n Journal for Semitics - Giving up your place in history. The "position" of Levinas in philosophy and Jewish thought

Volume 16 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1013-8471


In this paper I would like to present the work of Emmanuel Levinas and at the same time provide some clarity on the relation between his philosophy and Jewish thought. After a brief biographical and intellectual orientation, the theme of history and eschatology in Levinas's work will be explored as guiding theme of his thought. To him, history is for the powerful flow of being that undermines ethical subjectivity; eschatology refers to the interruption of history by its other: ethics. In this exposition, attention will be given to his relationship with Rosenweig and Buber. An analysis of the central notion of ethics as infinite responsibility to the other as well as the political thrust of it, namely the search for justice for the other as brother, will be presented as Levinas's philosophical interpretation of eschatology. The question of justice spontaneously leads us to a twin question: to whom am I responsible? Who is Israel? A tension between universal ethical agency and particularistic Jewish identity will be explored. From the preceding discussion conclusions will be drawn relevant to the particularity of Israel and the Jewish religious literature and their place in Levinas's philosophy of history and eschatology. This will allow for a suggestion on how to understand the relation between the Greek and Jewish elements of Levinas's work.

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