Attending one's own words: Levinas' appeal to the 'Phaedrus'

Direk Z.

RESEARCH IN PHENOMENOLOGY, vol.37, no.3, pp.303-323, 2007 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 37 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Doi Number: 10.1163/156916407x227866
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.303-323
  • Galatasaray University Affiliated: No


This essay concentrates on Levinas' reading of the Phaedrus in Totality and Infinity and engages with Derrida's interpretation of it in "Violence and Metaphysics." In Levinas' reading the delirious movement of desire in the Phaedrus is inextricably bound up with the epsilon pi epsilon kappa epsilon iota nu alpha tau eta sigma o nu alpha iota alpha sigma of the Republic. Derrida, in putting into question Levinas' appropriation of the priority of the living speech in characterizing the primordial event of signification of the face to face, does not distinguish between the two different ways in which the structure of "attending to" functions in Levinas' discourse. I argue that "the face's attending its own manifestation" and "attending one's own words" must be kept distinct for assessing the privilege of the living speech, not a defense of interiority, but of exteriority. Levinas' conception of language as "the incessant surpassing of the Sinngebung by signification' paves the way for an interpretation of delirium in terms of dialogue with another reason.