‘Life and World Are One’. World, Self and Ethics in the Work of Levinas and Wittgenstein

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The main aim of this chapter is to unfold the interdependence between the notions of world and self as well as their relation to ethics in the early work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Emmanuel Levinas. In order to get this interdependence in focus, we may consider an example of someone coming to have a self and coming to have a world, and how this development brings with it a challenge to develop an ethical approach to what is present in this world. In Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel The Road , we follow two characters, a father and his son, walking across a post-apocalyptic version of North America. We are at some point in the future, after some unnamed catastrophe has brought total devastation to the world, leaving the few survivors without institutions, without safety and without food. The novel is very much a novel of a world, tracing out landscapes covered in ashes, with scorched, black trees, decaying cities, car wrecks and deserted gas stations. Equally prominent in this world is the presence of the other, or rather the others, but mostly in a negative sense, as the presence of other human beings mainly takes the form of a continuous looming possibility of confrontation and violence that shapes the thoughts and fears, actions and choices of the father and the son, even when they are actually all alone. In The Road , no one can be trusted and every outsider is a potential enemy. 1 The novel is, however, also a story of the world of community, the community of the father and the son, their love, their mutual attention and anxiety for each other. As it is described in the novel, they are in the beginning indeed “each other’s world entire” ( McCarthy 2006 , 5).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWittgenstein and Phenomenology
EditorsOskari Kuusela, Mihai Ometita, Timur Ųcan
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-64865-4
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-315-62630-7
Publication statusPublished - 2018
SeriesRoutledge Research in Phenomenology


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