Levinas and the Ancients
Publication Year: 2008
The relation between the Greek and Judeo-Christian traditions is "the great problem" of Western philosophy, according to Emmanuel Levinas. In this book Brian Schroeder, Silvia Benso, and an international group of philosophers address the relationship between Levinas and the world of ancient thought. In addition to philosophy, themes touching on religion, mythology, metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, ethics, and politics are also explored. The volume as a whole provides a unified and extended discussion of how an engagement between Levinas and thinkers from the ancient tradition works to enrich understandings of both. This book opens new pathways in ancient and modern philosophical studies as it illuminates new interpretations of Levinas' ethics and his social and political philosophy.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Studies in Continental Thought
It is clear that his thesis about the independence of ethics vis-à-vis history and all cultures—a thesis carefully developed in his “Meaning and Sense”—appeals to the Platonism of all those who, like Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus, look up to “the Good beyond essence” and the Beloved that moves all persons, events, arts, and things “by being loved.” ...
We would like to thank, first of all, the contributors to this volume, without whose time, patience, and scholarship this work would not have come to be.We are grateful also to John Sallis for including this work in his series Studies in Continental Thought, ...
Abbreviations of Works by Emmanuel Levinas
TO RETURN IN A NEW WAY: INTRODUCTION
To the question “What is Europe?” Levinas replies, “It is the Bible and the Greeks” (TN 133; cf. IRB 182–83); however, he qualifies, “it is . . . the Bible which renders the Greeks necessary” (IRB 64), thereby establishing, if not the primacy, then at least the primordiality of the biblical experience. ...
1. THE BREATHING OF THE AIR: PRESOCRATIC ECHOES IN LEVINAS
Relinquishing the rhetorical interrogation in the above epigraph, let us restate it positively: “We Westerners. . . .” Others have already explored some of the ways in which Levinas’ philosophy is sustained by the biblical inspiration. And Levinas himself is willing to recognize, at various points in his essays, ...
2. THE ETERNAL AND THE NEW: SOCRATES AND LEVINAS ON DESIRE AND NEED
For Socrates, in the Symposium, eros is a type of desire, and desire is a type of need. For Levinas, in Totality and Infinity, desire is contrasted with need. Are their views of desire, then, completely different? No, I will argue, they are not as different as they seem, since Socrates invokes need for the same reason Levinas rejects it: ...
3. LEVINAS QUESTIONING PLATO ON EROS AND MAIEUTICS
In a 1961 outline of the doctoral thesis that would become Totality and Infinity, Levinas provocatively characterized his project as “a return to Platonism.”1 This is certainly a surprising description of a book that carries out a radical critique of the entire history of ontology and whose project one would therefore expect to be anti-Platonist. ...
4. GETTING UNDER THE SKIN: PLATONIC MYTHS IN LEVINAS
In an interview conducted in 1981, Philippe Nemo asks Emmanuel Levinas: “How does one begin thinking?” (EI 21). Levinas answers that thinking arises from certain traumatisms, from certain events that cannot be considered fullfledged experiences because we cannot name or describe them. ...
5. LENDING ASSISTANCE ALWAYS TO ITSELF: LEVINAS’ INFINITE CONVERSATION WITH PLATONIC DIALOGUE
In a text written in the hours immediately following the death of Emmanuel Levinas and read at a service at the cemetery in Pantin on December 27, 1995, Jacques Derrida pays tribute to the remarkable life and work of Emmanuel Levinas and to the unique role Levinas played in twentieth-century thought both inside and outside of France ...
6. ETHICS AS FIRST PHILOSOPHY: ARISTOTELIAN REFLECTIONS ON INTELLIGENCE, SENSIBILITY, AND TRANSCENDENCE
One of Levinas’ crucial contributions to contemporary thought is the understanding of ethics as first philosophy. This view calls for a radical critique of the priority traditionally accorded to rational-scientific knowledge, with respect to which the various disciplines would be construed in their derivativeness, ...
7. ARISTOTLE AND LEVINAS ON WAR AND PEACE: THE ONE AGAINST THE OTHER
Who would desire war? Apart from the obvious forms of political manipulation through propaganda, disinformation, and appeal to economic interest that rouse a people or peoples to desire war, there is another reason war succeeds so well in holding a population in thrall. ...
8. STOIC ETHICS AND TOTALITY IN LIGHT OF LEVINASIAN ALTERITY
Bringing together Stoicism and Levinas seems, at first, a peculiar task. A brief survey of their philosophical commitments reveals undeniable disparities. Stoicism introduces a sweeping metaphysical framework that views each individual from the perspective of an ordered kosmos. Levinas provides a departure from traditional Western thought ...
9. OF A NON-SAYING THAT SAYS NOTHING: LEVINAS AND PYRRHONISM
Alerting us to a significant fact about Levinas’ invocation of skepticism in his parenthetical qualifier, Robert Bernasconi notes, “Levinas draws on the recurrence of (a certain form of) skepticism—in spite of the attempt of logic to exclude its return—in order to suggest that skepticism is witness to reasons that reason does not know.”1 ...
10. THE TIME AND LANGUAGE OF MESSIANISM: LEVINAS AND SAINT PAUL
To address the question of Levinas’ relationship to the Ancients—which certainly entails more than one question—we should be mindful of Levinas’ relation to the Greeks and to ancient Jewish thought like that of Philo, who gave us the first exhaustive exploration of the meaning of the name and the letter. ...
11. PROXIMITY IN DISTANCE: LEVINAS AND PLOTINUS
It may appear strange to find the name of Emmanuel Levinas, a phenomenologist and an advocate of alterity, beside that of Plotinus, who (from Levinas’ perspective) would be considered a metaphysician of identity. My intention is not to dismiss the differences between them but to show that a close reading of their philosophies, ...
12. A TRACE OF THE ETERNAL RETURN? LEVINAS AND NEOPLATONISM
Despite the predominantly materialist turn of late modern philosophy, the “death of God,” the deconstruction of metaphysics, and the poststructuralist critique of philosophies of identity, one still finds vestiges of Neoplatonism in contemporary philosophy and theology. ...
13. ETHICS AND PREDESTINATION IN AUGUSTINE AND LEVINAS
Emmanuel Levinas is perhaps our most purely non-apocalyptic or antiapocalyptic thinker, one absolutely distancing his thinking from that apocalypse or new age released by the uniquely modern realization of the death of God. This is a distancing so absolute that it must go beyond any possible primordial condition to the absolutely pre-primordial, ...
List of Contributors