Toward the Outside
Concepts and Themes in Emmanuel Levinas
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: Duquesne University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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I wish to thank Dean Chaitram Singh of Berry College for recommending my sabbatical leave in the spring of 2001, which allowed me to write some of the early material from which this book developed; Susan Wadsworth-Booth for her editorial encouragement and reassurance along the way; ...
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The overall movement of Levinasâs philosophy is toward âthe outside.â By this I do not mean to make a statement about the development of his philosophy, but about its constant polarity at every stage. This movement dominates his entire philosophy, and is already present in his first original work, ...
Part One: Concepts
No philosopher begins entirely anew. In a sense, by taking as my point of departure an analysis of selected concepts, I begin with what is least specific to this thinker. But not only does every philosopher come to a much labored vineyard, so that his originality is manifested largely by his choice of ...
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The fundamental importance of this opposition is reflected in the title of Levinasâs major 1961 work Totality and Infinity. Although the opposition between totality and infinity is not a dialectical one in the Hegelian sense, it would be a mistake, as the French philosopher Pierre Hayat warns us, to think that Levinas ...
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The concepts of âsameâ and âotherâ are treated in Platoâs dialogue, the Sophist, and they play a prominent role in the metaphysics of Hegel. What is new in Levinasâs use of them is that he associates same with the âIâ of subjectivity, and other with the other person and, in the form of illeity, with God. ...
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Language becomes increasingly central to Levinasâs philosophy as his career develops. As in the philosophy of Levinasâs contemporary Merleau-Ponty (1908â1961), language is both a system of signs, a code, and a domain preceding all decibels or inscription. I will have more to say about the similarities ...
4. BEING/BEYOND BEING
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The terms âbeingâ and âbeyond beingâ are ontological. But there is an underlying ambiguity in writing about Levinasâs ontology. He considered his own thinking to differ from Heideggerâs, mainly on the issue of ontology. It remains to be determined (see below, chapter 6, âOntology/Metaphysics,â ...
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âPersonâ and âthingâ have become emblems for opposing systems of thought over the past century or so. The conflicting worldviews that have configured themselves around them â science and the humanitiesâare ontologically distinct. Keeping in mind this dichotomy, we can grasp what is at stake in the ...
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This chapter sketches out the relation between ontology and metaphysics, then more specifically the way these terms have been understood by phenomenologists, and finally Levinasâs specific understanding and use of them in his own work. The distinction may prove helpful in differentiating the projects of Heidegger ...
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The idea of not considering reciprocity, not requiring the same behavior of others, is repeated constantly throughout the later writings and interviews. In saying that âit is very difficult, because you, too, approach my face,â I donât think Levinas is referring to the practical difficulty of getting through doorways ...
Part Two: Themes
A topical approach, though less strictly philosophical, has the advantage of offering the freedom necessary to enter into an intertextual domainâ Levinas and Husserl, Levinas and Heidegger, and finally Derridaâs reading of Levinasâ and to pursue certain themes. Some are themes within Levinasâs ...
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It is generally assumed that the two works for which Levinas will be remembered are his two major philosophical contributions, Totality and Infinity (1961) and Otherwise than Being (1974). It is indeed true that it is in those works that Levinas has presented us with the fullest, most sustained and best âcoordinatedâ ...
9. HYPOSTASIS, GRAMMAR, AND THEMATIZATION
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The philosophical significance of grammar has long been apparent to linguists, linguistic philosophers, and philosophers in general. Levinas does not explore this topic directly, but his approach appeals at key moments to cases and parts of speech which play specific roles in philosophical expression, and in the ...
10. PROXIMITY AND TEMPORALITY
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Proximity is the field that Levinas opens between the same (or the subject) and the other, in which the âintrigue of the infiniteâ unfolds. It evokes a spatiality of a rather abstract nature since it is the distance between the poles of a relation. The relation between subject and other was central to Levinasâs philosophy ...
11. THE HOLOCAUST
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The rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930s, the threat of totalitarianism, and the Holocaust itself not only âmarkâ Levinasâs work, they set in motion a complex intertwining of his philosophical reflection with the state of the world in which it unfolded. I have taken care in this chapter to present Levinasâs writings ...
12. LEVINASâS EARLY WORK ON HUSSERL
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Phenomenology stands at the beginning of Levinasâs career as a philosopher, and it is therefore of some interest to consider what aspects of Husserlian phenomenology appealed to and affected the future development of his thought. He arrived in Strasburg (from Lithuania) in 1923 at the age of 18. ...
13. LEVINASâS CRITIQUE OF HEIDEGGER
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This passage was omitted from the revision of the essay that Levinas published in 1949 in En dÃ©couvrant lâexistence avec Husserl et Heidegger. Both this text and numerous statements by Levinas in the course of interviews attest to his embarrassment at his youthful enthusiasm for that rising star among ...
14. DERRIDAâS READINGS OF LEVINAS
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Jacques Derridaâs essay on Levinas, âViolence et mÃ©taphysique,â is a defense on Derridaâs part of other philosophers â namely Kierkegaard, Hegel, Husserl, and Heideggerâ against what he considers to be Levinasâs inaccurate interpretation of them. This approach, though negative in an obvious sense, has the ...
Part Three: Commentary
Levinasâs thought has left its trace in its most pregnant form in the original French texts, leading most surely to the potential âunsaidâ that prolongs it and also serving as a âgivenâ upon which future debates and interpretations will be based. Therefore I will at times supply both the original French and the English ...
15. âDE LâÃVASIONâ (1935)
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Levinasâs first original work, âDe lâÃ©vasion,â was published in 1935 in Recherches Philosophiques. Bruno Roy, the director of Fata Morgana and a friend of Levinasâs, asked permission to republish it, but Levinas demurred until, in 1982, a former student of his, the late Jacques Rolland, resurrected the work ...
16. EXISTENCE & EXISTENTS (1947)
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This work was written during the war years, which Levinas spent in a prison camp in Germany. He mentions that circumstance to explain the absence of allusions to the most recent developments in French philosophy (the work of Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, which proceeded unimpeded by the German occupation: ...
17. TOTALITY AND INFINITY: PREFACE (1961)
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The preface to this major work sets out by placing it within the framework of a question not addressed in the same terms within the work itself. The question is whether or not one is âdupedâ by morality. Thus the book could be considered an extended answer to the question of whether there is any reason to be âmoral,â ...
18. DIFFICULT FREEDOM (1963, 1976)
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This collection of essays and articles, devoted either to Judaism or to Jewish themes (Jewish life in France, the relations between Jews and non-Jews, anti-Semitism, a commentary on the concept of Messianism, current events as they relate to the Jewish community, and a short autobiographical piece titled âSignatureâ), ...
19. âLANGUAGE AND PROXIMITYâ (1967)
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âLanguage and Proximityâ was first published in the second edition of En dÃ©couvrant lâexistence avec Husserl et Heidegger (1967). It is not included in the English translation of selected items from that work (Discovering Existence with Husserl, 1998), but has been available in English since 1987 in ...
20. âAND GOD CREATED WOMANâ
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As is the rule in Levinasâs talmudic commentaries, we begin with a text from the Talmud, in this case the Tractate Berakhot (Blessings) 61a. The first problem that the rabbis take up is one of spelling. Why does the word vayitzer (âhe formedâ) have two yods (Genesis 2:7) instead of the customary one? ...
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It is quite clear that Levinas has broken a major convention in his philosophical works, and that is to have spoken of God and of eschatological matters that are traditionally held to be more appropriate to theology than to philosophy proper. It does little good to adduce the cases of Descartes or Leibniz, or any number ...
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Page Count: 285
Publication Year: 2005