Overcoming Relativism? Levinas's Return to Platonism

Journal of Religious Ethics 28 (1):91 - 117 (2000)
Emmanuel Levinas's concept of "the face of the Other" involves an ethical mandate that is presumably transcultural or, in his terms, "precultural." His essay "Meaning and Sense" provides his most explicit defense of the idea that the face has a meaning that is not culturally relative, though it is always encountered within some particular culture. Levinas identifies his position there as a "return to Platonism." Through a careful reading of that essay, exploring Levinas's use of religious terminology and the (sometimes implicit) relationships of the essay to the work of other phenomenologists and of Saussure, the author seeks to clarify (1) what Levinas retains and what he rejects in returning to Platonism "in a new way," (2) the sense in which this return constitutes an "overcoming" of relativism, and (3) the nature of the phenomenological warrant that he offers for his position
Keywords relativism  absolute  meaning  other  phenomenology  culture
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DOI 10.1111/0384-9694.00037
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