American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 79, Issue 3, Summer 2005

Ian Leask
Pages 447-459

Ethics Overcomes Finitude
Levinas, Kant, and the Davos Legacy

This article situates Levinas’s reading of Kant in terms of his opposition to Heidegger. It suggests that, although Levinas and Heidegger both put great stress upon the affective aspect of Kant’s philosophy, ultimately they diverge sharply over the issue of finitude: where Heidegger’s Kant suggests that there is “nothing but finite Dasein,” Levinas stresses the significance of transcending finitude, ethically. In this respect, Levinas’s Kant-reading converges strongly with the interpretation Heidegger so strongly opposed—Cassirer’s. And, as such, Levinas’s anti-Heideggerian position commits him—perhaps surprisingly—to a kind of neo-Kantian Manichaeism: on the one hand, finite and sense-less Being; on the other, an ethical intrigue beyond ontology. The article concludes that Levinas thereby maintains (rather than “deconstructs”) central schisms of High Modernity.