Semester of Graduation

Spring 2018


Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Recent work in eco-phenomenology has often tried to find a way to situate Emmanuel Levinas’s ethical philosophy in a way that would be productive for environmental ethical concerns. This has often proved difficult due to the anthropocentrism of Levinas’s philosophy and the sometimes inconsistent interpretations of what the face of the Other signifies and whether it should be understood as perceptually present to the one who “sees” it in any way. This, combined with a general lack of engagement with Levinas’s writings on politics, has often made an ecological interpretation of Levinas difficult or awkward.

In this thesis, I try to address these concerns in order to establish my own ecological extension of the work of Emmanuel Levinas. I do this by first offering my own interpretation of his ethical and political ideas and how they appear connected in significant ways that preclude the possibility of making one separate from the other. This I use as the basis for the tripartite argument that follows where I, first, analyze the anthropocentrism of Levinas’s philosophy to show that it was not only not well thought out but, also, not essential to the core of his philosophical ideas and then show what factors influenced the development and context of his anthropocentrism. From there, I go on to demonstrate how the experience of hunter-gatherer animists shows us that the face of the non-human Other can be seen by humans and draw out some of the implications of this for Levinas’s philosophy before, finally, looking at the work of Hans Jonas in relation to Levinas and the animistic experience to clarify the connection between the face of the Other and the metabolic structure of living organisms. This will then lead us into a discussion on the status of inanimate matter as well. The consequences of all this are then schematized and briefly examined in the final chapter before ending with a few reflections on where we might go from here in the conclusion.



Committee Chair

Raffoul, Francois