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The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 1, 2007

Ethics

Ieva Lapinska
Pages 121-125
DOI: 10.5840/wcp2120071284

Philosophical Knowledge in the Context of Emmanuel Levinas's Ethics

Considering world problems in a context of inter human relationship, I refer to the approach developed in Emmanuel Levinas' ethics. This approach encourages raising a question about the potential usefulness of knowledge in solving problems of human relationship. The fundamental trait of the human condition face-toface with the other is, according to Levinas, unrestricted responsibility of the I about the other. The other has ethical, not ontological, authority, which explains why observable deafness to one's responsibility can not serve as a proof against its absolute nature. Consequently, whatever one's judgement on the current situation, moral requirements are valid. The relationship between the I and the other comes before any theory and there is no need for the help of knowledge. However, the multiplicity of human beings demands a solution to problems involving many people. There arises a need for theoretical thought—its aim is to pose a question of justice. Ethical knowledge for Levinas is primary. Ethically motivated thought can seek knowledge as received from the other. Such knowledge can help to conceive of just action, if there is a wish to perform it. But it is not knowledge that motivates one to act morally and it is not argument that can convince one to act this way.

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