“Living with Philosophy.” In Praise of Speaking: Philosophical Conversations Inspired by Adriaan Peperzak. Edited by Catriona Hanely. Baltimore, MD: Apprentice House, 2017.
Overview: Published proceedings from symposium given in honor of Adriaan Peperzak.
In Progress for Publication
"Who is the egoist? And why does he matter?"
Abstract: In this paper I assess the implications of Emmanuel Levinas’s account of egoism in Totality and Infinity for philosophical attempts to answer the question “why be moral?” On my reading, the problem of egoism for Levinas is both an affective problem and a problem of language. Specifically, I argue that the problem of egoism concerns finding ways to inure ourselves to moral sentiments, such as shame, compassion, and love, that originally reveal another human being to us as our responsibility and which, in Levinas’s philosophy, make it possible to enter into genuine discourse with her. The challenge of egoism is thereby shown not to be one of providing the egoist with a reason to be moral—as many scholars interpret it—but rather of entering into discourse with him at all.
"The Face as an Ethical Norm"
Abstract: In this paper, I establish the normative horizons of Levinas’s thought by assessing to what extent Levinas’s account of the face can be viewed as an ethical norm capable of aiding us in ethical reasoning. Many scholars argue that it cannot given Levinas’s insistence that the encounter with the face occurs at the level of sensibility and concerns my affective responsiveness to the other person's vulnerability, not some objective content that can be directly translated into principles by which we can determine right and wrong action. In what follows, I argue that Levinas’s account of the face can be understood as an ethical-existential norm that can bring unity to our life as a whole and, by doing so, serve as the basis for ethical deliberation. Preliminarily, I define an existential norm as a core attitude or passion that an individual makes one’s own and which defines one’s existence as a whole, such that all of one’s valuing, deliberating, and judging are informed by this overriding passion. I argue this by developing Levinas's account of how the face of the human other positively commands me to care for the her.