Emmanuel Levinas is now widely recognised alongside Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre as one of the most important Continental philosophers of the twentieth century. His abiding concern was the primacy of the ethical relation to the other person and his central thesis was that ethics is first philosophy. His work has also had a profound impact on a number of fields outside philosophy such as theology, Jewish studies, literature and cultural theory, psychotherapy, sociology, political theory, international relations theory and critical legal (...) theory. This volume, first published in 2002, contains overviews of Levinas's contribution in a number of fields, and includes detailed discussions of his early and late work, his relation to Judaism and talmudic commentary, and his contributions to aesthetics and the philosophy of religion. (shrink)
This volume provides an introduction to the concept of race within philosophy. It gives an overview of the most important contributions by continental philosophers to the understanding or race as well as presenting a general review of recent philosophical discussions.
Heidegger already recognized in the 1920s the difficulties facing a phenomenology of religion, but the problems are greatly multiplied once one recognizes that many of the so-called religions were constituted as such only in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and that the "invention" of these religions was according to an idea of religion shaped by Christianity. By investigating the incompatible attempts of Kant and Hegel to negotiate that idea, I identify the genealogy of the double bind whereby today (...) it appears that one is faced with a choice between two violences: the violence of imposing the word religion on practices that do not readily follow the model of the Christian religion and the violence of refusing the word to non-Christian religions. (shrink)
Abstract The phenomenological approach to racialization needs to be supplemented by a hermeneutics that examines the history of the various categories in terms of which people see and have seen race. An investigation of this kind suggests that instead of the rigid essentialism that is normally associated with the history of racism, race predominantly operates as a border concept, that is to say, a dynamic fluid concept whose core lies not at the center but at its edges. I illustrate this (...) by an examination of the history of the distinctions between the races as it is revealed in legal, scientific, and philosophical sources. I focus especially on racial distinctions in the United States and on the way that the impact of miscegenation was negotiated leading to the so-called one-drop rule. (shrink)
These essays provoke new responses to the work of the eminent French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas through an analysis of how the problematics of reading, deconstruction, feminism, and psychotherapy complicate and deepen Levinas's account of ...
There is a growing recognition of Levinas's importance. It can in part be attributed to an increasing concern that twentieth-century continental philosophy seems to have no place for ethics. In making ethics fundamental to philosophy, rather than a problem to which we might one day return, Levinas transforms continental thought. The book brings together some of the most interesting and far-reaching responses to the work of Levinas, in three different areas: contemporary feminism, psychotherapy, and Levinas's relation to other philosophers. It (...) includes a newly translated paper by Levinas on suffering, and a specially commissioned interview. (shrink)
Hegel called world history a court of judgement, a world court, and in his Lectures on the Philosophy of World History he took Africans before that court and found them to be barbaric, cannibalistic, preoccupied with fetishes, without history, and without any consciousness of freedom. -/- In this paper, after rehearsing some of the more familiar objections to Hegel's verdict against Africa, I turn the tables and put Hegel on trial. More specifically, given that much of Hegel's account is directed (...) against the Ashanti, I will use what is known about them and especially what Hegel either did know or should have known, to take him before the court of the Ashanti, where the use of evidence can be interrogated. The results of this examination render all the more pressing the need to give an account of how Hegel applied his system of justice to Africa, which I attempt to do in the second part of the paper. In the third part, I return to the interpretation of Hegel's statement about Africa as unhistorical and, having restored it to its context in Hegel's system, show its. (shrink)
Emmanuel Levinas has exerted a profound influence on 20th-century continental philosophy. This anthology, including Levinas's key philosophical texts over a period of more than forty years, provides an ideal introduction to his thought and offers insights into his most innovative ideas. Five of the ten essays presented here appear in English for the first time. An introduction by Adriaan Peperzak outlines Levinas's philosophical development and the basic themes of his writings. Each essay is accompanied by a brief introduction and notes. (...) This collection is an ideal text for students of philosophy concerned with understanding and assessing the work of this major philosopher. (shrink)
White on White/Black on Black is a unique contribution to the philosophy of race. The text explores how 14 philosophers, 7 white and 7 black, philosophically understand the dynamics of the process of racialization.
In this paper I address the questions posed to me by Bret Davis, Zeynep Direk, and Charles Mills, by focusing on, first, the eurocentrism of academic philosophy in the West and strategies to overcome it; secondly, the interface of critical philosophy of race and global politics, especially as the latter touches on Islamophobia; and, thirdly, the role of critical philosophy of race in challenging the complacency of philosophy departments in the face of the discipline’s long-standing complicity with racism.
This volume explores some of the more important of Hans-Georg Gadamer's extensive writings on art and literature. The principal text included is 'The Relevance of the Beautiful', Gadamer's most sustained treatment of philosophical aesthetics. The eleven other essays focus particularly on the challenge issued by modern painting and literature to our customary ideas of art, and in turn revitalize our understanding of it. Gadamer demonstrates the continuing importance of such concepts as imitation, truth, symbol, and play for our appreciation of (...) contemporary art, and thereby establishes its continuity with the Western tradition. The essays here are not technical and are readily accessible to the beginning student and the general reader. The collection as a whole serves to illustrate the practice of hermeneutics and to introduce Gadamer's thought. Robert Bernasconi provides an introduction clarifying the central aims of the essays and their relations to Gadamer's major work, Truth and Method, and to the philosophy of art since Kant. A bibliography of Gadamer's writings available in English is also included. (shrink)
In 1934 Heidegger offered an account of what a Volk is in terms of the existential analytic of Dasein set out in Being and Time , but soon after he abandoned this framework as he began the task of overcoming metaphysics. Integral to this new task was a confrontation with the racial policies not just of the Nazis but also of the Allies because he believed that the Western philosophical tradition was deeply implicated in these policies. Against this background, this (...) paper explores Heidegger's attempts—hitherto unrecognized—in the late 1930s to sketch another way of thinking what his contemporaries called "race" using the conceptual resources he had introduced in "The Origin of the Work of Art." The paper also includes some criticisms of Emmanuel Faye's recent study, Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. (shrink)
Situating existentialism within the history of ideas, it features new readings on the most influential works in the existential canon, exploring their formative contexts and the cultural dialogues of which they were a part.
In this paper I investigate a largely untold chapter in the history of race thinking in Northern Europe and North America: the transition from the form of racism that was used to justify a race-based system of slavery to the medicalising racism which called for segregation, apartheid, eugenics, and, eventually, sterilization and the holocaust. In constructing this history I will employ the notion of biopower introduced by Michel Foucault. Foucault’s account of biopower has received a great deal of attention recently, (...) but because what he actually has to say about race tends to be vague and radically incomplete, many race theorists have been critical of his contribution. However, even if the account of the holocaust in terms of biopower is incomplete, there is still a great deal to be learned from Foucault’s identification of this biologizing, or medicalising racism. (shrink)
'I too was superfluous' -- 'Outside, in the world, among others' -- 'Hell is other people' -- 'He is playing at being a waiter in a café' -- 'In war there are no innocent victims' -- 'I am obliged to want others to have freedom' -- 'The authentic Jew makes himself a Jew' -- 'The eyes of the least favoured' -- 'A future more or less blocked off' -- 'Man is violent'.
The distinction between xenophobia and racism is sometimes used to deny that Islamophobia is a racism. I challenge this strategy by tracing that distinction back to the formation of the term racism by Franz Boas, Julian Huxley, and Ashley Montagu, that culminated in the UNESCO Statement on Race in 1950. By showing the connection between their understanding of racism and the deployment in this context of further distinctions, such as that between race and religion, or that between nature and culture, (...) and by recalling the ideological purpose the use of these distinctions were intended to serve, I deploy a genealogical approach to show that Islamophobia is a racism. Racism cannot be identified through the use of analytically established distinctions when what is at issue is the discriminatory behavior which is at its heart. Antiracism needs to learn to be as flexible in its thinking as racism appears to be. (shrink)
The now widespread notion of environmental racism, coined around 1990 and still important in its place, was never intended to do justice to the full range of issues raised by the Anthropocene. To meet this challenge I propose the introduction of a new concept, that of “anthropocentric racism.” This concept is an extension of what some have referred to as systemic racism, but because the Anthropocene challenges the distinction between nature and culture championed by the Boasian school of anthropology as (...) a way to attack racism, the Anthropocene obliges us to look at racism differently. I propose an extension of the dialectical approach to racism championed by Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon and will illustrate that approach by examining climate change as a form of antipraxis. (shrink)
Frantz Fanon was an enthusiastic reader of Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason and in this essay I focus on what can be gleaned from The Wretched of the Earth about how he read it. I argue that the reputation among Sartre's critics of the Critique as a failure on the grounds that it was left incomplete should take into account its presence in Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth . Their shared perspectives on the systemic character of racism and colonialism, (...) on the genesis and fragility of groups, and on parties indicates the vitality of the ideas set out in the Critique . However, these similarities between the two thinkers are offset by their differences on national consciousness and on the rural masses. I end by speculating about a certain defence on Sartre's part toward Fanon's concrete experience. (shrink)
The emergence of citizenship out of subjecthood at the end of the eighteenth century presented a series of problems for which the United States, among other countries, seems to have been unprepared: it was unclear who qualified for citizenship, what privileges it afforded, and what duties it demanded. Nevertheless, this uncertainty could be manipulated pragmatically to take advantage of any given situation without regard for consistency or future implications. By examining the obstacles placed on the path to citizenship of Native (...) Americans, African Americans, women, and Chinese Americans, this article shows how the category of the non-citizen was weaponized. Indeed the mistreatment of non-citizens becomes the best indication of the value of citizenship. (shrink)
In this paper I present Levinas' account of excendence in On Escape and Existence and Existents and show its continuity with his subsequent discussions of transcendence in Time and the Other, Totality and Infinity, and Otherwise than Being. I argue that Levinas' critique of the traditional idea of identity plays a decisive role in establishing the continuity between these various accounts as it provides the key to unlocking his account of transcendence as a formal structure. However, the meaning of trascendence (...) lies not in the structure but in its concretization. Although Levinas initially presents fecundity as the concretization of transcendence, he ultimately identifies it as ethics. This development explains why Levinas himself preferred to think of himself as a thinker of transcendence or the holy rather than to be identified with ethics. (shrink)
By helping to introduce the relatively new concept of institutional racism into Britain, Sir Michael and Ann Dummett expanded the concept of racism beyond the limited sense it had been given in the 1940s and 1950s when racism tended to be associated with the scientific concept of race and when the focus tended to fall on the intent to harm or speak harm of a group that was identified as a race by science. They recognised that ‘race’ was primarily a (...) political and not a scientific concept. This led them in a different direction from that taken by the next generation of mainstream philosophers working in this area, such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, who adopted the UNESCO approach of highlighting the scientific deficiencies of the concept of race. However, although they both succeeded in developing ways to break through the forms of self-deception that allow institutional racism to go unnoticed and at the same time offered instructive insights into the ways politicians hide behind the racism of others, I argue that they failed to see, as clearly as Sartre and Fanon did, that the conception of institutional racism necessitates a structural changes in society beyond anything they contemplated. (shrink)
A genealogy of the English word racism shows that its dominant sense was shaped by Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Ashley Montagu around 1940 in order to establish a broad consensus against a narrow form of antisemitism found among some anthropologists in Nazi Germany. Their strategy, which was to challenge the biological concept of race on which racism, on their account, was said to be parasitic was subsequently adopted by UNESCO in 1950 and is still advocated by many today. But (...) this approach was not formulated to address anti-black racism. The limitations of this strategy were quickly exposed by black thinkers such as Oliver Cromwell Cox and Frantz Fanon. They understood that the problem was a form of systemic racism that could not be separated from the economic inequalities produced by slavery and colonialism. It could not be reduced to a system of thought open to scientific refutation: the problem had been misdiagnosed from the outset. (shrink)
Robert Bernasconi explores in the context of Heidegger's thought a number of questions of far-reaching concern: what is the role of literary examples within philosophy? Is art dead? What is the relation of art to nature? Is there a place for the idea of a "people" in art and literary theory, and in philosophy? Is the history of philosophy to be written as a narrative? What is the status of ethics within philosophy? What place does philosophy give to praxis? What (...) is the place today of the belief in the nobility of the philosophical life? What is the relation of politics to thought? Reflecting a dominant concern of recent Heidegger scholarship, the focal point of a number of the essays is the relation of Heidegger's own politics to his thought. In addition to this examination of what appears to compromise Heidegger's philosophy, Bernasconi explores its relation to the further possibilities which that thought has opened in the writings of Arendt, Gadamer, Levinas, and Derrida. (shrink)