Conscientious subjectivity in Kierkegaard and Levinas

Continental Philosophy Review 35 (4):397-422 (2002)
Levinas distances himself from Kierkegaardian analyses by suggesting that It is not I who resist the system, as Kierkegaard thought; it is the other. This seems an obvious misreading of Kierkegaard. Resistance, for Kierkegaard, never legitimately arises from the I, but from a God-relationship that breaks through the sphere of immanence and disturbs the system. But, for Levinas it is problematic to suggest a God-relationship distinct from interhuman relationships. Transcendent interhuman relations, Levinas contends, give theological concepts [their] sole signification. Yet, similarities in their accounts of ethical subjectivity and conscience may tempt one to suggest, as a recent commentator does, that appropriation of the Kierkegaardian framework by Levinas is problematic insofar as it is misapplied to interhuman relationships... .; I resist this understanding of the problem. Levinas is not only concerned with denying the interlocutor (i.e., God) in Kierkegaard's description of the transcendent awareness that grounds conscience. Levinas also questions the nature of interlocution implied by Kierkegaard. Levinas' criticisms of Kierkegaard set an important agenda for the study of Kierkegaard by demanding that one address the difficulties that the problematics of hearing raise for Kierkegaard's account of conscientious subjectivity. His challenge could profoundly affect and, in my opinion, enrich the Kierkegaardian account.
Keywords Philosophy   Phenomenology   Philosophy of Man   Political Philosophy
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1023922907527
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