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By Way of Interruption

Levinas and the Ethics of Communication

By Amit Pinchevski

Publication Year: 2005

By Way of Interruption presents a radically different way of thinking about communication ethics. While modern communication thought has traditionally viewed successful communication as ethically favorable, Pinchevski proposes the contrary: that ethical communication does not ultimately lie in the successful completion of communication but rather in its interruption; that is, in instances where communication falls short, goes astray, or even fails. Such interruptions, however, do not mark the end of the relationship, but rather its very beginning, for within this interruption communication faces the challenge of alterity. Drawing mainly on the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, Pinchevski explores the status of alterity in prevalent communication theories and Levinas’s philosophy of language and communication, especially his distinction between the Said and the Saying, and demonstrates the extent to which communication thought and practice have been preoccupied with the former while seeking to excommunicate the latter. With a strong interdisciplinary spirit, this book proposes an intellectual adventure of risk, uncertainty and the possibility of failure in thinking through the ethics of communication as experienced by an encounter with the other.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I would like to thank Sheryl Hamilton for believing in this project right from its inception; her patience and dedication have played a vital role in the formation and execution of this work. Special thanks to Chlo

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INTRODUCTION: The Other Side of Communication

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pp. 1-26

William Harben’s short story “In the Year Ten Thousand,” which was published in 1892, tells a futuristic tale of one afternoon shared by a father and his son in a great museum. The father recounts the story of humanity starting from the Dark Ages: it is not easy to understand the past, says the father, since “it is hard ...

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ONE The Biases of Communication

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pp. 27-66

Reality, argue Berger and Luckmann (1967), always appears as a zone of lucidity behind which there is a background of darkness. Knowledge about reality has the quality of a flashlight that projects a narrow cone of light on what lies just ahead and immediately around, while on all sides of the path there continues to be darkness ...

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TWO Communication as Ethics

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pp. 67-102

In this chapter, I set out to stretch the idea of communication to its limit. By “limit” I mean the two following senses: the point of boundary, frontier or separation, and concurrently the point at which communication might reach an impasse, failure or possibly breakdown. Thus, instead of approaching the subject matter from ...

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THREE Traces of Babel

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pp. 103-150

"And the earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech.” With these words begins the biblical story of Noah’s descendants. As they journeyed from the east and found a land, they set out to do the insurmountable, to transcend themselves, to build a tower, “the top whereof may reach to heaven.” They ventured to make their name ...

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FOUR Incommunicable Boundary

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pp. 151-188

John C. Lilly’s The Mind of the Dolphin opens with the following statement: “Communication, when it succeeds, is one of man’s greatest assets, and when it fails is his worst enemy” (1967, 19). “The best communicators,” he adds, “are those who are the most mentally healthy, happy, natural, spontaneous, disciplined persons” ...

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FIVE Silent Demand

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pp. 189-238

The right of the individual to freedom of speech has been a central issue in modern liberal thought and an inspiration to numerous moral, political, constitutional and legal deliberations. Having its roots in the Renaissance, it is tied to the shift in the Western world from authoritative feudalism and monarchism ...

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CONCLUSION: The Messenger Is the Message

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pp. 239-256

The approach of the Other summons communication otherwise conceived. One usually learns that he or she is able to communicate most effectively when using prepaved channels of discourse: that speaking the same language, sharing the same codes and adhering to the same discursive rules guarantee an unbiased and ...


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pp. 257-270


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pp. 271-288


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pp. 289-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780820705606
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820703763
Print-ISBN-10: 0820703761

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2005