Chapter published in:Controversies in the Contemporary World
Edited by Adriano Fabris and Giovanni Scarafile
[Controversies 15] 2019
► pp. 145–160
The absence of God
The contribution of Levinas’ thought to the interreligious dialogue
Famously, the dialogical dimension is central to Levinas’ notion of ethical relationship, as the intersubjective relation is interpreted in terms of responsibility, that is, as the answer to the call of the other. This relationship, however, is not exhausted in the I-Thou dimension, but finds its ultimate meaning in a third person, God (illeity). In this article, I am going to consider the role of God in this dialogical dimension, and how this role can contribute in answering the problems of the contemporary debate about interreligious dialogue. In order to do this, I will start by considering the different ways in which Levinas talks about God and about His role in the ethical relationship. In particular, I will focus on the notions of “trace” and “enigma”, and on how these point to the particular mode of being of God that is, to His absence. Indeed, God “comes to mind” in the face of the other man, but He is never directly present: it is a trace that testifies to the passage of something that is not there anymore. This peculiarity of God makes it so that His revelation is never complete but, on the contrary, He conceals Himself to the point of effacement.Finally, on these grounds, I will consider how this aspect of Levinas’ thought can be useful to develop a strategy for the interreligious dialogue. In particular, I will consider how the fact that God reveals himself with a view to His own effacement has two separate goals: first, to make it so that the responsibility is directed completely at the other man, without being contaminated by the hope for a reward or the fear of a punishment and, secondly, to avoid His Name giving raise to conflicts.
Keywords: illeity, I-Thou dimension, relationship, enigma, interreligious dialogue
Babka, S. P.