Longing for the Other: Levinas and Metaphysical DesireDrew M. Dalton $25.00
Published in 2009 | 328 pages | paper | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0425-8
One of the most persistent and poignant human experiences is the sensation of longing—a restlessness perhaps best described as the unspoken conviction that something is missing from our lives. In this study, Drew M. Dalton attempts to illuminate this experience by examining the philosophical thought of Emmanuel Levinas on longing, or what Levinas terms “metaphysical desire.”
Metaphysical desire, according to Levinas, does not stem from any determinate lack within us, nor does it aim at a particular object beyond us, much less promise any eventual satisfaction. Rather, it functions in the realm of the infinite where such distinctions as inside and outside or one and the other are indistinguishable, perhaps even eliminated. As Levinas conceives such longing, it becomes a mediator in our relation to the other—both the human other and the divine Other.
Dalton follows the meandering trail of Levinas's thought along a series of dialogues with some of the philosophers within the history of the Western tradition who have most influenced his corpus. By tracing the genealogy of Levinas's notion of metaphysical desire—namely in the works of Plato, Heidegger, Fichte, Schelling, and Otto—the nature of this Levinasian theme is elucidated to reveal that it is not simply an idealism, a “hagiography of desire” detached from actual experience and resulting in a disconnect between his phenomenological account and our own lives. Rather, Levinas's account of metaphysical desire points to a phenomenology of human longing that is both an ethical and religious phenomenon. In the end, human longing is revealed to be one of the most profound ways in which a subject becomes a subject, arising to its “true self,” and hearing the call to responsibility placed upon it by the Other.
Throughout, Dalton explicates the nuance of a number of key Levinasian terms, many of which have been taken from the Western philosophical tradition and reinscribed with a new meaning. Eros, the “Good beyond being,” shame, responsibility, creation, the trace, the il y a, and the holy are discovered to be deeply tied to Levinas's account of metaphysical desire, resulting in a conclusion regarding longing's role in the relationship between the finite and the Infinite."
DREW M. DALTON is assistant professor of philosophy at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He has published a number of journal articles in Studia Phenomenologica, Phenomenological Inquiry, and Idealistic Studies, among others.