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Emmanuel Levinas was a French philosopher who was notable for his assertion of the primacy of ethics in the hierarchy of philosophical projects, in contrast to the traditional understanding of metaphysics as ‘first philosophy’.
He argued that prior to the understanding and pursuit of truth is the responsibility to the ‘Other’. This is encapsulated in the epiphany that is involved in the face-to-face encounter, an experience that he believes is an irreducible and fundamental one, with a special philosophical significance. This experience, he argues, causes an impression that defines and encapsulates ethics, but also serves as the starting point for subjective reality. In this way, the experience actually serves as the starting point for philosophical investigation, since it is impossible to break with the ‘Self’; objective philosophy is not possible. Levinas therefore argues that the ‘wisdom’ of this epiphany is more fundamental and more significant than the pursuit of truth and knowledge that typically characterises the philosophical project.
As a result, while many people describe philosophy as the ‘love of wisdom’, Levinas presents an inversion of this description by holding that philosophy in fact constitutes the ‘wisdom of love’. If philosophy can be said to refer to what takes place following the epiphany then, according to Levinas, love of the Other can indeed be said to be wiser than philosophy.