chapter  18
Ethical Obligation in Caring for the Other: Refl ections on Levinas
ByJIM GARRISON
Pages 15

Levinas has identifi ed the violent tendency of Western ontology, language, and logic to reduce all difference and otherness to the same structures of being (the same identities, essences, foundations, origins, ends, and all the rest). Levinas constructs the infi nite other as absolute alterity incommensurable with the self-same. If others were absolutely incommensurable, however, we could not even become aware of them. Violence is the price we pay to have a mind. If there is a site beyond the bounds of Western philosophy (e.g., essence, will, ego, rationality, etc.) where we may have a mind and a self nonviolently, we in the West will not arrive there until we escape the history of being. Every cultural structure is violent simply because any structure is exclusive of what cannot satisfy its demands.