[Buddha-l] angels

Dan Lusthaus dlusthau at mailer.fsu.edu
Thu May 26 16:17:10 MDT 2005

Richard N.,

> Levinas's own metaphysical
> thought (or principled--if tortuously complex--attempt to refuse the
> metaphysical in favor of the ethical) doesn't fit very comfortably
> with a metaphysics in which things, such as they are, are dependently
> arisen -- a view with which most Buddhists are, I'd imagine, pretty
> comfortable.

The Levinasian response would be, since ethics is primary to metaphysics,
that relation of dependence is better understood as an ethical dependence
(i.e., my responsibility to the face of the other) than as a metaphysical
one -- as indeed Mahayana Buddhism seems to not only allow but insist upon,
since the relation of a bodhisattva to other beings is not primarily one of
metaphysical dependence, but a dependence grounded in compassion. The
greater the compassion (the sense of responsibility one has to the face of
the other), the "higher" a bodhisattva one is. Merely understanding the
logic of the metaphysics doesn't get one past the first bodhisattva stage.
Even more significant, the vow to help all sentient beings *precedes* the
intellectual unraveling of whatever metaphysics or counter-metaphysics one
engages in during the stages. So a bodhisattva is a bodhisattva precisely
because s/he is sandwiched between ethical commitments of compassion, which
inform everything one does in between.

So perhaps Levinas is not so alien to Buddhism after all.

Dan Lusthaus

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