Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 211–230 | Cite as

The welcome wound: emerging from the il y a otherwise

  • Merold Westphal


This essay is an analysis of the inverted intentionality that is arguably the central notion in the phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas. The primal horizon for all human meaning is the brute fact of undifferentiated being, the il y a experienced impersonally as insomnia and weight. The first exit from this world devoid of meaning, subjectivity, and objectivity is that of the psychism or conatus essendi, the self which places itself at the center and makes everything else a means to its own ends. But there is another exit, subsequent developmentally but more fundamental ontologically, and in this sense more truly first. It is the emergence of the responsible self, decentered by the proximity of the other. With help from St. John of the Cross and Jean-Paul Sartre this emergence, in which meaning is “prior to my Sinngebung” and arises in intentional acts directed toward me rather than arising from me, is explicated.


Ethical Relation Brute Fact Radical Conversion Sheer Fact Husserlian Phenomenology 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentFordham UniversityBronxUSA

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