The Intrigue of Ethics: A Reading of the Idea of Discourse in the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas

The Intrigue of Ethics: A Reading of the Idea of Discourse in the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas

Jeffrey Dudiak
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 438
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    The Intrigue of Ethics: A Reading of the Idea of Discourse in the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas
    Book Description:

    This work explains how human beings can live more peacefully with one another by understanding the conditions of possibility for dialogue. Philosophically, this challenge is articulated as the problem of: how dialogue as dia-logos is possible when the shared logos is precisely that which is in question. Emmanuel Levinas, in demonstrating that the shared logos is a function of interhuman relationship, helps us to make some progress in understanding the possibilities for dialogue in this situation. If the terms of the argument to this point are taken largely from Levinas's 1961 Totality and Infinity, Dudiak further proposes that Levinas's 1974 Otherwise than Being can be read as a deepening of these earlier analyses, delineating, both the conditions of possibility and impossibility for discourse itself. Throughout these analyses Dudiak discovers that in Levinas's view dialogue is ultimately possible, only for a gracious subjectivity already graced by God by way of the other, but where the word God is inseparable from my subjectivity as graciousness to the other. Finally, for Levinas, the facilitation of dialogue, the facilitation of peace, comes down to the subject's capacity and willingness to be who he or she is, to take the beautiful risk of a peaceful gesture offered to the other, and that peace, in this gesture itself. As Levinas himself puts it: Peace then is under my responsibility. I am a hostage, for I am alone to wage it, running a fine risk, dangerously.Levinas's philosophical discourse is precisely itself to be read as such a gesture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4801-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. ii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE: Dialogue and Peace
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Part I: The Idea of Discourse
    • 1 The Impasse of Dialogue
      (pp. 3-56)

      Dialogueas, the transmission of meaningful thought contents between interlocutors, is, etymologically,dia-logos, a transmission mediateddia(“through”) thelogos(“word,” or “reason”). As such, the very notion of dialogue presupposes an a priori commonality of access to a sharedlogosfor all prospective participants in the desired dialogue. Thelogos, if it is to effectively perform its mediatory function, must be shared, must be the samelogosaccessible to each. If dialogue, after its etymological sense, is to be possible, I must be able to speak a word (alogos) whose meaning for me corresponds to the meaning that that...

    • 2 Original Plurality: The Terms of Discourse
      (pp. 57-108)

      In our opening chapter we argued that the traditional notion of dialogue asdin-logosfails to help us make progress in understanding the conditions of possibility for interparadigmatic dialogue insofar as (1) in those situations that we are claiming are qualified by interparadigmaticity, the commonlogosthat would be called upon to mediate the difference between interlocutoriss precisely that which is in question, that which defines the difference so encountered, such that we are left with appealing to that which is precisely in question, and, thus, with a vicious circle; (2) in presupposing the commonality it is precisely the role...

    • 3 Discourse as the Condition of Possibility for Dialogue
      (pp. 109-164)

      If the separation or “transcendence” of the other from the same is produced as an ethical refusal—coming from the other—of being reduced to the categories of knowing operated by the same, as the prohibition “Thou shalt not kill” in the very expression of the other, then this prohibition also produces, as the inverse side of this transcendence, a relation with the other. For to be called into question (as the assimilative march of the same) is already to be in relation with the other, to find oneself (however more or less consciously) in a relation with the other...

  6. Part II: The Possible Impossibility
      (pp. 167-177)

      In the previous chapter, we argued, following Levinas, that the condition of possibility of dialogue (of any dialogue, although our particular interest is in the possibility of interparadigmatic dialogue) is discourse—a non-allergic, ethical relationship with alterity (re)productive¹ of a meaning capable of founding communal meaning. In this second part to our work we shall put forth the thesis that the idea of discourse itself is well described asa possible impossibility. In order to work toward this thesis, in order to justify our recourse to this peculiar and at least seemingly oxymoronic description—and keeping to the transcendental-phenomenological language...

    • 4 The Two Aspects of Language: The Saying and the Said
      (pp. 178-223)

      Let us begin our analysis of the saying and the said by analyzing a linguistic event, an event central to the possibility of dialogue, and attempting to sort out, on a Levinasian reading, the modes of meaning operative in it.I say something to an other. We propose that what Levinas refers to as “the saying” will come to the fore when we analyze the conditions of possibility for the “I saysomethingto an other” aspect of the event, and “the said” in the aspect highlighted by the conditions of possibility for the “I saysomethingto another,” even...

    • 5 The Two Directions in Language: The Reductive and the Re-constructive
      (pp. 224-262)

      Let us now examine rather more closely the claim we are developing that for Levinas there is no sense in which the conditions of possibility for …existin the sense that theypresentthemselves to us, that they are present to experience or as experienced. There is a double sense in which this is true of “the saying,” which we are in the course of arguing here—albeit circuitously—is the condition of possibility for discourse (which is itself a condition of possibility of dialogue, and so here we are dealing with the complex matter of a condition of...

    • 6 The Moment of Responsibility: Time and Eternity
      (pp. 263-314)

      At the very end of the main text ofTotality and Infinity, right before the conclusions (closing the subsection entitled “The Infinity of Time,” of the section entitled “Beyond the Face”), we find the following paragraph, which contains an unanswered question:

      But infinite time is also the putting back into question of the truth it promises. The dream of a happy eternity, which subsists in man along with his happiness, is not a simple aberration. Truth requires both an infinite time and a time it will be able to seal, a completed time. The completion of time is not death,...

  7. Part III: Discourse, Philosophy, and Peace
    • 7 Levinasʹs Philosophical Discourse
      (pp. 317-402)

      In the previous chapter we have, across an analysis of temporality, shown how Levinas’s own philosophical discourse is, by its own testimony, caught up at every moment, “in this very moment,” in the moment as thecarrefourof two temporalities that at once demands the structuring and de-structuring of its philosophical said. But as itself caught up in the dual exigencies of ethical saying and the just said(s) that saying inspires, what, more precisely, is the status of Levinas’s philosophical discourse qua “philosophy,” and qua “discourse” in the technical sense upon which we have been elaborating throughout this work? We...

    • 8 The Im/possibility of Peace
      (pp. 403-420)

      Over thirty years have passed since Jean-François Lyotard first characterized “the postmodern condition” as an incredulity toward meta-narratives, that is to say, as a loss in the belief that a Master Story (a comprehensive account of the truth of being and history used to legitimate the sciences) can effectively, and innocently, integrate and guide our communal existence,¹ and this characterization has, in the meantime, become increasingly plausible. For our ageismarked by a widening recognition of the legitimacy of a variety of disparate discourses, each seemingly answering to its own parochial exigencies, and as such locked in an intractable...

    (pp. 421-432)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 433-438)