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Levinas and Buber

Dialogue and Difference

Edited by Peter Atterton, Matthew Calarco, & Maurice Friedman

Publication Year: 2004

Emmanuel Levinas and Martin Buber—considered by many the most important Jewish philosophers since the twelfth century sage Maimonides—knew each other as associates and friends. Yet although their dialogue was certainly instructive at times, and demonstrated the esteem in which Levinas held Buber, in particular, their relationship just as often exhibited a failure to communicate. This volume of essays is intended to resume the important dialogue between Levinas and Buber. Thirteen essays by a wide range of scholars do not attempt to assimilate the two philosophers’ respective views of each other, rather, these discussions provide an occasion to examine their genuine differences—differences that both Levinas and Buber agreed were required for genuine dialogue to begin.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-

List of Abbreviations

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pp. viii-x

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Introduction

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pp. 1-25

Martin Buber (1878–1965) and Emmanuel Levinas (1906–1995) knew each other as associates and friends. Indeed, Buber instructed Maurice Friedman, one of the editors of this volume, to include contributions by Levinas to both The Philosophy of Martin Buber volume of The Library of Living Philosophers and the Martin Buber section...

I. Dialogue

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pp. 27-

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1. Samuel and Agag

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pp. 29-31

I once met on a journey a man whom I already knew through an earlier meeting. He was an observant Jew who followed the religious tradition in all the details of his life-pattern. But what was for me essential (as had already become unmistakably clear to me at that first meeting) was that this relationship to tradition had its origin and...

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2. On Buber

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pp. 32-34

Yes, I knew him personally after the war. My interest in the intersubjective relation, my principal theme, is often united with the philosophy of Buber, who distinguished the I-Thou, the relation between persons, from the I-It, the relation of man with things. The relation to the other man is irreducible to the knowledge of an...

II. Ethics

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pp. 35-

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3. Buber and Levinas: Philosophical Reflections on an Opposition

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pp. 37-48

Between Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas there reigns — despite the high esteem in which Buber held Levinas and the honor that Levinas accorded Buber — an opposition. And one has to encounter all the fundamental causes of this contrast with philosophical wonder. A superficial observation already leads us to posit numerous...

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4. Affection and the Transcendental Dialogical Personalism of Buber and Levinas

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pp. 49-64

What can we say, now more than a century since his birth, is Martin Buber’s most important philosophical contribution? Should we take him seriously at all? Is it all poetry and mysticism, evocation with no follow-through? Despite the widespread use “I-Thou” jargon in psychology, philosophy, theology and elsewhere, Buber cannot be held...

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5. “Failure of Communication” as a Surplus: Dialogue and Lack of Dialogue between Buber and Levinas

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pp. 65-97

The proximity between Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas which is so striking to the external observer was not always so apparent to Buber and Levinas themselves. Levinas was initially preoccupied with differentiating or separating his own position from that of Buber. But having established the points of difference, he found himself then able...

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6. Ethics and the Place of the Other

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pp. 98-115

“Nothing could limit the homage due him” — such was Emmanuel Levinas’s estimation of Martin Buber (OS, 41). The numerous essays Levinas dedicated to the examination of Buber’s thought reveal the high esteem in which he held Buber.1 Yet these essays also demonstrate the profound disagreement between the two thinkers on a...

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7. Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas: An Ethical Query

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pp. 116-129

Juxtaposing Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas is irresistible. Both are solidly rooted in Judaism. Both are philosophers who have broken with the central thrust of philosophy from Plato to Heidegger in favor of a radical relation to otherness, alterity. Both are centrally concerned with ethics. Both link the relationship with God with the relationship...

III. Religion

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pp. 131-

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8. Buber’s and Levinas’s Attitudes toward Judaism

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pp. 133-156

Levinas and Buber have in common a reverence for human life as well as a philosophy of human relationship. They made an enormous contribution to the ethical thought and the religious consciousness of the twentieth century. The differences as well as the common ground between the two creative thinkers are seen in their different views of...

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9. Revelation Here and Beyond: Buber and Levinas on the Bible

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pp. 157-178

Buber and Levinas equally regard the Bible as a moral and spiritual wellspring of both Jewish and Western civilization, and agree that the modern reader has much to learn by turning back to the Hebrew Bible for instruction.1 For both thinkers, the Bible is the book in whose light we see and judge our social and historical condition, but it is also...

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10. Reading Torah: The Discontinuity of Tradition

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pp. 179-202

One of the most basic agreements between Levinas and Buber is a shared insight that what happens in the action of language, in the performance of signification or in the facing of another, is the origin of meaning. The pragmatic dimension of our relations to others, the way a sign relates to the ones who signify, who “use” the sign, governs...

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11. Beyond The “Eclipse of God”: The Shoah in the Jewish Thought of Buber and Levinas

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pp. 203-225

Post-Holocaust Jewish thought, perhaps surprisingly, is generally seen as a phenomenon that begins not in the 1940s or 1950s, but in the 1960s.1 The great Jewish theologians of the earlier part of the twentieth century, including the Orthodox thinker Joseph Soloveitchik, the conservative theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel, the founder of...

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12. Reciprocity and the Height of God: A Defense of Buber against Levinas

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pp. 226-232

There is a strong similarity between Martin Buber’s notion of the I-Thou relation and Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy of respect for the other. Levinas recognizes this similarity and, as a result, Buber’s name continually appears in books and articles written throughout the course of Levinas’s career.1 Both thinkers stress the social or ethical aspect of...

IV. Heidegger, Humanism, and the Other Animal

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pp. 233-

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13. Buber and Levinas — and Heidegger

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pp. 235-249

The Levinas-Buber relation is a deep and instructive relationship.1 Martin Buber is senior and far better known. His book, I and Thou, first published in 1923, was immediately and widely recognized as an important spiritual work and quickly translated into many languages, including Japanese. Buber is himself a recognizable figure, the bearded...

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14. The Retrieval of Humanism in Buber and Levinas

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pp. 250-261

Few thoughts could appear more outmoded today than those that attempt to recover humanism. As Nietzsche suggests, we find ourselves in an age in which we have become “tired of man,” an age characterized above all by “modesty” regarding the self-knowledge and self-consciousness that has traditionally served as the hallmark of Western...

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15. Face-to-Face with the Other Animal?

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pp. 262-281

It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that the inclusion (Umfassung) (IT, 178) of nature within the I-Thou relation has been the biggest obstacle to the reception of Buber’s thought. Levinas is one critic for whom the possibility of Thou-saying (Du-Sagen) to nonhuman beings constitutes a retreat from the fundamental insight of I and Thou, which...

Notes

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pp. 282-311

Contributors

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pp. 312-314

Index

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pp. 317-325


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705514
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820703497
Print-ISBN-10: 0820703494

Page Count: 335
Publication Year: 2004

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Lévinas, Emmanuel.
  • Buber, Martin, 1878-1965.
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