‘Levinas and the Struggle for Existence’ (R. Bernasconi)

•May 30, 2007 • 4 Comments

After reading Totality & Infinity and Otherwise Than Being, Levinas’s project emerges as an anti-political doctrine and does not extort any particular political philosophy. Rather, it appears that, Levinas offers a philosophically polemical argument against the academic traditions of Martin Heidegger’s ontology and modern politics. The absence of the political component in his work comes to appearance when Levinas (on a basic level) argues for not only an anarchical-absolute responsibility for the ‘Other’, but for a separate and unique subjectivity. Continue reading ‘‘Levinas and the Struggle for Existence’ (R. Bernasconi)’


Bernhard Waldenfels “Levinas on the Saying and the Said”

•May 14, 2007 • 1 Comment

Waldenfels begins by outlining the basic architecture that constitutes the Saying and the Said as that which is dislocated and belonging to a certain diachrony that confounds any notion of synchronicity. In order to define more clearly the relation of the saying to the said he clarifies three main complexities found within any speech: “the difference between the speech event and the speech content, the distance between the speaker and the listener, and . . . the difference of the demand and response” (86). Throughout the four sections, Waldenfels addresses ideas concerning the true speaker, pure Saying or pure Said, giving, the response, originality and the pre-original, the actuality of what is said through speech, and ones center of gravity. Continue reading ‘Bernhard Waldenfels “Levinas on the Saying and the Said”’

L. Irigaray :: “Fecundity of the Caress”

•May 14, 2007 • Leave a Comment

“The Fecundity of the Caress,” Luce Irigaray

Psychoanalyst/feminist theorist Luce Irigaray’s essay “The Fecundity of the Caress” is a biting and lucidly composed response to Emmanuel Levinas’s essay Totality and Infinity. Written in 1984, the piece delivers numerous critiques to Levinas’s work, especially to the section titled “Eros.” Using well-crafted poetic language (when I read a part of the essay to a friend, they commented that it sounded like poetry), Irigaray offers a sharp analysis of Levinas’s conceptions of sexuality and femininity. Her commentary is deeply affecting and poses ideas that are still relevant more than 20 years after its publication, both in an academic venue and in the larger world. By reshaping Levinas’s ideas and constructing a new vocabulary for their expression, she suggests a paradigm for romantic relationships that provides equality, safety, and transcendence for both partners. This restructuring of the sexual relationship lends a valuable feminist perspective to our understanding of various methods for the contemporary application of Levinas’s theories. Continue reading ‘L. Irigaray :: “Fecundity of the Caress”’

“Magnetic Animal: Derrida, Wildlife, Animetaphor.” Akira Mizuta Lippit.

•May 10, 2007 • Leave a Comment

In “Magnetic Animal: Derrida, Wildlife, Animetaphor,” Akira Mizuta Lippit explores animal themes in the work of Derrida and other philosophers. Animals are not foreign to philosophy: it has long grappled with our similarities to, but deep differences from, other creatures. Freud and Heidegger both describe the philosophical nature of animals, in ways that enhance their descriptions of human subjectivity (Lippit 1112-3). For both Freud and Heidegger, animals can serve as a metaphor for the unconscious (Lippit 1114). But, as Derrida points out, this metaphor is a unique metaphor: because animals are not linguistic, a metaphor that invokes animals is an invocation of something from outside of language, into language, but in an incomplete fashion (Lippit 1115). Continue reading ‘“Magnetic Animal: Derrida, Wildlife, Animetaphor.” Akira Mizuta Lippit.’

“Figurative Language and the “Face” in Levinas’s Philosophy” (Diane Perpich)

•April 24, 2007 • Leave a Comment

In an attempt to provide a critical account of the “face”, Diane Perpich’s essay entitled “Figurative Language and the “Face” in Levinas’s Philosophy” (Philosophy and Rhetoric, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2005) takes up questions of the tensions at play within the aesthetic and linguistic modes of production that seem encoded within the function of the face. Perpich’s analysis begins with an inquiry into the basic contradiction that comes to structure Levinas’s figure of the face as it is discussed within his early texts and Totality and Infinity. Perpich’s skepticism seems to be concerned with two different, but closely alligned, thematic elements within Levinas’s work in which the formal methodology of Levinas’s own discourse and the “internal” content intersect in vital and perplexing ways. Continue reading ‘“Figurative Language and the “Face” in Levinas’s Philosophy” (Diane Perpich)’

A.J.P. Thompson :: “Economy of Violence”

•April 23, 2007 • Leave a Comment

A discussion of economy as it relates to Levinas and Derrida’s reading of Levinas.


In this section of the article many of the arguments we have made in class about the problems in Levinas’ philosophy are summed up by discussing Derrida’s critique. Derrida posses that non-spatial can only be understood through the non-spatial. Therefore considering Levinas’ concept of absolute alterity as the other for ethical relation is highly problematic. Derrida then uses Levinas’ reading of Husserl to also critique from a “reverse side.” Previously Derrida had argued about totality and its problems strictly within the history of totality. Continue reading ‘A.J.P. Thompson :: “Economy of Violence”’

“The Beginnings of Thought” :: Len Lawlor

•April 23, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Key to the continental philosophy of the 1960’s for Lawlor is the need to “motivate thought.” The figures, who for Lawlor articulate the strongest or most poignant attempts to take on this task are Derrida and Deleuze (Foucault comes up from time to time in the essay but generally not as philosophically substantive). Key to the development of contemporary continental philosophy is the “point of diffraction,” the point from which both Deleuze and Derrida develop along different trajectories. This point is the paradox of repetition ; it is “Cruelty” in the poet Antonin Artaud, the play of the theater and its double, the plague. “A plague does not follow a previously given script or text; it is nothing but the expression of deadly forces, forces that express themselves in yells and cries: ‘the theater of cruelty.’ The theater of cruelty, whose actions cannot be thought, but which must be thought, would have to experienced as a paradox.” Continue reading ‘“The Beginnings of Thought” :: Len Lawlor’