Wednesday, October 15, 2008

From Levinas ...

OK, let's be clear: I'm no philosopher. (The list of what I am not would fill several blogs, but for today, that simple disclaimer is sufficient.) But I ran across some E. Levinas today, and I cite a few lines in honor of Jeff, who's taken over directing the Phenomenology center at Duquesne. (To be a little less modest: I did study phenomenology for half a semester in grad school, but it was way over my head then -- and likely is now, if I re-set my cap.)

The relation between the Other and me which dawns forth in his expression, issues neither in number nor in concept. The Other remains infinitely transcendent, infinitely foreign; his face in which his epiphany is produced and which appeals to me breaks with the world that is common to us, whose virtualities are inscribed in our nature and developed by our existence.

(From Totality and Infinity, as quoted by Hans Boersmaa in Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross at p. 29)

I can place this is the general context of his thought (I have something less than a Levinas-for-Dummies idea of the trajectory of his thought on alterity, the Other, the Same, Face), and I find it lovely. His notion of hospitality, of the innate required-ness of hospitality for human life, seems very helpful for thiking about the ways we live consistent with the will of God. (Inasmuch as you have done this to the least of my brothers, you have done it to me -- for example.)

Does anyone out there have fondness for Levinas' philosophy? Are my instincts sound: Should I read more of him?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, you should definitely read more Levinas. As much as you can manage. Of all the modern European phenomenologists, he is by far the best. His notion of making ethics, rather then being or knowing, the first concern of philosophy, is a powerful concept indeed.

Dwight P. said...

I've been late in responding, "Anonymous." And i apologize.

Can you recommend a starting point -- remember: I've NO preparation for this. But I'm motivated.
- DP

Robin said...

I'm not expert, but I am just finishing a class on Levinas now at the undergrad level. T&I (the book from which you quoted) is often referred to as a starting point for his works, but it is dense and hard to read, though worth it if you are willing. Beyond that, "Is it Righteous to Be?" is a very interesting book of questions posed to Levinas that is illuminating, and probably an interesting read even for those who haven't actually read his works.

Dwight P. said...

Robin, thanks for the recommendations and comments. It's the kind of specificity, without giving away the plot, that I appreciate.

Best,
Dwight