Gry Ane Vikanes Lavik: Levinas and Beavoir

Levinas’ conception of the Other as asymmetrical in relation to the Same is an expressed attempt to overcome all forms of equality- and analogy thinking about human beings, as he sees this to be a source of reduction of the Other to the Same. However, the feminine Other is described as being in a symmetrical relation to the Same, in the form of a contradiction. Why does Levinas give the concept of feminine alterity this kind of status? This is the central question addressed in this article. The answer, as such, represents a clear criticism of his concept of feminine alterity in the light of Beauvoirs The Second Sex. The concept is both inconsistent and given as an unethical simplification. In contrast to how Levinas unfolds the concept of the Other, «feminine otherness,» is marked by him letting tradition precede thinking. Thus his concept is caught in the horizon in which the idea of «woman» traditionally has been framed, namely the male ego sphere. Levinas' notion of the feminine can largely be said to include key features of Beauvoir's critical concept of woman as the second sex, and it is therefore directly affected by Beauvoir's criticism.