A levinasian ethics of attention
In his rather fragmentary theory of attention, Emmanuel Levinas draws inspiration from phenomenology, while endeavoring to furnish it with an ethical foundation. On the one hand, he assigns to attention a crucial role coextensive with intentionality (the idea that, in each case, consciousness is conscious of, or directed toward, something). On the other hand, he mobilizes the methodology of reduction for the purpose of uncovering an ethical substratum of experience in the relation to the Other, which is deeper still than the life of consciousness it animates. Husserlian reduction is not radical enough for Levinas's philosophical taste, since it fails to recognize that this life comes into being thanks to the appeal emanating from the Other, whose calling out to me forces me to pay attention, even when it seems that I am attending only to inanimate things. The ethical relation to the Other lies not only at the bottom of all social and political structures, but also at the source of consciousness and of its attentive directedness to that of which it is conscious. Before I am able to intend or to attend to anything whatsoever, I am targeted by the Other, who reverses the movement of intentionality and, at once, breaches and founds my psychic interiority.