The presentation ends nothing.
Substitution means that ethically the boundary between myself and the other seems almost to dissolve, so that however unique we are as two different perspectives on the world, however unequal we may be in terms of worldly advantage or strength, in the end I must find it impossible to distinguish her well-being from mine. If one makes this a conscious realization vis-a-vis the other, then it is clearly a form of self-denial comparable to the annihilation-of-self that Weil associates with imitating the divine abdication: "God denied himself for our sakes in order to give us the possibility of denying ourselves for him." (p.89, Simone Weil, Waiting for God, c.2001). The resemblance her idea bears to substitution is all the more striking a page later, when Weil writes that the person "from whom the act of generosity proceeds can only behave as he does if his thought transports him into the other. . . . [He] accepts to be diminished by concentrating on an expenditure of energy, which will not extend his own power but will only give existence to a being other than himself, who will exist independently of him." (WG 90). Weil goes so far as to express this as "consenting" to one's own "destruction" (WG 91) in favor of the other's "creation." Without this emphasis on "destruction" -- here closely allied with Weil's notion of "affliction," to which we will turn in a moment -- the image of being "transported into the other" could easily be dismissed as hyperbolic metaphor. Decreation is a "self-destruction" to which the other invariably calls me -- a call integral with the ordinary course of life, if no less "supernatural" for all that.
(pp.32-33, from Decreation as Substitution: Reading Simone Weil through Levinas, by Robert Charles Reed, Boston College, in The Journal of Religion, Jan. 2013)Curious, isn't it -- you don't figure nothing as having nowhere to go.
These days I imagine mysticism to be seeing someone through another.
While it is not yet clear what the call calls me to do, it should be evident that decreation , like substitution, amounts to an ethical relation to the other which, far from privileging my "being" over against theirs, deliberately reverses the priority I naturally give to self-preservation.Or, beyond mysticism, I imagine the seeing of oneself in others invites seeing no-self through others, merely, the one there.
But how does such a reversal become concrete? Must one literally make a physical sacrifice of oneself? For good reasons, Weil is reluctant to give us an explicit formula, although she therefore leaves us somewhat in the dark as to how one reverses so basic a priority. Levinas's answer might be that there is no need for us actually to do anything: the reversal is already the essence of what it means to be a self. Subjectivity is already to be substituted for the other. Whatever it may subsequently entail in terms of action, substitution is not something one wills or even does; it is the very essence of human selfhood. In Levinas, therefore, we find not merely certain striking parallels with Simone Weil's thought, but a way of understanding decreation as in some sense a basic ingredient or fulfillment of ethical subjectivity.
Is pure subjectivity pure objectivity? No self, no other? This might be different from "me" and "you."
To see through another means to see what the other sees. To see my self through you. Self and other become what they are -- not one, not two.
Merely what is seeing.
Merely: what-is, seeing.