Levinas and Kierkegaard in Dialogue
Publication Year: 2008
Few philosophers have devoted more than passing attention to similarities between the thought of Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian, and Emmanuel Levinas, a French Jew. Here, one of philosophy of religion's most distinctive voices offers a sustained comparison. Focusing on questions surrounding otherness, transcendence, postmodernity, and the nature of religious thought, Merold Westphal draws readers into a dialogue between the two thinkers. Westphal's masterful command of both philosophies shows that each can learn from the other. Levinas and Kierkegaard in Dialogue is an insightful and accessible contribution to philosophical considerations of ethics and religion.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Earlier versions of these chapters have appeared in the locations indicated below. Permission to publish these revised versions is gratefully acknowledged. ...
List of Abbreviations
This volume is the result of the circumstances under which I first began reading Levinas. I had already been working on Kierkegaard for more than twenty years when, in the spring of 1989, Martin Matust
PART 1. REVELATION
1. Revelation as Immediacy
Just as much of American culture and society looks like a concerted effort to refute Jesus’ claim that ‘‘one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions’’ (Luke 12:15), so much of contemporary French philosophy (often designated by such umbrella names as poststructuralism or postmodernism) looks like a concerted effort to refute the claim ...
2. Revelation as Enigma and Paradox
In his splendid book To the Other,1 Adriaan Peperzak presents Levinas’s 1957 essay ‘‘Philosophy and the Idea of Infinity’’ as the best brief introduction to Totality and Infinity (1961). A similar case could be made for the 1965 essay ‘‘Phenomenon and Enigma’’ in relation to Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence (1974). ...
PART 2. GOD
3. Teleological Suspensions
Unlike the positivists, postmodernists have not taken their critique of metaphysics to mean the end of ethics. They act as if philosophy continues to play a morally significant critical role in a postmodern world and even say things like ‘‘Nothing seems to me less outdated than the classical emancipatory ideal.’’1 ...
4. Commanded Love and Divine Transcendence
Levinas’s essay ‘‘God and Philosophy’’ is contemporaneous with Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence and develops theological implications of the argument left largely unthematized in what we might call the magnum opus of Levinas II.1 He purports to set the God of the Bible over against ‘‘the philosophical discourse of the West’’ ...
PART 3. HETERONOMY
5. The Trauma of Transcendence as Heteronomous Intersubjectivity
The question of the transcendence of God is utterly fundamental to any philosophical theology. Some would even say it is the most basic issue.1 In the previous two chapters we have seen that although there seems to be considerable divergence between Levinas and Kierkegaard on the meaning of ‘God,’ ...
6. Transcendence, Heteronomy, and the Birth of the Responsible Self
In his Gifford Lectures, published as Oneself as Another, Paul Ricoeur makes it clear that he will not try to put this Humpty Dumpty back together again. He seeks rather to develop a ‘‘hermeneutics of the self [that] is placed at an equal distance from the apology of the cogito and from its overthrow . . . at an equal distance from the cogito exalted by Descartes ...
PART 4. REVERSAL
7. The ‘‘Logic’’ of Solidarity
It is because he thinks that Hegel lets the cat out of the bag with words such as these that Levinas’s own philosophy is an attempt to accomplish ‘‘the radical reversal, from cognition to solidarity’’ (OB 119, emphasis added). The nature of this reversal as spelled out by Levinas and Kierkegaard is the theme of our final two chapters. ...
8. Inverted Intentionality: Being Addressed
Autonomy is allergic to alterity. If, then, one is to speak of subjectivity and transcendence or, more specifically of intentionality and transcendence, everything depends on how one proceeds. If one begins with a self-sufficient subject, granting autonomy to subjectivity, and then tries to blend alterity into the mix, ...