Year of Publication

2007

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Ronald Bruzina

Abstract

Few philosophers, today, are doing more than simple recognition of Levinass debt to phenomenology when a thorough explication of how phenomenological methodology impacts Levinass work is needed. This dissertation is the needed discussion of methodology that has been so absent in Levinas as well as in so many of his interpreters. The purpose, herein, is to synthesize Levinass work, explicating it in terms of transcendental methodology, the result of which reveals Levinass claims to be more defensible when understood in these terms than when the full rigor of this methodology is not properly grasped. First, to connect Levinas to transcendental phenomenology a correct perspective of the phenomenological tradition is needed. I argue that phenomenology is a methodology that discloses those horizons that condition experience such that appearance takes on meaning. I further argue that it is important to see this disclosure as something open-ended and ongoing rather than a method capable of fully revealing a final telos. Levinas fits into this methodology by providing the ethical as just such a horizonal condition, while his constant returning to this theme highlights the need to keep reworking the description of its meaningful impact on experience. Second, I defend Levinas from those who claim his work cannot be phenomenological, based on what they see as an implied Jewish tradition informing his description. I argue that what must be understood is that Levinass reference to God, Biblical stories, and Jewish wisdom impose an unsettling language that is introduced to replace traditional phenomenological language that does not always allow for the goals phenomenology sets for itself. This imposition does not use the Jewish tradition to make his argument but as a vocabulary far better at describing the ethical condition than what is commonly used in phenomenology. The final step of explication involves the actual application of the methodology, now understood aright, to Levinass claims about the other, the self, and the ethical. The result is that once we understand the ethical as the infinite originative horizon out of which the conscious ego emerges, later interpretations of Levinas will be able to successfully move beyond his work.

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