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1. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
Michael L. Morgan, Levinas and Judaism
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I would like to try to clarify one aspect of the relationship between Levinas’s philosophy — or “ethical metaphysics,” as Edith Wyschogrod has called it — and Judaism as Levinas understands it. In and of itself it is interesting to try to understand Levinas’s thinking and its relationship to his life as a Jew and to Judaism as he takes it to be. But I also have ulterior motives — that is, I have what some might think are larger fish to fry. I will begin by saying something about Hilary Putnam’s article “Levinas and Judaism” in The Cambridge Companion to Levinas, edited by Simon Critchley and Robert Bernasconi. I think that I can indicate what those “larger fish” are by pointing to an intriguing tension in Putnam’s discussion.
2. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
Richard A. Cohen, Levinas, Plato and Ethical Exegesis
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Chapter 7 of my book, Ethics, Exegesis, and Philosophy: Interpretation after Levinas, entitled “Humanism and the Rights of Exegesis,” was devoted to elaboratingthe notion of “ethical exegesis.” The notion of ethical exegesis is not only inspired by Levinas’s thought, but expresses the essential character of it, its “method,” as it were, the “saying” of its “said.” Accordingly, here I will begin by reviewing some of what I have already said about ethical exegesis, and then I will develop this notion further in relation to Plato and to the question of moralizing.
3. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
4. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
Jeffrey L. Kosky, The Blessings of a Friendship: Maurice Blanchot and Levinas Studies
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Levinas scholarship in English has come a long way since his major philosophical works were translated some 35 years ago. Almost all the writings appear in English, and it is not a great exaggeration to say that the major theses have been explained and the major problems exposed. The task now is to make this seeming point of arrival into a new beginning. For students interested in exploring new directions in Levinas studies, a reading of Maurice Blanchot could prove immensely rewarding. Companions since they first encountered one another at Strasbourg when each was not yet 20 years old, Levinas and Blanchot remainedfriends until Levinas’s death in 1996 and Blanchot’s in 2003. While we can only imagine the significance the friendship had for each of them, for the rest of us it proved what Jacques Derrida called “a grace, a blessing for our times.”
5. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
6. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
Alan Udoff, Levinas and the Question of Friendship
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We take our bearings from Francesco Negri — Although many persons attribute the origin of letter writing to various causes, I however believe that one to be closer to the truth that we have received, handed down by memory, from the ancient stories of Turpilius: namely, that the letter was invented for no other purpose than that we should make absent friends once more present [absentes amicos presentes redderemus] and that by regarding [intuentes] their letters we mightfor a time restore the friendship interrupted by intervals of time and space; for since friendship is accustomed to making its foundation in daily companionship,when this thing is missing it seems indeed to weaken not a little.and hear in this passage the resonance of Aristotle:Is it then the same way with friends as with lovers, for whom seeing [to horon] the beloved is their greatest contentment, and the thing they choose over the other senses, since it is especially through seeing that love is present and comes to be present, so that for friends, too, living together [suzèn] is the most choiceworthy thing? For friendship is a sharing in common [koinònia]. (EN 1171b29–33)The audible connection with Aristotle is faint. Negri’s work is securely placed against the background of the increasing formalization of the art of letter writing in the Middle Ages and its Renaissance development, in which he figured prominently. The genealogy that he proposes, whose forebear is an all but forgotten Roman playwright, belongs to an account of literary tradition in which Cicero is the exemplary figure. Nonetheless, it is in St. Jerome that he finds the likely source of his attribution.
7. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
Kevin Hart, Ethics of the Image
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In March 1956 there appeared in Monde Nouveau a relatively short piece by Emmanuel Levinas called “Maurice Blanchot et le regard du poète.” It is an extended review of L’Espace littéraire, published by Gallimard the previous summer, which is also laced with a polemic against Heidegger. Levinas observes that Blanchot is close to the Heidegger of Vorträge und Aufsätze (1954), almost to the point of immediate intellectual intuition, but he is just as quick to register the distance between the two on a decisive issue: on Blanchot’s account of literature we are led away from the world of dwelling and rootedness that Heidegger affirms in his meditations on art. Here as elsewhere, Levinas is profoundly disturbed by Heidegger’s slighting of ethics and, in turning to show that his friend finds a way beyond the primacy of Sein, he observes parenthetically that Blanchot “also abstains from ethical preoccupations, at least in explicit form.” A little later he remarks, more pointedly, that Blanchot’s concern with “authenticity” must one day “herald an order of justice” if it is to be more than “a consciousness of the lack of seriousness of edification, anything other than derision” (137; SMB 24). Clearly, Levinas is uneasy at the proximity of his friend to the Heidegger of Sein und Zeit (1927) and beyond, having freed himself from “the climate of that philosophy,” starting in “De l’évasion” (1935) and then more completely in De l’existence à l’existent (1947) (EE 19; DEE 19). The invitation is for Blanchot to render his ethics explicit. Levinas’s review even hints at how this can be done. Other essays by Levinas, later collected in Sur Maurice Blanchot (1975), return to the prediction or hope registered in this review that someone will express “the latent meaning” of his friend’s novels and récits (133; SMB 17), and there is no doubt when reading his reflections on L’Attente l’oubli (1962) and La Folie du jour (1973) that for Levinas their manifest meaning is ethical, at least in part.
8. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
Rodolphe Calin, The Exception of Testimony
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There is witness, a unique structure, an exception to the rule of being, irreducible to representation, only of the Infinite (OB 146). It is with this excessive phrase that Levinas collects his thoughts on testimony. How are we to understand this excess? If the phrase is excessive, it is not an exaggerated phrase — not a phrase which, by its very exaggeration, would hold that testimony achieves its supreme signification in religious experience. It is not a question here of giving value to the primacy of religious experience over all other experience, but rather a question of showing that religion, understood as the relation to the holy, to what is absolutely separate, is not of the nature of experience — that is, not of the nature of comprehension and thematization, if experience means thematization. The religious manifests no primacy here, but rather an irreducible singularity, an exception. If there is a restriction, it is not to the benefit of an experience, but rather to that which escapes experience, to the benefit of what alone gives rise to no experience. The Infinite is not the witnessed par excellence, the supreme witnessed (the supreme witness falling to the supreme existent), but that to which we can only bear witness and which alone gives rise to a testimony: “testimony does not thematize that of which it is the witness, and as such it can be a witnessing only of the Infinite” (GDT 196–97). That one can bear witness only to the Infinite means that one can bear witness only to that which absolutely escapes experience, which consequently means that “testimony . . . does not presuppose an experience”(GDT 197).
9. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
Jean-Luc Marion, From the Other to the Individual
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Being is evil not because it is finite but because it is without limits (TO 51). This extraordinary declaration no doubt marks the rather hidden center of a work (dating from 1946–47) that is seminal, in any case essential, because it constitutes, in the same way as the brilliant 1951 article “Is Ontology Fundamental?” one of the irrevocable decisions that helped Levinas to become what he was: the greatest French philosopher since Bergson and also the first phenomenologist who seriously attempted to free himself from his provenance, which is to say, from Heidegger.
10. Levinas Studies: Volume > 1
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