The Function of the "Face" as a Conceptual Metaphor in Levinas's Ethics

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Levinas’s definition of “ethics as first philosophy” has gone beyond the bounds
of the philosophical discourse and has influenced additional fields, including literature, psychoanalysis, and organizational studies. The concept of the “face” is salient in all these contexts, and Levinas scholars agree about its centrality. On the linguistic level, however, there a certain vagueness, with begins with Levinas’s own texts and continues in what Levinas scholars have written about the meaning of this concept. The aim of the present article is accordingly to shed light on the organization and function of the concept of the “face” from the perspective of cognitive linguistics. It assesses how this mixture of categories of thought creates the metaphorical field on which Levinas’s ethical position is based. The article consists of an introduction and three sections. The first section introduces the core concepts on which the linguistic notion “moral imagination” is based. The second offers a chronological examination of concept of the face in Levinas’s philosophy. The third section examines Levinas’s transition from the concept of the face to the speech act of the saying.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-125
Number of pages22
JournalJudaica Petropolitana
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

With Russian summary.


  • Levinas
  • Face
  • Image schema
  • Conceptual metaphor
  • Mental space
  • Blending
  • Moral imagination

RAMBI Publications

  • RAMBI Publications
  • Lévinas, Emmanuel
  • Ethics
  • Face (Philosophy)
  • Linguistics


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