Friday, June 17, 2005

reading Levinas...

I've been reading a bit of Levinas, prepping for his later stuff where he responds to Derrida. From the very beginning of On Escape, comes this passage:
This conception of the "I" [moi] as self-sufficient is one of the essential marks of the bourgeois spirit and its philosophy. As sufficiency for the petit bourgeois, this conception of the "I" nonetheless nourishes the audacious dreams of a restless and enterprising capitalism. This conception presides over capitalism's work ethic, its cult of initiative and discovery, which aims less at reconciling man with himself than at securing for him the unknowns of time and things. The bourgeois admits no inner division [dechirement interier] and would be ashamed to lack confidence in himself, but he is concerned about reality and the future, for they threaten to break up the uncontested equalibrium of the present where he holds sway [ou il possede]. He is essentially conservative, but there is a worried conservatism. The bourgeois is concerned with business matters and science as a defense against things and all that is unforeseeable in them. His instinct for possession is an instinct for integration, and his imperialism is a search for security. He would like to cast the white mantle of his "internal peace" over the antagonism that opposes him the world. His lack of scruples is the shameful form of his tranquil conscience. Yet, prosaically materialistic [mediocrement materialiste], he prefers the certainty of tomorrow to today's enjoyments. He demands guarantees in the present against the future, which introduces unknowns into those solved problems from which he lives. What he possesses becomes capital, carrying interest or insurance against risks, and his future, thus tamed, is integrated in this way with his past.
(Levinas, On Escape, 50)

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