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Monday, 27 November 2017

Quick further thoughs on Levinas' proximity (and correlationism)

Levinas hints (in La proximité, 3.6 of Autrement qu'être) that the geometrical sense of proximity is itself derivative of the one of neighbor, of the neighbor that can substitute me. Now, on the face of it it can look as if the geometrical issue (the geometrical theme) is always hostage to us, to our ways and specifically to the "us" that we are which is laden with a inevitable diaphonía, plural, with the presence of the other as part of the meaning of what we think about the world. It can look as if we're facing a correlationism (and even a strong one as intelligibility of the world itself depends on the human Other).

But there is a different plot going on here. Levinas is pointing at the exposure to being that sensitivity accomplishes - not simply an opening to it. The world is such that we are exposed to being in our structure of substitution - subjectivity then becomes desidentification, departure from oneself. Subjectivity is a witness to the exteriority of the world. Subjectivity is based on receptivity which is exposure to the many ways in which things can become theme, the many ways in which things can become a subject matter. Now, if we want to think in terms of subjectivity beyond the human sphere, we can understand them in terms of the production of different determinations, different themes, different subject matters. The diaphonía that we engage with primarily is the one of our voice, of our language, of our meaning, of our discourses. But we can assume (perhaps speculatively) that the same structure of alterity is everywhere - that non-human subjectivity is always desidentification. They are always what they cease to be. (Here is where the ontology of doubts comes in.) The human language is our primary way to perceive a plurality and exposure that is not limited to it and its contents. If the move towards a further exteriority is possible, we stop being confined to a strong correlation.

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