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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Levinas on agency

Been thinking about Levinas´ appeal from the Other in terms of what inculcates in me a decision that is not a product of my freedom but an imposition from justice coming from the Other. When an appeal is made, I endowed with responsibility, as the need to respond. Thought like this, responsibility is not about spontaneity or self-determination because it is responsibility for the Other. It is heterological: it is placed in me by the Other, it is basically the result of a vulnerability and a plea. The Other inculcates a decision in me, a decision I´m not free to discard; not because I am a being-for-freedom or because I live in the open, but because I have been under the appeal of the Other. Once this appeal is made, it is out of my reach to get out of the decision - the decision is imposed on me.

Now, if we take this scheme to be something general about the Other, the decision situation is brought about by an Other and arguably agency derives accordingly from alterity. In other words, agency is not a property of anything but a consequence of an appeal. If we go along this line, agency depends on the Other, in a world where there is only a self, there could be no agency (compare with Hegel´s idea that freedom is impossible in loneliness). Agency then requires some sort of interdependence, but an interdependence very different in kind from the one monadologies posit.

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