Volume 21, Issue 1, Spring 2016
Faith in the Web of Evanescent Meaning
The Immense House of Postcards
The Idea of Tradition following Lévinas and Derrida
The subject of tradition engaged both Emmanuel Lévinas and Jacques Derridainmanyoftheirwritings,whichexploreboththephilosophicalandcultural significance of tradition and the particular significance of the latter in a specifically Jewish context. Lévinas devoted a few of his Talmudic essays to the subject, and Derrida addressed the issue from the perspective of different philosophical and religious traditions. This article uses the writings of these two thinkers to propose a new way of thinking about the idea of tradition. At the core of its inquiry lie the paradigm of the letter and the use of this metaphor as a means of describing the concept of tradition. Using the phenomenon of the letter as a vantage point for considering tradition raises important points of discussion, due to both the letter’s nature as a text that is sent and the manifest and hidden elements it contains. The focus of this essay is the phenomenon of textual tradition, which encompasses different traditions of reading and interpreting texts and a grasp of the horizon of understanding opened up in relation to the text through its many different interpretations. The attention paid here to the actions of individuals serves to highlight the importance of the interpersonal realm and of ethical thought.