The Warpedness of Uncharitable Justice in Levinas’s Thought



Levinas, ethics, the other, justice, politics


Levinas asserts that the violence, evil and injustice prevalent in the Western philosophical tradition are substantiated by the resources of ontological thinking that accord no right to live to the Other through its postulates of identity and totality characterised as instruments of dominance. In Levinas’s thought, the argument that ontology and ethics necessarily contravene, and that ethics is the first philosophy lies at the heart of all discussions regarding ontology, ethics, and politics. Along the same line, the discussion of justice arises from this dichotomy between ontology and ethics. The demand of justice comes in sight first in the ethical implications of the face in the relationship between the self and the Other, and then in the symmetrical demand of right of the third persons in the social life which suspends the face to face ethical relationship. Commonly considered alongside the concept of justice, freedom is cast out of the Levinasian asymmetrical ethical relationship due to the destructive power of the postulate of identity over the Other and never features as a condition of ethical relationship. The ethical self, who adopts the principles of face‐to‐face interaction, indifference to its own ontological expedience and being‐for‐the‐Other, is confronted by the third person who disrupts the face‐to‐face relationship and the asymmetry characterising the ethical relationship and demands
symmetry in social relationships. From that moment on, justice determined by love, charity, and forgiveness begins diverging from its sense in ethics of sainthood, becoming warped and acquiring a political outlook. The political justice in the mode of an analogous relationship in Levinas’s understanding restricts the infinite responsibility of the ethical self towards the Other
and prioritises the norms of ontology in political life in the name of protecting the right and freedom of the third person. Formed around the concept of the Other and the Holocaust as an event, Levinas’s theories of politics and justice manifest themselves in terms of the assertions that norms of the political field cannot be left to their own devices, that these norms should be
informed by such ethical concepts as infinite love, compassion, charity, and sacrifice, and thus that ethical justice should reconstruct interpersonal norms. In view of Levinas’s statement that “charity is impossible without justice, and […] justice is warped without charity”, this article first elucidates the twofold outlook of justice in the fields of ethics and politics and then discusses whether Levinas’s call for ethical justice embodied by ethics and politics is functional in analysing
social and political problems and creating solutions to them.


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How to Cite

DEMİR GÜNEŞ, C. (2023). The Warpedness of Uncharitable Justice in Levinas’s Thought. POLITIKOS: Journal of Social and Political Philosophy , 2(1), 16–27. Retrieved from