Searching for the Other in Vision. First, to complications of sight.
Summary of Chloe Taylor’s essay “Hard, Dry Eyes That Weep: Vision and Ethics in Levinas and Derrida.” 2006
This article may interest you, if you are interested in the following: Ethics in Levinasian discourse, the Other: in vision and language, anti-platonic “non-light”, masculine intrusive vision vs. compassionate vision, the Other for the blindman, and Greek animals that cannot close their eyes.
Since the Other, for Levinas, is violently appropriated through vision and compromised as the same in the face-to-face, with his work and the commentary of Jacques Derrida Chloé Taylor purses with ethical responsibility towards the Other’s glance in vision. The Other, for Levinas, is found occurring in discourse, where there even in silence its face is reserved by a philosophy of difference and always as Saying. In vision there is always an “imposition of sameness on the other” (Taylor, 1), and in the critique of vision Derrida follows the Levinasian disclosure of Greco-Platonic light as such violent metaphoric ubiquity that forecloses a place in vision for the other to conceive. Since visionary comprehensions are always guided by light of the Same, under this light “blindness becomes a trope for Levinasian ethicality in works by Derrida such as Memoirs of the Blind and Specters of Marx” (Taylor, 2).
This blindness, or, a Levinasian sense of vision, is pursed by Chloé Taylor with Levinas’s response to Deleuze and Félix Guattari (racism and the face, their homogonous white European male face of the Other) – to the Greek aesthetic understanding of light as ideological truth and its assimilating vision of the Other as corporeally the Same. Taylor, through Derrida, explores a different shaded vision that may more or less adequately accommodate reflections or resounding images of the truly Other (as if shaded by a visor, shaded from the light.) The Other seeks its own vision, and within an ethical function of the eye it is grasped as a sight in vision. “Derrida stresses the manner in which vision itself is given to us through language, and thus that the problematic features of vision are problems not intrinsic to the sense of sight but rather embedded in metaphysical discourse” (Taylor, 11 ).
Taylor exposes the strong ethics behind Levinasian optics. Visionary ethics call into question the contrasting vision of theoretism, which is in turn rendered blind by its own “metaphysically constructed way of seeing which does not allow us to see the other” (Taylor, 11). Levinas’s advocates blindness amid such light, yet such light within a call to the Other is ethically transfigured. This essay uproots the metaphoric saturation (“light, enlightenment, and manifestation” [Taylor, 12]) of vision by a more realistic ethical comprehension that creates more accurately the face of the Other visually.
It is through the sight of tears and not as a sight of tears, that Taylor coalesces the stringencies of Levinas’s and Derrida’s ethics upon vision, into an acceptable visuality of the Other in vision. Taylor and Derrida discuss animals who cannot close their eyes, raising an ethical discourse in regards to lives who know no Other. Is an existence of perpetual sight left no room for alterity?
Towards these later passages, whence is apprehend a Saying by a weeping gaze of compassion for the Other, we have long reposed to silence the commotional philosophies of difference and departed with eschatological faith that these earthly differences will work themselves out. In leading up to such intimate conversation with the Other, these earthly politics are not lightly transgressed by Taylor, for with them and the deliberations of Levinas and Derrida, inch by inch comes closer a visual comprehension and face, a more appropriate portrayal and understanding of the Other painted atop a canvas it actively overflows. Through eyes of compassion, which flood with ethical tears, Chloé Taylor finds a visionary ethics – an arm’s length grasp towards the suffering Other.