Sophia

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 43–59 | Cite as

Levinas on suffering and compassion

Article

Abstract

This paper provides an analysis of suffering and compassion in the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas describes compassion as ‘the nexus of human subjectivity’ and the ‘supreme ethical principle’. In his early texts, suffering discloses the burden of being, the limits of the self, and thus the approach of alterity. Levinas’s later phenomenology of suffering as passive, meaningless, and evil, functions as a refutation of rational explanations of suffering. I argue that Levinasian substitution, the traumatic election to an excessive responsibility, is the compassionate suffering that Levinas terms the nexus of human subjectivity. For Levinas, ethics is the compassionate response to the vulnerable, suffering Other.

Keywords

Human Subjectivity Moral Sentiment Excessive Responsibility Compassionate Response Levinasian Ethic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer SBM B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyColby CollegeWatervilleUSA

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