Proximity, Levinas, and the Soul of Law

Proximity, Levinas, and the Soul of Law

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Proximity, Levinas, and the Soul of Law
    Book Description:

    Without compromising the integrity of either Levinas' poetic evocations of our spirit or the law's dense descriptions of our society, Manderson brings the two into constructive dialogue. For the student of Levinas, the author offers an understanding of the implications and difficulties involved in applying ethics to law - major issues in continental philosophy. For the student of law, he provides a powerful framework through which to reconceptualize duty of care, the law of negligence, and the nature of legal judgment itself - major issues in legal theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7565-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    The Latin word for the soulis spiritus, which also means breath. In Greek it is pneuma, likewise wind or breath. The Hebrewruahhas similar connotations.² These words all circle around a cluster of ideas that are neither Christian nor religious. It is surely meaningful to speak of the soul or spirit³ in order to articulate what we sometimes feel to be a kind of force that animates us, filling us with aninnerlife: “animate” also means to quicken and comes fromanima– breath, life, soul, mind.

    Even someone as implacably materialistic, in his own way, as Michel...

  5. 2 Tortologies
    (pp. 21-50)

    It matters how we conjugate the world. The grammar in which one frames an area of law indicates what is seen to be important about it and why. How did law arise and to what end? These questions have generated a variety of powerful myths surrounding the origin of law.¹ Property law, for example, starts from the first-person singular. Its perceived importance derives from the assumed primacy of I. Drawing on John Locke and G.W.F. Hegel, the right to the legal protection of property is there constructed as a necessary extension of the ego. There has, of course, been a...

  6. 3 Before the World
    (pp. 51-72)

    In this chapter I want to say a little more about the general tenor and outline of Levinas’ approach to ethics, precisely because his ideas here will be important throughout the rest of this book. In particular, I want to explore what Levinas means by “assymetric” responsibility and why he perceives ethics as a necessarily unstable force irreducible to a code or system of rules. In the first of Levinas’ two major works,Totality and Infinity,Levinas’ approach is broadly speaking phenomenological and metaphorical. He asks us to think about experiences in our life that belie the assumptions of totality...

  7. 4 From Philosophy to Law
    (pp. 73-97)

    Law must live in the middle, between two incompatible logics; “the need to be saved and the need to be satisfied.”¹ It cannot do without practical results and compromises, without balancing the interests of selves. It cannot live only in the realm of ethical purity. But neither can it live only in the realm of bartered pragmatism. This would give law no identity apart from politics. Law strives to gain a mess of pottage without betraying its birthright.² So the normative foundations of law matter, though they are by no means the final word. Having introduced the reader to what...

  8. 5 Proximity, Proximité
    (pp. 98-145)

    Two things should guide our reading of the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges.² First, his style. Borges is alcoholic. The Arabical-kuhl, first of all, refers to a process of distillation. It is Borges’ relentless purification towards an essence that produces such a giddy effect upon his readership. In other words, he writes in parables that intoxicate. Second, his themes. Borges’ stories concern the gulf between appearance and reality; a gulf that is infinitesimal in the twin sense of being both indescribably small and impossibly distant. His stories are full of masks and mazes and mirrors,³ of narratives about narratives...

  9. 6 Here I Am
    (pp. 146-174)

    My purpose in this chapter is to pursue the interrogation of our case study into what might broadly be called areas of limitation. That is, if responsibility is in law (at least) not universal and unbounded, how does the law deal with the making of boundaries in this respect? This drawing of lines – judgment – has proved a difficult question, particularly in those areas in which there has been no immediate physical connection between the parties – areas in which, for example, words and not actions caused harm, in which the harm was purely economic and not physical, or in which the...

  10. 7 All the Others
    (pp. 175-204)

    Henry Moore’sMoon Headhas about it a sense of unconsummated longing.¹ One can see the connection, no doubt, to those many other sculptures in which Moore explored the relationship of form to negative space. But there is a figurative and immediately human quality to theMoon Headthat sets it apart from many of these. Two concave bronze lozenges face each other on small plinths, smooth and blank and featureless. In one, a minor excision on the side is enough to suggest an open mouth and convert the disk to the form of a speaking face. In the other,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 205-244)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-262)
  13. Index
    (pp. 263-267)