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Philosophy Today

Volume 59, Issue 3, Summer 2015

Jack Marsh
Pages 451-473

Levinas, Chauvinism, and Disinterest

Levinas’s so-called ‘Eurocentric’ statements still remain a source of puzzlement. In this article, I reconstruct his own account of what it means to be disinterested, focusing on what I call (a) motivational purity, and (b) justified context transcendence. I then perform an immanent critique of his position. I demonstrate 1) if taken on its own terms, Levinas’s account of (a) is self-defeating; 2) the will and concept in fact show up in Levinas’s positive description of ethical selfhood, such that his account of (b) is ultimately question-begging. I conclude by drawing out the consequences these internal problems hold for both Levinas’s chauvinist statements and his overall philosophy.

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