Levinas Studies

ONLINE FIRST

published on August 3, 2022

Pascal Delhom

Simone Weil and Emmanuel Levinas on Human Rights and the Sense of Obligation toward Others

There was no dialogue between Simone Weil and Emmanuel Levinas. In many regards, however, their philosophies have much in common. Both defend a conception of human rights as rights of others and as an obligation for the self. Both understand this obligation as an obligation of attention and action for others, based on their needs and their vulnerability. Both find the source of this obligation in the transcendence of the other, and both connect it with a radical passivity of the self, who is subjected to this obligation in spite of itself. At the same time, this proximity between the two philosophers entails and reveals profound differences between them, partially due to the difference between Weil’s metaphysics of light and Levinas’s metaphysics of language. These differences concern the status of subjectivity and of its duty toward the other, as well as the idea of an acceptation of sufferance, especially of the sufferance of others.