Existence and Existents. Emmanuel Emmanuel Levinas in Continental Philosophy Essence and Existence, In: Studies in Ontology APQ Monographs. Light 46 Existence without a World 52 1. Exotism 52 2. Existence without Existents 57 The Hypostasis 65 1. Insomnia. 65 2. Position 67 3. On the Way to Time. Prior to the ethical turnFirst published in , and written mostly during Levinas’s imprisonment during World War II, this work provides the.
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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. The Relationship with Existence 21 2. Fatigue and the Instant 29 The World 37 1. Light 46 Existence without a World 52 1. Existence without Existents 57 The Hypostasis 65 1.
They are certainly elusive phenomena; it requires an exceptional perceptiveness and descriptive skill to bring out what is hap- pening in them.
What a contrast the study of these states of subjectivity makes with the existential philosophy that not only, like classical transcendental philoso- phy, opposing the reification of man in objective science, set itself up as a method to discern a spontaneity at the core of the human essence, but argued that the human essence is through and through propulsive, ecstatic, a pure elaboration of a project of itself which throws itself into the world as a venture and an enterprise!
Is not every consciousness consciousness of some- thing, of some object? Is not the primitive form of consciousness a dealing, if not with the categorialized objects of Kantian epistemology, with implements or gear, that is, entities that gear in with one another, relate or refer to one another?
Is not then the transcending movement that could follow out a refer- ence the very movement of the spirit into the world? Is not subjectivity just this movement — ex-istence and not substance? Transcendental philosophy could take form only as a promo- tion of the freedom and autonomy of subjectivity. The rational subjectivity, finding itself, its own categories, at the origin of the comprehensive organization of the universe, undertakes to supply everything with a sufficient reason, both making the universe intelligible and committing itself to supply a reason for every being and a reason for every reason, making itself the unfailing source of reasons.
Undertaking to answer — to everyone, with an answer valid for anyone, that is, rationally — for everything it posits and for everything posited in the universe, it makes itself absolutely self-responsible. Thus subjectivity comes to appear to itself as a being that posits itself and answers for itself without limit, is absolutely sovereign in unconditioned self-responsibility.
Existential philosophy found the spontaneity of the linking or relating understanding already in pretheoretical, practical life.
The gear and implements of everyday life fit together, relate to one another as so many terms of an instrumental complex. Subjectivity then appears as the self-activating power to operate gear, to organize for itself a practical field. The leap from a means to an end, from the actual to the possible, from a palpable configuration to the telos it refers to or relates to or signifies, is the metaphysical thrust that opens a field, that reveals a world.
It is constitutive of our existence as being-in- the-world, it makes our existence an ecstatic propulsion.
Existence and Existents by Emmanuel Levinas
Our being does not close in upon itself and existece itself, like a substance; it continually projects itself out of itself, simulta- neously into the potentialities it elaborates for itself and into existentz world of possibilities that answer to them.
It thus takes over the being that is its own to be, takes on the burden of its being for itself, answers for itself. The kind of reflection pursued in this book brings out the processes of unconsciousness, sleep and oblivion which the active and ecstatic subjectivity is backed up against.
This sphere of unconsciousness is not simply the reverse or negative of con- sciousness. Sleep is not a suspension of the existential arc by which one is in the world; it is a mode of being in the world. It is, indeed, existence reduced to taking a position, positing oneself, achieving repose. But this is not equivalent to the inertia of things; it is a positive confiding of oneself to the world, and a relationship with the terrestrial, reservoir of support, prior to every relationship with things.
In such preobjective relationships the analysis discovers a process of auto-position in our exisgence, by which a domain of inwardness and privacy is established, by which a stance is first possible, by which a substance takes form, by which the identity of an existent that is in itself is effected. Consciousness that is for itself a zero-point, that levinad as an awakening to things, levina position taken before the world, an ecstatic self-transcendence, consciousness that can identify things — proceeds from this position.
Levinas sees in consciousness not so much a work of determining and terminating, of assigning ends and itself leviinas an end, being a movement unto ends in general levknas it is a movement unto its own end, a dying; he rather takes the generating essence of consciousness to be com- mencing, instituting a here and a now, awakening. And he sees the sense of things not so much in their referen- tiality — in their distinctness — as in their presence, their phosphorescent plenitude — in their clarity — qnd which they are permeable to the sensibility, and given.
But exlstents the world is a field of things, there is then something else in subjectivity besides being in the world; there is a relationship ,evinas the terrestrial, with the light — and with the sensuous element, which, before being taken as so much data for cognition, is savored, is assimilated, nourishes and lvinas life.
This investigation does not only find the substance of un- consciousness, sleep and oblivion beneath the activity of con- sciousness, wakefulness, recall and reflection; it seeks to bring to light the very process by which an identity, an entity, an existent, first arises.
Being breaks up into beings, into identifiable objects, for a being that identifies itself. The contraction of identity, the formation of an existent, is itself an event. What is the movement effected in it? An existent, a term or a subject of existence, is not just a segment of the flow of being; it has existence as an attribute, as its own. It does not just exist with its existence; it takes up a position with regard to it.
An existent is constituted in a move- ment of taking on the existing with which it finds itself affected. One is held to being, held to be. Insomnia is the pure enduring of this charge — a watching where there is nothing to watch. In it there is revealed, within the structure of a constituted existent, some memory of the anonymous current of existing out of which it arose, existing as beginningless, exisfence continuity, as apeiron.
Consciousness appears to Levinas as constituted in the horror of the indeterminate. The insomnia that endures the night is the very experience of this gaping and pointless suffering.
If the form of an existent is contracted in horror of the indeterminate, its own being is a burden, and its self-identity a being mired in itself. Indolence reveals the burden of existing, being in its weight. Existing, once contracted, is contracted whol- ly and irrevocably.
Inscription in being is definitive. If our existence has the form of a concern, it is first a concern over the being with which one finds oneself affected — and not a concern over the possible nothingness. There is then also in the core of an existent a nostalgia for escape. If our existing is ecstatic and self-transcending, it is so not in the pursuit of being, but in a flight from being.
Nor is our transcendence a pursuit of non-being and death. Transcendence in us is desire for something else — for alterity. It opens from the outside in the face of another, in the other who faces. Our existence will no longer appear in this work as destined for the world. This inquiry is phenomenological, in the sense that it proceeds by a descriptive effort to get at the essence — the inner process — of phenomena as they show themselves to the mode of subjec- tivity first receptive to them.
And in the sense that those modes of subjectivity themselves have to be elucidated by reliving them attentively. Yet if the reflective work is itself thematizing and objectifying, the preobjective, nocturnal and elemental format of Being will elude it; it will still be available to the constituted consciousness only as a memory of something interrupted and escaped.
And if the reflective work is itself a pursuit of self- responsibility, the anonymous vigilance which a subjectivity broke with in order to begin will still be accessible to that subjectivity only in the aversion it feels still with regard to the effort to begin. Time is the inner structure of subjectivity, that is, of the move- ment of ex-isting. But then the present has the form not of a pure punctual line of separation between the infinite extension of the past and that of the future, nor of the Heideggerian field of presence, but of a pulse of existence that disconnects from the transmission of the past, closes in upon itself, and finds itself irrevocably and definitively held in all the absolute weight of its being.
It has the form of an instant. Bearing all the absolute weight of being, the instant is held in itself, and does not, of its own force, conjure up a future.
What is radically new in Levinas is that he introduces a contact with alterity at the origin of the process by which a temporal structure is engendered within a life. It is alterity, in the guise of the other, the appeal and the demand of the other that faces, that comes to lebinas the self-identical existent out of itself — and make it ex-ist, that is, transcend itself and be temporal.
Existence and Existents
Is the temporal essence of our existence a condemnation? Is it possible for an existence that continually passes away to attain to sense and worth? Are not meaning and value of themselves intemporal or eternal, and unascribable to a being that is tempor- al, and mortal, of itself, by reason of its own essence?
Heidegger set out to establish that it is on the contrary the temporalizing self-transcendence of our existence that alone makes it possible abd it to have ends and an end and to signify them with its existing, and that makes the horizons of the world open signifi- cantly about it. He set out to show, further, that it is only the temporal, deathbound thrust of our existence that delivers over to a singular existence that is its own to exist, and thus makes its self-affirmation, affirmation of the worth or goodness of its own existence, possible.
Thus Heidegger set out to show that it is the temporalizing movement of our existence exietents brings meaning and worth to the world and to itself. And it is the attraction of the future — of the being possibly to come and the nothingness certainly to come — that temporalizes our existence. It is essential to the notion of the future that what is to come be not merely a system of possibilities that could derive logically from the actual, and that would be present and simultaneous in the representation that conceives them.
The real future is what is to come of itself, and that levinaw escape our grasp even while being sensed is essential to it. The future is what can surprise us.
It is then not what we apprehend already, but that of which we are apprehensive, that which threatens and promises. But it is not only the threat, the approach, the imminence, of nothingness that constitutes the future; not existente its surprises are calamities.
It is then not in the paralyzing dread of nothingness, but in the expectation of something else that the sense of the future is constituted. Levinad the logical or dialectical concept of the possible will no longer suffice to explicate the sense levinss futurity; the irresistible lure of the future is not constituted by the prospect of being, which of itself tends to subsist, conjoined with the possibility of nothing.
For Levinas the lure of the future is essentially the lure of pardon. Spiro spew, as long as there is time there is hope. Time is a promise and a hope because it is the possibility of beginning anew. Eixstence future does not merely devolve out of the actual, out of its own momentum, such that every deed, every guilt, could only continue in the working out of its last consequences.
The essential unforeseeability of the future points to a break between the actual and the future; there is discontinuity. An instant is an inauguration, a beginning, and another instant is a new begin- ning. The anv of the future is hope for the future, and hope is the sense of the possibility of a new beginning.
But the instant to come relates to the now and the past. Existential philosophy recognized that this relationship cannot be one of logical or causal derivation from the present; on the contrary the sense of the existrnts and of the present derives from the sense of the future.
It is certainly the approach of what is to come that makes the past past. But in insisting that the past is existemce what has passed away, the bygone, but what has come to pass, the definitive and the irrevocable, existential philosophy has con- ceived still the relationship a life has with its past as memory and retention. Yet Nietzsche had already caught sight of forgetting as a positive and not only negative relationship with the past; it alone makes possible innocence.
It could make it be really past. It will come then with a retroaction back over the present and the past. It would not only bring it a new meaning.
It is I myself, the I that exists now and that existed, that will be, that will begin anew in the time hoped for. Thus the promise of the future is a promise of resurrecting the past, with eexistents its levijas, but in such a way that it would begin anew. It is just this that is pardon: And it is just this that is the positive feeling of time. A temporal existence is, in the existentialist formula, ecstatic; it projects itself into a temporal itinerary of its own force, and is a power because it temporalizes itself, and feels its temporality as a happiness.