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Otherwise Than Being: Or Beyond Essence Paperback – May 1, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0820702995 ISBN-10: 0820702994

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Duquesne Univ Pr (May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820702994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820702995
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Eli Schonfeld on October 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Otherwise Than Being" is one of the only metaphysical text that seriously revise and rehabilitate the notion of the subject after Heidegger's deconstruction and critique of it. Proposing a "de-nucleated" subject, a subject that is non-indifferent to the other, Emmanuel Levinas continues the intuitions he first draw in "Totality and Infinity". But rather than simply continue directly and without revision the acquisitions of "Totality and Infinity", Levinas integrates Derrida's critique (drawn in his important article on Levinas,"Violence and Metaphysics") of the still to ontological/phenomenological discourse of "Totality and Infinity". Therefore, in "Otherwise than Being", his second Masterpiece, Levinas is developing a completely new style, a radically new way-of-thinking. Being not committed anymore neither to phenomenology nor to ontology, Levinas offers us an exercise of post-heidegerrian metaphysics that doesn't fall under the critique of philosophy as onto-theo-logy. The pre-original dimension of psychism, the an-archic dimension of the Self, or subjectivity as "other-in-the-Self" are themes breaking the classical metaphysical discourse without abandoning the primacy of the subject, or of ethics. Finally, "Otherwise than Being" is the first important challenge to Nietzsche's parricide, the first (and maybe only) text that tries to re-hear the authentic signification of the word (or name?): God.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Red Jenny on March 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Much though I am fascinated with Levinas, I do find it nearly unreadable. His text is so dense, it requires (but definitely merits) slow reading.
Although it might be helpful to have read earlier Levinas, this book takes a bit of a departure from the philosophy he espoused in his younger days. I don't believe it is such a radical departure so much as a reorientation and increased sophistication, but that's a topic for another discussion!
I highly recommend this read if you are familiar with phenomenology, particulary Husserl and Heidegger, and Kant. I believe they are essential to understanding his arguments.
If you are willing to put in the time and mental effort to unpack this, it is a very rewarding book. For some additional explanation, a good companion is Beyond by Peperzak.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Greenfield on January 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Initially, I did not think it would be possible to read and understand this work; I had read excerpts from it numerous times over the last several years and found it impenetrable. However, after purchasing the book and carefully reading Lingis' Introduction, it was much easier than I had thought. All in all, it took three month's of close and careful reading to complete, spending about one or two hours per day, usually first thing in the morning. I don't think this is the hardest work I read -- I failed miserably and eventually gave up on Deleuze's Difference and Repetition after about 140 pages -- but certainly it was the most profound, and disturbing.

Unlike Totality and Infinity, which dealt in depth with a number of different but related ideas, Otherwise Than Being (OB) is really much narrower in its scope. It deals specifically with subjectivity. Levinas uses an idiosyncratic terminology throughout this work. The word 'essence' in this work does not denote essence in the Aristotelian or the Husserlian sense. For Levinas it means simply 'being'. Another possible point of confusion is the word 'anarchy' which in OB does not have any political connotation; it means simply an-archic, or untimely, beyond time. The word 'interest' (or French, interesse) in OB means an inwardness of essence, the depth of the subject's inwardness in essence, or belongingness to being.

There are some rather extraordinary claims in this work: Most importantly the claim that subjectivity itself is constituted by the exposure to the other in proximity. An even more extraordinary claim is that coherent rational discourse dissimulates transcendence, and "owe[s] its coherence to the State, which violently excludes subversive discourse" (p. 170).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael H. Shenkman on September 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The reviews that precede mine are all to the good and locate Levinas' work superbly. I simply wish to add what I consider to be my responsibility with regard to this work to the mix.
I respond to this work as I do to the story of an epic pioneering expedition come to its end, a Moses halt outside the promised land, an encampment made too soon. Levinas breaks new ground in "Otherwise Than Being," and I am the better for having that ground tilled. He drives into thickets barely ever before found in order to find the "source" of a great landscape.
He drives, that is, to find a way that our living takes shape as something compelling and inextricably at stake for us, beyond the dry or hyposticized ruminations of Reason and Being, that is, metaphysics. He undertakes this journey, it seems to me, in the spirit of being Husserl's disciple, and as one who felt the sting of Heidegger's "betrayal" (a major motif throughout the book), and then saw the eclipse of the master in its shadow. Levinas here does not defend Husserl's notions of "givenness" or "intuition" but here goes right into the teeth of that primacy, which Husserl continually missed or evaded, so as to bring it to voice.
Levinas, in my estimation well establishes that "signification" arises out of a confluence in the most seminally initiating moments occurrence of self and other; and it is this confluence of an encompassing "oneself" that the ego has for material to render as thing, law, principle, reason and Being. Part of the difficulty of the book arises, of course, from being among the first to happen upon this territory and then instead of doing an anthropology or Freudian translation (without attribution), attempts to give it voice, its own voice.
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