Anna Yampolskaya. Heterogeneity of self: the problematisation of identity in later Levinas. Vol. 4. No. 2. 2019

Publication Details

Heterogeneity of self: the problematisation of identity in later Levinas
Title in the language of publication: Гетерогенность самости: проблематизация идентичности у позднего Левинаса
Anna Yampolskaya
PhD in Philosophy, Associate Professor of the Institute of Philosophy of the Saint Petersburg State University.
Address: 7/9 Universitetskaya emb., St. Petersburg 199034, Russia.
P. 34–47.
Language: Russian
Document type: Research Article


In this paper I study Levinas’ critique of identity that was developed in his later works, in particular, in Of God who comes to mind (1982). Identity is described as identification, that is, as a two-way process of assimilation and alienation. The aim of the process of identification is to assure the homogeneity of experience. However, the structure of experience as intersubjective is heterogeneous; it contains the encapsulations of foreign elements that cannot be neither alienated nor properly speaking assimilated. The heterogeneity of experience can be traced back to Husserl’s descriptions of the intersubjective experience in Cartesian meditations, but it is only Levinas who explicitly thematises it. The heterogeneous structure of subjectivity is described by Levinas in terms of “awakening” or even “sobering up”; while this terminology goes back to Husserl, it also implies the ascetic character of self-reflection. This heterogeneity of experience reproduces the heterogeneous and ‘plicate’ configuration of time: according to Levinas, my temporality incorporates not only the consciousness of my own inner time experience, but also my affectedness by the immemorial time of the Other and the others. I am affected by the Other as the-other-in-me, the-other-in-the-same. The structure of the-other-in-the-same is described by Levinas with the use of two key examples: maternity and prophecy. The overcoming of the narrative concept of identity entails a radical alteration of one’s understanding of the inner historicity of subject: the subject should not be thought as just a global observer or an impartial judge of his/her own life, but rather as the subject who is always already involved in a relation to the Other, as the messianic subject of responsibility who intrinsically bears the Other within him/herself. However, his/her messianity is not ‘stable’; in order to describe such a subject one needs a new, more flexible conceptual language.


Narrative identity, heterogeneity, alterity, intersubjectivity, Other, Levinas, Husserl.


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© Anna Yampolskaya, 2019

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