Loving unintentionally : charity and the bad conscience in the works of Levinas and MarionLoving unintentionally : charity and the bad conscience in the works of Levinas and Marion
Faculty of Arts. Philosophy
Center for European Philosophy
Bijdragen: tijdschrift voor filosofie en theologie = Bijdragen: international journal in philosophy and theology
73(2012):1, p. 3-27
University of Antwerp
This article is an investigation into the concepts of charity in the works of Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-Luc Marion. It consists, in the first place, of a critique of Levinas concept of charity or love of neighbour, which, as appears in his later texts, is problematic. The problem arises when he equates charity with the moment of the bad conscience, experienced in relation with a particular other. In line of J-L Marions critique of Levinas, I defend that charity, which is love for what is good for the unique other, cannot merely consist in suffering the bad conscience, because the bad conscience opens to the relation with the universal ethical injunction. Suffering bad conscience towards the concrete other is still the passive affection that one cannot hurt another (any other); it is not yet the relation of love, i.e., a relation in which one loves the other in his or her uniqueness. Secondly, the article is a critique of Marions own concept of charity, defined, in response to Levinas, as love for the other in her/his uniqueness or the other as such. In defining his concept of love of neighbour as a relation of respect for the other, so I defend, Marion however ultimately equates it again with a relation with the universal ethical injunction, commanding one to respect every possible other rather than working up love for the uniqueness of the other. In response to Levinas and Marion I argue, in the final part of the text, for a necessity of the distinction between the passive moment of the bad conscience and the active moment of love of neighbour. Suffering bad conscience is surely the warning for the ethical fault, but this moment of passive accusation does not yet explain why one loves what is good for the other. As I will defend, such love includes a moment of wishing for or desiring what is good for the other in his/her uniqueness.