Ilyaity Illeity And Elleity

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Nor is illeity to be confused with the il y a. But that confusion is easy to make. For both are disturbances of my complacency. It would therefore seem easy to confuse illeity also with the erotic, for Totality and Infinity has told us that the erotic lies alongside the il y a. 'God and Philosophy' tells us that responsibility to which illeity binds me is the non-erotic par excellence. It tells us also that responsibility for the Other, my egoistic subjectivity's being ethically subjected to the Other, is Love without Eros. How can that be if, as it says only one paragraph earlier, 'Pornography is perhaps that which dawns [pointe] in all eroticism as eroticism in all love' (DVI 112, CPP 164, HLR 178)? Does the second clause of this statement not contradict directly the reference to love without Eros? Does this statement not imply that pornography dawns or arises even in the Desire of responsibility for the other human being, the Thou who owes his separateness from being to the Him or He of the illeity that some people call by the extraordinary word God? Does it not follow that if vulgar Aphrodite and celestial Aphrodite are sisters, they have a third sister who is noble uppercase Desire and who is not without vulgar lower-case desire?

The answer to each of these questions is 'No'. Day dawns from night, but the light of day may bear no trace of the darkness of night. Still, there remains the enigma, the ambiguity of sign and trace. The ambiguity in the divine comedy of the temple and the theatre, the equivocity of expression in the face as the Dire of Désirer and expression on the face as the rire and guarded 'dire' of désirer. If pornography is enjoyment of the representation of the beloved to the point where one's attention is absorbed more by the image than by the absent beloved him- or herself, then there could be a celestial pornography of the erotic that might be confused with the illeity of Desire. It would be the idolatry that has not learned that the transcendence of Desire is not the objectively genitive transcendence of an object intended, and is not representable, synthesizable, or reducible to mastery by the 'I can' of the human being's conatus essendi or the transcendental ego's 'I think'. To learn this is to learn the lesson of the third Meditation of Descartes, that although the truth of the cogito is first in the order of learning, the ego is not altogether its own master; the ego is not self-taught.

But the separateness of the mastery that schools the ego's mastery of itself risks confusion with the separateness of the mystery of the mistress. The separateness of sanctity or holiness (le saint), forgets its separateness from the separateness of the sacred (le sacré), in the strict use Levinas sometimes, though not invariably, gives to these two words. As affirmed too by the identification of the mother with wisdom in Tibetan Buddhist icons, the feminine, at once interlocutor and collaborator, is maître supérieurement intelligent, 'so often dominating men in the masculine civilisation into which it enters' (TEI 241, TI 264)—or into which he enters, il, who is maître but femme, as though the separateness of illeity is not cut off from the separateness of elleity, as though the mother were far and unfar from the father, ent-fernt, as Heidegger writes, in the near distance, Distant, as Nietzsche writes, Dis-tanz, as Heidegger's and Nietzsche's words are rewritten by Derrida, under the heading 'Veils'.13

As implied by the identification of the father with compassion in Tibetan iconography, in Levinas's genetology the masculine is the principle of ethical responsibility, not, be it noted, of political duties with their correlative rights within which Creon's authority holds sway. It is the feminine principle that is the principle of rights (droits). If these include domestic rights or sacred rights like the right to bury and be buried defended by Antigone, one wonders whether they would also include civic and political rights. For the sphere of these latter, the sphere associated with Creon, is, although public, still an interiority, still the interiority of a circle or sphere. It is a public interiority with an economy as closed as the regime of the home. True, Levinas writes in Du sacré au saint, in the Talmudic reading 'And God Created Woman'—but, it should be observed, in a paraphrase of the last chapter of Proverbs, so not necessarily speaking for himself, and not speaking philosophically:

Woman is not at the summit of the spiritual life as Beatrice is for Dante. It is not the 'eternal feminine' that leads us to the heights.

I am thinking of the last chapter of Proverbs, of the woman who is there glorified: she makes possible the life of men, she is the home of men; but the husband has a life outside the home; he has a seat on the city Council. He has a public life, he is in the service of the universal. He does not limit himself to interiority, intimacy, the residence, yet without them he could do nothing.

Could it be that speaking in his own philosophical voice Levinas would say that the sphere of the political is precisely the interregnum, the 'interface' where universal legality is exposed to challenge on one front by illeity and on another front to seduction by elleity—but that the frank face of illeity and the less than frank face of elleity are, if not one in the Parmenidean senses of 'are' and hen, a hendyadic two-in-one and one-in-two illelleity? The nation that Abraham went on to found was also a people sprung from his and Sarah's loins, a natio-nality, a folk, a Volk, whose formal civic relationships are capable both of being reviewed as ties of blood and of being proto-ethically reaktiviert, to use Husserl's word in order to draw attention to the intersection of Levinas's thoughts on responsibility with the thoughts on responsibility and refounding expressed by Husserl, particularly in the Crisis of European Sciences, a text on which Levinas conducted seminars.14

If, rather as the poets provide non-probative clues to Heidegger's thinking, Levinas's midrashic elaborations may be taken as non-probative clues to his, then it is not impertinent to follow up these Winke in construing what he regards as his philosophical texts. Commenting on a Rabbinic commentary on the text of Genesis 5:2, 'Male and female created he them (at the same time)', Levinas adduces grounds for saying that equality is or should be grounded on hierarchy. The more than textual question raised by the assertion 'Man was made in the image of God' (Genesis 9:6) is whether 'He first had in mind to create two and in the end created only one' (SS 140, NTR 172). Does Levinas read in Rav Abbahu's answer to this question a clue to a certain diachrony in the synchronicity of the creation of female and male? That answer, in Levinas's paraphrase, runs as follows: In order to create a well-ordered world one of these principles had to be subordinated to the other.

Humanity is not thinkable on the basis of two essentially different principles. There had to have been a sameness that these others had in common. Woman was prescinded from man but she came after him: the very femininity of woman is in this initial 'after the event' [après coup]. Society was not founded on purely divine principles: the world would not have lasted. Real humanity does not allow for an abstract equality, without some subordination of terms. What family scenes there would have been between the members of that first perfectly equal couple! Subordination was needed, and a wound was needed; suffering was and is needed to unite equals and unequals.

Setting aside the questions whether the family scenes provoked either by equal partnership or by an inversion of the hierarchy would have provided the suffering needed to unite the partners, the temporality of this 'after-cut' merits attention. The off cut of the rib from Adam is an initial event, perhaps an event anticipating or commemorating the initiational event of circumcision to which we shall shortly return. The word 'prescinded' employed here for prélèvement preserves the priority connoted by pré-. Après coup though she may be, Eve is not an afterthought. Maybe, Levinas wonders toward the end of the essay, man's priority was provisional, almost as though he was made with the making of woman in view, as though for her sake! Man may perform a role in universal public life some centuries before woman, but complete humanity is reached only when woman enters on the scene after languishing in the wings not because she is assigned a secondary role, but because her being reserved offstage is a way of keeping sexual relations offstage lest libidinal pleasure as analysed by Freud prevent the full blossoming of relations that are fully interhuman. Or as left unanalysed by Freud, Levinas would say, for:

Freud himself says little more about the libido than that it searches for pleasure, taking pleasure as a simple content, starting with which one begins an analysis but which itself does not need to be analyzed. Freud does not search for the significance of this pleasure in the general economy of being. My thesis, which consists in affirming voluptuousness as the very event of the future, the future purified of all content, the very mystery of the future, seeks to account for its exceptional place.

This association of femininity with voluptuousness does not prevent Levinas associating femininity also with the legal concept of right (droit), but his way of doing this in Totality and Infinity blocks the inference that the domain of the feminine is a domain of authority vested solely in law. When he speaks there of 'woman having to be treated as woman, in accordance with the imprescriptible rules of policed political society [la société policée]', that is, in accordance with rights that cannot be taken away, these words are meant to state one side of the equivocity that constitutes the epiphany of the feminine. The other side is a certain force. We are told that both this force and this right arise from the gentleness (tendresse, attendrissement) and vulnerable weakness (fragilité, faiblesse) of femininity that inspires compassion and yet can turn from discreteness and modesty into violence and immodesty.

Before investigating further the nature of this violence a comment on this gentleness is due. Femininity is tenderness both in the passive sense of vulnerability, like the sensitivity of skin, and in the active sense of responsive treatment of another, sensitivity of the heart. Femininity's tenderness toward the other is the counterpart of the pity her fragility calls forth from the other. In 'Damages Due to Fire', another of the five Talmudic readings published in Du sacré au saint, Levinas notes the possibility of an etymological connection between the Aramaic word for mercy, Rakhmana, and the Aramaic Rekhem ('womb'). In the text of the Guemara on which he is commenting the first of these words is used of the Eternal, God, and of the Torah, Law. Because, next to the tomb, there is no more secure home than the womb, not only do these assimilations connect femininity with the mercifulness of God, and therefore with Elohim, that is to say, with God as principle of justice; not only therefore do they stand for the intersection of maternity with divine paternity, like the exaltation of weakness by the circumcision of virility (SS 158, NTR 183); not only do they connect maternity with sensitivity, 'of which so much ill is said among the Nietzscheans' (ibid.); they connect too the law with the feminine presence in the home, so that Levinas's reference in Totality and Infinity to femininity's droit can mean the feminization of law itself as well as feminine rights.

Feminization of droit, but not without force. Feminine force de droit.15 Feminine droit de force. From intimacy in the home, in the for intérieur, via the directness, droiture, of face-to-face presence in the economy of the market place —in the marché, agora, forum—the for extérieur is forced forth (fors), as the less-than-nothing beyond the face of an absence that is not simply the nonbeing of a being, but the neither-being-nor-nonbeing of the not yet, the Schritt vorwärts, the pas encore. In the eyes of the You I am met by the direct regard of the Him thanks to whom, grace a Dieu, the You is distanced from the intimacy of the tu of voluptuous love that, unlike friendship, which goes toward the other, is a voluptuousness of voluptuousness, love of the other which is also love that returns to the self: egoism a deux. But from beyond the veil of modesty turned into the violence of immodesty's dévoilement, where words have less meaning than force, the wordless, the infans, comes on to the scene: dualism a un, transubstantiation.

Here we are before a new category: before what is behind the gates of being, before the less than nothing that eros tears from its negativity and profanes. It is a question of a nothingness distinct from the nothingness of anxiety: the nothingness of the future buried in the secrecy of the less than nothing.

Distinct from the nothingness of anxiety, distinct from the anxiety of nothingness, distinct from extinction, sepultured in the less-than-nothing of the not yet, neither being nor nonbeing, life beyond death is both being and nonbeing because the father both is and is not the son. The son is the multiplication of the beings of two parents, therefore not the being of either alone. But neither is he only the being produced by their conjugation, since his being is also his own. Filiation falls under a new category: fecundity.

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