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Levinas and Asian Thought

edited by Leah Kalmanson, Frank Garrett & Sarah Mattice

Publication Year: 2013

While influential works have been devoted to comparative studies of various Asian philosophies and continental philosophers such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Derrida, this collection is the first to fully treat the increased interest in intercultural and interdisciplinary studies related to the work of Emmanuel Levinas in such a context. Levinas and Asian Thought seeks to discover common ground between Levinas’s ethical project and various religious and philosophical traditions of Asia such as Mahāyāna Buddhism, Theravādic Buddhism, Vedism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Islam. In these 13 essays, contributors draw on resources as diverse as the self-sacrificial ethic of bushidō, Islamic jurisprudence, and contemporary research in cognitive science. The essays are organized around three primary themes of enduring ethical, political, and religious importance. The first set of essays considers a dialogue between Levinasian and Asian accounts of the self, others, and the intersubjective relationship. Through a conversation with a variety of non-Western traditions, the second group of essays addresses the question of Levinas’s extreme portrayal of the self’s responsibility to the other and its potential limits. Finally, the collection ends with essays that utilize Asian thought and culture to consider ways in which Levinas’s ethics of alterity might be put into practice in the sphere of politics, social norms, and institutions. Levinas and Asian Thought is not only a comprehensive attempt to bring Levinas into conversation with the philosophies of Asia, but it also represents a focused effort to recognize, address, and overcome Levinas’s own Eurocentrism. Overall, the thoughtful investigations collected here chart new territory, pushing Levinas’s practice of philosophy outside its familiar European and Jewish contexts, expanding our understanding of key Levinasian terms, thus furthering the thinking necessary for ethics as first philosophy. This volume will be of interest to a wide range of scholars and students, as it builds connections among Levinas studies, Asian philosophy, comparative philosophy, continental philosophy, and ethics.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Frank Garrett would like to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Peter K. J. Park for guidance throughout this project and to Stephen Harding for immeasurable support. Leah Kalmanson and Sarah Mattice would like to thank the philosophy faculty at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa for their support. We extend our gratitude especially to Ron Bontekoe for initially...

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Leah Kalmanson and Sarah Mattice

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pp. 1-10

An important question of any comparative project concerns motivation and incentive. Why compare “philosophies” across cultures and, in our case, why choose Emmanuel Levinas as the central figure of the collection? Comparative philosophy, although typically associated with cross-cultural work, shares the same set of philosophical tasks...

Part I: Selves and Others

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1. Facing (“and Yet Not Facing”) East

Frank Garrett

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pp. 13-26

In this essay, the condition of what I identify as the eccentric self will inform our investigation. This self is fractured and fragmented, decentered and contingent, and (employing Buddhist terminology) ultimately empty.1 By examining the kōan literature of Zen Buddhism, we can excavate a phenomenology of subjectivity that speaks toward...

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2. Desire and the Possibility of Escape

Drew M. Dalton

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pp. 27-40

It is difficult to know how to forge a path between the thought of Emmanuel Levinas and the teaching of the Buddha. This is, by and large, uncharted territory, and one cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the possible threats of generalization and reductionism that loom therein. To begin with, there is Levinas’s regrettable and often enough...

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3. The Legalist Betrayal of the Confucian Other

Steven Shankman

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pp. 41-52

The many cultural worlds — Russian, Jewish, German, French, Lithuanian — that Emmanuel Levinas inhabited in such depth, and which he traversed constantly and adroitly, were diverse. Levinas’s frame of reference, however, does not extend much beyond the Western and Judeo-Christian orbit. His critical tools are the result of his immersion...

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4. The Space between Us

Joel Krueger

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pp. 53-78

This essay brings Emmanuel Levinas and Watsuji Tetsurō into constructive philosophical engagement. Rather than focusing primarily on interpretation — admittedly an important dimension of comparative philosophical inquiry — my intention is to put their respective views to work, in tandem, and address the problem of the embodied social...

Part II: Responsibility and Its Limits

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5. On Debts, Duties, and Dialogue

Arindam Chakrabarti

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pp. 81-98

The simple etymological fact that the English word ought is derived from an old English spelling of owed should alert us to the possibility that ethical obligation has something to do with indebtedness to others.1 Both Emmanuel Levinas and ancient Indian Vedic moral metaphysics try, in very similar yet interestingly different ways...

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6. The Complicity of the Ethical

Eric S. Nelson

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pp. 99-114

Beyond the specific questionability of Greek philosophy for Emmanuel Levinas, and despite Socrates’s testimony in the Apology that human wisdom is worth little or nothing in contrast with a divine wisdom that no mortals possess, there is a sense in which all wisdom is betrayal. Wisdom, even the most compassionate and pacifistic, can be...

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7. Acting toward the Other with/out Violence

Dan Lusthaus

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pp. 115-130

An alternate version of this gruesome yet compelling tale of one of Buddha’s former lives has the young prince lie down in front of the famished mother tigress, offering up his body to her so that she can live and feed her cubs. Seeing she is too weak to eat him, he proceeds...

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8. The Hidden Hour

Andy Amato

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pp. 131-144

What is the relation of killing to dying, of taking life to offering it up? These two events, as I wish to think through them here, meet one another in the mortal equation of violence. On this point we might recall Heraclitus: “One must realize that war (polemos) is shared and conflict (eris) is justice (dikē), and that all things come to pass in...

Part III: Practices, Norms, and Institutions

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9. Cambodia, 2009

Alphonso Lingis

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pp. 147-166

Writing in the aftermath of the totalitarian politics in the twentieth century and the slaughter of “millions on millions of all confessions and all nations” (OB v), Emmanuel Levinas devoted himself to isolating and identifying the locus of the ethical imperative and elaborating the distinctive and autonomous discourse of ethics.1 Is this...

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10. Dialectics of the Unseen

M. Ashraf Adeel

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pp. 167-180

This essay is an effort to look at Islamic ethics in the light of Emmanuel Levinas’s attack on totalizing philosophy, ontology, and theology. In particular, I compare Levinas’s remarks on the invisibility of the other, and the metaphysical desire this engenders, with the notion in Islam of faith in the invisible or the unseen, al-ghaib. Through...

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11. Absolute Otherness and the Taste of Powdered Green Tea

Matthew Coate

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pp. 181-194

Despite being the very man to have written that “legs that can walk will already be able to dance; hands that touch and hold will be able to feel, paint, sculpt, and play a piano in the surprise of conforming to an ideal never seen previously” (EN 183), it is well known...

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12. Vitality as Responsivity

Bradley Douglas Park

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pp. 195-224

At first glance, it might seem inappropriate to place the classical Chinese thought of Lao-Zhuang Daoism in dialogue with the postmodern continental philosophy of Levinas, given the rather obvious fact that they emerge out of utterly disparate traditions.1 And yet, a closer

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13. The Flow of the Breath

Mitchell Verter

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pp. 225-240

Phenomenology challenges us with the opportunity to become aware of that which we normally take for granted, allowing us to see things that would have otherwise gone unseen, and to listen to voices that would have otherwise gone unheard. However, there are phenomena...


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pp. 241-266


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pp. 267-282

About the Contributors

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pp. 283-286


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pp. 287-295

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780820705965
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704685
Print-ISBN-10: 0820704687

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013