The other's face is not an object. It is a pure expression; expression which affects me before I can begin to reflect on it. And the expression of the face is dual: it is a command and summon. In its nudity and defenselessness the face signifies "Do not kill me". This defenseless nudity is therefore a passive resistance to the desire that is my freedom. Any exemplification of the face's expression, moreover, carries with it this combination of resistance and defenselessness.
Transcendence is considered as both lived and factical. How could transcendence be factical? While being an interruption that "I" cannot represent to myself, transcendence nevertheless has a circular relationship with everyday life: understood as the face-to-face relation, transcendence lives from our everyday enjoyment and desire even as it precedes these.
Contrary to Heidegger, Levinas sees human existence as full of joy and creative, before it is instrumentalist or utilitarian. From enjoying nature to constructing a home, human existence is never solipsistic. We have always already been impacted by the expression of a living other. Because this impact is affective, because transcendence is not conceptualizable, we forget the force the other's expression has on us. We therefore carry on, in our respective worlds, motivated by our desire for mastery and control.
Nevertheless, desire always proves to be double: There is a naturalistic desire, subject to imperatives of consumption and enjoyment, that is coextensive with the exercise of our concrete freedom. And there is a desire that comes to light in the failure of our will to mastery - this failure of the will is experienced in the face-to-face encounter.
Reading: Totality and Infinity - pp. [masked]