Naud van der Ven


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Presentation of

Resaying the Human. Levinas between Humanism and Antihumanism

(Presentation by Naud van der Ven of the book Resaying the Human. Levinas beyond Humanism and Antihumanism by Carl Cederberg,
published in Dutch in Mededelingen van de Levinas Studiekring 23, 2018)


Emmanuel Levinas at times summarized his ideas under the banner of ‘humanism for the other’. Nevertheless his work cannot, if only because of the overtly religious overtones, be classified as classically humanistic. Neither can it be called antihumanistic. So then, what exactly is Levinas’s position between humanism and antihumanism? That’s the subject of the beautiful book Resaying the Human. Levinas beyond Humanism and Antihumanism (2010) by Carl Cederberg. In the below article I try to sketch an outline of Cederbergs work.

My presentation will consist of two parts. To begin with, I offer an overview of the book. In the second part, I will highlight two themes from the book that recur in several places. First of all the emphasis by Cederberg on Levinas’s aspiration to move from abstractions to the concretely human. And then the question of what otherness and difference mean exactly in Levinas. It will appear that Levinas and a number of his readers arrive at a wide range of varying understandings of otherness.

The book

When Carl Cederberg summarizes in Resaying the Human what, according to him, the philosophy of Levinas is about, he does so as follows: “In fact, Levinas’s philosophy is both an attempt at safeguarding the notion of the human by reforming how we understand it in philosophy, and at retrieving in the notion of the human the condition of possibility for philosophical critique, that is, the very possibility to think beyond any seemingly safeguarded consensus”.

Cederberg uses a compact formulation here, with a number of concepts each of which deserve further explanation. Most notable is ‘the notion of the human’, but there are a few more. These concepts play a central role in the whole of Resaying the Human, and in my presentation of the book I will start, because of the importance of these central concepts, with an explanation of them.

Besides his summary points to a development over time, namely the reform of the way in which the notion of the human can be philosophically understood. Cederberg puts a lot of effort into following that development in Levinas’s work itself, thus of Levinas’s own philosophical understanding of the notion of the human. In his book, Cederberg goes through the various stages in Levinas’s work, from 1930 to 1980, with a special focus on the question of what at different times Levinas understands by ‘the human’. I will summarize that briefly.

Concepts used by Cederberg

In his presentation of Levinas, Cederberg uses of a number of concepts that are interrelated and partially overlap each other. These concepts play central roles in his book, which is why I call them his core concepts.

Those core concepts are:

  • The notion of the human
  • Restlessness
  • The possibility of critique

The notion of the human

A preliminary remark should be made before discussing this concept. As can be seen from Cederberg’s aforementioned quote, the notion of the human is constantly evolving. So when I try to describe it here, it concerns a few concise, robust features. The more variable aspects are discussed below in the historical overview of the development of Levinas according to Cederberg.

What then is the notion of the human? Well, we make a detour because Cederberg approaches the concept in various places by telling what it is nót. For example, it is not what the classical Greeks made of it. Because in the Greek vision “to be human is to understand being”. Classically, according to Cederberg, defining the human was tantamount to setting a moral standard for oneself and for others. And the standard had to be lived up to through control by reason, as a pre-eminently human quality.

Nor is it what the Enlightenment philosophers made of it. The conception of man as subject in the sense of the ‘transcendental unity of sensation’ (Kant) – additionally referred to in terms of consciousness, presence and power – does not do justice to the notion of the human. Insofar as humanism is guided by that view, a strong antihumanist impulse is needed, according to Cederberg, to arrive at Levinas’s notion of the human.

One implication of this approach to the notion of the human through faulty conceptions of it from the past is the premise that the notion of the human has always been there, but that its core had not been touched. The notion existed, but the Greeks and the Enlightenment philosophers did not find adequate formulations for it. Thus, the formulations they díd produce must be contradicted, or made ‘unsaid’, in order to find a more adequate ‘resaying’. Hence the importance Cederberg attaches to Levinas’s claim that “antihumanism did not negate the human subject but unsaid it, opening the ground thereby for it to be resaid”.

So, finally, what does that reformulation sound like? The notion of the human is “finding oneself defenseless before the other”, it is: the subject speaking before there is truth and information that can be communicated; it is the relationship referred to as one-for-the-other. With two important characteristics: an indomitable restlessness and the possibility of ‘critique’. These are therefore the two following core concepts that I will discuss.


At the heart of the human, Cederberg says, for Levinas there is “an essential restlessness”. Levinas even at an early stage defines the human as restlessness, indicating that the human leaves no room for complacency of a metaphysical or political nature. “[T]he human must, according to Levinas, be understood as restlessness – never to be founded in Being…”


According to Cederberg, there is a direct line in Levinas from the notion of the human to critique. For Cederberg, critique is a philosophical genre which he describes as  “the very possibility to think beyond any seemingly safeguarded consensus”; and as “an emancipatory function, allowing one to transcend the present state of affairs”. You might say, critique is philosophy par excellence. It is important to see the link that Levinas makes according to Cederberg: critique is only possible thanks to the notion of the human. The notion of the human is the condition of possibility for critique.

If it’s true, as suggested above, that an intuition of the human was already present in the Greeks and the Enlightenment thinkers, then also critique has to be found there. And that’s the case indeed, according to Levinas. After all, the Greeks sought to transcend the given state of affairs with the help of the Ideas, the good had to be confirmed in Plato by the Idea of the Good. As to the Enlightenment thinkers, for them the word ‘critique’ was never far away. And as for modern philosophy: the word ‘critique’ in the sense of philosophical research can be linked to both humanism (Kant, Descartes) and antihumanism (Nietzsche, Marx, Foucault).

Thus, the two concepts of the human on the one hand and critique on the other are inextricably linked, though it should be noted that the relationship between the human and critique is a difficult one. Cederberg puts it this way: “Critique… always presupposes a ground, a basis, if not a foundation. But since the human must, according to Levinas, be understood as restlessness — never to be founded in Being — these foundations will, if relied on, be seen as new layers of hypocrisy, which critique must in turn cut through”.

Focuspoints in Levinas's development

1930s and 40s: In Search of the ‘Concrete Human’

As to Levinas’s 1934 article on Hitlerism, Cederberg argues that therein the notion of the human is the key concept. In this and other texts from this period – so you can safely say: from Levinas’s beginnings – the notion of the human is linked to transcendence, to a movement beyond and escape from the self, thus to the ‘concept of the beyond’.

But, says Cederberg, this transcendence had an ethico-political meaning from the very start, and in Levinas this ethical dimension will remain linked to the notion of the human. That, says Cederberg, has a lot to do with Levinas’s quest to give the notion of the human a concrete content. For while the notion of the human may have been fundamental to Western philosophy and civilization for centuries, that Western philosophy had failed to conceive of anything concrete in that transcendence or escape. “In clinging to a description of the beyond, Western philosophy has betrayed the insight of the need to escape beyond.” (my emphasis, NvdV)

As a result, Levinas’s main problem with the Western tradition was that the liberation of man performed therein was linked to an increasingly abstract conception of the human. It was based on the soul’s freedom from matter and history. This has positive aspects, but a negative result is that people come to lack, certainly in the era of liberalism, a certain feeling for their embedding in the flesh, in history and culture.

Levinas was looking for a non-mystical concretization for this transcendent movement. To find this, he turns to phenomenology, but it does not offer him exactly what he wants. A problem with his texts from these early years, according to Cederberg, is that the ideal of concreteness that Levinas sets for himself is not achieved anywhere. The ethical-political orientation comes close, just like eroticism a little later, but they do not meet what Levinas is looking for.

As far as Cederberg is concerned, this gives his work from the later thirties a somewhat dull character. “On the one hand he does not want to reduce the human to an immanent play of forces. On the other, in his attempt to think the human as transcendence, he wishes to resist the subordination of the human to the otherworldly. Framed in this way, Levinas is developing a problematic relation to the notion of the transcendent.”

That changes in the 1940s when he introduces ‘the other’. This happens for the first time in writing in Existence and existents from 1947. That book is not primarily about the other, but about the subject’s relationship to his own existence. It treats the subject as a break from anonymous existence, the il-y-a.

The possibility of a radical loneliness of the subject is necessary in the works of this period, in order to describe the other as radically different. Because this radical loneliness means that the otherness of the other is more than just the specific physical, mental, social and cultural differences that make us two unique and therefore different individuals. Otherness now becomes an quality in itself.

This thought, according to Cederberg, is definitely a first step towards a more precise description by Levinas of the notion of humanity-beyond-being. For Levinas, we do not relate to the human other as to a specimen in the category of ‘humanity’, as a horse belongs to the category of ‘horseness’. The human relates to the other qua other.

1950s: Taking position opposite Sartre and Heidegger

From the 1950s onwards, the terms ‘ethics’ and ‘humanism’ have become increasingly common in Levinas’s work. It is – perhaps not coincidentally – the time when Human Rights were established in all kinds of international treaties. This observation leads Cederberg to the question: “What is the notion of the human intended in humanism as formalised in Human Rights?” And: what kind of humanism can Levinas embrace?

In any case, the answer to the latter question is not: the humanism of Sartre and De Beauvoir. With regard to Sartre, according to Cederberg, a crucial difference is emerging. While for Sartre it is individual freedom that is forgotten in the humanistic ‘City of equals’, Levinas seeks this forgotten origin in the asymmetrical relationship to the other. From Existence and existents, Levinas’s work is aimed at concretizing the transcendence in this asymmetrical relationship with the other. In contrast, the central structure for Sartre is precisely the authentic self-relationship.

Diametrically opposed to Sartre, Levinas sees the ‘greatness’ of a “humanism starting from the economic problem”. He does not, according to Cederberg, want to give existentialism the monopoly to define what is sensible or nonsensical; through the eyes of a socialist humanism, Levinas says, existentialism can be seen as ostrich behavior.

At the same time, Levinas does want to take the humanism-critique of Sartre and De Beauvoir seriously. It appealed to Levinas that those two thinkers were trying to arrive at an ethics, or even a humanism that would no longer depend on a particular abstract image or form of ‘man’.

Just as, according to Cederberg, he wants to take Heidegger’s critique of humanism seriously, when it is disturbed by definitions of the human that are borrowed from time-bound metaphysics, and in which the authentic proper dignity of man is not recognized. But Levinas also wants to go further than Heidegger, and he sees possibilities for this in the appearance of the other, “preceding all ontological descriptions of Man”.

1960s: Humanism of the Other

Levinas's own humanism, which he presented in the 1960s, had to do justice to the other as other. What, then, does his humanism look like, for example in Totality and Infinity, which appears in 1961, and in the important article Meaning and Sense from 1963?

Totality and Infinity

Levinas says in Totality and Infinity that the notion of the human is accessible through the human face, and that this specific relationship is the human. Here the metaphysical longing for the other carries the promise of humanity, of goodness, understood as the possibility of interrupting self-satisfaction, according to Cederberg. It is the consciousness of a lack of freedom, or of duty, that constitutes the human. Levinas also calls this relationship with the other religion, but at the same time for him it is a secular agnostic humanism, not mysticism. As he wrote elsewhere: “Monotheism is a humanism”.

But Cederberg finds in Totality and Infinity, next to the face, another view, or face, of the human. “Levinas explains: ‘To enjoy without utility, in pure loss, gratuitously, without referring to anything else, in pure expenditure – this is the human’. It might be surprising that he uses the name ‘human’ for pure enjoyment, given that the name is given also to that which transcends the economy of enjoyment.”

The two faces of the human have something in common, Levinas wants to make clear according to Cederberg: “Interestingly, both the egos enjoy the elements and the face-to-face relationship to the other are related to as immediate.”

In both cases – that of enjoyment and that of the ethical relationship – the notion of the human is, according to Levinas, bound to an idea of deneutralization, a search for the concrete that is not mediated by generic-neutral concepts. Levinas claims that both relationships are immediate in the sense that they precede the theoretical subject-object dichotomy.

Cederberg doesn’t find that convincing: “Levinas's claims remain unfounded”, he says of Levinas’s embrace of immediacy. Specifically with regard to the face-to-face relationship, he says: Levinas would like to withdraw ethics from ontology, and therefore speaks of the immediacy of that relationship. The problem is that his descriptions of the other, which are always the starting points of his philosophy, are themselves ontological. Think of ‘Man as being par excellence’ or the possibility of ‘experience of the other’. Although Levinas refers to these terms as metaphysical, they describe essences and foundations in the traditional way. For example, Cederberg catches Levinas in a classical-sounding sentence like the following: “The true essence of man is presented in his face, in which he is infinitely other than a violence like mine, opposed to mine and hostile”.

Meaning and Sense

If Levinas continues to use the term humanism for his own philosophy in the early 1960s – and he does – then, given his own history of humanism critique, it must be a qualified humanism. This is certainly the case in the article Meaning and Sense.

Qualified in what sense? Levinas gives according to Cederberg his own twist to his humanism in three ways:

  1.     He links it to Platonism
  2.     But without the traditional implications thereof
  3.     And while retaining the Heideggerian reserve against foundation thinking.

Ad 1: The link to Platonism

In Meaning and Sense, Levinas explicitly calls his philosophy both a humanism and a Platonism. Because Levinas is, in spite of the antiplatonic zeitgeist around him, looking for a point of orientation, and therefore, according to Cederberg, he is “provocatively and unfashionably Platonist”. Levinas
s main point here is that materialism, like any ontology, refers to something else beyond itself. And he finds that orientation in a primal event in which historical life is situated, namely a dialogue with the Other.

Only the other has an original meaning. The multitude of all other meanings in the world is derived from it. Ideological positions that claim a complete lack of orientation, if we follow Levinas, are not reliable. It is precisely the notions of direction and work that presuppose the relationship to the other. The humanism that Levinas envisions here, according to Cederberg, focuses on the other, prior to any cultural belonging or historical situation.

Ad 2: A Platonism, but without its traditional implications

The sense beyond all meanings for Levinas is not a highest meaning outside the world, but the direction of meanings ín the world. Levinas therefore wants to get rid of the hierarchical implications of Platonism.

Ad 3: While retaining the Heideggerian reserve against foundation thinking

Levinas, according to Cederberg, retains in Meaning and sense the humanism-critical reserve against metaphysical foundations, despite the fact that, unlike Heidegger, he still ends up with Plato. That may be a strange mixture, but Cederberg praises Levinas for it: “Levinas’s most important addition to this mixture is what he terms the de-neutralization of being”.

Summarizing for the 1960s, Cederberg states, “Meaning and sense is where Levinas most convincingly argues for his philosophy as a humanism of the other man; in this sense he reaches the goals he had set in the 1930s, namely to establish the notion of the human in a new way. But there is a certain political naïveté in his philosophy of the human, couched here as a humanism”. And: “At this juncture, what has temporarily fallen out of the picture is his early definition of the human as restlessness, which does not sanction either a metaphysical or a political complacency. In order to do justice to this notion, he will have to reconsider the notion of the human, such that the central question will have to be raised: should the problem really be posed in the language of humanism?”

1970s: Antihumanism and Otherwise than Being

Although the collection of articles entitled Humanism of the Other was published as late as 1972, according to Cederberg a different orientation had already been set in motion by the end of the 1960s. Levinas’s attitude to humanism, however qualified, changed then, perhaps under the influence of Lévi-Strauss, Althusser and Foucault. Levinas gradually became convinced of the depth of the humanism crisis.

Cederberg sees how Levinas in Otherwise than Being (1973) paints the picture of a time that understood that “nothing is more conditioned than the alleged originary consciousness and the ego”. In the age of the hermeneutics of suspicion, triggered by Nietzsche, there seem to be no facts about the human upon which a science of the human could be built. The known factual explanatory constructs, such as the sociological, ethnographic, historical or biological approaches to the human, all have something arbitrary.

They moreover have something violent about them. The sciences claim to give access to the truth and the good for humanity, but in doing so they also provide a totalitarian starting point, in which everything and everyone is ordered according to a uniform model and where the human disappears. The human, ‘proximity of the neighbor’, is not based on facts about humanity.

Levinas therefore agrees with a lot of humanism critique, according to Cederberg. But a difference with the others mentioned is that Levinas does not accept the resulting situation. We have to get past “the incessant discourse about the death of God, the end of man and the disintegration of the world”, he says in Otherwise than Being.

Levinas is looking for a new, more radical understanding of the human. So he wants to work, together wíth the antihumanists, on the ‘unsaying’ of the human (that is, participating in the antihumanistic deconstruction of the human subject), but nót on its total elimination. ‘Unsaying’ must lead to ‘resaying’, that is, of the human, according to Cederberg.

The antihumanists deny the possibility of a return to the human. Levinas finds that possibility precisely in ‘the proximity of the neighbor’ and ‘vulnerability for others’. As far as Levinas is concerned, it is precisely that notion of the human which, as a condition of possibility, has always been underlying in humanistic science. And which, now that humanistic science is bankrupt, can ensure its renewal. The innovation will mainly consist in that the human, as understood by Levinas, will not be regarded as a category in which the other and I fit as specimens of a species.

For this revitalization of the notion of the human, Nietzsche could be used just as well as he could be used in the deconstruction of its old form. In Nietzsche, Levinas finds, according to Cederberg, what he previously called ‘youth’, and that he now equates with the authenticity at the heart of antihumanism. In the movement of 1968, Levinas perceived a spark of this Nietzschean youth as authenticity. And a promise of critique, of philosophy. Philosophy is critique for both Nietzsche and Levinas, a critique that ultimately does not exist for the sake of the philosophizing ego, but for something else. Nietzsche calls this other ‘life’; for Levinas, this critique points to a concern for the neighbor.

All in all, according to Cederberg, antihumanism has been fruitful for Levinas. It has opened up space for Levinas’s own position, and for a notion of critique that does not begin with a philosophy of human consciousness. Antihumanism has not denied the human subject but ‘unsaid’ it, creating the possibility to resay it. Cederberg even thinks that the approach to Levinas’s notion of the human has to proceed mainly through anti-humanist critique.

Recurring accents in the book

Throughout the book, Cederberg takes a special interest in various themes. This applies to, for example

  • The theme of the relationship between the universal and the particular
  • The question of whether the transcendent can be experienced
  • The function of philosophy
  • The relationship between abstract and concrete
  • The character of the differences that Levinas speaks about.

I would like to elaborate on the last two themes.

From abstractions to the concrete

One of the lines that Cederberg observes in the whole of Levinas’s oeuvre is that Levinas gradually succeeds in shaping his program of the 1930s: making the human concrete. For him, this takes the form of ‘resaying subjectivity’. In Otherwise than Being, according to Cederberg, this means that he no longer wants to talk about people in generic, abstract terms, because you can only address a concrete other.

When ontological concepts such as ‘man’ or ‘the other’ are seen through the lens of the condition of asymmetry of human relationships, they turn out to be over-determined, namely by an ethical meaning. The subject is already a welcome from the other. The problem of ‘other minds’, whether or not existing in isolation next to a lonely subject, disappears. This is a secondary abstraction, which arises from the search for certainty undertaken by the Cartesian ego in its hypothesized solitude.

The ethical overdetermination means an end to that uncertainty in one fell swoop. This means that it is not the responsibility of an abstract subject for an abstract other, but my responsibility for a concrete other, which ultimately determines the meaning of these concepts. “Saying is always addressed to someone.”

Difference in Levinas

At several places, Cederberg discusses interpretations by others of Levinas that, in his opinion, are not entirely correct. This concerns, for example, Levinas’s relationship with religion: is he or is he not a religious thinker? About his dealings with ethics: is he or is he not a moralist?

Likewise, about Levinas’s dealing with difference Cederberg points to some controversial interpretations which I want to discuss here. What is difference, what is alterity in Levinas, that is the question. There is a popular interpretation of ‘the Other in Levinas’ that Cederberg disagrees with. That interpretation says: the Other, that is the one with a different, especially cultural or ethnic, identity.

The interpretation in which the Other is conceived of as the one with a different identity is also called the ‘ethics of difference’. And the difference at issue is also referred to as the ‘other than’ difference, which means a difference that is the result of comparison and therefore a relative difference. That is, measured against some context that makes the two compared entities comparable.

Cederberg does not cite examples of the ethics of difference, but the Levinas expert Rudy Visker from Leuven does. Like Cederberg, he criticizes the popular tendency – at least at the time – to see the Other in Levinas primarily as the other in a multicultural society.

In that frame Levinas’s difference would refer to the differences between cultures within the context of a multicultural ideal. “There seems to be a kind of speaker’s gain in our argument about the multicultural, about the stranger, who seems time and again to be the one who has to detach us from ourselves, who has to break us open, who has to give us a different direction”,  Visker says.

In this context, Visker also speaks of the double bind of anthropology: anthropology is on the one hand bound to an epistemological imperative that demands inserting of the studied human being in a context. But at the same time anthropology is considered to be able to demonstrate precisely on the basis of that knowledge that this studied man cannot actually be known because he is someone else.

Cederberg, like Visker, does not agree with such an identity-oriented view of difference. “The distinction between an ethical alterity of proximity (that the other is my neighbour) and the cultural difference of the other to me is often blurred in the secondary literature.” What Levinas is looking for is not the other as in ‘other than’, because that is really nothing more than a relative negation.

He rejects that because of its negative aspects. First, this dominant reading of Levinas threatens to put him on an apolitical dead end. It leads to a position of ‘all cultures are equally good (except perhaps the Western ones), so who would dare to say anything about it?’

Second, there is the threat of diversity moralism. Understanding the concept of proximity from an idea of ethnic or cultural otherness seems to involve the risk of what can be crudely termed an ‘ethical exoticism’: the more culturally different someone is, the more I have to accommodate her. In other words, by giving cultural denominations an exaggerated ethical load, we contribute to strengthening racial and cultural hierarchies. Or it leads to ‘hugging exotic people’.

That is why Cederberg fights against that frame. In his own words: “By highlighting the notion of the human rather than that of the other, my aim is to show how the ethics of difference, often associated to Levinas, is unjustified”. The alterity of the other does not relate to a difference in (cultural) identity, but to the asymmetrical ethical relationship to the other. Levinas is not about an ‘ethics of difference’ but about an ‘ethics of dissensus’, says Cederberg.

But Levinas could have been more clear about this: he could have propagated more consistently that he was not interested in the relative otherness of the other (ie ‘other than’, as with cultural identities) but in absolute otherness. He could have been more clear about this by banning context-bound terms even more strictly.

To be sure, Levinas does not speak about cultural otherness, but, as Visker shows, he dóes speak about socio-economic otherness, and thats also an ‘other than’ difference. He speaks of others who are miserable, penniless, or naked. If it’s the case, says Visker, that the face is not dependent on the context in order to be what it ‘is’, “if it is ‘meaning without context’ (as in Totality and Infinity and in Otherwise than Being), how then can Levinas speak of that autarky of the face, that ‘infinity of the Other’ at the same time as ‘penniless’?” Are not misery, pennilessness, nakedness terms from the world of context?

Derrida has rightly pointed out to Levinas inaccuracies of this nature, Cederberg says. Derrida’s message could be summed up as: you cannot think outside context, even if you pretend to. Cederberg: “Levinas’s focus on the concept of alterity causes confusion”. As long as otherness could be perceived as ‘other than’, and thus context-related, Derrida could rightly object to Levinas’s transcendent pretensions.

But on the other hand, Derrida kept a bit sham deaf, says Cederberg. In Totality and Infinity as well as in Otherwise than Being, to a good listener it could be clear already that Levinas did not want to talk about ‘other than’, in the sense of differences against the background of an overarching context. The quotation above already shows this, and there are more to give.

Derrida sometimes chooses not to hear that. And in those moments, like a pedantic schoolmaster, he forbids Levinas to explore these kinds of boundaries in his own way. If Levinas makes it clear somewhere that it is a different kind of otherness, a radical asymmetry, then Derrida does not listen well. “Derrida denies Levinas’s claim of a radical asymmetry between the other and me: according to Derrida, this asymmetry must be preceded by a symmetry.”

According to Levinas, Cederberg says, the words ‘God’, ‘the ethical’, ‘the sacred’, ‘the face’, ‘the absolute other’ all represent the possibility of transcending the economy of violence (Derridian for: the immanent world, the world of context), “and God is the word that expresses this the most extremely and boldly”. But transcendence and immanence, the Other and the Same are always mixed together indeed in Levinas. Which according to Derrida is impossible.

Visker, avant la lettre, agrees with Cederberg. If you listen carefully to Levinas, he says, you will hear Levinas say: the Other is not unknown (so: he has context), but unknowable (ie: without context). Levinas wants to avoid filling in from a context. To avoid that, Levinas wants the Other to have a ‘meaning of its own’ that does not ‘depend on the meaning he receives from the world’, but disrupts it. Along these lines he arrives at two meanings: one with and one without context.

Levinas fully and deliberately acknowledges the absurdity of this position, against Derrida's objections. Cederberg notes that even Derrida himself, at an earlier stage, had made statements in the same direction, when he said that God both transcends the economy of violence, as well as is part of it, or, in other words, that He is part of it by transcending it. About this earlier statement by Derrida, Cederberg says: “This earlier claim, which is the one I shall seek to defend, thinks the economy of violence and that which exceeds it as co-originary”.

Cederberg’s conclusion on this theme of difference is as follows: “Derrida’s critique clearly reveals where the real contribution of Levinas lies: if there is an ethical otherness it cannot be interpreted as the ‘other than’, which as Plato had already showed, is nothing but a relative negativity. It also forces Levinas to find a more radical formulation for his conception of asymmetrical responsibility”.

Which then, I think, did not satisfy Derrida either.


Cederberg, C. (2010) Resaying the Human. Levinas beyond Humanism and Antihumanism. Stockholm: Soderton University.

Derrida, J. (1967) Violence et Métaphysique. In : Derrida, J. L’écriture et la difference. Paris : Éditions du Seuil.

Levinas, E. (1990) [1934] Reflections on the Philosophy of Hitlerism. Translated by Seán Hand, in Critical Inquiry, Vol. 17. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press,. pp. 63-71.

Levinas, E. (2001) [1947] Existence and Existents. 
English translation by Alphonso Lingis of De l´existence à l´existant. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Levinas, E. (1991) [1961] Totality and Infinity. An Essay on Exteriority. English translation by Alphonso Lingis of Totalité et Infini. 
Dordrecht: Kluwer.

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Levinas, E. (2008) [1974]
Otherwise than Being. Originally Autrement qu'être. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Ven, N. van der (2010) The Trap of Universalizing Reason.

Ven, N. van der (2011) The Shame of Reason in Organizational Change. A Levinassian Perspective. London: Springer.
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