Emmanuel Levinas - bits.

“Among the four metaphors which, in the Fifth Ennead, represent the ‘movement of the immobile’ – or the emanation of being from the One – by which according to Plotinus, the various degrees of the multiple produce themselves, the figure of light which is spread by the sun precedes that of the heat spread by fire, cold spread by snow, and perfumes spread by the fragrant object. The first multiplicity is the light of the theoretical, of vision, the duality of seeing and seen, of thinking and thought. The first exteriority – the exteriority with regard to One – is the intelligence of the One, but which, qua knowing, is not only multiple because of the distance that separates it from the One; at a distance from the One, its only dealings are with a multiplicity: with the multiplicity of (Platonic) ideas – with the multiplicity that disperses the essence of being – instead of having in act to do with the one.

‘It does indeed think this principle, but in trying to grasp it in its simplicity, it diverges from it and takes into itself other things, which multiply… It possesed a vague outline of the object of its vision, without which it would not have received it into itself, but that object, from being one, has become many; it is thus that it knows it in order to see it and has become vision in act.’

It already lacks or fails to reach the unity of the One in attaining the ideas in act. The unity of the One is fact excludes all multiplicity, even that which is already adumbrated in the distinction between thinker and thought, and even in the identity of the identical conceived in the guise of consciousness of self where, in the history of philosophy, it would one day be sought.

But the intelligence that is the intelligence of multiple ideas, which it reaches in the act, is not absolutely separated from the idea of the One because of that multiplicity itself: that multiplicity remains a nostalgia for the One, a homesickness. What might be called the movement of knowledge – seeing – or, perhaps, in today's terms, the noetic/noematic intentionality of knowing, filled, but yet dispersed – is, precisely as dispersion, a state of deprivation compared to the unity of the One; yet, as if the one were anticipated by that deprivation itself; as if knowledge, still an aspiration by the very dispersion of its seeing, went beyond what it sees and thematizes, and thus, were a transcendence because of the very deficiency of its plural rationality; as if its dispersed accession to the multiple essence were a piety – Plotinus speaks of prayer – with regard to the inaccessible One. An ambiguity or a risk run at a distance from the One in the knowledge of the intelligence whose multiplicity can keep one far from the ‘homeland’, but thus, as a deprivation, ‘hollowed out’, attached to it. Similarly, in the following degree of hypostasis, the soul, separated from intelligence and dispersing itself among the things of this world, is capable of gathering itself together, and prepares to ‘hear voices from on high’. This ‘gathering itself together’, this ‘converting into itself’, this knowledge, in the consciousness of self, is already an aspiring-higher-than-oneself, to intelligence and thus, to the One.

The aspiration for the return is the very breath of the Spirit, but the consummate unity of the One is better than the Spirit and philosophy.”

Emmanuel Levinas

From the One to the Other: Transcendence and Time - Entre Nous.

“Q: Would the experience of the death of the other, and in a sense, the experience of death itself, be alien to the ethical reception of one’s neighbour?

E.L: Now you are posing the problem ‘What is there in the Face?’ In my analysis, the Face is definitely not a plastic form like a portrait; the relation to the face is both the relation to the absolutely weak – to what is absolutely exposed, what is bare and destitute, the relation with bareness and consequently what is alone and can undergo the supreme isolation we call death – and there is, consequently, in the Face of the Other always the death of the other, and thus, in some way, an incitement to murder, the temptation to go to the extreme, to completely neglect the Other – and at the same time (and this is the paradoxical thing) the Face is also the ‘Thou Shalt not Kill.’ A Thou-Shalt-Not-Kill that can also be explicated much further: it is the fact that I cannot let the other die alone, it is like a calling out to me. And you see (and this seems important to me), the relationship with the other is not symmetrical. When I say Thou to an I, to a me, according to Buber I would always have that me before me as the one who says Thou to me. Consequently, there would be a reciprocal relationship. According to my analysis, on the other hand, in the relation to the Face, it is asymmetry that is affirmed: at the outset I hardly care what the other is with respect to me, that is his own business; for me, he is above all the one I am responsible for.”

Emmanuel Levinas

Philosophy, Justice and Love.