Persecution

The 'for' of the for-itself, the pour-soi, turns into, veers (vire) towards the 'for' of the for-the-other, pour l'autre. I approach the other. But my approach to the other is approach in the separateness or sanctity of proximity in ethical space, space that exspatiates the already non-geometrical space of being-in-the-world whose topography is described in the third chapter of the first division of Being and Time. And there is a further twist. This turn, precisely because it is the turn of ethics, of my approach to the other in responsibility, is the way of the other's approach to me.The trope of the for-myself turned into for-the-other turns into a by-the-other or through-the-other, the pour veers into a par. And this is another trope of Heidegger's trope of the ontic metaphor into the ontological quasimetaphor. It is a going over of Heidegger's reflection in the 'Letter on Humanism': 'Thinking is I'engagementpar l'Etrepour l'Etre. I do not know if it is linguistically possible to say both of these (par and pour) at once, in this way: penser, c'est l' engagement de L'Etre'1 If the 'of of the engagement of being is both subjective and objective, speculative or, as one might also say, middle voiced, it might express conjointly the for and the by. Levinas's response to this, one might say, is that the care or concern of being thus construed is a derivation from my still middle voiced being both responsible for the other and suffering by or through or from the other.'The for-the-other (or sense) goes as far as the from-the-other, as far as suffering from a splinter that burns the flesh, but for nothing. Only thus is the for-the-other—passivity more passive than all passivity, emphasis of sense—saved from the for-oneself (AE 64-5, OB 50).

I could say of myself, though not on behalf of any other self, je suis, done l'autre me pour suit, or je vis, done je suis poursuivi: I am or I live, therefore the other persecutes me right up to my death. Readers unwilling to follow Levinas right up to this violent extreme should consider whether he sees the violence of this doctrine as the only way by which greater or worse violence can be forestalled. If one says that the good violence of peace is the price to be paid for the avoidance of the bad violence of war, one must go on to say that the good violence of peace is precisely the refusal to be content with merely paying the price. I am saved from the for-myself only because this excess is saved, only because no bargain is struck. A bargain makes too much sense, and sense of the wrong kind. There must be a surplus of senselessness if the giving of myself to the other is not to be balanced by a return, albeit a return of no more than gratitude. The passion of suffering for another is always in danger of recompensing me with an apologia pro vita mea. My suffering can be pointless suffering,2 suffering for nothing, only if it is in spite of my ego, mal-gré moi; only if it is a suffering of la douleur d'autrui.3 It is on account of my responsibility for this that I am infinitely persecuted by the other, sacrificed for the other, my flesh burned by contact with the splinter that kindles a holocaust from the ashes of which no meaningful historical genealogy can be finally made.

Therefore although the persecution by the other may be understood in part in the sense of prosecution in law, which is one sense of the French poursuivre, the persecution must be a manic persecution. Although it is not a persecution mania in the psychoanalytic sense, not a sickness unto death of the psyche, it is necessarily vulnerable to such diagnosis (AE 194, OB 152). Ethical psychosis, what Levinas calls 'this madness [folie] at the co fines of reason' (AE 64, OB 50), this malady of proto-ethical responsibility prior to consciousness, is a holiness, a healthiness and indeed a haleness or wholeness in the sense of the German Heiligkeit, but a wholeness that defies the normal logic of part and whole. The identity of the wholeness of the self is inseparable from separateness, from the pre-original split (Vorur-teil), signified by the French saint and the Semitic qadosh, that predates any psychiatric schizothymia. 'There is' (!) an illeitic 'unconscious' beyond the superego of the psychoanalytic unconscious, obsession obsessed. The complication of the self divided into pour-soi, pour-l' autre and par-l'autre, makes possible and, because it interrupts them, makes impossible the complexes of psychoanalysis and its categories of ego, superego and id. Likewise the narratives derived from Greek mythology to which the Freudian analyst has recourse, and language that structures the house of the being of the unconscious according to the Lacanian, are destructured by prepsychoanalytic trauma.4 But when the narrative of Oedipus is interrupted by the speaking of another father, be he Abraham or Moses or another 'exceptional teacher' (DL 156n., DF 298n.), there is nothing to prevent that speaking from becoming written into another sociological, political or psychoanalytic narrative. Such biographies of Abraham and Moses are not unknown. And such psychobiographies of the author of Otherwise than Being are inevitable, reductive genealogies citing information about where he comes from (Phaedrus 275), his race, his religion, which books he read and with what teachers he studied, in order to explain away the face to face of teaching without which there can be no information, no form and nothing taught (EN 37, CPP 35).5 This means that such reductive genealogies must submit to such reductions themselves, as universal scepticism must apply to itself, and as Nietzsche's perspectivism must avow that it is itself but another perspective. It does not mean that the reductions of such reductions that Levinas maintains it is the responsibility of philosophy to produce must exclude as irrelevant to philosophy the singular events of the philosopher's life such as Levinas recounts of his own life in the final essay in Difficult Freedom called 'Signature'. However, without begging the question and what is before the question it cannot be assumed that there is nothing more to these events and avowals than lived experience or accusative theme. It is as traces of accusation that Levinas writes the dedication and the exergues of Otherwise than Being. Not as j'accuse directed at their readers, but as je m' 'accuse in indistinction from être accuse. Whatever the historically causal genealogy of the fate of the members of his own family named in 'square letters' in his dedication, of the six million murdered by National Socialism, and of the 'millions upon millions of human beings of all confessions and all nations, victims of the same hatred of the other man, of the same antisemitism', Levinas's teaching in Otherwise than Being can be reduced to his saying that for what was and is suffered by each of those victims je m'accuse. It is for each one of his readers to say after reading to the end of that book, whether he or she has learned to say the same.

After reading to its end we can see better how to read the exergues placed at or before its beginning. From time to time throughout this exegesis of that book there have been moments when one of the epigraphs from Pascal's Pensées may have seemed to threaten to betray the lesson I have drawn from the pages to which it is prefixed. Pascal writes that the statement 'This is my place in sun' is 'the beginning and the image of the usurpation of the entire earth' .6 Although that place is not one that has been chosen by me, although I did not choose to have any place in the sun at all, although I did not choose to be born, is there not at least the trace of a risk that my occupation of my place will be the beginning of a justification for my being accused? But we have taken Levinas to say that in extremis there can be no suspicion of a rational ground upon which my responsibility to the other can be required as the correlative of a debt. The responsibility in question, beyond any question, is not a relative one. This is what the second of the epigraphs from Pascal makes clear: 'We have used concupiscence as far as was in our power to promote the general good; but it is no more than a sham and a false image of love; for at bottom it is nothing but hate.' Socially pluralized greed, enlightened self-interest, the power of bargaining in the market-place in the shade or in the light of the sun, does not begin to plumb the depths of the senselessness of responsibility in the absolute sense. The response to the market-place, the agora, of that absolute responsibility is absolute ethical agoraphobia, a phobia of the 'unconscious' beyond therapy, what Philippe Nemo calls the 'other "other" scene' beyond the psychoanalytic unconscious, the unconscious of a night foreshadowed by the night of the il y a and impenetrable by the light projected from the torch of any human science.7

There is still more than a glimmer of the idea of justification as the payment of accounts in the first of the two citations from Ezekiel which serve as epigraphs of Otherwise than Being:

Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit an iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

(Ezekiel 3:20)

Levinas's French version ends 'je te demanderai compte'. As if this were not scandal enough, he goes on to cite Ezekiel 9:4-6:

And the Lord said unto him, go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:

Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary.

He adds the gloss on this last clause made by the medieval commentator on the Talmud, Rashi:

The sages have said, Do not read 'begin at my sanctuary', but 'begin with those that sanctify me',...as teaches the Talmudic Treatise Sabbath, 55a.

In what way can Otherwise than Being be read as an exegesis of this? As an exegesis of excess and as an excess of exegesis. Taken together the quotations from Pascal, from Ezekiel and from Rashi seem to yield no more than the concupiscent ego plus the justice of an eye for an eye understood strictly according to the letter of the law. It is as though the exergues allow a silence to reign over the question how a connection is to be made between the two extremes represented by the ego and the system of justice. But it is this silence that is interrupted and it is to this question that a response is made by what is written on the pages which follow these exergues—and by the dedication written on the page that precedes. The gap between the exergues from Ezekiel and

Pascal is the exergue of these exergues themselves, outside the energy and allergy of activity, waiting for what the book is about to say: that the space between the extremes is not one that is bound to be closed by a principle of enlightened self-interest; that nothing speaks against the possibility of its being passed over by the anarchy of my responsibility for all others before all responsibility grounded in causality or free will. An extremity of a quite different order from those of the ego and the logic of universal justice under which every ego including my own is a case, the multiplying excess of my responsibility demands a justice that is more and less than the justice based on resemblance within a genus. More and less because the demand is inseparable from the Other's Thou shalt not kill.' This commandment is not a simple rule of conduct, but the condition of social justice through being the condition of discourse (DL 22, DF 9). It is dis-course before discourse (DL 364, DF 284). And it pursues me with the fact of my murderousness and indifference, the fact that I am the keeper of my brother Abel.

I am therefore unconsciously anxious in face of the Other who pursues and persecutes me under my skin. I do not look forward to the encounter. There is a cool passion amounting to horror, even hatred, but a pre-original ethical hatred that makes possible the hatred of the Other that remains undiminished when concupiscence is harnessed for the general good; an absolute hatred that makes possible Cain's. But the hatefulness of this absolute hatred is what makes possible also a love of the stranger as oneself where compassionate solidarity does not revert to the pathos of intimacy (AE 130, 212, OB 102, 166). It is a hatefulness that emphatically exaggerates into ethical repulsiveness the awe that Kant discerns in the moral law's sublimity. Yet Schiller's unfair verse comment to the effect that Kant's categorical imperative could not be obeyed joyfully would be no less unfair when transferred to responsibility in the teaching of Levinas.8 The Talmud is such a gaya scienza that one may have to take precautions not to be carried away by its quality of joy (SS 176, NTR 174). Although it is not something to be taken lightly, the yoke of the Law can be borne with joy and a light heart (DL 45, DF 26). Under it some Hasidim found that they could even dance with light feet into the place where they were to breathe their last toxic breath. Crushing though its charge may be, responsi— bility is elevation, exaltation and glory (AE 119, 120n., OB 93, 193n.). It is the wonder, before the wonder before being, in which the genesis of philosophy may be traced (AE 206, 228, OB 161-2, 181). Not a noematic object, but adverbial of feeling, including the feeling of respect, the painful, bad and evil of this absolute hatred precedes the distinction between physical pain, mental pain and bad or evil defined by the standards of a moral custom or code. Ethical agoraphobia could be a name for this absolutely hateful ethical horror of this non-thing and non-nothing of which, as of feared YHWH, no name can be pronounced. Of this enormous yet intangible malignity in which Descartes's evil genius shares

Levinas might have written 'II n'y a pas du mal', 'II n'y a pas d'il y a.' When heteronomy turns back into the autonomy of responsibility prior to the autonomy of free will, the anonymous absurdity of the there-is turns out to be a modality adverbial of the-one-for-the-other (AE 208-9, OB 164): ad-verbial, a contretemps against the time of verbal activity, the active voice modulated into the passive, the intentionality of the subject's advance reversed under the contresens of the Other's regard (DVI 206, CPP 185). Anonymous Ilyaity recurs in pro-nominal illeity to the point at which the former may be mistaken for the latter (DVI 115, CPP 166, HLR 179). Between the one and the other there is a recurring alternation. Under the weight of responsibility of expiation for the Other elevation is liable to lapse into lassitude. Indeed elevation requires lassitude, for without it responsibility for everyone and for everything would not be, in the words of the accuser in Job, responsibility undertaken 'for nought' (Job 1:9). If in his earlier writings Levinas speaks of the il y a in itself and substantively of le mal, these come more and more to be thought of as moments or modalities, as the adverbial shadow of nonsense necessary for the ex-perience of dés-interessement (EEl 51, El 52, EN 133).

Ethical agoraphobia is not an anxiety provoked by just any open space. It is an emphasis of the dread Pascal felt before the eternal silence of infinite space. Ethical agoraphobia is a response not to an open space, but to a space where words and money are exchanged, a forum or a 'crowded agora' I may go into 'with a dagger under my arm' (Plato, Gorgias 469). This is a response not so much to the contingency of my finding myself thrown into the outer space of the world. For the space of the world, incessantly expanding though it may be, remains a place in which I am incessantly immured (AE 229, OB 182). The open space before which I suffer ethical agoraphobia is a space without walls and without place, a u-topic exteriority in which I feel the pressure of responsibility for the others to whom I find that I have already responded, though always too late. A pressure that makes an unmeetable demand on the lungs from the first intake of breath to the last. A hyperventilation, as of the cry with which one comes naked into the world or the last choke of Nietzschean laughter that sticks in the throat at the approach of the other (DVI 115, CPP 166, HLR 179)—'tragic and grave and on the verge of madness' (HAH 95, CPP 148). But in agoraphobic response there can be no refusal to say (AE 10, OB 8). The saying that cannot be refused is the to-say. In an article entitled 'Without Identity', first published in 1970, in one of his frequent references to contemporary youth, Levinas remarks that what it refuses is the said of solemn moralization and of the ideological set-piece. That elderly language requires to be broken up by the youthful language of the simple appeal—'Please give me a glass of water', or of laughter, the prophetic word of the poet-philosopher, parole nietzschéenne, parole prophétique (HAH 100, 111, CPP 151).

The refusal of this word would be all the more explicitly named if the Greek word agora for market-place and the Latin word ager for field happened to share a common etymological root which there is no reason to believe that they do. For in being a response to the burden of difficult freedom ethical agoraphobia is a refusal of the audible silence of the pays, the enclosed space where pagan gods haunt the interstices of being. It is a response to the bourdonnement of Eleatic ilyaity that re-echoes anonymously in the inner chambers of the ear like those noises reverberating from the walls of Plato's cave (Republic 515) and the tohu wa-bohu of Genesis 1:2, a tinnitus from which the only escape is not through the freedom of a heroically persistent egological will, but through a speaking in which I am bound by the other who teaches me more than I can learn from the country which, although outside the city wall, is more hermetically enclosed than the agora (Phaedrus 230). The time of ill omen (malheur) of claustrophobia is broken by a countertime in the time between involuntary inspiration and expiration, the contre-temps of agoraphobia that is vertiginously exhilarating but not without a malice of its own. For my place in the sun is threatened with usurpation by the other who, as other, excludes me, evicts me from my dwelling, turns me out. Yet for this very outrage the only one responsible is me (AE 212, OB 166). This is because the identity of my selfhood is split by my already having responded to the other's call. For every responsibility undertaken by the other I have already responded. The other's responsibility hounds me, multiplying mine, as though in an accelerating potlatch; or as though I were a bidder at an auction who will never be outbidden. I am always one bid ahead of the other. But I am bidding on his behalf, and what is on offer is myself. My responsibility for the other's every responsibility, including his to other others, is the transcending of the impersonality of das Man, the declaustration of the Da of Dasein and the de-mythologizing of place, of Lebensraum. It is accomplishable not by freedom but by 'the enlargement of a closure which the abstract notions of freedom and non-freedom do not exhaust', by the 'Behold me at your service' of exposition. 'Exposition to the openness of the face that is the "still further" of the de-claustration of the "self-same" ["soi-même"], of the de-claustration that is not being- in-the-world. A still further—a deep respiration as far as the breath cut by the wind of alterity' (AE 226-7, OB 180); exposition to infinitely accusative pursuit, absolute cata-agorization.

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