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The paradoxico-metaphysics of the others and the paradox of freedom

In his "Philosophy and transcendence" Levinas goes back to the paradoxical postulation of the infinite underneath the revealing of truths in Descartes. The paradox is that the infinite is thought as precisely what cannot be revealed. It is like finding an opaque blind-spot in the effort to expose a landscape. The Cartesian notion of infinity is important for Levinas' construction of his position in Totality and Infinity: it is the infinite that provides the face with a quality that cannot be accessible to knowledge, cannot be fully present and cannot be made into a theme, a transparent thesis. The infinite in the Other is what brings the unknown God to mind: not a theme, but a glory of what is behind a responsibility that predates every recalling of what has been present in the past. 

The paradox of the infinite is akin to the paradoxico-metaphysics of the others that I elaborate in Indexicalism: Realism and the Metaphysics of Paradox. There, too, the others are irreducible to substantives, cannot be fully known and are not a suitable theme - and yet, they are part of a narrative that provides a so-to-speak gappy totality. We can get to know where the others interrupt our knowledge - and, in fact, we can include deixis in our picture of how things are. The paradox is not unfamiliar to Levinas. Apart from the paradoxical postulation of the Cartesian infinite (in the Other), Levinas writes often in T&I about the paradox of freedom: freedom is there to reveal responsibility and responsibility means that there is no freedom - or, rather, there are limits to freedom. Analogously, my craving for knowledge makes me discover the others - and the irreducible character of 'other' and other deixis. Yet, that discovery shows that the totality aspired by my freedom is impossible - or severely limited. The crave for totality is what makes me realize totality is unattainable.


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