Volume 18, Issue 2, Fall 2014

Australasian Continental Philosophy

Tyler Tritten
Pages 256-273

The Trace as Tautegorical: An Account of the Face in Levinas

This article explicates the notion of face, which Emmanuel Levinas understands as trace, in terms of the tautegorical. In opposition to the allegorical, the tautegorical is neither representational nor referential in the traditional sense. In contradistinction to the tautological, the tautegorical indicates an a-symmetrical and therefore not to be inverted identity between the so-called origin of the trace and the trace itself. Accordingly, a smile is happiness, but happiness—qua origin of the smile—is not reducible to the smile. Now, if the face of the Other is, as Levinas suggests, the trace of the wholly Other, i.e., God, then Derrida’s question arises as to whether God is but an effect of the trace. This essay argues in the negative. Traces condition their origins as after-effects without the origins becoming mere consequences of the posterior; this is the proper way of accounting for Levinas’s notion of the “posteriority of the anterior.”