Emmanuel Levinas’ Notion of Substitution as an Ethics of Responsibility for the Other
sapientia journal vol 18


Emmanuel Levinas


A plausible conception of substantive human rights is grounded in the conception of dignity and personhood that emphasizes individual responsibilities. However with the prevalent turn of events, it becomes exigent to investigate into the authenticity of this claim. The question of human rights and dignity and philosophy of care for others is one among global issues today both in the academia and social restructuring policies. This was provoked by the devastating experiences of slavery, colonialism, First and Second World Wars and continuous ill treatments on the human person. Measures have been taken and thoughts have been developed on the human person's rights and dignity and philosophy of care for the 'Other' by philosophers and others alike. Responding to this non- recognition and appreciation of the human person, Emmanuel Levinas, among others shocked by the reality of his experience and witness of the inhuman treatment of the Jews in the Nazi camps of Adolf Hitler developed his philosophy of the "Other" which is conveyed in his notion of "face-face" Ethics of responsibility for 'Other'. For Levinas, Ethics and Philosophy begin with the 'Other' and that scores the meaning of his Ethics of the face. The face of the 'Other' is me and to ignore the face of the 'Other' is to ignore the Absolute Divine law. The 'Other' is the supreme moral obligation and hence I am responsible. Expository and evaluative methods guided the study for proper finding. The finding of the study revealed that various acts of inhumanity prevailed among us due to lack of care for the 'Other'. Thus the essay purposefully shoulders the task of undertaking a profound reflection over the rhetoric of human respect in the society and the massacre of people by people. Levinas, who during his life experienced two world wars, discussed the notion of substitution in the ethical theory of the I-other relation, was unavoidably influenced by the many horrors of war he came face to face with.