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The Intrigue of Ethics

A Reading of the Idea of Discourse in the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas

Jeffrey Dudiak

Publication Year: 2001

This work explains how human beings can live more peacefully with one another by understanding the conditions of possibility for dialogue. Philosophically, this challenge is articulated as the problem of: how dialogue as dia-logos is possible when the shared logos is precisely that which is in question. Emmanuel Levinas, in demonstrating that the shared logos is a function of interhuman relationship, helps us to make some progress in understanding the possibilities for dialogue in this situation. If the terms of the argument to this point are taken largely from Levinas's 1961 Totality and Infinity, Dudiak further proposes that Levinas's 1974 Otherwise than Being can be read as a deepening of these earlier analyses, delineating, both the conditions of possibility and impossibility for discourse itself. Throughout these analyses Dudiak discovers that in Levinas's view dialogue is ultimately possible, only for a gracious subjectivity already graced by God by way of the other, but where the word God is inseparable from my subjectivity as graciousness to the other. Finally, for Levinas, the facilitation of dialogue, the facilitation of peace, comes down to the subject's capacity and willingness to be who he or she is, to take the beautiful risk of a peaceful gesture offered to the other, and that peace, in this gesture itself. As Levinas himself puts it: Peace then is under my responsibility. I am a hostage, for I am alone to wage it, running a fine risk, dangerously.Levinas's philosophical discourse is precisely itself to be read as such a gesture.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Frontispiece, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

To Prof. James Olthuis, mentor and friend, for his patient and enthusiastic encouragement, for his singular gift of being-with me throughout this long, sometimes trying, but always enriching writing process...

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Preface: Dialogue and Peace

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pp. xi-xviii

From the macro-cosmic levels of international relations, through national, democratic politics, down through labor-management negotiations, to the micro-levels of marital and even personal therapies, twentieth-century humanity places a great deal of faith...

Part I: The Idea of Discourse

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1. The Impasse of Dialogue

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pp. 3-56

Dialogue, as the transmission of meaningful thought contents between interlocutors, is, etymologically, dia-logos, a transmission mediated dia (“through”) the logos (“word,” or “reason”). As such, the very notion of dialogue presupposes an a priori commonality...

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2. Original Plurality: The Terms of Discourse

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pp. 57-108

In our opening chapter we argued that the traditional notion of dialogue as dia-logos fails to help us make progress in understanding the conditions of possibility for interparadigmatic dialogue insofar as (1) in those situations that we are claiming are...

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3. Discourse as the Condition of Possibility for Dialogue

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pp. 109-164

If the separation or “transcendence” of the other from the same is produced as an ethical refusal-coming from the other-of being reduced to the categories of knowing operated by the same, as the prohibition “Thou shalt not kill” in the very...

Part II: The Possible Impossibility

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Introduction to Part II

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pp. 167-177

In the previous chapter, we argued, following Levinas, that the condition of possibility of dialogue (of any dialogue, although our particular interest is in the possibility of interparadigmatic dialogue) is discourse-a non-allergic, ethical relationship with...

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4. The Two Aspects of Language: The Saying and the Said

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pp. 178-223

Let us begin our analysis of the saying and the said by analyzing a linguistic event, an event central to the possibility of dialogue, and attempting to sort out, on a Levinasian reading, the modes of meaning operative in it. I say something to an other. We propose...

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5. The Two Directions in Language: The Reductive and the Re-Constructive

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pp. 224-262

Let us now examine rather more closely the claim we are developing that for Levinas there is no sense in which the conditions of possibility for . . . exist in the sense that they present themselves to us, that they are present to experience or as experienced...

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6. The Moment of Responsibility: Time and Eternity

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pp. 263-314

At the very end of the main text of Totality and Infinity, right before the conclusions (closing the subsection entitled “The Infinity of Time,” of the section entitled “Beyond the Face”), we find the following paragraph, which contains an unanswered...

Part III: Discourse, Philosophy, and Peace

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7. Levinas's Philosophical Discourse

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pp. 317-402

In the previous chapter we have, across an analysis of temporality, shown how Levinas’s own philosophical discourse is, by its own testimony, caught up at every moment, “in this very moment,” in the moment as the carrefour of two temporalities that at once...

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8. The Im/possibility of Peace

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pp. 403-420

Over thirty years have passed since Jean-Francois Lyotard first characterized “the postmodern condition” as an incredulity toward meta-narratives, that is to say, as a loss in the belief that a Master Story (a comprehensive account of the truth of being and...

A Brief Bibliography

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pp. 421-432


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pp. 433-438

E-ISBN-13: 9780823248018
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823220922
Print-ISBN-10: 0823220923

Page Count: 438
Publication Year: 2001

OCLC Number: 50544779
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Intrigue of Ethics

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Subject Headings

  • Lévinas, Emmanuel.
  • Language and languages -- Philosophy -- History -- 20th century.
  • Ethics.
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