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Philosophy Today

Volume 62, Issue 3, Summer 2018

Iddo Dickmann
Pages 765-783
DOI: 10.5840/philtoday20181112234

“Infinite Responsibility” and the Pitfall of Negation
A Deleuzian Critique of Levinas

I shall show that Levinas’s idea of infinite responsibility draws on Blanchot’s mechanism of “worklessness” which in turn explicitly draws on Gide’s mechanism of retroaction and the mise en abyme—a story that doubles itself within itself—which the latter accounts for. However, a false picture of mise en abyme and worklessness brought Levinas to two interrelated misconceptions. First, of the act of responsibility as inherently futile. Second, of repetition as “mechanical,” comprising instances which are allocated to pre-established loci upon a plenitude: A totalitarianism which fits badly with Levinas’s pursuit of otherness. Deleuze, on the other hand, drawing the correct lesson from mise en abyme, established that an instance of repetition—reconstituting all previous ones—generates the very ground upon which it emerges. Accordingly, in a Deleuzian ethics, the absolute Other has no existence prior to the act of attending his needs. The act is therefore “fated to succeed.”