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date: 15 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Recent analytic philosophy often explains responsibility to other persons in terms of normative reasons. Emmanuel Levinas thinks this is backward. We are not responsible because we have reasons to be. It is only because we are responsible to one another that we are able to have reasons. Reasons-first explanations thus marginalize the very relationship our reasonings exact or express, offering a picture of reasoning, reasons, and reason itself that is abstract, impersonal, de-faced. This essay motivates the “re-facing” of reasons and reconstructs Levinas’s explanatory reorientation of reasons and responsibility. The result is an “ethical metaphysics” of reasons that responds well to familiar analytic problems. The conclusion is that reasons do not, like objects, exist and then happen to be something for which we are responsible. Rather, reasons exist like assurances or promises—as exchangeable expressions of ongoing relations of responsibility.

Keywords: Levinas, analytic philosophy, metaphysics, reason, reasoning

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