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Ethics at a Standstill

History and Subjectivity in Levinas and the Frankfurt School

By Asher Horowitz

Publication Year: 2008

In Ethics at a Standstill, Asher Horowitz explores the philosophies of Levinas and the critical theorists of the Frankfurt School, demonstrating the ways in which their works diverge from and complement each other. Not simply a comparative study in which approaches are compared and contrasted, nor an attempt to blend or synthesize thinkers with quite distinct aims and methods, the book suggests, rather, that Levinas and the Frankfurt School tend toward each other, that each speaks to the desire that the other already exhibits.

Demonstrating an authoritative command of both the thinkers themselves—including Benjamin, Horkheimer, and Marcuse—and the various philosophical contexts in which they are embedded, Horowitz offers a politically thoughtful and philosophically provocative analysis based on a wide range of texts and a critical reconstruction and confrontation between the positions.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Abbreviations

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pp. vi-viii

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xx

This essay grows out of the conviction that both the Frankfurt School and Levinas each fall short of their own theoretical ambitions, yet do so in ways that allow for the possibility of a mutual fecund embrace. Emmanuel Levinas’s ethics as first philosophy is wanting in the promotion and orientation of the social critique ...

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One. Totality, Ethics, and History

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pp. 1-42

At the limits or on the horizon of ethics as first philosophy Levinas leaves thought with a conundrum and in an impasse. The ethical relation demands, or has inexorably laid upon it, contains—as though it were a condition of its own possibility—another relation that, while not quite negating ethics, betrays ethics, and in betraying it, strains ethics to the breaking ...

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Two. On the Concept of Natural History

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pp. 43-106

The structure of the relation that Levinas unfolds between history and eschatology, like that between justice and ethics, and between subjectivity and the absolutely other, discloses an anterior posteriority. The end of history will have always already taken place. The end has already preceded its beginning. From within the ethical optic, a judgment on history will also therefore always ...

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Three. The Dialectic of Natural History

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pp. 107-168

Levinas’s thinking, as a philosophy out of the concrete, is certainly not insensitive to what Adorno calls the micrological. Time and again Levinas refers to typical yet concrete, small but significant instances of the ethical relation out of which his phenomenological investigation will yield structures that break up and reverse the totalizing operations of the Same, shattering the rigid ...

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Four. Negative Dialectics and Ethics

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pp. 169-228

Adorno begins Negative Dialectics with the arresting claim that “philosophy . . . lives on because the moment to realize it was missed” (ND, 3). Much too easily this can be taken to imply that Adorno intends somehow to either restore philosophy to its traditional functions of grounding and synthesizing a comprehensive knowledge, à la Hegel, perhaps with a new degree ...

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Five. The Preponderance of the Ethical

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pp. 229-304

Adorno’s changed philosophy represents not simply a change in the methods that might be employed in achieving inherited aims, but a refusal of, or an axial shift in those aims themselves. But if the performance of negative dialectics means to think against thought, this reflexive reversal does and must make use of that which it works against. For Adorno, to think is to identify. But ...

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Six. The Sense of Hope

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pp. 305-364

Negative Dialectics, as we have seen, conveys the impression that a changed philosophy calls for a new categorical imperative, that receptivity to the preponderance of the object implies not only the failure of the power of identification, but my guilt of what I am thinking. But we have also seen that it would be more accurate to think the possibility of negative dialectics as ...

Notes

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pp. 365-388

Index

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pp. 389-404


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705491
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704074

Page Count: 424
Publication Year: 2008