The Face, By Emmanuel Levinas Essay

1045 words - 4 pages

This short essay engages in a close reading of a passage of Emmanuel Levinas’s ‘The Face’ drawing on the concepts of identity and relational logics. Questions concerning the assumptions employed by Levinas about time, space and form of being will be asked of the text in order to create a dialogue with its meaning. The potential implications of these assumptions will also be explored through the consideration of hinge words and pivotal phrases. Tangible conclusions will not be drawn; however arguments will unfold which demonstrate the possibilities of this passage in regards to the creation of knowledge and the understanding of everyday ways of being.
Levinas asserts that the relation to the face is one that is dominated by perception and thus demonstrates the conception of what a person is rather than who a person is, this fundamental ideology stems from an identity logic to the social world. The question of etymologically with regard to the specific hinge word of perception, from the Latin word perceptionem, is the receiving or collection of; and hence in the sense of an identity logic and the associated assumption of chronological time, perception is the expectation of receiving or collecting the individual as what they are aesthetically and physically for example, the nature of a binary logic between male and female. There is a sense of impatience and a desire to identify an individual through categories of traditional attributes that distance and detach each individual from each other, such as what their eye colour is, who else has this eye colour, and whether we can then say that he or she looks like him or her. This expectation of association creates a defined being, one which focuses upon the individual identity as finite. Consequently it is these explicit, presence lacking and reducing principles that Levinas argues the face cannot and should not be associated with or interpreted through, emphasising rather an alternative and creative approach to the everyday ways of being and particularly the assessing of the face.
Levinas’s affirmation of the face as upright and exposed moves the dialogue beyond an identity logic to the realm of relational logic in which the potential of the individual unfolds without a distinct cause or effect. The individual is infinite and yet are not defined and categories. Levinas’s assertion hinges on the distinct and unique phrase of without defence. Etymologically defence, first used in 1935 as a euphemism for ‘national military resources’ is a forbidding or prohibition, but also an action of guarding or protecting, this assumption in reading has specific implications for the interpretation of Levinas’s relational logic. Euclidean space assumptions associated with an identity logic become disjointed when in the atmosphere of relational logic. The notions of distance, detachment and manipulation through categorisation that epitomise what an identity logic cannot gasp the complex question...

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