Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 11, Issue 1, Fall 2006

Cynthia D. Coe
Pages 257-273

Contesting the Human
Levinas, the Body, and Racism

In his 1934 essay “Some Thoughts on the Philosophy of Hitlerism,” Levinas identified two major movements within contemporary culture: liberalism and Hitlerism. At one level, these two movements are in strict opposition, but Levinas’s later work explores the way in which liberalism is implicated in the “hatred of the other” that pervades Hitlerism. In this paper, I argue that Cartesian dualism underlies two sorts of anxieties, both of which are expressed as racism. Levinas’s reconception of the body as ethically significant overcomes this dualism, and thus seems to hold promise as a method for undoing contemporary manifestations of racism.