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“NOT ETHICS, NOT ETHICS ALONE, BUT THE HOLY”: Levinas on Ethics and Holiness

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While much has been written about Levinas's conception of ethics, very little has been said about the connection between ethics and holiness in his work. Yet, throughout much of his corpus, Levinas consistently links the two. The first part of my article addresses the important distinction that Levinas establishes between the sacred (le sacré) and holiness (la sainteté). According to Levinas, several influential thinkers conflate these two categories. Holiness, Levinas suggests, represents a kind of antidote to the sacred. The second part examines the various ways that holiness is manifest in ethicality. The key, I suggest, for properly understanding the link between ethical regard and sanctification revolves around an appreciation of Levinas's frequent appeal to the notion of straightforwardness (droiture). For Levinas, the complex relations that bind the self, Other, and God, involve essential conditions of rectitude and uprightness.

Keywords: Levinas; Otto; ethical monotheism; ethics; holiness; sacred

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Ryerson University

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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