Selfhood, passivity and affectivity in Henry and Lévinas

  • Tengelyi L
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Abstract

When we compare Henry and Levinas, we stumble upon a difficulty. Henry tries to reduce transcendence to immanence; Levinas, on the contrary, strives to call immance into question and to lend a new dignity to transcendence. Hence, the two thinkers seem to be diametrically opposed to one another. Yet, if one does not limit oneself to such an overall view, one finds some similarities between them. There is an affinity between the two approaches which results from the fact that both thinkers establish a narrow relationship between originally passive affectivity and the selfhood of the self. Henry and Levinas are, despite all their differences, united in their efforts to ground selfhood on passivity and affectivity. Assuredly, it remains a question whether or not an originally passive affectivity is really capable of founding selfhood. Some doubt arises here from the observation that affectivity tends to anonymity . However, the observation that affectivity is marked by a tendency to anonymity has not only a negative and critical significance; it also characterizes affective states and arousals in a positive way, since one can maintain that the self could not be a ‘self’ unless it were constantly confronted with a tendency to anonymity.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Affectivity
  • Alterity
  • Emmanuel Levinas
  • Michel Henry
  • Personal identity
  • Phenomenology

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Authors

  • László Tengelyi

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