Levinas and Lukács: Totality and Infinity
Opposed to the “formalism” of classical rationality, here exemplified by Kant’s ethics, both thinkers ground their philosophies in phenomenology: Lukács from Hegel via Marx, Levinas from Husserl. Criticizing Kantian ethics for its abstractness, self-division, ineffectuality, and ideological “eternalizing” of the bourgeois status quo, Lukács defends an alternative philosophy of totality as dialectical-historical class struggle. Rejecting Lukács’s alternative as “totalitarian,” Levinas defends a post-Kantian ethical alternative: the primacy of an asymmetrical-ahistorical intersubjective moral responsibility, and the just politics—social democracy—built upon it. Levinas begins with detailed phenomenological studies of the constitution of embodied and vulnerable subjectivity, and then, driven by “the things themselves” beyond the epistemological boundaries of Husserlian phenomenology, he elaborates the source of these significations in the “infinity,” “saying,” “proximity” or transcendence which gives rise to responsibility for others.