis’s travel writing performs an ethics of the body by responding impossibly to the complexity and excess of faces, without effacing the determinate location in which those faces
ontological depth, the kind of depth which ontological analyses of “facticity” or “worldhood” lend to notions like “location,” “situatedness,” and “embodiment.” Levinas provides some of this depth. Levinas’s ontology commits him to a humanism which sees in social relations the meeting of souls, or self-identical persons. This is what divine otherness comes to. When I love another person or despise them, it is something inalienable and essential that I intend—this is the “glory of the noumenal.”
Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 176. 42. For a balanced discussion of this point, see John Drabinski, Levinas and the Postcolonial: Race, Nation, Other (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011). 43. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 178. Evidence of the historical presence of this scale of racial deviance, and its link to notions of universal beauty, is illustrated nicely in a remark by Goethe: “We venture,
own to be. (S 82) Our bodies are adapted to the excessive content of our corporeal existence and streamline themselves with a habitual form that relieves them of the overwhelming scenery of life. Our prefabricated and stylized life forms prevent us from imploding in the life of our senses or becoming slaves to our libidos. For economic purposes our sensory-motor schema adopts shortcuts that allow it to run on autopilot. As Bergson has aptly shown, habits link us into the mechanisms of nature as