Levinas is not always the easiest thinker to understand...and so here is one of the best summations of his thinking that i've come across...it also serves as a kind of addendum to yesterday's post...This quote is from Wlad Godzich:
"Against a notion of truth as the instrument of a mastery being exercised by the knower over areas of the unknown as he or she brings them within the fold of the same, Levinas argues that there is a form of truth that is totally alien to me, that I do not discover within myself, but that calls on me from beyond me, and it requires me to leave the realms of the known and of the same in order to settle in a land that is under its rule. Here the knower sets out on an adventure of uncertain outcome, and the instruments that he or she brings may well be inappropriate to the tasks that will arise. Reason will play a role, but it will be a secondary one; it can only come into play once the primary fact of the irruption of the other has been experienced. And this other is not a threat to be reduced or an object that I give myself to know in my capacity as knowing subject, but that which constitutes me as an ethical being: in my originary encounter I discover my responsibility that will lie at the root of all my subsequent ethical decisions. Knowledge and its operations are subordinated to this initial ethical moment, for the responsibility that I then experience is the very ground of my response-ability, that is, my capacity to communicate with others and with myself in noncoercive ways."
I am wary of Wlad's heroic approach and his ability to call an encounter originary...but nonetheless he expresses some other thoughts eloquently.