Volume 10, 2018
Lévinas, the Lapse of Time and the Clamor of the Other
Re-Opening Totality and Infinity
How does Being justify itself? Emmanuel Lévinas poses this question in order to claim that ethics is the first philosophy. The answer is not only an attempt to search for the right to do justice with a human existence, but it also leads us to consider the relation of the one to the other. Subsequently, the question directs us towards the clamor of the other. In this paper I argue that, in Totality and Infinity, Lévinas still locates his philosophical demonstration in the shadow of Heidegger’s Being and Time. He transcendentally demonstrates the other by requiring ontology to facilitate the one-for-the-oth-er as significantly as the understanding of Being. By doing so, Lévinas uses the lapse of time to designate the ontology of the present as a revelation of the other. Although Heidegger demonstrates that Being discloses itself in its presence, Lévinas claims that Being is passively preceded by the relation to the other. He later insists on this procedure by making a polemic against the Hedeggerian notion of death. Heidegger examines death as the possibility of the impossibility of Being, whereas Lévinas disputes that death is the impossibility of possibility. Lévinas seizes death as the presence of Being’s virility, while turning Being around the passivity of the present. Consequently, time becomes the horizon in which the invasion of the other ruptures the existential meaning of Being. It pulls Being back to justify its own existence in relation to the other. Lévinas considers this justification as self-assurance of human existence in the face of the other, while the lapse of time makes the relation to the other as living.