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Alterity and Transcendence

ISBN-10: 0231116519

ISBN-13: 9780231116510

Edition: 1999 (Reprint)

Authors: Emmanuel Levinas, Michael B. Smith, Emmanuel Levinas

List price: $28.00
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Description:

Internationally renowned as one of the great French philosophers of the twentieth century, the late Emmanuel Levinas remains a pivotal figure across the humanistic disciplines for his insistence -- against the grain of Western philosophical tradition -- on the primacy of ethics in philosophical investigation. This first English translation of a series of twelve essays known as Alterity and Transcendence offers a unique glimpse of Levinas defining his own place in the history of philosophy. Published by a mature thinker between 1967 and 1989, these works exhibit a refreshingly accessible perspective that seasoned admirers and newcomers will appreciate. In today's world, where religious conceptions of exalted higher powers are constantly called into question by theoretical investigation and by the powerful influence of science and technology on our understanding of the universe, has the notion of transcendence been stripped of its significance? In Levinas's incisive model, transcendence is indeed alive -- not in any notion of our relationship to a mysterious, sacred realm but in the idea of our worldly, subjective relationships to others. Without presupposing an intimate knowledge of the history of philosophy, Levinas explores the ways in which Plotinus, Descartes, Husserl, and Heidegger have encountered the question of transcendence. In discourses on the concepts of totality and infinity, he locates his own thinking in the context of pre-Socratic philosophers, Aristotle, Leibniz, Spinoza, Kant, and Descartes. Always centering his discussions on the idea of interpersonal relations as the basis of transcendence, Levinas reflects on the rights of individuals (and how they are inextricably linked to those of others), the concept of peace, and the dialogic nature of philosophy. Finally, in interviews conducted by Christian Chabanis and Angelo Bianchi, Levinas responds to key questions not directly addressed in his writings. Throughout, Alterity and Transcendence reveals a commitment to ethics as first philosophy -- obliging modern thinkers to investigate not merely the true but the good.
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Book details

List price: $28.00
Copyright year: 1999
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 4/5/2001
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 224
Size: 5.50" wide x 8.25" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.682
Language: English

Emmanuel Levinas was professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne and the director of the Ecole Normale Superieur Isra�lite Orientale until his death in 1995. He exerted a profound influence on twentieth century continental philosophy, providing inspiration for Derrida, Lyotard, Blanchot, Irigary, and Finkielkraut, among others. Among his works translated into English are Proper Names, Ethics and Infinity, Time and the Other, and Otherwise than Being.

Emmanuel Levinas was born in Kovno, Lithuania, to an Orthodox Jewish family. Hebrew was the first language that he learned to read; he also acquired a love of the Russian classics, particularly works by Pushkin and Tolstoy which first stirred his philosophical interests. Levinas studied in Strasbourg, Freiburg, and Paris, developing a particular interest in the philosophers Henri Bergson, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger. He became a French citizen and eventually a prisoner during World War II, at which time his entire family was exterminated. After the war, Levinas taught at Poitiers, Nanterre, and eventually became professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1973. He has also been deeply involved in the problems of Western Jews, including active membership in the Alliance Israelite Universelle, an organization established in 1860 to promote Jewish emancipation. The experience of the ravages of totalitarianism during World War II convinced Levinas that only a rediscovery of the specificity of Judaism could deliver the modern world from itself. Levinas's central concern is with "the other"---not the self or the cosmos, but the faces of other persons who make a claim on us and provide traces of the working of an infinite other. Totality and Infinity (1961) is a central but very difficult text. In it Levinas argues that Western philosophy has been captured by a notion of totality from which nothing is distant, exterior, or other and that, thus, when persons who are different confront such totalistic ways of living and thinking, they go to war. Moving beyond totality and war requires a notion of transcendence or infinity, which can bring peace. In fact, religion is, according to Levinas, "the bond that is established between the same and the other without constituting a totality." Levinas maintains that "the existence of God is not a question of an individual soul's uttering logical syllogisms. It cannot be proved. The existence of God . . . is sacred history itself, the sacredness of man's relation to man through which God may pass. God's existence is the story of his revelation in biblical history." Levinas has said that the most common objection to his thought is that it is utopian, for people are always asking, "Where did you ever see the ethical relation [with the other] practiced?" But Levinas is convinced that, although concern for the other is "always other than the "ways of the world,"' there are "many examples of it in the world." This is the reason that his writings on Judaism, such as Difficult Freedom (1963) and Nine Talmudic Essays (1968), are at least as important as his philosophical texts.

Translator's Note
Preface
The Other Transcendence
Philosophy and Transcendence
Totality and Totalization
Infinity
Philosophy of Dialogue and First Philosophy
Beyond Dialogue
The Word I, the Word You, the Word God
The Proximity of the Other
Utopia and Socialism
Peace and Right
The Prohibition against Representation and 'The Rights of Man'
Peace and Proximity
The Rights of the Other Man
Conversations
The Philosopher and Death
Violence of the Face
Bibliographical Note
Notes
Index