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Addressing Levinas

Edited by Eric Sean Nelson, Antje Kapust, and Kent Still

Publication Year: 2005

At a time of great and increasing interest in the work of Emmanuel Levinas, this volume draws readers into what Levinas described as "philosophy itself" "a discourse always addressed to another." Thus the philosopher himself provides the thread that runs through these essays on his writings, one guided by the importance of the fact of being addressed the significance of the Saying much more than the Said. The authors, leading Levinas scholars and interpreters from across the globe, explore the philosopher's relationship to a wide range of intellectual traditions, including theology, philosophy of culture, Jewish thought, phenomenology, and the history of philosophy. They also engage Levinas's contribution to ethics, politics, law, justice, psychoanalysis and epistemology, among other themes.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

The title of this anthology presents us with a seemingly simple question: How should his readers address Emmanuel Levinas and the collection of books, articles, and interviews that bear his name? Given the rapidly growing interest in Levinas, one might also ask: What is Levinas’s significance for us such that “we” need to address and be addressed by him? This question is not only an issue of...

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pp. xv-xvi

The essays gathered in this anthology were originally presented at the “Addressing Levinas: Ethics, Phenomenology, and the Judaic Tradition” conference, held on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, October 15–17, 1999. It is a testimony to the interdisciplinary and international relevance of Levinas’s thought that this conference, inspired by discussions with Antje...

List of Abbreviations of Works by Emmanuel Levinas

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pp. xvii-xviii

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Introduction: Addressing Levinas

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pp. xix-xxxi

“Philosophy itself,” Emmanuel Levinas writes in Totality and Infinity, is “a discourse always addressed to another” (TI 269). “What we are now exposing,” he adds, “is addressed to those who shall wish to read it.” If, as Levinas contends, philosophers have previously attempted to give a systematic, complete and self-enclosed...

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Strange Fire

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pp. 3-16

Difficult Freedom, a collection of essays on Jewish topics that Emmanuel Levinas published in 1963 and in a second, expanded edition in 1976, is the first of Levinas’s “nonphilosophical” or “confessional” works. He keeps these works separate from his philosophical works, as the difference between an exegetical adherence...

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The Responsibility of Irresponsibility

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pp. 17-33

The Torah, or Hebrew Bible, is usually read as a story about the creation of the world as such, about cosmogony. But there are passages in the Midrash, the rabbinic commentary on the Bible, that allow for the possibility of another interpretation.

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Beyond Outrage

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pp. 34-51

Could forgiveness put us in danger of madness, of delirium? Or put even more provocatively, is forgiveness itself the opening of a delirium that puts madness itself to shame? In Otherwise Than Being, Levinas’s analysis of subjectivity centers on, becomes obsessed with, the scene of a persecution...

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The Strangeness in the Ethical Discourse of Emmanuel Levinas

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pp. 52-60

Toward the very end of Otherwise Than Being, or Beyond Essence, Emmanuel Levinas characterizes the discussion that he has conducted in that text as “strange.” He writes:...

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Levinas: A Transdisciplinary Thinker

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pp. 61-74

Levinas’s oeuvre cannot be properly understood, much less appreciated, without consideration of both the philosophical (Greek) and the spiritual ( Judaic) sides of his work. This may not seem like a particularly earthshaking observation, but I believe that the interdependence of these two aspects is often overlooked....

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“Between Betrayal and Betrayal”

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pp. 75-85

Derrida’s “Adieu,” a text so remarkable for its brevity, intimacy, and feeling that I hesitate to invoke it, ends with the acknowledgment of a debt. Unlike the debt Levinas claims to regretfully owe Heidegger, Derrida tells us, “The good fortune of our debt to Levinas is that we can, thanks to him, assume it and affirm it without...

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Levinas on the Saying and the Said

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pp. 86-97

The distinction between the Saying and the Said seems to be one of the strongest motives in Levinas’s later work. In contrast to earlier distinctions, like those between existence and the existent or between totality and infinity, this related distinction...

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Bare Humanity

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pp. 98-108

We live in a world where there are six billion similar beings of our species. Our bodies have been conceived and grown in the bodies of others, and our children grow in our own bodies. We have learned to mobilize our limbs, to shape and release feelings, we have indeed caught on how to focus our eyes and see things...

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The Other Side of Intentionality

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pp. 109-118

In critiquing Western philosophy, Levinas engages himself largely with the phenomenological tradition which construes subjectivity in terms of intentionality. Against the background of this critique, Levinas offers an alternative account of subjectivity as sensibility,...

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Face and Revelation

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pp. 119-137

“This most banal incident of human history corresponds to an exceptional possibility—since it claims the total negation of a being” (TeI 173, TI 198–99). This most banal incident of human history—murder—is the experiential point of departure for Levinas’s philosophical reflections. Or so it seems....

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Being and the Other

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pp. 138-151

There is a tendency nowadays, in the wake of a certain reading of Levinas, to oppose ethics to ontology, the thought of the other to the thought of Being. I would like in this paper to question the pertinence of this opposition, the accuracy or the...

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Some Questions for My Levinasian Friends

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pp. 152-169

Those of us disappointed with Levinas’s position on animals might conclude in a moment of exasperation that it shows clearly that ethics is not first philosophy for Levinas; that what comes first is a commitment to other humans, especially...

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Levinas and the Struggle for Existence

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pp. 170-184

It is often said that there is little or no political philosophy in Levinas. I have challenged this claim elsewhere, but it is easy to understand why some readers might not recognize the full extent of his political...

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Wealth and Justice in a U-topian Context

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pp. 185-198

Much has been said recently of Levinas’s transition from the matters of ethics to those of politics. Those discussions have centered primarily on the question of le tiers (the third), the relation of ethics to politics, and the messianic. In what follows,...

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Persecution: The Self at the Heart of Metaphysics

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pp. 199-235

The reflections that have culminated in the writing of this study were originally provoked by perplexities that I could neither ignore nor dispel regarding Levinas’s figure of “persecution.” The more I struggled with it, with its implications and equivocations, the more deeply I felt myself hopelessly lost within....

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Returning Violence

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pp. 236-256

In his monumental historical oeuvre, Herodotus made a recommendation to posterity that seems seductive in its simplicity but that, nevertheless, represents one of the most crucial problems of humanity: he claimed that a human being would...

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Levinasian Responsibility and Freudian Analysis

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pp. 257-295

The analysis that follows is part of a work in progress. I propose to begin by drawing a schema whose cardinal points consist of two sets of citations: one from Freud’s “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (1920), the other from...

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Sensible Subjects

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pp. 296-309

Can it be argued that embodiment is a necessary rather than contingent condition of the ethical relationship? And if so, then needn’t we also conceptualize the ethical relation in terms of the question of sexual difference? That is, if ethical...

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pp. 310-337

The metaphorics of sexual difference overtly orchestrates Levinas’s critical response to Heidegger, but it also operates in ways that elude Levinas, whose self-commentary on other aspects of his own writing is so prevalent and so arresting....


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pp. 339-342

E-ISBN-13: 9780810162129
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810120464

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2005

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy