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Levinas Studies

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published on August 5, 2020

Michael L. Morgan

Plato, Levinas, and Transcendence

Although Levinas frequently references Plato positively, they are engaged in different philosophical enterprises. Whereas Levinas takes his place in the tradition of modern moral philosophy for which the atrocities of the twentieth century are undeniable burdens, Plato is concerned with cultivating dispositions that promote psychological and social harmony. For Levinas, Plato’s Form of the Good signals a dual commitment, on the one hand to the primacy of ethical action to existence, and on the other to the connection between ethics and transcendence, in the sense of absolute otherness or separation. But this reading is anachronistic.

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