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date: 19 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Commentators neglect the transcendence of fecundity in Totality and Infinity in focusing on that of the face. They thereby overlook, first, how substitution in Otherwise Than Being fulfills transcendence as an excendence and, second, how fecundity responds to Hitlerian racism’s reduction of the I to the biological body. Substitution corrects a shortcoming in the face-to-face: how can the face dispossess me if egoism defines my identity? In Levinas’s description of fecundity, the identity of ipseity, where the I is an other on the very basis of a simple identity with itself, is an essential resource for substitution in order to respond to this shortcoming. A worry arises that fecundity revives the tribalism it was meant to combat. A dialectical reading that negotiates the transcendence of fecundity with that of the face shows how the I breaks with biological ties because it cannot slip away from responsibility for others.

Keywords: Levinas, biology, face, fecundity, identity, pardon, racism, self, substitution, transcendence

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