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Altering the very first sentence of this extraordinary and highly original book, I quote: "Everyone will readily agree that it is of the highest importance to know whether we are not duped by freedom." I have, of course, replaced the word "freedom" for "morality." In altering the sentence, however, as I hope to show, I have not altered the central theme of the book (first published in French in 1961). This is so, not because morality and freedom are interchangeable, as many maintain, but, quite
This work of philosophy shows how ethics is based on one’s relationship with an other, which is accomplished in the form of a welcome, including gift-giving and respect, rather than with violence, that is, any attempt to dominate or make use of an other.What is most striking about the book is how poetic it is, how it makes use of poetic devices such as wordplay and repetition, and how it depends on the experience of reading the book rather than on proving what is asserted. The book, therefore, a...
Levinas applies Phenomenology to Buber to argue that Ethics begins with the intrusion of the face of another human into the confines of consciousness.
Every time I read this, I realize how my understanding of Levinas is partial.
It's rather unquestionable how much impact Levinas had on French philosophy. And his argument is, at times, fascinating. It's just that I disagree with the initial premise so much that I disagree with so many ideas that Levinas extracts from that premise. Was it a worthy intellectual exercise to read? Yes, absolutely. It's just that to really get it, you have to put yourself in the shoes of a Talmudic scholar who survived the Holocaust, and deeply wanted to wash phenomenology clean of the dirt H...
Levinas has put love into philosophical terms. I don't mean romantic love. I mean love as in the giving of oneself for the well-being of all others.
Another college book. I read this my senior year. Obviously most of it has been lost to memory. What has not been lost is the conversation I had eating warm johnnie bread, drinking stolen wine and talking about the Other with my roommate and another friend well into the night. Levinas' project is fascinating because he is trying to take the existiential phenomenology that Heidegger develops and argue that Alethia is structured by the ethics of the other. Much of this ultimately tends to be too m...
so challenging, so lovely. levinas really came for the necks of everyone in the western tradition from aristotle to hegel and heidegger, but he was sure to do so in a nice way lol
Put down the book at 40%. Tiresome, boring, very, very redundant - it is simply a slog to get through. And the content isn't all that original nor that complex. It's just put in a very dense, complicated and inaccessible manner (as with most other continental philosophers of the twentieth century). Bottom line: The post-World War II world needed an emphasis on humanity and humanism and a primacy of ethics over the obsession with and rigidity of objective/positive science. For Levinas, the face o...
Levinas has rekindled my faith that it is possible to act ethically and be a generally "good" person without subscribing to any particular codification of religion. Amazing book, if you can get through it. It made my head hurt!
Totality and Infinity is the most difficult text I have ever read. The philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, a Lithuanian-born French thinker who was one of the most influential postmodernists for much of the twentieth century, is quite intentionally unlike any other philosophy any other philosopher has produced. For many of his readers, Levinas provides the “ethics” postmodernism so desperately needs, whereas for others, Levinas is incomprehensible, unphilosophically mystical, and in fact fails to pr...
Levinas restores the phenomenological inseparability of the philosophical and the theological in the face of the Other in this deeply ethical work. This work is hard to read. It takes vigor and commitment to get through it. I would recommend, first, just pushing through the entirety of the work before stopping and sorting it all out. This work is not linear. There is a lot of back-and-forth, and it really must be read as such. Otherwise, an amazing work whose heaviness ought not be ignored.
Certainly, an incredibly difficult book--but definitely one well worth the effort. Levinas presents so much to contemplate in a way I find other (alter, perhaps) than in most other forms of expression. The ideas presented here must be continually remembered and reflected on, in my view--very highly recommended.
Problematic not for its ideas and fundamental points, though those are flawed, but for the presentation, which is not very persuasive or sensible. Grounding ethics in the distance between self and other is a fairly fascinating idea in itself, but Levinas doesn't flesh it out well.
After several years I finally decided to get into Levinas since everyone on my friendlist seemed to have read him. My previous exposure with Levinas was through Badiou's critical assessment of his "privileging" of the ethical (difference/multiplicity) over the political (sameness/unity) in Ethics. I'm not a fan of drawing sharp distinctions between ethics and politics (and the equivocation of any collective political project with a sort of totalising program) and when I picked up this text I was...
Another one in desperate need of a reread, but eventually I just have to move on from the first read.
Simultaneously beautifully and ostentatiously written yet philosophically disastrous. 4/5 stars for aesthetics and bold ingenuity, 1/5 stars for ethics.For someone who speaks plainly enough about the ruses of rhetoric and the sneaky violence of pedagogues, the appeal to moral platitudes from the beginning is quite off-putting and condescending. For my part however, calling out "hypocrisy!" doesn't prove anything. Sure, war = bad, but will Levinas demonstrate this somehow or just rub it in my fac...
Absolutely outstanding. Just incredible. I found myself sailing through this text and just could not put it down. His critique of Hegel and Heidegger was really quite wonderful. Levinas completely revolutionizes our conception of the Other as something that cannot be contained, reduced, or captured. This is such a powerful notion because that is exactly what we do - we subsume the Other under our categories of the understanding, under Reason. Levinas opens our eyes to what was always, already th...
This book is full of rich and provocative insights. Levinas developed his philosophical insights--a blend of themes of phenomenology with ideas from Bergson and German Idealism--during the same period that Heidegger and Sartre were developing their philosophies, and there is strong resonance between all three. What is frustrating about this book, though, is that, (1) unlike the works by Sartre and Heidegger, it is often characterized by an approach to language that seems contrived and (2) it is
If there is true, its elsewhere
Reading Totality and Infinity is like receiving a philosophical hug. Despite being a metaphysical system, it embraces the moods of humanity rather than impersonal structures of distance. One feels at home within the embrace of the Other while Levinas outlines a dialectic of pathos that affirms isolation as not a deviation from truth but a step shy of discovering it – like a shadowed crag before the summit. Levinas’ response to atheism runs throughout this work, but rather than attacking it as a
Indeed one of the hardest thinkers to sync up with, Levinas carries the reader from the interiority of the self, which sets out from the enjoyment that is itself an end for all conscious creatures, to the encounter with the Other that calls the self into question—exteriority, which is defined by the living dialog between humans who exceed one another. This encounter turns out to be the condition of possibility for genuine human freedom and responsibility—the moral, which is prior to the politica...
This is a must read after working through Being and Time by Heidegger. Levinas makes his mark among the great philosophers of history. A work comparable in creative ingenuity and phenomenological prowess to BT, the notion of the face and the separation from the “there is” into solitude...mind blown. I can see why Derrida was so excited about him. If you have read Rosenzweig you will see his influence shining through in a glorious light.
It broke my heart to discover that Levinas ended up being almost ironically ethnocentric. But aside from that, Totality and Infinity is still of high regard and importance for Levinas’ view of ethics as proto-philosophy (and still poetically written).
4 stars for getting through this challenging and insane book for school, but also feeling like I've learned something?
Characters that are interesting and complex.
I read Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority at the request of a friend and really enjoyed it.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.
Emmanuel Levinas has a new fan and his name is ME!
Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority grabbed me from the first page and wouldn't let go.