Berfrois talks to
Simon Critchley about understanding tragedy.
Lévinas said in 1948 that the essential thing was to leave the climate of Heidegger’s philosophy, but we cannot leave it for a philosophy that would be pre-Heideggarian. That’s the trick. There’s no way back to Kant or Hegel or whatever; Heidegger is a kind of conceptual map wherein we have to move. It’s a paradigm shift in philosophy for Lévinas, but it’s a paradigm shift which did lead to these moral and political commitments, which for someone like Lévinas were disastrous. How then could one then rethink that paradigm in ways that didn’t entail those outcomes?
The way I read Lévinas is that he’s trying to give us a different vision of the ethical subject, a vision which is posited around what I call an originary authenticity. So what’s wrong with Heidegger in this sense is the emphasis upon authenticity, which is there in his reading of tragedy, in his reading of Antigone. What Heidegger picks up on is Greek, which is defined by uncanniness, and which launches out heroically into a confrontation with what he calls “the overpowering power” and does violence with the overpowering power and it results in death. Heidegger there has a heroic idea of the subject which I see someone like Lévinas undermining, in the name of a different ethical orientation.