Volume 12, Issue 1, Fall 2007
The Apotheosis of Apotheosis
Levinas’s On Escape, Hegel’s Unhappy Consciousness, and Us
The recent translation of Emmanuel Levinas’s essay On Escape complicates our view of his relationship to Hegel, and reopens the ontological question of escape. The impetus for Levinas’s essay was National Socialism’s effort to reduce subjectivity to being qua biologistic. To resist this, Levinas enlists idealism as an ally. He affirms the idealist subject’s effort to escape being, but denies that it makes good its escape. I challenge this denial by comparing Levinas’s phenomenology of escape with Hegel’s phenomenology of unhappy consciousness, paying special attention to the themes of shame and the will to escape. The similarity between treatments leads me to suggest that the urge to escape emerges at least as early as medieval Christianity, thus predating the historical predicament of mid-1930s European Jewry. I conclude by interpreting space travel and the posthuman figure of the cyborg as signs that escape continues as
an object of human aspiration.