Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xx

Readers of Emmanuel Levinas will not proceed far in their study of his writings and his thought without coming across the criticism that his central idea about the face-to-face relation and interpersonal responsibility is irrelevant—to our daily lives, to social relations, and to politics. About ten years ago, in the course of writing Discovering Levinas, I cited the off-hand comment of Richard Rorty to this effect: that Levinas’s face-to-face is of no public, political...

PART I. Overview

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1 Tears the Civil Servant Cannot See: Ethics and Politics

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pp. 3-19

How does Emmanuel Levinas understand the relationship between the domain of responsibility or the ethical, on the one hand, and the domain of justice or the political, on the other? Broadly speaking, many commentators have argued that Levinas has a story to tell about this relationship that is informative, serious, and compelling; critics, however, claim that whatever Levinas has...

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2 Judaism, Zionism, and the State of Israel

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pp. 20-42

In two places in his writings on Zionism, Levinas comments on concrete historical events in Israel’s career.1 One is the visit of Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem and the Knesset in 1977 and the subsequent treaty between Israel and Egypt, and the second is the massacre in the refugee camps Sabra and Shatila in 1982, at the end of the Lebanon War, and the Israeli response to those events. Briefly put, Levinas praises Sadat’s action as an extraordinary ethical...

PART II. Philosophical Articulation

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3 The Third Party: Transcendental Ethics and Realistic Politics

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pp. 45-61

Suppose we take the human condition primarily to involve the self or subject, on the one hand, and the world, on the other. The philosophical project of articulating the structure of human experience would be the characterization of all the ways in which self and world are related and interrelated. If so, then there are surely going to be relations that account for the way the self is related to nonhuman constituents of the world—from sense perception...

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4 Ethics as Critique

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pp. 62-89

In chapters 1 and 2 I have argued that for Levinas one role of the ethical is to serve as a ground of critique of political conduct, policies, norms, and institutions. Levinas himself says that politics is subject to ethical critique. Since the ethical is a dimension of every relation and every relationship and insofar as it is constituted by our responsibilities and obligations toward other persons, Levinas must mean that politics is subject to evaluation by the standard...

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5 Responsibility for Others and the Discourse of Rights

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pp. 90-124

As I have shown, one of the roles played by the quasi-transcendental or structural relationship that Levinas calls the face-to-face and later calls the self ’s infinite responsibility to and for each and every other person is the role of the ground of social and political critique. That is, societies, institutions, political policies, and legal systems can (and should) all be judged in terms of how adequately or how inadequately they promote and permit this responsibility...

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6 Liberalism and Democracy

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pp. 125-148

When Levinas was a child, his family had to leave their home in Kovno, Lithuania, during the First World War, and after their return, he lived under the young Soviet government until he left for Strasbourg in 1924. In France he came into contact with a generation of philosophers whose political views had been shaped in the wake of the Dreyfus Affair, and he adopted in his own way the ideals of the French Revolution as they were recovered during that...

PART III. Ethics, Politics, and Zionism

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7 Teaching Prophetic Politics: Ethics and Politics in Levinas’s Talmudic Lessons

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pp. 151-189

Levinas’s published writings include books, collections of essays and articles, interviews, and Talmudic lessons. Generally speaking, the best places to look for Levinas’s comments on concrete and particular situations in which ethics and politics encounter one another are his many published interviews and his twenty-four published Talmudic lessons.1 In the interviews Levinas speaks directly to an interviewer and responds to his or her questions; the informality...

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8 Zionism and the Justification of a Jewish State

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pp. 190-227

There are places in Levinas’s writings where he attends to politics and political values and ideas. Some of these occur in his Talmudic readings, as we have seen. In this chapter, however, I choose a different route. From the early 1950s to the end of his life, Levinas turned and returned to the State of Israel and Zionism, often in terms of its role and place in Judaism and also for other reasons. Since he came to associate the appreciation for the centrality of ethics...

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9 Ethics, Politics, and Messianism

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pp. 228-265

In a well-known interview, R ichard Kearney asked Emmanuel Levinas if the “ethical criterion of the interhuman” were not employed by him as a “sort of messianic eschatology.” Levinas objected to the expression “eschatology” and yet accepted the proposal that the “ethical relation with the other” is messianic, but only when properly understood. That is, he rejected the idea of a historical eschaton, an end or goal, whether we think of it as a face-to-face exposure...

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10 Levinas’s Notorious Interview

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pp. 266-298

There may be no more controversial comments associated with Emmanuel Levinas than his remarks during a radio interview, broadcast on Radio Communauté on September 28, 1982, in the wake of the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon near Beirut. The interview was conducted by Shlomo Malka, and the interviewees were Levinas and Alain Finkielkraut. A transcript was published in Les Nouveaux Cahiers, but its notoriety...

PART IV. Defense

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11 Levinas and His Critics

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pp. 301-351

In the course of this book I have had occasion to notice various criticisms of Levinas, but I have not yet responded to them. To some readers I may have appeared defensive and overly generous to Levinas. My goal has been to show the various ways in which his account of human existence as fundamentally, primordially ethical provides Levinas with the tools for an ethical critique of social and political action, programs, institutions, and policies. For this reason...

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Conclusion

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pp. 352-354

Social and political philosophy consider the principles for designing a system of norms, institutions, and practices that ought to organize the lives of individual persons living together in groups. There are various values that such principles should express and that the system itself should exemplify. Among such values are security of the individual citizens, stability, fair treatment of all, some measure of equality, and such. While there are doubtless...

Notes

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pp. 355-396

Index

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pp. 397-410

About the Author

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p. 411