In our present-day Western society, there has been an increasing tendency towards individualism and indifference and away from altruism and empathy. This has led to a resurgence of ethical concerns in contemporary Continental philosophy. Following the thinking of philosophers such as Emmanuel Levinas, ethics has come to be defined in terms of a disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Levinas claims that taking care of others in need is not a free, rational decision, but a fundamental responsibility that is pre-consciously felt. We are passively obligated before we can actively choose to help. Levinas therefore argues that the needy other incapacitates our normal selfish ways, and that this 'radical passivity' enables us to recognise our inherent responsibility towards others in need. Levinas's own thinking on this subject is not unambiguous, however. While his early works stress the fact that we cannot care for others if we do not first take care of ourselves, his later works focus exclusively on the other as locus of our ethical responsibility. Following this line of thinking, a false opposition has emerged between an absolutised egoism and a crushing altruism that threatens to undermine the recent resurgence of ethical concerns. For how can we continue to care for others if we fail to recognise the duties we have towards ourselves? Moreover, what is the moral significance of responsible action if it is not freely chosen but passively imposed?