Effacement

If the face is the source from which all meaning appears, as Levinas says that it is, then the face is the source of the meaning of being. Time is the meaning of being according to Being and Time. Time is the meaning of being according to Totality and Infinity. But in the latter book time is construed from and beyond the face, and otherwise than as continuous duration or ecstasis. So being as thought in Heidegger's thinking beyond the being of classical metaphysics, being as thought, is in its turn surpassed. It surpasses or overtakes itself, Levinas can be read as saying on one construction of the pronoun in his statement that l'être se dépasse. Being passes itself departing from itself (TEI 278, TI 302).

Does being return to itself? Only if it does not start from and go to being construed, in the manner of Spinoza and Hegel, as a systematic whole, only if it starts from me as a separated being and goes as a host to the Other, welcoming the Other as guest, only in this manner can an eternal return within the interiority of the circle of being be escaped. For when I turn to the Other interiority turns into exteriority. The interiority of being is produced as exteriority not when in a multiplicity of subjects each competes with every other for a place in the sun. In conflict and cooperation the multiplicity reduces itself to one, to a totality of interacting selves in which the other is my other and I am his and hers. In true plurality society is not the polemical negation where free wills are rendered compatible by the universality of political law or where a peaceful outcome of the war of each against all is achieved by the imposition of force. The political renders the ethical invisible. The State effaces the face. The true and just plurality of society is concretely produced in hospitality extended to the Other from within the economic base of a home in which the subject that enjoys and maintains itself in separation says to the Other 'Peace'.

But how does Levinas describe this concrete production? How concretely is economics accomplished as ethics? Not without an attentive and retentive study of the fine detail of the earlier chapters of Totality and Infinity can these questions be answered. Only that will enable us to understand the status of the question we are asking when the Conclusions lead us to ask whether the book concerns being otherwise or rather, in the words of the title of one of that book's successors, something otherwise than being. But it is also heuristically productive when rereading those earlier chapters of Totality and Infinity to have in mind this last question and the remarks made in the Conclusions that provoke it. Among these remarks are ones that treat of productivity.

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