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Kantor, A. (1999). Levinas's Law. Am. Imago, 56(4):357-385.

(1999). American Imago, 56(4):357-385

Levinas's Law

Alon Kantor

… I think that in the case before us it may safely be assumed that ‘in the beginning was the Deed.’


Although the shrewdest judges of the witches and even the witches themselves were convinced of the guilt of witchery, this guilt nevertheless did not exist. This applies to all guilt.


I Before the Law

Before the Law one is already guilty. That is, one does not need the Law in order to be guilty. One is guilty, as such. But in order to know guilt one must face the Law.

Between these poles ethics will have been begotten.

But can we even say poles and claim thereby, a certain binarism? Is there a binarism of guilt and Law? Long before Freud, St. Paul had rendered this “original binary” irrelevant, when he showed the deadly aporetic circularity, rather than a dialectical opposition, of these forces. When Paul writes: “The law entered in, that sin might abound …” (ROM. 5: 20), the commandment, when it came, “gave life to sin” and so “slew me” (7: 9), he only anticipates a reversal of that which he just declared, namely, it is sin that, “taking occasion,” employs the Law in order “to bestir itself and work concupiscence in me.” It is sin that, “utilizing the law, seduces me and by its means slew me” (7: 8, 11). It is the Law, therefore, that produces sin, that which makes sin manifest: “It was sin which, in order that it might appear sin, made use of a good thing to procure death for me, in order that sin might exert all its sinful power through the commandment” (7: 13).

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