Self and Other in Ethics and Law: A Comment on Manderson

Jonathan Crowe

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Emmanuel Levinas has emerged as one of the most influential ethical
philosophers of the twentieth century. Much has been written about his
theory, but until recently the legal implications of his approach to ethics
were relatively neglected. There is an obvious reason for this neglect:
Levinas’s writings are difficult and obscure and his references to law are, if
possible, even more obscure than the rest. Desmond Manderson’s book,
Proximity, Levinas and the Soul of Law, is an important contribution to
clarifying and evaluating this contentious dimension of Levinas’s project.

The aim of Manderson’s book is to bring together two apparently
diverse topics: the ethical philosophy of Levinas and the High Court of
Australia’s jurisprudence on the law of negligence. The central thesis is
that, through the shared notion of ‘proximity’, each of these areas of
discourse can illuminate the other. The connections are skilfully drawn and
the illuminations genuinely illuminating. In the course of the comparison,
Manderson also has some interesting and provocative points to make about
the overarching character of both ethics and law. Although Manderson’s
analysis of judicial conceptions of tort law is valuable, being both
sympathetic and critical, I wish to focus here on what he says about
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-151
JournalAustralian Journal of Legal Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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