Levinas and responsibility

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Chinnery, A. & Bai, H. (2008). Levinas and responsibility. In D. Egea-Kuehne (Ed.), Levinas and education (pp. 228–241). London: Routledge.

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Moral education

In contrast to the prevailing modernist conception of ethics, wherein responsibility toward others is seen as the necessary cost one has to bear in exchange for the right to pursue individual self-interest, Levinas calls into question the claim to a natural drive toward self-interest and individual freedom. He argues instead that our basic condition, or “ethical nature,” is a commitment to the rights of the other person. However, in order to understand Levinas’s inversion of the traditional model, it is important to understand the backdrop against which it stands. In this chapter, we begin by unpacking the traditional Western view of rights and responsibility, drawing especially on the social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. We then discuss Levinas’s approach to rights and responsibility, and, finally, we explore the implications of such a conception for moral education.

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Book chapter
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