Kierkegaard and Levinas
Ethics, Politics, and Religion
Publication Year: 2008
Recent discussions in the philosophy of religion, ethics, and personal political philosophy have been deeply marked by the influence of two philosophers who are often thought to be in opposition to each other, Søren Kierkegaard and Emmanuel Levinas. Devoted expressly to the relationship between Levinas and Kierkegaard, this volume sets forth a more rigorous comparison and sustained engagement between them. Established and newer scholars representing varied philosophical traditions bring these two thinkers into dialogue in 12 sparkling essays. They consider similarities and differences in how each elaborated a unique philosophy of religion, and they present themes such as time, obligation, love, politics, God, transcendence, and subjectivity. This conversation between neighbors is certain to inspire further inquiry and ignite philosophical debate.
Published by: Indiana University Press
We would like to thank Merold Westphal (series editor) and Dee Mortensen (senior sponsoring editor) for their continuous support of this volume. The index was prepared by Alison Sven. ...
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Good Fences May Not Make Good Neighbors After All
At first glance, Levinas and Kierkegaard make an odd couple. The historical distance between the two spans the gap between the modern and postmodern worlds. One lived through the horrors of technology’s abuses, while the other sat precariously at the edge of technology’s promise. ...
Part One. Levinas on Kierkegaard
1. The Many Faces of Levinas as a Reader of Kierkegaard
Levinas is not always a good reader of Kierkegaard. For example, he credits Kierkegaard with bringing to European philosophy “the possibility of attaining truth through the ever-recurrent inner rending of doubt” (PN, 77). In light of the polemic against modern philosophy’s preoccupation with doubt by Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms, one is left flabbergasted.1 ...
2. Existential Appropriations: The Influence of Jean Wahl on Levinas’s Reading of Kierkegaard
Whereas Martin Heidegger is at his best when he is reading other philosophers, Emmanuel Levinas is not. Despite his early success at interpreting Husserl for a French audience,1 with his own philosophical maturity came a waning of such deep readings in favor of using other thinkers as foils or as problematically superficial points ...
Part Two. On Love and Transcendence
3. Who or What or Whot?
When Kierkegaard stated, “The metaphysical, the ontological, is [er], but it does not exist [er ikke til],” he drew the line that separates him from Hegel and both of them from Levinas (SLW, 476). His Danish does this distinctly. ..
4. Kierkegaard and Levinas on Four Elements of the Biblical Love Commandment
Important initiatives have already been made in bringing Kierkegaard and Levinas together for comparison, especially in the work of Merold Westphal and Michael Weston.1 In my commentary on Kierkegaard’s Works of Love—his lengthy examination of the biblical commandment of neighbor-love—I brought in briefly aspects of Levinas’s ethics ...
5. The Greatest Commandment? Religion and/ or Ethics in Kierkegaard and Levinas
Rare indeed is a contemporary Continental philosopher of religion who does not have both S
Part Three. Time, Alterity, and Eschatology
6. Hearing, Patiently: Time and Salvation in Kierkegaard and Levinas
When Aaron Simmons and David Wood first asked us to contribute individual essays to this volume, we thought that it might be more effective to write together or, more precisely, converse in public. If the editors of this volume want to establish a relationship of neighborliness between Kierkegaard and Levinas ...
7. Kierkegaard, Levinas, and “Absolute Alterity”
For Levinas, the relation of the I to the other person (Autrui; henceforth the Other) is one to a transcendence, as for Kierkegaard is the relation of the I to God. But for both this transcendence is characterized by an “absolute difference” between the I and the Other or the I and God. ...
8. What Kierkegaardian Faith Adds to Alterity Ethics: How Levinas and Derrida Miss the Eschatological Dimension
In recent decades, a number of scholars have argued that a close relationship exists between the alterity ethics of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida on the one hand, and Kierkegaard’s agapic ethics and portrayal of faith as a subjective process of individualization on the other. ...
Part Four. Ethico-Political Possibilities
9. The Challenge of Justice: The Ethics of “Upbuilding”
Can it not be argued that Emmanuel Levinas’s assertion that ethics is grounded in the primacy of the other person’s claim upon the self in effect sanitizes the moral life by unrealistically detaching it from social actuality? Does he not also contend that an ethics of otherness at its deepest level depends upon the impact created by the presence of another, ...
10. Levinas and Kierkegaard: Ethics and Politics
Although Kierkegaard and Levinas are both religious philosophers, there are reasons to suspect that Levinas is disturbed by Kierkegaard’s philosophy more than any other philosophy he engages. The symptoms of this can be encountered in Levinas’ texts even though explicit references to Kierkegaard are often absent. ...
11. Works of Justice, Works of Love: Kierkegaard, Levinas, and an Ethics Beyond Difference
Do Kierkegaard and Levinas have any insights for us into practical ethical action? Even if they do, can their insights be brought together in anything but a polemic manner given Kierkegaard’s reputation as the defender of radically anti- social individuality and Levinas’s reputation as the advocate of the other who completely overwhelms the I? ...
12. “More Than All the Others”: Meditation on Responsibility
This chapter examines one aspect of the wide-ranging philosophical background of the intellectual and dissident movement for human rights in onetime Communist Czechoslovakia. On January 1, 1977, Charta 77—a manifesto for human rights in Czechoslovakia— was issued by three spokespersons, ...