Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (1):163-183 (2008)
Levinas’s most important contribution to contemporary philosophy is his continual vindication of the primacy of the ethical. For the contemporary reader, educated in the shadow of the Nietzschean thought that existence as will to power is art, this claim comes as an uneasy surprise. What is the place of the aesthetic within the preeminence of the ethical in Levinas’s philosophy? Or, more specifically, what is, for Levinas, the place of art in relation to the ethical? Through a Levinasian reading of Plato, and a Platonic reading of Levinas, the paper argues in favor of Paul Celan’s statement that there is not “any basic difference... between a handshake and a poem.”
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