The Vision of Emmanuel Levinas on Moral Evil and Our Responsibility Essay

The Vision of Emmanuel Levinas on Moral Evil and Our Responsibility Essay

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Immanuel Levinas was born in the early nineteen hundreds and grew up in a time of war. He was drafted into the French army and was captured as a prisoner of war for a number of years. This experience as a prisoner of war gave him a negative view of human existence. He saw the hate and violence, which he discusses at great lengths in his works. Levinas uses the human face as the basis for his ethics. He does not ground his ethics in reason or ideas but instead in the face. His ethics is an ethics of love, and he calls this love “wisdom” insofar as it is a form of knowledge, but not knowledge of comprehension. The face is what makes one act ethical since gazing upon it shows the vulnerable side of a person and causes one to be immediately present. In the human face we see the face of God. The ethics of the face consists of moving away from what one’s ego tell them about a person and answering the call for help emanating from the face.
To begin looking at the ethics of the face, Levinas paints a picture of the human being becoming egos. He discusses the metaphysics of existence that says that humans will do whatever it takes to persist in being and opposes what could defeat its existence. This idea comes from Spinoza’s claim that “everything that is does everything to persist in its existence.” This need for existence is what becomes the ego’s need to exist and makes humans do anything to keep alive.
There are some social consequences that come with the ego’s need to persist. These consequences reflect what Levinas saw in war and prisoner of war camps. The first consequence is violence. A person meets another and tries to imagine him not existing. This causes the need to eradicate that person since he is seen as a blob standing ...


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...e that is unfamiliar to him or her. The face commands one to help the other. This ethics encompasses all human connections since the face is something that all peoples have and interact with when they meet another.



Works Cited

Burggraeve, Roger. The Wisdom of Love in the Service of Love. Trans. by Jeffrey Bloechl. Milwaukee: Marquette Univ. Press, 2002.

_____. “Violence and the Vulnerable Face of the Other: The Vision of Emmanuel Levinas on Moral Evil and Our Responsibility.” Journal of Social Philosophy 30 (1999): 29-45.

Gwozdz, Thomas. “Metaphysics and Ethics: Levinas, Clarke, and Maritain.” International Philosophical Quarterly 50 (2010): 489-500.

Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. Trans. by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee. New York: Signet Classics, 1987.

Saving Private Ryan. DVD. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Universal City, CA: DreamWorks Pictures, 1998.

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