Beyond Therapy: Levinas and Ethical Therapeutics

 This paper is a reflection upon modernist, commercial psychotherapy from the perspective of the radical ethical phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas where the idea is put forward that prior to freedom and consciousness subjectivity is exorbitant responsibility for the other. It will be argued that the consciousness of modernist, commercial psychotherapy needs to incorporate openness to this ethical foundation of human being and that this will produce a new approach to psychotherapeutic practice for the therapist. 

Levinas and Philosophical Counseling Practice


This paper approaches philosophical counseling practice from the idea that philosophy itself is primarily a way of living and only secondarily a subject matter to be grasped and comprehended. Three things are shown to follow from this view: first, charging a fee for access to this practice is inimical to the practice itself; secondly, contrary to scientific ‘objectivity’ as the means to truth-speaking this view of philosophy calls for a consciously articulated autobiographical expression or personal admission on the part of the philosophical practitioner; and, finally, an understanding of philosophical counseling practice emerges from this view of philosophy that is depicted as naturally occurring therapeutic interacting.

Levinas: Teaching Business Ethics as Practice

  This paper articulates an existential-phenomenological pedagogical framework for an ethics course taught to undergraduate business students. Contrary to rational, analytic and justice-oriented approaches, a transformational, personal growth and ‘spiritual’ development model is presented that blends insights from Max van Manen’s phenomenological pedagogy, the ‘spiritual exercises’ orientation found in Pierre Hadot’s philosophical work, and the ethical phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas concerning moral subjectivity and intersubjectivity. Qualitative participant survey data collected over a ten-year period from more than 1500 participants is presented in support of the effectiveness of this existential-phenomenological approach.

Husserl's Epochē as Method and Truth


The purpose of this paper is to show how, contrary to some commentators, Edmund Husserl's notion of the epochē—the bracketing or suspension of “naïve” consciousness in favor of the phenomenologically "reduced" point of view—is an indispensable aspect of the practice of the phenomenological method. The phenomenological epochē is not merely an instrumental means. While it does function as a means, it is not merely an instrumental means because the epochē is simultaneously itself the end toward which it is a means, viz, the realization of apodictic knowledge as a lived process rather than a final solution.

Husserl and Levinas: Transformations of the Epochē

I claim no other right than that of speaking according to my best lights, principally before myself but in the

same manner also before others, as one who has lived in all its seriousness the fate of a philosophical existence.

Edmund Husserl

The Crisis, I, 7, 18

Our analyses claim to be in the spirit of Husserlian philosophy, whose letter has been the recall in our

epoch of the permanent phenomenology, restored to its rank of being a method for all philosophy.

Emmanuel Levinas

Otherwise Than Being, 183

Levinas: Language and Responsibility

Levinas's problem of trying to communicate in an essay how the essay is intrinsically inadequate in its representation of fundamental ethical truths, involves the same problem of self-refutation that troubles skepticism: the infamous circulus vitiosus. It is a hermeneutic concern which, as we shall see, goes to the heart of Levinas's philosophy. But the hermeneutic questioning of language, interpretation, and meaning will take a new turn in Levinas's ethical 'metaphysics.’ Going beyond Heidegger's existential analytic of Dasein, where Interpretation is understood as an ontological "being-in-the-world," Levinas will argue that language is primarily a "being-with" and a "being-for" the Other. Being-with-the-Other Levinas calls "Proximity," a pre-thematic contact or "Sociality" with the Other to the extreme point of being substituted for the Other, a taking of the Other's place, a being held hostage by the Other. Being-for-the-Other, in the context of Proximity, prior to any choice on my part, is Levinas's meaning of the term "Responsibility." These present reflections intend to explicate the radical hermeneutic relationship between Levinas's conceptions of Responsibility and Language within the framework of Proximity or Sociality.


"The art of writing letters consists in not letting what one says become a treatise on the subject...."

Hans-Georg Gadamer,  Truth and Method

* * *

"But every sign is, in this sense, a trace.... This signifyingness resides for a letter, for example, in the writing and the style of that

letter, in everything which makes it possible that simultaneously with the transmission of the message we pick up, 

starting from the language of that letter and its sincerity, someone passing purely and simply."

Emmanuel Levinas,  La Trace De L'Autre

Heidegger: Language, Thinking and Being


The central aspects of Heidegger's work that will be focused on here to trace the contours of its continuity and difference will be the notions of language, thinking, and

Being. In Being and Time language is understood methodologically within the framework of representation, and thinking is understood to be a hermeneutic matter of clarifying the forgotten meaning of Being through the existential analysis of Dasein.   In Being and Time Heidegger still seems to think that philosophy, even at the end of metaphysics, can get somewhere. In his later work, however, language becomes the place where Being merely comes to show itself and live for a spell, a dwelling place opened up by a quasi-mystical, meditative thinking understood as Gelassenheit.



This text uses a philosophical-poetic methodology to elucidate the polysemous grammars engaged by the phenomenological ruminations of Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his linguistic investigations that seek to surpass the inadequacy of the principle of identity and non-contradiction in the production of authentic knowing. The central importance of the body as the locus of an overflowing interpenetration with the meaning-production of the poetic utterance, a conjunction of the said/unsaid or speakable/unspeakable, reveals the poem to be an 'organism of words' with a life force of its own. Thus, philosophical-poetics offers an alternative to grammars stuck in a metaphysics of presence that haunts Husserl’s phenomenology and is overcome in the later, poetic work of Martin Heidegger, in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics, and Lawrence Hatab’s approach to a mystical grammar.

Levinasism and the Masculine Element

This essay is an investigation of the gender implications of the fundamental terms with which Emmanuel Levinas articulates his phenomenology of exorbitant responsibility as the heart of what it means to be human.  Following out the metaphysical orientation of the Same and the Other--an orientation Levinas construes as essentially ethical--as it devolves into a sociality of the masculine and the feminine, and finally attaches to the empirical dynamics of sexual difference between men and women in the context of marriage, I argue that there is a transcendental bias to Levinas's thought.  This mytho-religious prejudice leads Levinas to a certain idealization of sexual difference which has been criticized by certain feminists--but I think for the wrong reasons.  Thus, an alternative formulation is suggested for a new critique from a masculinist perspective freed of both feminist presuppositions and Levinas's mytho-religious transcendentalism.

Hegel, Heidegger and Gadamer


When the spirit of philosophical reflection does not culminate in ethical action; when theoria is divorced from praxis; when phronesis is dominated by a social/political ideology based on techne as the path to the ultimate good; or when a dogmatic concern for method asserts itself over an infinite hermeneutic search for understanding ... then philosophy will find itself caught up in the kind of "identity crisis" that has characterized post-Hegelian thought.  During this period the competing claims of empirical and materialistic interpretations of science and history (grounded in a revival of Kantian epistemology) on the one hand, and the rise of various ontological formulations on the other, can be traced back to a critical preoccupation with die Sache selbst in the form of that central and well-known tenet of Hegelian idealism found in the preface to the Philosophie des Rechts: “Was vernünftig ist, das ist wirklich; und was wirklich ist, das ist vernünftig.”

Action, Passion and Exorbitant Responsibility


“God as merciful is God defined by maternity. A feminine element is stirred in the depth of this mercy.  This maternal element in divine paternity is very remarkable, as is in Judaism the notion of a "virility" to which limits must be set and whose partial renouncement may be symbolized by circumcision, the exaltation of a certain weakness which would be devoid of cowardice. Perhaps maternity is sensitivity itself, of which so much ill is said among the Nietzscheans.” (Emmanuel Levinas, "Damages Due to Fire")

“This relaxation of virility without cowardice is needed for the little cruelty our hands repudiate. That is the meaning that should be suggested by the formulas repeated in this book concerning the passivity more passive still than any passivity, the fission of the ego unto me, its consummation for the other such that from the ashes of this consummation no act could be reborn.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence)

“Nothing is more unhealthy, amid all our unhealthy modernism, than Christian pity. To be doctors here, to be unmerciful here, to wield the knife here—all this is our business, all this is our sort of humanity, by this sign we are philosophers, we Hyperboreans!” (Nietzsche, F. The Antichrist)