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Levinas Studies


published on August 13, 2019

Aminah Hasan-Birdwell

Interrogating the Doctrine of the Univocity of Being
A Levinasian Critique of Immanent Causality (Contra Deleuze?)

This paper attends to Emmanuel Levinas’s criticism of the univocity doctrine as it pertains to Baruch Spinoza and in view of Gilles Deleuze’s interpretation. The analysis will have a narrow focus on univocity because it will exclusively treat the univocity of cause in Spinoza and its ethical and political implications. Narrowing the approach will illustrate the importance of the doctrine in Levinas’s minor engagements with the modern philosopher and its convergence with Deleuze’s project in Difference and Repetition and Expressionism in Philosophy: namely, the univocal relation between Substance and the modes. Although both Levinas and Deleuze will converge on basic observations about the univocity of cause, they will depart at significant moments on the implications of the doctrine itself. The analysis will acknowledge Deleuze’s reflections on the Ethics, but it will focus on Levinas’s critique and indictment of Spinoza’s thought—that it eliminates singularity and that it is in itself a justification of perpetual war.

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