Beyond the Primacy of Representation

  • Fabio Ciaramelli Università degli studi di Napoli “Federico II 0000-0001-7076-8443


The primacy of representation, to which – at least according to Paul Ricoeur – Edmund Husserl would have remained faithful, is radically questioned in Emmanuel Levinas’ famous essay on the "ruin of representation" (1959). The phenomenological structure of intentionality, in which “something appears as something”, confirms the need to “break out of the magic circle of representation”. Indeed, it is precisely by means of a detailed analysis of “intentionality”, insofar as the latter appears as characterized by an essential Mehrmeinun. Levinas brings out the overcoming of representation, that is, the abandonment of the latter's claim to subordinate thought to the objective necessity of presence. Within the horizon of presence, the necessity of being-thus-and-not-otherwise overwhelms the sense of the possible, and the actual evidence annihilates the being-able-to-be-otherwise of human experience. Through the analysis of intentionality and its potentiality, it is possible to bring out the transition from a philosophy of the necessary constraints of evidence, linked to the primacy of representation, to a philosophy of the power-able-to-be-otherwise. After all, the ruin of representation is the ruin of the instant or eternity of evidence, relegated into the actuality of consciousness. By subtracting itself from the self-referential necessity of evidence, the ethical Sinngebung evocated by Levinas at the end of his 1959 article connects intentionality to the sense of the possible, making explicit its openness to the future in radical form.


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How to Cite
Ciaramelli, F. (2024). Beyond the Primacy of Representation. Critical Hermeneutics, 8(special), 47-58.