Hugh Cummins


Hugh Cummins is currently completing a PhD at UCD on the theme of home and homelessness in the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. For the past six years he has worked as a part-time philosophy tutor. He is also a full-time employee in a centre for homeless people in Dublin.


"The Ontological Body and the Ethical Body: Levinas’s Reading of Merleau-Ponty"

For Levinas, the “face” of the Other, in its summons and appeal, is the source of the ethical relation. Yet as Levinas remarked in one interview: “The best way of encountering the Other is not even to notice the colour of his eyes.” In what sense, then, can the Other be said to be embodied? This question will be explored through Levinas's reading of Merleau-Ponty. For the latter, the handshake illustrates how “self and other are like the elements of one sole intercorporeality.” To this “indirect ontology” Levinas opposes an ethical relation based on radical separation. This is exemplified by my relation to a face that not only appears but also withdraws, so that even in its wrinkled skin it is “a trace of itself.” The “ethical body” as such is a “face” in this sense, including the hand I shake.