The Primacy of Responsibility: Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas

Levinas Studies 15:59-84 (2021)
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Abstract

Responsibility is central to Emmanuel Levinas as well as Hannah Arendt. A reading of their understanding of the concept and role of responsibility for politics and ethics and in regard to its social-ontological status of primacy, its reference to historical, worldly, and human conditions, brings out the similarities and differences of their work. Regarding their historical context, they could have engaged in a dialogue; but they never did. Their personal temperament and thematic approach to key issues concerning the concept of responsibility—such as subjectivity, primordiality, or relationality—can be used to build pillars for a bridge between the two thinkers’ respective approaches. This essay tries to read each author in light of the other one.

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