Levinas's Humanism of the Other and King Lear
Levinas’s Humanism of the Other may be seen as a meditation of King Lear. His philosophy offers what a critique of traditional and modern anti-humanism urgently needs: an ethics that precedes being. It provides a necessary ethical foundation needed to investigate questions of the human and humanity that Shakespeare examines so thoroughly in this powerful tragedy. Prefiguring Levinas’s later philosophy, Shakespeare dramatizes this humanism of the other through the suffering and vulnerability of the body. Lear’s and Gloucester’s parallel journeys are both grounded in this vulnerability of the body and fragility of the mind that lead them to a humanism of the other. Moreover, the ethical good that precedes ontology, the saying, is profoundly staged through the characters of Cordelia and Edgar. This vision of King Lear, therefore, underlies and informs Levinas’s radical critique of traditional humanism and contemporary anti-humanism in his insistence on a humanism of the other.
Philosophy Documentation Center
“Levinas’s Humanism of the Other and King Lear.” Levinas Studies: An Annual Review. Special issue: “Between the Bible and the Philosophers”: Shakespeare. Eds. Peter Atterton and Sean Lawrence. 16 (2022): 75 – 92. (Issue published April, 2023.)