Lévinas and the Infinite Responsibility. Which Peace for the New Millennium?

Contribute by: dr. Maria Teresa Pacilè, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Sciences, University of Messina.

Throughout the Western tradition the great question of philosophy has been: “Why Being and not nothing?”. In a different way, Emmanuel Lévinas – starting from the experience of Auschwitz and trying to revitalize his Jewish roots – shows the need to criticize the primacy of the ontology of Being, to re-orient it in view of Good and Peace. The «Totality» – constituted by the autonomous subject in war with the others in order to affirm his will to power – is shattered by the irruption of Other’s face  –  the «Infinity» – and his ethical commandement «Do not kill!» which summons to an infinite responsibility, as the Torah teaches. When the «usurper» subject lays down its own power and rediscovers himself as “hostage for the other“, he can conceive an «eschatology of peace» which opposes the «ontology of war» not only through the truce of arms, but through a «dis-interest» – a rupture of the conatus essendi – that announces the possibility to live “otherwise than being” in a «dis-abstraction» in view of the Other. Only a policy that does not deny its roots in Logos and Torah – in Athens and Jerusalem – can act not in the name of abstract and impersonal laws, but in view of an oblative justice which, rediscovering the humanity of the “other” man, can welcome the Guest and the Stranger without annihilating their singular otherness.