This study engages the problem of ethical space in the work of Emmanuel
Levinas by situating the 'production' of what Levinas will term the 'face' (/e
visage) against the horizons of its institution. It is against these horizons, it
will be maintained, horizons apt for phenomenological reconstitution, that the
face is revealed qua face. Through a broadening of such Levinasian
explicata as 'filiality,' 'fecundity,' 'fraternity,' 'teaching' and 'maternity,' the
heritability of the face will be deduced and the face placed within the context
of its imperative milieu - the ethical circumstances of its signification. This
injunctive environment, the staging or mise-en-scene for the face-to-face
relation Levinas assays, will, pace Levinas, be exhibited upon the ground of
its constitution and its provenance scrutinized, in order that the legacy of the
face might be complicated, and its putative non-historical status, challenged.
It will be argued that Levinas limits, unnecessarily, the ambit of what he
permits to signify as a face, and thus that tacitly deposited suppositions
regulate the composition and configuration of the face within his work. These
posita will be worked loose from their situs and critically examined with a
view to assessing their influence upon the development of Levinas' thought.
Through recourse to the phenomenologies of Edmund Husserl and Martin
Heidegger, Levinas' presentation of ethical space (the espacement of ethics)
will be appraised in the light of the phenomenologies it purportedly interrupts.
The cogency of Levinas' proto-ethical insight will be evaluated in relation to
the cultural and religious illustrations to which he appeals. The tension, or
torsion, between Levinas' self-styled 'confessional' and 'philosophical' works
will be laid bare, and their underlying confluence mooted. Effort has been
made to delineate the overall trajectory of Levinas' thought and to treat the
Levinasian project as a whole, such that the chosen problematic might be
addressed more adequately.