What, more precisely, does Levinas mean by deduction? Deduction is production. Not production in the sense of an explicative leading out of something implicit according to rules of logical inference. Production rather in the sense of a mise en scène. What is productively deduced is given its place in the drama or general economy of being (TA 18, 83, TO 39-40, 90). In Totality and Infinity the word 'production' is introduced as a technical term, a term of art, to perform some of the work done in Existence and Existents by the word 'accomplishment'. This latter word, we have noted, is nowhere formerly defined in this latter book, but, as we have also noted, it is probably an adaptation, perhaps accomplishment, of what Husserl calls Vollziehung. It continues to be used frequently in Totality and Infinity. No formal definition of it is forthcoming there either. But the preface of the book does contain a formal definition of 'production', a term corresponding to Husserl's term Leistung. In this preface Levinas announces that the book will affirm the philosophical primacy of the idea of infinity over the idea of totality. He goes on:
It will recount how the infinite is produced [se produit] in the relationship of the same with the other, and how, not to be aufgehoben [indépassable], sable], the particular and the personal somehow magnetize the very field in which this production of the infinite is acted out [se joue]. The term production indicates both the accomplishment [effectuation] of being (the event 'is produced', an automobile 'is produced') and its being brought to light or its exposition (an argument 'is produced', an actor 'is produced'). The ambiguity of this verb translates the essential ambiguity of the operation by which the being of an entity at one and the same time realizes itself [s'évertue] and reveals itself.1
Between the Husserlian stem and Levinas's notions of production and accomplishment an intermediate branch is grafted when at the beginning of the 'Letter on Humanism' Heidegger translates the Greek poiêsis and the Latin producere by Vollbringen, understanding by this the unfolding and leading forth of something into its essence, etwas in die Fülle seines Wesens entfalten, in diese hervor geleiten. Vollbringen is translated by accomplir in Roger Munier's translation published in Questions III (1966) and in works by Alphonse de Waelhens to which Levinas refers.2 The idea of production will enable Levinas to distinguish the idea of the infinite from the idea of totality. Although totality is not the same as neutrality and distinction is not the same as separation, the thin end of the wedge that will accomplish this distinction between totality and the infinite is inserted when the analysis of concrete manifestations of the concretion of existence and the existent begins to separate these.
A wedge can both hold two pieces tightly together and split them apart. It so happens that Levinas uses the word 'unwedging' (décalage) for the division and delay that an analysis of position or hypostasis or setzen discovers. His word position must be understood as the act of positing that takes place even when one is in a state of repose. The maintaining of oneself in a location is a main-tenir, a taking of oneself in hand that is prior to both readiness to hand (Zuhandenheit), and presence at hand (Vorhandenheit). Before the presence before something of Vorhandenheit is the presence before oneself of the present moment, the maintenant or the instant. The subject's standing here stands under the understanding (Verstehen) that according to Being and Time is primarily a mode of Dasein's projectivity in the Da, the there of the world. And the subject's finding itself posed before itself in this particular location now is already older than the disposition (Befindlichkeit) that according to Heidegger is primarily a mode of Dasein's finding itself having been prejected. Presupposed by position as Ortschaft, site and sighting in a world, is position as an act. But the act has to be correctly deduced. It is not to be construed in terms of effort exerted against the resistance of matter, which is the paradigm most favoured by philosophers. The correct method of deduction will be to investigate not simply the subject's engagement with objects in physical space. It will be to exhibit the espacement of the internal dialectic of its engagement with its own existence. It will be to spell out the concrete logic of accomplishment.
This is the nearest Levinas comes in Existence and Existents to a formal presentation of his method. And just as what he means by accomplishment is to be collected from the contexts in which the word is used, so for further clarification of this brief statement of his methodological principle he refers the reader to the applications of it throughout the book as a whole (DEE 42, EE 30). Three decades later he will express regret over the unwrittenness of the more interesting books that could have been written by authors who devoted their time instead to propounding methodologies. He explains his own reticence by admitting that he does not believe that there can be transparency in philosophical method or indeed in philosophy as a whole. If we press him to give us his formula, the most he will say is that his method is the method of emphasis. In French, he reminds us, this word can mean provocative and exasperating exaggeration. 'Exasperation as philosophical method!' he exclaims (DVI 142). In what sense his philosophy can go in for rhetorical heightening, perhaps force, is something else we shall learn only when we have more experience of his philosophy in effect. We shall therefore postpone further comment on this notion of emphase. For the time being let us simply note, as he also reminds us, that the word has the same Greek root as the word 'phenomenology', which need not imply showmanship but quite simply show, bringing to light (phao). And we were about to say that in Existence and Existents he shows us the dialectic of the accomplishment of the instant through an analysis—or quasi-analysis, for there are no ultimate simples to be reached—of the primary lassitude, laziness, effort and fatigue, and so on, that are modes in which the instant accomplishes itself before they can seem to be no more than mental states resulting from one's active and passive involvements with other existents.
Was this article helpful?