2018-01Thematic Section
From Mythology to Ethics: Seeking an Escape from Ontology in the Eschatologies of Berdyaev and Lévinas


The radical reformulation of Western philosophy proposed by Emmanuel Lévinas is the move beyond knowledge and being to ethics as metaphysics. For Lévinas this is accomplished as an escape, an evasion of being. Lévinas saw the story of Western philosophy as a tale that Being emanated, created, etc. an illusory pluralism that it will eventually overcome in total unity. “The adventure of the world,” to borrow a phrase from Whitehead, is an accident that does not affect the perfection of Being. Being is and multiplicity is a fall from perfection. The standard eschatological story in the West has been how the separated person makes his way back to harmony with being. Lévinas seeks to tell a different story. He offers an “ethical metaphysics” that is an alternative to ontology. Lévinas’s attempt at an escape from ontology is anticipated by Russian émigré philosophers in Paris in the 1920s and 30s, Lev Shestov and Nicolas Berdyaev. In particular, Berdyaev sought an eschatological escape from the perfection of Being.


Lévinas, Berdyaev, ontology, eschatology, ethics, myth, person

How to cite:

McLachlan, James. “From Mythology to Ethics: Seeking an Escape from Ontology in the Eschatologies of Berdyaev and Lévinas.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 2, no. 1(3) (2018): 24–39. https://doi.org/10.26319/3914.


James McLachlan
Philosophy and Religion Department, Western Carolina University
Stillwell 234, Cullowhee, NC 28723, USA


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