On insomnia or wakefulness, as opposed to what the Lithuanian philosopher Emmanuel Levinas had called “the merchants of sleep”:
Questioner: Your work is altogether imbued with a moral preoccupation. Curiously, after a period of liberation in which it has been rejected, science and, notably, biological discourses have led men to pose ethical questions. What is your view about this evolution?
Emmanuel Levinas: Morality has, in effect, a bad reputation. One confuses it with moralism. What is essential in the ethical is often lost in the moralism which has been reduced to an ensemble of particular obligations.
Questioner: What is the ethical?
Emmanuel Levinas: It is the recognition of holiness . . . [T]he fundamental trait of being is the preoccupation that each being has with [its own] being. The concern for the other breaches concern for the self. This is what I call holiness. Our humanity consists in being able to recognize the priority of the other, as if one could not think without already being concerned for the other.
“On the Usefulness of Insomnia”