Levinas on law: A Derridean reading of Manderson’s Proximity, Levinas, and the Soul of Law

18 Jul 2012

In this article, Desmond Manderson’s book, Proximity, Levinas, and the Soul of Law (2006) is analysed specifically with reference to the accuracy with which it translates Derrida’s thinking into law. Manderson, in a number of instances, invokes Derrida’s thinking as a ‘corrective’ to that of Levinas. The author shows that this invocation by Manderson of Derrida’s texts is selective and does not take account of Derrida’s broader ‘philosophical’ approach. The author points to the differences between, but also the correspondence in the thinking of Levinas and Derrida. He contends that being true to Derrida’s thinking requires that proximity be viewed not as simply making law responsive as proposed by Manderson, but as having a paradoxical structure. The latter would give expression to the distinction that Derrida draws between the conditional and the unconditional. Only if proximity is viewed in this manner will judges be faced with a true responsibility in deciding negligence cases; only then will justice stand a chance.