The Essential Poverty of the Face: A Case for Levinasian Responsibility and Justice in Poverty Studies
The moral deliberative theories that ethicists and justice advocates use to address poverty issues all stem from the analytic philosophical tradition, and, while no doubt helpful, they are not fully adequate. Emmanuel Levinas, a French phenomenologist from the continental philosophical tradition, offers what Derrida calls “an ethics of ethics” that is relevant to poverty studies. Levinas’s phenomenological description of responsibility is distinctive from and instructive to analytic accounts of moral responsibility and moral duties as responsibilities. In particular, Levinas is instructive to utilitarian and Kantian notions of responsibility insofar as each theory falls short when it comes to our moral sense of self and solipsistic individualism, respectively. In the end, since Levinas’s description of responsibility addresses some of the principle inadequacies of analytic accounts of moral responsibility, ethicists and justice advocates would do well to consider his work in poverty studies.
Zachary Joseph Taylor is a member of the Class of 2017 of Washington and Lee University.Capstone; [FULL-TEXT FREELY AVAILABLE ONLINE]