The ‘face’ of the il ya: Levinas and Blanchot on impersonal existence

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This essay argues for a reading of Levinas’ work which prioritizes the significance of the il y a over the personal Other. I buttress this reading by using the well-documented intersections between Levinas’ work and that of Maurice Blanchot. Said otherwise, I argue that Levinas’ relationship with Blanchot (a relationship that is very much across the notion of the il y a) calls scholars of the Levinasian corpus to place the conception of impersonal existence to the forefront. To do so is to take seriously the complex relationship between Levinas’ explicitly ethical account of the face, and his phenomenological account of impersonal existence. To approach Levinas in this way (by way of his relationship with Blanchot) is to not only recognize that the ethical import of the face lies in its being without determination or nomenclature, but it is to also fully acknowledge the underlying horror of a Levinasian rendition of the ethical encounter.


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Continental Philosophy Review

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Sealey, Kris. "The ‘face’ of the il ya: Levinas and Blanchot on impersonal existence." Continental Philosophy Review 46.3 (2013): 431-448. doi:10.1007/s11007-013-9266-9.



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