Levinas's Philosophy of Time
Gift, Responsibility, Diachrony, Hope
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Duquesne University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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What is philosophy? The study of philosophy had little appeal to me until I read Totality and Infinity and was summoned by Levinas to consider the origins of philosophy in the face of the other person. In this sense, philosophy is merely fumbling for language to describe an encounter that is underway before I am even conscious of the...
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Time has mesmerized and perplexed philosophers since prehistory. In the last century, the notion of time has received particularly intense reconsideration, and it plays a substantial role in the development of the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas (1906–1995). However, in the scholarly field surrounding his work...
One: Time, in the Beginning
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The earliest of Levinas’s writings indicate his awareness that the next step for philosophy involves a reconsideration of the concept of time. The briefest of glances at Levinas’s biography and bibliography indicate that he was quite familiar with the work of Henri Bergson and Edmund Husserl, even before his famous encounter with...
Two: The Freedom and Horror of the Instant
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We can only guess at the significance of this reality: Levinas’s first book-length contribution to philosophy, Existence and Existents (1947), was largely written and conceived while he was in captivity.1 We should not be surprised, therefore, at the raw and haunting images that Levinas now combines with familiar...
Three: From Darkness to the Other
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In a note to himself, probably written in 1942 in the Nazi stalag, Levinas outlined some of the philosophical work he had in front of him. The top three items on this note were “1. Being and Nothingness, 2. Time, 3. Rosenzweig.”1 While Levinas desired to engage Sartre’s work prior to publishing...
Four: The Recession of Time
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The 1950s present a fascinating turn in the development of Levinas’s unique philosophy of time. Returning to Jacques Derrida’s analogy that compares Levinas’s thought to waves crashing higher on the shore, we might say that the tide recedes for nearly a decade in terms of Levinas’s development of his concept...
Five: Between Four Walls
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Levinas asks in the preface of his own book, “Can one speak of a book as though one had not written it, as though one were its first critic?” (TI 29). Answering this question in the affirmative, the preface to Totality and Infinity presents both a first reading and an initial critique...
Six: Time in Transition
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There is a stark difference between Totality and Infinity (1961) and Levinas’s second major work, Otherwise than Being (1974). One need only spend a few minutes with Otherwise than Being to discover that obligation is being configured in even more radical and extreme language. Shocking metaphors...
Seven: Diachrony and Narration
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We have seen the next wave of Levinas’s thought approach from afar, moving through the signs of its beginnings in the works that lead up to Otherwise than Being. Having devoted so much attention to the beginnings of this movement, one would think that Levinas’s second major book could no longer...
Eight: The Time of Restoration
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Despite the radical reconsiderations of time that are evident in Otherwise than Being and other late essays by Levinas, we have ample reason to suppose that he still felt there was significant work to be accomplished on the concept of time. The deformalization of time, which Levinas saw underway...
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Publication Year: 2013