The Idea of the Gamer, 3

Making Faces


Chapter two of Amanda Phillips’ Gamer Trouble1 begins with an epigraph from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Making Face, Making Soul (1990):

Between the masks we’ve internalized, one on top of the other, are our interfaces. The masks are already steeped with self-hatred and other internalized oppressions. However, it is the place—the interface—between the masks that provides the space from which we can thrust out and crack the masks.2

Phillips uses “haciendo caras,” or “making faces,” in combination with the “computational materiality” originally signalled by the “hidden surface problem” in 3D graphics to develop a remarkable reading of the “face” in video games, and specifically the production of the face through “essentialist ideas of identity.”3

For my part, I want to draw Phillips’ work into conversation with two key thinkers in twentieth century continental philosophy: Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Emmanuel Levinas. This is not an exercise in presenting authorities on the matter, but rather an exercise in self-organization, a bringing into conversation of the particular citations animating my thought. I had originally intended to include Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s examination of faciality in A Thousand Plateaus (1980) in this converstation as well, but in returning to that text I realized that I could not fit all that would need to be said with respect to it in an essay of (at least somewhat) reasonable length. So for now, I will concentrate on the two phenomenologists and attempt to tie their ideas together with Anzaldúa and Phillips, and reserve a reading of Deleuze and Guattari for a separate set of essays at a later date.


In the preface to his Phenomenology of Perception (1945), Merleau-Ponty wrestles with the problem of the face—and generally, the other—against the backdrop of Edmund Husserl’s “reduction.”4 Let us follow Merleau-Ponty closely for a few pages.

Phenomenology is “descriptive psychology,” the directive to go “to the things themselves.”5 Merleau-Ponty describes this as the “disavowal of science,” because the “I” is no longer “the result or the intertwining of multiple causalities that determine my body or my ‘psyche,’” no longer a “a part of the world, like the simple object of biology, psychology, and sociology.”6 Rather, all “that I know about the world, even through science, I know from a perspective that is my own … The entire universe of science is constructed upon the lived world.”7 This is not the same as the “idealist return to consciousness,” in which the philosopher works backward from the “unity of the object” to reconstitute the “synthetic activity of the subject”; rather, phenomenology “remains within [the object] and makes its primordial unity explicit.”8

This is certainly an improvement, the basic acknowledgment that the “world is there prior to every analysis that I could give of it.”9 In idealist reflection, the philosopher believes that they “move[] in the reverse direction along the path of a previous constitution and meets up with—in the ‘inner man,’ as Saint Augustine says—a constituting power that it itself has always been,” an “invulnerable subjectivity.”10 But this is a false belief, a “naïveté, or, if one prefers, an incomplete reflection that loses an awareness of its own beginning.”11 We can say so, with Merleau-Ponty, because of the simple fact that “I began to reflect, my reflection is a reflection upon an unreflected; it cannot be unaware of itself as an event.”12 The upsurge of reflection is a “change in the structure of consciousness” that “involves recognizing, prior to its own operations, the world that is given to the subject because the subject is given to himself.”13 The phenomenological innovation is that the “real is to be described,” not “constructed” or “constituted.”14 Merleau-Ponty continues:

The real is a tightly woven fabric; it does not wait for our judgments in order to incorporate the most surprising of phenomena, nor to reject the most convincing of our imaginings. Perception is not a science of the world, nor even an act or a deliberate taking of a stand; it is the background against which all acts stand out and is thus presupposed by them. The world is not an object whose law of constitution I have in my possession; it is the natural milieu and the field of all my thoughts and of all my explicit perceptions15

For this reason, truth “does not merely ‘dwell’ in the ‘inner man’; or rather, there is no ‘inner man,’ man is in and toward the world, and it is in the world that he knows himself.”16 This is the primary gesture of phenomenology. “When I return to myself from the dogmatism of common sense or of science,” writes Merleau-Ponty, “I do not find a source of intrinsic truth, but rather a subject destined to the world.”17

In this Merleau-Ponty discerns the “true sense” of Husserl’s “reduction”—“idealist,” but in a different mode from the “idealist reflection” critiqued above.18 The idealism of the reduction “treats the world as a unity of value that is not divided between, say, Paul and Pierre; that is, a unity in which their perspectives intersect and that causes ‘Pierre’s consciousness’ and ‘Paul’s consciousness’ to communicate.”19 Subjective consciousnesses do not float through the world like invulnerable bubbles or transparent eyeballs. The “perception of the world ‘by Pierre’ is not Pierre’s doing, nor is the perception ‘by Paul’ Paul’s doing; rather, in both cases it is the doing or the work of pre-personal consciousnesses whose communication raises no problems, since this very communication is in fact required by the definition of consciousness, sense, and truth.”20 Consciousness is, by definition, perception of “this world” as “the system of truths.”21 But this conclusion produces some unfortunate consequences:

A consistent transcendental idealism strips the world of its opacity and its transcendence. The world is precisely the one that we represent to ourselves, not insofar as we are men or empirical subjects, but insofar as we are all one single light and insofar as we all participate in the One without dividing it. Reflective analysis is unaware of the problem of others [autrui], just as it is unaware of the problem of the world, because from the first flicker of consciousness it grants me the power to go toward a truth that is universal by right, and since the other is himself without haecceity [thisness], without place, and without a body, the Alter and the Ego are one and the same in the true world, which is the unifier of minds.22

The “lived world” is accepted as an unproblematic given, and others are reduced to the sameness of that universal light that has “a value rather than an existence.”23 There is nothing “hidden behind these faces or these gestures, and there are no landscapes that remain inaccessible to me; there is but a touch of shadow that owes its existence to the light.”24 In overcoming the incomplete reflection of an earlier idealism, Husserlian description produces another incomplete reflection.

Husserl is aware, however, of the “problem of others,” and Merleau-Ponty, drawing on Husserl’s then unpublished later writings, takes hold of this problem to get beyond the incompleteness of Husserl’s earlier work.25 The fact that others see me and I see others is a fact precisely because the experience of otherness is not a value but an existence. “I must be my exterior, and the other’s body must be the other person himself” because “the Ego and the Alter Ego are defined by their situation and are not set free from all inherence.”26 Consciousness does not float through the world, untethered; it is always in, toward, and destined to the world. Through the reduction, then, “I do not discover merely my presence to myself, but also the possibility of an ‘outside spectator.’”27 Consciousness is affected by an “inner weakness that prevents me from being absolutely individual and that exposes me to the gazes of others … as one consciousness among consciousnesses.”28 Consciousness is more than itself, defined by its “embodiment in a nature” and its “historical situation” with others.29 Thus, for the later Husserl, “transcendental subjectivity” will “be an intersubjectivity.”30 Merleau-Ponty explains:

I rediscover the world—which I had distinguished from myself as a sum of things or of processes tied together through causal relations—‘in myself’ as the permanent horizon of all of my cogitationes [thoughts] and as a dimension in relation to which I never cease situating myself. The true Cogito does not define the existence of the subject through the thought that the subject has of existing, does not convert the certainty of the world into a certainty of the thought about the world, and finally, does not replace the world itself with the signification “world.” Rather, it recognizes my thought as an inalienable fact and it eliminates all forms of idealism by revealing me as “being in the world.”31

In this way, Merleau-Ponty is able to dispense with “Husserl’s entire misunderstanding with his interpreters, with the existential ‘dissidents,’ and ultimately with himself,” by demonstrating the proper function and actual functioning of the reduction—not as withdrawal, but as “wonder” (a term Merleau-Ponty gets from Husserl’s assistant, Eugen Fink), a rupture that does not place the subject outside the world but rather “conceiv[es] [of] the subject as a transcendence toward the world,” which conception “teach[es] us nothing except the unmotivated springing forth of the world.”32 Radical doubt and absolute certainty are both dissolved in the instant of our “standing in wonder before the world.”33 As such, through the problem of others, through the problem of the face, phenomenology ceases to be an “idealist philosophy” and becomes an “existential philosophy.”34


Wherein Merleau-Ponty the alter ego presents a problem that ultimately discloses the ambiguity of our existence, for Emmanuel Levinas in Totality and Infinity (1961), the face to face is something altogether more, an “irreducible relation.”35 The “notion of the face,” for Levinas, “brings us to a notion of meaning prior to my Sinngebung [meaning-giving or sense-giving] and thus independent of my initiative and my power.”36 The face “signifies the philosophical priority of the existent over Being” and “makes possible the description of the notion of the immediate” in the “face to face.”37 The “immediate” here proposed is not that of “transcendence,” found in “moments of liturgical, mystical elevation,” nor that of “immanence,” in which “every ‘other’ … would vanish at the end of history.”38 It is the “idea of infinity.”39 The infinite immediacy of the face to face is nontotalizable. To integrate the “particularism of points of view” in an “impersonal spirit” is “cruelty and injustice,” and also quite simply false.40 The face of the other does not only disclose our being in the world, but also a “point that is absolute with regard to history—not by amalgamating with the Other, but in speaking with him.”41

The idea of infinity is not “produced as only echoing the transcendence of Infinity, for then the separation would be maintained within a correlation that would restore totality and render transcendence illusory.”42 The idea of infinity “is transcendence itself”—unabsorbable and incomprehensible, the “final secret of being.”43 The face to face “is not a modification of the ‘along side of. . . .’”44 It is not the totalizing thought: we in the world together. It is the “ultimate situation” that “involves a calling into question of oneself, a critical attitude which is itself produced in the face of the other.”45

The face to face, though “given to vision,” is “a relationship different from that which characterizes all our sensible experience.”46 Vision “opens nothing that, beyond the same, would be absolutely other, that is, in itself,” because to see is “always to see on the horizon.”47 Insofar as light “conditions the relations between data,” light might be thought as “a being out of what is beyond all being,” the “origin of itself … as fire and sun”—those eminent philosophical metaphors—which has served as “the figure of every relation with the absolute.”48 But Levinas is adamant: this figure “is only a figure. The light as sun is an object.”49 Consequently, light remains “relative to an elemental and obscure ground,” and cannot make possible “the consciousness of radical exteriority” that we experience in the face to face.50 Levinas finds a more suitable metaphor in the façade:

By the façade the thing which keeps its secret is exposed enclosed in its monumental essence and in its myth, in which it gleams like a splendor but does not deliver itself. It captivates by its grace as by magic, but does not reveal itself. If the transcendent cuts across sensibility, if it is openness preeminently, if its vision is the vision of the very openness of being, it cuts across the vision of forms and can be stated neither in terms of contemplation nor in terms of practice.

This is the face, the transcendent not as mystical oneness but as an experience of the profoundly other. “The face is present in its refusal to be contained,” writes Levinas, denying the power of vision and the authority of the sun.51 “It is neither seen nor touched,” cannot be made a “content” of consciousness.52 The face of the other is “infinitely transcendent, infinitely foreign”:

The alterity of the Other does not depend on any quality that would distinguish him from me, for a distinction of this nature would precisely imply between us that community of genus which already nullifies alterity.53

The difference encountered in the face to face is an “absolute difference,” which cannot be “produced in a process of specification descending from genus to species.”54 In the face to face, the “terms, the interlocutors, absolve themselves from the relation, or remain absolute within relationship.”55 Vision cannot fix the other in their place, nor does the vision of the other fix me in mine. The face is not a matter of sight or light, but speech—it is that which “solicits the Other,” that which “announces the ethical inviolability of the Other,” that which operates in the “facing position” as a “moral summons.”56

How can this be so? Levinas makes a dazzling traversal of the various “notion[s] of infinity” in Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, but the infinity of the “other absolutely other” is not found therein—the infinite for Levinas “does not limit the freedom of the same; calling it to responsibility, it founds it and justifies it. The relation with the other as face heals allergy.”57 Of the four names mentioned, this is most distinctly not the infinity of Hegel, in which the “positivity of infinity” excludes “all multiplicity from it”—Levinas’s infinite, on the other hand, is supremely pluralist, non-allergic: “radical alterity” is not something I “conceive by relation to myself, but confront out of my egoism. The alterity of the Other is in him and is not relative to me; it reveals itself.”58 In this revelation, this “epiphany,” my experience is not first of violent “resistance,” of allergic reaction, but of “welcome,” of “peace”—the experience of the face “has a positive structure,” and this structure is “ethical.”59

If the face in Merleau-Ponty is partially responsible for disclosing our being in the world, the face in Levinas discloses the absolute contingency of this being and the ethics disclosed by it. Famously, Levinas asserts that ethics “precedes ontology,” but in his conclusions he does proceed to make a concrete ontological claim: being is exteriority.60 He elaborates:

Being is exteriority: the very exercise of its being consists in exteriority, and no thought could better obey being than by allowing itself to be dominated by this exteriority. Exteriority is true not in a lateral view apperceiving it in its opposition to interiority; it is true in a face to face that is no longer entirely vision, but goes further than vision … Exteriority, taken as the essence of being, signifies the resistance of the social multiplicity to the logic that totalizes the multiple. For this logic, multiplicity is a fall of the One or the Infinite, a diminution in being which each of the multiple beings would have to surmount so as to return from the multiple to the One, from the finite to the Infinite. Metaphysics, the relation with exteriority, that is, with superiority, indicates, on the contrary, that the relation between the finite and the infinite does not consist in the finite being absorbed in what faces him, but in remaining in his own being, maintaining himself there, acting here below … In understanding being as exteriority, in breaking with the panoramic existing of being and the totality in which it is produced, we can understand the meaning of the finite without its limitation, occurring within the infinite, requiring an incomprehensible fall of the infinite, without finitude consisting in a nostalgia for infinity, a longing for return.61

This is truly a pluralism, a thought of the pure multiple that does not make of the finite a poor reflection of some greater reality, but rather sees in the absolute difference of true and actual finitude the opening of an infinite relation that both necessitates and is the basis for ethics as such. The face does not only express our being in the world; it expresses an obligation.


If we continue on this ethical trajectory, however, we discover that the obligation of the face is punctured by questions of politics.62 Merleau-Ponty presents us with a compelling argument for the ambiguity of bodily existence, an argument that denies the possibility of a self-contained subject. Levinas goes well beyond Merleau-Ponty, taking the openness of the subject to the other as the basis for his pluralistic metaphysics of exteriority. But, making statements as to what being is does not necessarily entail action in accordance with those statements. Regardless of how readers fall on the is-ought problem (is it or is it not possible to say how things ought to be on how the basis of how things are?), in this particular case, the ought entailed by Levinas’s is is not in fact the case.63 Even if Levinas’s ontology is correct, many people so defined do not appear to live in accordance with their ontological constitution, honouring the “ethical inviolability” of the other. Though Levinas’s ethics is metaphysics, it remains an ethical program and not a description of an actual state of affairs.64 To put the point bluntly: not all people get to have a face. According to Levinas, the face ought to be a given, but politically, it is not.

I am not well read enough in Levinas’s thought, or in the scholars of his work, to comment further on his response to this problem, to say whether or not he addressed the gap between program and reality. However, Totality and Infinity remains a profoundly animating work for me, and even more so in returning to it with Phillips’ Gamer Trouble in mind.

Phillips looks at the face in motion-capture animation, physiognomy, and avatar creation, deploying Anzaldúa’s theorization of masks and interfaces to problematize the essentializing forces at play in each. The “logic of realism” performed by the “quantization” of the human face “insulate[s] digital techniques from political accountability,” propagating racism and sexism at the machine level.65 As in the case of physiognomy, quantization in contemporary digital imaging technologies lends “an air of truth to these prejudices: if it can be measured consistently, it must be real.”66 Well before the advent of these technologies, physiognomy and phrenology had already “concretized the face as a weapon of oppression within the developing logic of modernity.”67 Darwin “criticized the unscientific nature of physiognomy,” but his own work on facial expressions was ultimately appropriated by the “ruling elite to classify and separate human beings based on physical characteristics.”68 This same work by Darwin is discussed in Frederic Parke’s animation textbooks, the computer graphics researcher who “created both the first computerized facial model and the first computer-animated face at the University of Utah in the early 1970s.”69 A history shows itself. Phillips summarizes:

The sciences of faces and facial expressions, with all of their problematic assumptions about human nature and the historical baggage of racism and sexism that comes along with them, underwrite much of the training and development of computer facial animation techniques.70

The “use of these data is irresistible,” as evidenced by the many works on the matter, but the use of these data also contributes to the maintenance of racist and sexist image logics, which we see at work in video games to this day.71 Interfaces like that of the FaceGen interface in Fallout 3 mask the “internal processes” that are in turn built on these racist and sexist logics.72 Those who do not fit the default—the “white man,” as FaceGen makes painfully clear—are forced to wear “masks as social performances … constraining faces into recognizable labels.”73 But, as Phillips contends, drawing on Anzaldúa, “there is power not simply in casting off these masks but in negotiating the space between a face and its masks,” the “interface” now as “the layer of cloth used in sewing to reinforce stitching and the structure of garments.”74 She continues:

As the very sites of contact between enforced identity and the self, interfaces are painful and restrictive, the sources of oppression and regulation of bodies. However, the scars created at the interface also provide structure and strength for the face to break free of its masks, to honor the truths the masks create and the lies that they conceal, to negotiate complicated layers of identity forged in the friction between self and oppression. She calls haciendo una cara a “metaphor for constructing one’s identity,” but it is also about the necessity of continuing to move through the world in the face of oppression, to bear and work the masks from within and not lose sight of one’s own identity, to embrace the inter/face and expose it to the inter/faces of others.75

In the “inter/face,” we encounter a forceful political expansion for Levinas’s ethical program, one that is not only cognizant of the face to face as an embodied experience, but in the complexity and multiplicity of its digital expressions. Insofar as the face is not only an experience but a technology, an instrument of “facemaking,”76 we go beyond ethics to politics, to the possibilities of direct action whereby we might intervene in the racist and sexist processes at work in our video game consoles and our computers and our world and set about disabling and dismantling them. This is the path back to something like a Levinasian ethics for the digital age.

We discover the world together with our others; we discover irreducible multiplicity in their faces; but in neither of these do we discover a politics. This chapter of Gamer Trouble is an excellent contribution to that end.


  1. Amanda Phillips, Gamer Trouble: Feminist Confrontations in Digital Culture (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2020). 

  2. Gloria Anzaldúa, Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color (San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books, 1990). 

  3. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 68, 97. 

  4. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 1945, trans. Donald A. Landes (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2012). 

  5. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxi. 

  6. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxi-lxxii. 

  7. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxii. 

  8. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxii-lxxiii. 

  9. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxiii. 

  10. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxiii. 

  11. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxiii. 

  12. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxiii. 

  13. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxiii. 

  14. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxiii. 

  15. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxiv. 

  16. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxiv. 

  17. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxiv. 

  18. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxv. 

  19. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxv. 

  20. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxv. 

  21. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxv. 

  22. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxv. 

  23. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxv. 

  24. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxv. 

  25. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxvi. 

  26. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxvi. 

  27. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxvi. 

  28. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxvi. 

  29. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxvi. 

  30. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxvi. 

  31. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxvi-lxvii. 

  32. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxvii 

  33. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxvii. 

  34. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, lxxviii. 

  35. Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 1961, trans. Alphonso Lingis (The Hague, NL: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1979), 79. 

  36. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 51. 

  37. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 51-52. 

  38. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 52. 

  39. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 52. 

  40. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 52. 

  41. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 52. Every time I read Levinas, I feel as though I have never read Levinas. Indeed, it is though I am here, now, speaking with him, tied to him in this irreducible bond, “uprooted from history”—his, mine, ours—in this profound particularity. This feeling is also the feeling of recognition, of seeing that which before I had not seen, which is also the recognition of being wrong. I do not know if I have ever read Levinas correctly—but perhaps this is the beginning of me trying to do so. In this beginning, I cannot ignore the history of my collision with Laruelle, whose understanding of non-thetic transcendence, the “radical that-ness” of existents, has substantially transformed my thinking. See François Laruelle, Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction to Non-Philosophy (1986), trans. Rocco Gangle (London, UK: Continuum, 2010), 206. 

  42. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 79-80. 

  43. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 80. Levinas maintains that it is “Religion” that is the “ultimate structure” because in religion “relationship subsists between the same and the other despite the impossibility of the Whole.” I invoke the tie above, and here it feels appropriate to cite Jean Baudrillard, from whom I receive the term. He writes: “The Law establishes equality as a principle: in principle everyone is equal before the Law. By contrast, there is no equality before the rule; for the latter has no jurisdiction over principles. Moreover, in order for everyone to be equal they must be separated. The players, however, are not separate or individualized: they are instituted in a dual and agonistic relation. They are not even solidary—solidarity supposing a formal conception of the social, the moral ideal of a group in competition. The players are tied to each other; their parity entails an obligation that does not require solidarity, at least not as something that needs to be conceptualized or interiorized.” See Seduction, 1979, trans. Brian Singer (Montréal, QC: CTheory Books, 2001), 136. The players are not individualized by the Whole, not organized by the Whole, not equalized by the Whole—the players are instituted in relation, a parity without solidarity. Baudrillard calls this the “rule”; Levinas calls it “religion.” However, the tenor of this relation is quite different between the two, and further work needs to be done to synthesize Baudrillard’s “seduction” and Levinas’s “love.” 

  44. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 80. 

  45. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 81. This sentence continues: “and under his authority.” I have previously criticized Levinas’s understanding of authority in my “Teaching for Food, 2,” May 29, 2020,, but with Laruelle and Baudrillard this authority does not present itself to me in the same light. The argument around Levinas in that essay is consistent with what I still believe, but I was unfair to Levinas himself. I did not realize how little of Levinas I grasped, how much more I have to learn from him—not as a transcendental authority, but as partner in the tie of study

  46. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 187. 

  47. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 191. 

  48. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 191. 

  49. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 191-192. 

  50. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 192. 

  51. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 194. 

  52. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 194. 

  53. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 194. This again sounds remarkably like Baudrillard, in which the players are not “separate or individualized” because this would require a Law to equalize the separate and individual as such. Separation, individuation, simply is—contingent and absurd—and the recognition of this by another is the irreducibility of the “dual and agonistic relation” of the tie. 

  54. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 194. 

  55. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 195. 

  56. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 195-196. 

  57. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 196. 

  58. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 196, 121. Levinas’s thoughts on pluralism solidify him, in my mind, as a thinker after the philosophies of difference, with whom he is lumped by Laruelle. Levinas writes that the ontological difference between Being and beings “should have served as a foundation for a pluralist philosophy in which the plurality of being would not disappear into the unity of number nor be integrated into a totality.” (80) And later, preceding the words cited in the body of this essay: “Pluralism is not a numerical multiplicity. In order that a pluralism in itself (which cannot be reflected in formal logic) be realized there must be produced in depth the movement from me to the other, an attitude of an I with regard to the Other (an attitude already specified as love or hatred, obedience or command, learning or teaching, etc. . . . ), that would not be a species of relationship in general; this means that the movement from me to the other could not present itself as a theme to an objective gaze freed from this confrontation with the other, to a reflection.” See Totality and Infinity, 80, 121. Similarly, Laruelle writes: “The One casts, outside of the mastery proper to Difference, and without positing it, a diversity which is the residue of the unary destruction of Difference and which is neither ontic nor ontological. It is no longer a matter of an idealized diversity in general, but a diversity of the contingency that refuses itself absolutely to any idealization whatsoever, that is rather the presupposition of every idealization by philosophy in general and by Difference in particular. Diversity ‘in itself’ and non-thetic (of) itself more profound than the ‘Thing in itself’ and testifying to an absolute contingency of Difference, even ‘finite’ Difference.” See Philosophies of Difference, 200-201. The fact that the “attitude of an I with regard to the Other” is specified but not a species signifies this absolute contingency of Difference. A phrase I have often cited from Alexander Galloway’s Laruelle: Against the Digital (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), xii-xiii, captures this point quite succinctly: “The one is never the Whole or the All, but rather merely a finite and generic one: this one; this one here; this one here in person.” Galloway has also described the nonthematic, nonobjective “movement from me to the other” as a “direct or radical” relation. See “Superpositions,” Culture and Communication, October 11, 2014,

  59. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 197. 

  60. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 43, 290. To be fair, the entirety of Levinas’s work is ontological, but it is the ethical experience of the face as exteriority that in fact indicates the primordial structure of being as exteriority. 

  61. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 290, 292. 

  62. Simone de Beauvoir critiques an earlier work of Levinas’s on this point in the introduction to The Second Sex, 1949, trans. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2011), 6, footnote 3. Likewise, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari further disassemble the face in “Year Zero: Faciality,” in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1980, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 167-191. 

  63. For an overview, with excerpts from original sources, see “Is-ought problem,” Wikipedia,

  64. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 42. 

  65. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 74. 

  66. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 75. 

  67. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 75. 

  68. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 76. 

  69. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 78-79. 

  70. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 79. 

  71. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 80. 

  72. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 85. 

  73. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 94, 85. 

  74. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 85. 

  75. Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 85. 

  76. Perhaps the abstract machine of faciality, as Deleuze and Guattari name it.