Page 13 - Richard Kenton Webb: Vol.5
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RKW   Emmanuel Levinas is my reading companion at the moment and I think
                               he has something fundamentally important to say about other ness,
                               or alterity as he calls it.* As I read Levinas discussing language and
                               a phil os ophy of ethics, it is as though I am reading someone describe my
                               own experience of painting. He talks about language as communi cation
                               and sets out the two aspects of it, the ‘saying’ and the ‘said’. He sees the
                               ‘said’ as the construction of language, the systems and symbols that allow
                               us to communicate. I see that as paint, the physical stuff that my visual
                               language is formed from. The ‘saying’ is the vehicle that allows us to
                               respond to and call out to one another; to command, point and prom ise.
                               He describes it as the ethical matrix in which language takes place.
                               Language and painting are like sharing a piece of bread, a recog nition
                               that there is something other than us, outside of ourselves. And this
                               is where the ethics comes from, because we have a responsi bility to it,
                               a need to reach out in response to it, because it has first reached out
                               to it. As Levinas says, we’re passive before we’re active.

                         RD  And that is what you have been doing as long as we have been talk ing.
                             Reaching out to the other, in response to it reaching out to you. Search -
                             ing for a truth that you feel is out there. And that idea of feeling is so
                             impor tant. Because what your work highlights for me, and what it seems

                             *Levinas, Emmanuel, Time and the Other (1987), pp.82–94
                               Morgan, Michael L., The Cambridge Introduction to Emmanuel Levinas (2011), pp.132–135
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