Levinas on searching and dying

‘Time and death: these themes are subordinated to the search for the signification of the being of beings, a search that itself does not come from the curiosity of the explorer, but is a search essential to man, characteristic of his essence, his esse. Being qua being is already to-be-in-question. This essence in question is equivalent to being-there as the humanity of man, who is a being whose being is equivalent to the essence in question. This placing in question is also a pre-comprehension of being; it is effectuated in the form of a taking charge: a taking charge within Dasein and a charge imposed in the most incontestable way—to the point of becoming properly my own. This superlative thus takes the meaning of mineness, in such a way that being qua being-in-question is the affair of ipseity. This taking charge is the mode of the human beings to-be, which unfolds as being-there, as being-the-there, and this unfolds as being-in-the-world, which itself unfolds as care, where care is broken into a triple structure: being-out-ahead-of-oneself (ec-sistence) as already-in-the-world (facticity), alongside of things (dispersion or dereliction among things) … Death is a possibility that is absolutely certain. It is the possibility that makes all possibility possible’.

– Emmanuel Levinas, God, Death, and Time (trans. Bettina Bergo; California: Stanford University Press, 2000), 46, 49.


  1. “ipseity” – not a word I know (ignoramus that I am!). I looked up the Concise Oxford English dictionary, not there. “ipse dixit” was though. Same meaning?


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