Ethics : Initiative/Response

The inspiration for the write-up is based on a reading on philosophical reflection based on Emmanuel Levinas for the parable of Good Samaritan in the Bible.

The interesting question that emerges is, whether ethics and ethical relationship with the other is based on my initiative or it is a response to the circumstances/other. I surely see merit in both though Levinas would give a priority to the response aspect. Let us try to analyze both…

Let’s consider the aspect of ethics as my initiative. I do good to others because I love it. It gives me satisfaction. It gives a meaning to my life. It makes me feel (and surely so) that I am doing something good for other.

When ethics is considered as a response, it is based on the call of the other for a help. Don’t think that the call is always verbal. It is bodily. The face/eyes reveals that call to me.When I see the pain and suffering of the other, it moves me to do something for him/her so that it is beneficial for the person. It definitely fulfills me.

For some, ethics and ethical relationship starts as an initiative and for others as a response. I accept the worth and beauty of initiatives. But, at some point of time, it should enter the phase of response. Our relationship and actions should be based on the need of the other, not our own convictions of their need.

We have tremendous examples of people who did amazing things for the other persons. In many cases, there is an aspect of initiative, but the initiative itself was a response. Once the person dies, the charism itself dies or weans away. This is probably because the followers focus only on the initiative aspect.

As a Jesuit, the vocation is not based on my initiative. For many, it may have started like that. But it should move to a different dimension; it is a response to a call of God to serve him and his people; unless we enter this dimension, we can’t live out the fruitfulness of the vocation.

I think it is equally truly of marital relationships and friendships. It may have started based on one’s interests/infatuation or any attractions, but it should grow into a stage where it is a response to the other. In many such interesting relationships, ‘I’s reduce and the ‘other’ becomes more prominent.

Relationships and Activism/actions based on a right balance between the dimensions like response and initiative is the need of the hour.

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