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Conversations with Emmanuel Levinas, 1983-1994

By Michaël de Saint Cheron; Translated by Gary D. Mole

Publication Year: 2010

An ardent admirer and student of Emmanuel Levinas during the last decade of the philosopher's life, Michaël de Saint Cheron sat down with his mentor for these interviews, conducted in 1983, 1992, and 1994. Throughout, their conversations provide further insight into the key concepts of responsibility, transcendence, holiness, and the hostage for understanding Levinas’s notion of ethics as first philosophy.

As Levinas and Saint Cheron discuss a variety of topics — death and time in the philosophies of Heidegger and Bergson, eros and the feminine, the Judeo-Christian dialogue, Levinas’s differences of thought with Paul Ricœur, reflections on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the “end of history” with the fall of Western Communism — we can clearly see Levinas’s ceaseless engagement with the justification for living after such horrors as those of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Stalinism, Cambodia, or Rwanda.

Included here as well, following the interviews, are several essays in which Saint Cheron presents his own further considerations of their conversations and Levinas’s ideas. He writes of the relation of the epiphany of the face to the idea of holiness; of Sartre and, in particular, that existentialist thinker’s “revision” of Jews and Judaism in his final controversial dialogues with Benny Lévy; of the epiphanies of death in André Malraux’s writings; and of the radical breach effected in the Western philosophical tradition by Levinas’s “otherwise-than-thinking." Finally, Saint Cheron pays homage to Levinas’s talmudic readings in an analysis of forgiveness and the unforgivable in Jewish tradition and liturgy, culminating in an inevitable confrontation with the Shoah from the perspective of Simon Wiesenthal’s harrowing The Sunflower and some of the contemporary reactions to it.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Translator’s Foreword

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pp. ix-xvii

OVER THE LAST DECADE OF HIS LIFE, toward the close of a 60-year career, Emmanuel Levinas agreed to many interviews conducted by diverse interviewers in different contexts, many of which...

Abbreviations

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pp. xix-

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Introduction: Decades Attuned to Levinas’s Word

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pp. 1-9

SINCE THE EARLY 1980s, Emmanuel Levinas’s words have been essential to me, as indeed they have for all those who got to know him. From 1983 onward I followed his lessons on Saturday mornings...

Part One: Conversations with Emmanuel Levinas: Toward a Philosophy of Holiness

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pp. 11-38

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1. Inaugural Meeting, May 9, 1983

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pp. 13-16

THE CHURCH, OR CHRISTIANITY IN GENERAL, has been teaching for 2,000 years, until recently, that since Christ Judaism, the Synagogue, has contributed nothing new. Is this not contradicted...

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2. Interviews,1992, 1994

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pp. 17-38

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE the philosopher’s responsibility in the midst of the planetary upheaval we are living through? E.L.: It’s a difficult question...

Part Two: From the Phenomenology of the Face to a Philosophy of the Breach

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pp. 39-110

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1. From the Epiphany of the Face to the Idea of Holiness

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pp. 41-52

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO OPPOSE HUMAN FOLLY? Answers to this question have not come from the most famous philosophers but from men and women often unknown in their lifetime..

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2. Sartre and Levinas: Is There a Dialogue?

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pp. 53-68

EXISTENTIALISM . . . IS ABLE TO OPPOSE anti-Semitism . . . . The presence of an existentialist humanism, that is to say . . . of a humanism that would assimilate the fundamental experiences...

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3. Death and the Other or the Dialogue with Malraux

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pp. 69-90

NO RELIGION, WITH THE EXCEPTION perhaps of Buddhism, has ever provided an answer, or is capable of providing an answer, to the two essentially unanswerable questions of what and why death is...

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4. Otherwise than Thinking: A Philosophy of the Breach

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pp. 91-110

WHAT IS THAT — THINKING? To this initial question let us add the question that opens Heidegger’s book What Is That — Philosophy? On the first page of the book...

Part Three: Forgiving and the Unforgivable in the Talmud, Based on Levinas’s Teaching

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1. Yom Kippur, the Day for Forgiveness

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pp. 113-131

THE JEWISH YEAR RECOUNTS as it were holy history from the creation of the world commemorated in Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem on the ninth...

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2. Our Transgressions against Our Fellows

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pp. 133-147

AFTER CAIN’S MURDER OF ABEL his brother, he heard a divine voice asking him, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain replied...

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3. The Shoah and the Unforgivable

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pp. 149-161

CAN ONE FORGIVE THE UNFORGIVABLE? How can I go on trying to reflect on forgiveness without broaching the terrible question of the Shoah and beyond that of all crimes against...

Bibliography

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pp. 162-168

Index

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pp. 169-175

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780820705637
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704289

Page Count: 194
Publication Year: 2010

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Subject Headings

  • Philosophers -- France -- Interviews.
  • Lévinas, Emmanuel -- Interviews.
  • Lévinas, Emmanuel.
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