Synopses & Reviews
Too often, Levinas's thought is distanced from traditional ethical enterprises, especially from normative ethics. It is put into the service of directly normative ends such as a call for respect for women or disadvantaged social groups, or for new normative understandings of the relation of doctors to patients or teachers to students and the like. There is nothing wrong with using Levinas for normative purposes, but this demands that we be clear on what account of normativity can be found in his work. Perpich re-reads central ethical concepts in Levinas's thought (alterity, the face, and responsibility) in order to offer the first full account of his contribution to our understanding of normativity or the ways in which others' claims are binding on us. She then extends this interpretation into two vexed areas of Levinas scholarship: the possibility of developing an environmental ethics based on his work and the possibility of applying his ethics to the emancipatory projects of new left social movements.
This work offers a new interpretation of what Levinas means when he says that we are infinitely responsible to the other person.
About the Author
Diane Perpich is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Clemson University.