This week’s readings were difficult for me. I have very little knowledge of philosophy, never taking a philosophy course as an undergraduate. With that being said, I thought that Emmanuel Levinas’s “Ethics and Infinity” was very interesting.
The first part that really captures my interests was the connection with the face and acts of violence. “The face is exposed, menaced, as if inviting us to an act of violence. At the same time, the face is what forbids us to kill.” (p 86) I believe Levina is pointing out an inherent contradiction. Facial expressions are what can drive a person to violence, but at the same time, a normal sane person couldn’t murder someone that is looking straight at them. The face is too personal and there is an immediate connection with that person looking at you. Philippe Nemo points out, “War stories tell us in fact that it is difficult to kill someone who looks straight at you.” (p 86)
In questioning the connection of the face and acts of violence, I have to say murderers that use guns have to look at their targets. Jus t this weekend, a shooter shot a minister in Illinois. This is why I added “sane” to my understanding of Levina’s theory.
Finally, I love Levina’s beliefs on being silent in someone’s presence. “It is difficult to be silent in someone’s presence; this difficulty has its ultimate foundation in this signification proper to the saying, whatever is the said. It is necessary to speak of something, of the rain and fine weather, no matter what, but to speak, to respond to him and already to answer for him.” (p 88) This is so true. To witness this, go on an elevator with strangers. There is an awkward silence while you’re on the elevator, and it is normally broken by someone talking about the weather. And I have to question, why the weather? What makes weather the one thing that everyone can talk about?