Religions (Nov 2018)

Otherwise Than Politics: A Levinassian Defense of Political Indifference

  • Tyler Tritten

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9, no. 12
p. 385


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Emmanuel Levinas critiques the political sovereignty of what is Said (le Dit), the surface differences and visible identities politics imposes, through a recourse to the nudity of the invisible face, which, audible rather than visible, is a pre-predicative Saying (le Dire). Although Levinas does not deny systemic and political injustices, he is not convinced that the solution to these problems is itself systemic and political, as the political is a problem rather than a solution. Only the ethical and/or religious can offer a response to the problem of the political. Given this Levinassian edifice, then, this article argues that all thinking that fails to skeptically unsay (le Dédire) the social and institutionalized differences of the political machine makes no difference. The article will first articulate why, following Levinas, politics is the problem rather than a solution and then explain why ethical (and religious) relation is prior to politics (and ontology) by demarcating different senses of thirdness (le tier). A criticism of natural rights will follow before some concluding remarks are offered that explain how one might enact a skeptical comportment toward all politics that may nevertheless let political situations lie exactly as they were.