Review of Metaphysics 36 (3):721-723 (1983)

In a work of foundational thinking of the first rank and perhaps his most important book to date, French phenomenologist Emmanuel Levinas attempts to establish the primordiality of ethics by exhibiting the structures of the ethical subject and distinguishing these from theoretical reason, even from a conatus towards the Good. In his earlier Totality and Infinity Levinas interprets this difference morphologically within the context of a Husserlian Lebensweltphilosophie as sensuous immediacy, habitation, fecundity and, beyond ontology, the commanding relation with the Other. In the present work the focus shifts to discourse itself. This turn is a response to the problematic set forth in the later Heidegger as the ontological difference, the difference between Being and beings and the coming-to-pass of this difference in the Logos, as well as to French Structuralist and post-Structuralist thought which interprets language as a system of signs and meaning as arising within a field of intralinguistic difference. For both, the epistemological subject as it has been traditionally understood dissolves. But, Levinas argues, ethical subjectivity, a nul-site beyond ontology, more primordial than the ontological difference which exists as receptivity to and responsibility for the Other, remains. This work is a sustained meditation on the Good and the structure of responsibility which precedes Being and consciousness.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph198336335
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