Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 3, No 1 (2007)

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Levinas separates the (hu)man from the non(hu)man, using hunger, enjoyment and anxiety to illuminate their relationship

Angela Hirst


This paper is part of my journey with Emmanuel Levinas on a dystopic path to the ethical encounter. For the journey, I agree to be Levinas#39;s human subject, to encounter his quot;otherquot;. And he agrees to traverse a path through my world, a world of food and eating. To ready me for the encounter, Levinas tells me the story of his ethics, narratively (we #39;journey#39; through it), and so this paper is unavoidably #39;story#39; too. To preface, then: The ethical encounter is a quot;face to facequot; encounter between a quot;humanquot; subject (me) and an quot;otherquot; (Totality and Infinity, 39). In my encountering the other face to face in the world of food, food production and eating, Levinas tells the story of the violences of my existence- of my #39;eating#39; of the world at the expense of the other. Face to face with the other, I cannot avoid my responsibility for the needs and suffering of the other. In quot;proximityquot; with the other, I am guilty for eating; in proximity, I respond by giving the other quot;bread from [my] mouthquot; (Otherwise than Being, 100). In this first part of the journey, I am hungry, and Levinas leads me through scenes replete with food and eating. He shows me how this world can satiate my needs, but how it will, inevitably and inextricably, leave me, a not-yet ethical human subject, vulnerable and exposed.

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