Levinas conceived ethics as a contestation of the ontological imperialism and its asphyxiating order dominating Western culture, arguing that, rather than ontology, ethics is first philosophy. Supported and led by a phenomenological description of the concrete life of the embodied subject, his philosophical work achieves a radical critique of the sovereign subject by emphasizing the exceptional ethical significance of subjectivity. This paper discusses three key features that, according to Levinas, define human subjectivity, namely, vulnerability, passivity, and weakness, stressing how he thinks of subjectivity in terms of both welcoming and persecution at one and the same time. Lastly, by relying on Butler’s critique of the Levinasian ethics, the paper addresses Levinas’s take on politics, pointing out why political issues enter his ethical discourse.
Carbone, G. (2021). “Il faut défendre la subjectivité”: Vulnerability in Levinas’s Ethics. THESIS, 10(1), 135-159.