Levinas Quotations

From Ethics and Infinity:

It is extremely important to know if society in the current sense of the term is the result of a limitation of the principle that men are predators of one another, or if to the contrary it results from the limitation of the principle that men are for one another. Does the social, with its institutions, universal forms and laws, result from limiting the consequences of the war between men, or from limiting the infinity which opens in the ethical relationship of man to man? (80)


From Totality and Infinity:

The way in which the other presents himself, exceeding the idea of the other in me, we here name face. This mode does not consist in figuring as a theme under my gaze, in spreading itself forth as a set of qualities forming an image. The face of the Other at each moment destroys and overflows the plastic image it leaves me, the idea existing to my own measure and to the measure of its ideatum—the adequate idea. It does not manifest itself by these qualities, but kath ‘auto. It expresses itself. (TI 50–51)


From Ethics and Infinity:

The face is signification, and signification without context. I mean that the Other, in the rectitude of his face, is not a character within a context. Ordinarily one is a “character”: a professor at the Sorbonne, a Supreme Court justice, son of so-and-so, everything that is in one’s passport, the manner of dressing, of presenting oneself. And all signification in the usual sense of the term is relative to such a context: the meaning of something is in its relation to another thing. Here, to the contrary, the face is meaning all by its self. You are you. In this sense one can say that the face is not “seen”. It is what cannot become a content, which your thought would embrace; it is uncontainable, it leads you beyond. (86)