Study and Theory/
May 1st

Sigmund Bauman

Am I my brother’s keeper?

2001

When God asked Cain “Where is Abel your brother?”, Cain answered angrily, with another question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

 

The ethical philosopher of the 20th century, Emmanuel Levinas, claims that immorality started from this angry question by Cain. Certainly I am my brother’s keeper, and I am an ethical person and I shall stay thus, for as long as I shall not require a special reason in order to be my brother’s keepers. Whether I admit it or not, I am my brother’s keepers because the wellbeing of my brother is dependent on what I am doing or abstaining from doing. I am an ethical person because I am aware of this dependence and take upon myself the responsibility derived from it. At the moment that I have doubt in this dependence and request, like Cain, to accept reasons why I must take care of my brother, I abandon my responsibility and again I am not an ethical person. The dependence by my brother is that which makes me an ethical being; dependence and morals rise together and fall together.

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