1. An unfilled space or interval; a gap.
2. A missing portion in a book or manuscript.
It was Levinas, who said this of Heidegger:
According to his obituary
in New York Times
Levinas came to regret his enthusiasm for Heidegger, because of the latter’s affinity for the Nazis
. During a lecture on forgiveness, Levinas stated “One can forgive many Germans, but there are some Germans it is difficult to forgive. It is difficult to forgive Heidegger.”
In place of ontology, Levinas proposed meontology, which was the philosophical study of non-being.
The word comes from the Ancient Greek μή – me “non” and ὄν – on “being” (confer ontology). It refers not exactly to the study of what does not exist, but an attempt to cover what may remain outside of ontology. It can also be associated more recently, with the emphasis placed upon absence or deferral by both Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida.
For Emmanuel Levinas, what was meontological was what had meaning beyond being, beyond ontology; for him this was the ethical, the primary demand of the other in the face-to-face encounter. In this sense he sought to clarify or take further some of the issues raised by Heidegger and explicitly give ontology a secondary role to ethics rather than continue to parallel them in saying that the Being means care (German: Sorge).
[[ JOSH: In other words, the meontology is that Other, the Other that exists before the Self, wholly alien but to whom we somehow respond. For Levinas, the encounter with the Other creates an initial demand that is prior to self, being, and existence, which is its own demand, across the solipsist divide of “]]
The other as they appear, the face, gives itself priority to the self, its first demand even before I react to it, love it or kill it, is: “thou shalt not kill me“. Such a demand for Lévinas is prior to any reaction or any assertion of freedom by a subject. The face of the other in this sense looms above the other person and traces “where God passes.”
[[ In other words, the entire world is amenable to our expereience, our subjectivity, except one other place, that place being the subjective experience of the other — a solipsist, because he cannot experience the subjectiveness of the other, might deny it — saying that the others are philosophical zombies or, more sympathetically, saying “I am they,” that we all share a single subjectivity —
Meontology rejects this approach. It says the other is different, alien, unknowable, but nevertheless real, deep, meaningful, profound —
For Levinas, it was in that absence full of light — that unknowable Good — that God or God’s shadow could be found — and I tend to agree —
It is the Radical Other and their prior demands on our selves that gives worth and meaning to what would otherwise be a lonely carnival ride on rails — Keep me in a nutshell, and I would count myself the King of Infinite Space — that makes it poignant —
So yes. Itka got it just right. It is what is unknowable that is essential. It is what is unknowable that comes first.