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Levinas and the Crisis of Humanism

Claire Elise Katz

Publication Year: 2012

Reexamining Emmanuel Levinas's essays on Jewish education, Claire Elise Katz provides new insights into the importance of education and its potential to transform a democratic society, for Levinas's larger philosophical project. Katz examines Levinas's "Crisis of Humanism," which motivated his effort to describe a new ethical subject. Taking into account his multiple influences on social science and the humanities, and his various identities as a Jewish thinker, philosopher, and educator, Katz delves deeply into Levinas's works to understand the grounding of this ethical subject.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

In many ways, I have been writing this book since I was an undergraduate discussing education with my grandparents when I shared Friday night dinners with them. My grandfather, z”l, a retired college professor and a fan of John Dewey’s philosophy of education, was a formidable interlocutor. My grandmother, with an advanced...

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pp. xv-xviii

I have been writing this book for many years, and I have been thinking about the themes that occupy its pages for many years longer. The list of people to thank is numerous. My undergraduate teachers, Tom Benson, John Titchener, and Craig Vasey, who first encouraged me to pursue the Master’s degree in the Philosophy for Children...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xix

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pp. 1-17

Responding to the atrocities of the Holocaust, the critical theorist Theodor Adorno declares in a 1966 radio interview that “the premier demand upon all education is that Auschwitz not happen again.”1 A provocative statement, it is also revealing. His directive connects him to Emmanuel Levinas insofar as each presents education...

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1. The Limits of the Humanities

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pp. 18-39

In his book The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities, Frank Donoghue, an English professor at The Ohio State University, traces the roots of the corporate model of education back to the turn of the twentieth century, the rise of industrialization, and the increased power attained by those with wealth. It...

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2. Solitary Men

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pp. 40-57

“No one is more self-sufficient than Rousseau,” Levinas proclaims in his 1935 book, On Escape, a statement that could be easily dismissed as a passing swipe at the eighteenth-century thinker.1 No doubt, Levinas would have ambivalent feelings about Rousseau, whose philosophy is often cited as influential in the French Revolution and the...

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3. The Crisis of Humanism

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pp. 58-79

In his 1933 essay “Biblical Humanism,” Martin Buber outlines the distinction between Western humanism and what he calls biblical humanism.1 Similar to the kind of argument that we will see Levinas make, Buber argues that just as Western humanism has drawn from its respective literary sources, so too should Judaism draw from...

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4. Before Phenomenology

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pp. 80-103

“How does one become the kind of ethical subject Levinas describes?” This question typically emerges in response to discussions about Levinas’s ethical project. In other words, the discussion frequently shifts from the description of the ethical subject to the question of origin: Is Levinas simply describing an ethical subjectivity...

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5. The Promise of Jewish Education

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pp. 104-124

In his biography of Emmanuel Levinas, Salomon Malka opens the chapter on Levinas’s years as the director of École Normale Israélite Orientale (ENIO) with the following quote: After Auschwitz, I had the impression that in taking on the directorship of the École Normale Israélite Orientale I was responding to a historical calling. It was my little secret . . .

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6. Teaching, Fecundity, Responsibility

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pp. 125-149

Emmanuel Levinas returned to Paris immediately following the murderous years of World War II, during which he served as an interpreter before his unit was captured. He then spent the duration of the war, 1940–1945, first in Frontstalags in Rennes and Laval, then at Vesoul, and from June 1942 until May 1945 at Stalag 11B at Fallingbostel near Magdeburg in Germany.3 Upon his return and without delay, he went...

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7. Humanism Found

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pp. 150-168

This book has argued that Levinas’s writings on Jewish education help us understand his fundamental concerns motivating his ethical project. He witnessed a crisis of humanism for which a new subjectivity was required. His philosophical writings argue for this new subjectivity, but the question of how this subjectivity can develop...


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pp. 169-208


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pp. 209-216


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pp. 217-221

E-ISBN-13: 9780253007674
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253007629

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2012