Presenter: Dr Frances Gray

We can identify two senses of 'other' in French: autre and autrui. Emmanuel Levinas speaks predominantly of the latter, the personal Other, the human conscious being for whom we have unbounded responsibility to and for, even to the extent that we are responsible for her/his actions. Val Plumwood describes and analyses dualism as a fundamental value-laden structure which permeates Western thinking. In her view, nature and women are othered through the systemic, hierarchical, theory and practice that is implicit in dualistic thinking. In this paper I argue that Emmanuel Levinas' conception of autrui exemplifies at least two of the features of dualism which Val Plumwood identifies in her analysis: backgrounding or denial and radical exclusion or hyperseparation. As I see it, a Levinasian account of ethics must be counted amongst theory that places humans before the rest of nature. Nature, I argue, is the other side of the Other, our origin, necessary for our lives, and our human sociality. We need to extend our notion of moral responsibility beyond the human sphere, and to re-think our commitments to accounts of ethics which are overwhelmingly anthropocentric, as I suggest, is Emmanuel Levinas'.


Forgan Smith Building (1),
St Lucia campus