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Levinas Studies

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published on March 23, 2021

Pascal Delhom

Justice Is a Right to Speak

Levinas’s conception of justice in Totality and Infinity is very different from the one developed in Otherwise than Being. Both are bound to the presence of the third party next to my neighbor. But whereas in the later work this presence leads to transform the responsibility of the I for the Other, to compare the neighbor and the third party for the sake of justice, hence to enter the sphere of visibility in which retributive justice is possible, it opens in the early work to a fraternity of all humans, understood as a community of language, of expression, teaching, and commandment. Here, justice is a right to speak. I argue that these conceptions of justice are not only different. The early one can also be seen as the condition of the later one. And Levinas refers explicitly to it in Otherwise than Being as a justice that passes by justice.

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