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Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority (Philosophical Series)
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Levinas points out the egology, the self and family centered closedness that does violence on many scales. In a time when there seems to be unconditional heralding of freedom, Levinas points out the violence of freedom and encourages responsibility. Regardless of how effective one finds his arguments, I think the attitude and way of being Levinas is describing is one that would make life much fuller and less driven by inertia and ignorence.
Infinitely important (pun), highly recommended.
~ Levinas is trying to uncover the source of the idea of infinity ~
No, infinity by definition is boundless and cannot be encompassed or reduced. Levinas is not asking the Cartesian question nor concerned with securing the `existence' of the external world. The concept of infinity is unique in that its content always exceeds or overflows its concept. Ethical relation operates in just this manner: the relation to the other is not negative (ala Idealism) but rather a relation to an excess. This excess is no Hinterwelt, but rather goodness.
~ Then he proceeds to "show" that the face to face relation with the Other is the source for our capacity to have theoretical and practical knowledge. ~
Indeed. Though the term `source' is very problematic. Levinas shows theoretical and practical `knowledge' - science and law/politics - are fundamentally social. In this way, the ethical relation opens and conditions this `knowledge,' while always exceeding it. What if science claimed to discover that women were `inferior' to men? We would no doubt question the `truth' of this discovery. Why? Because such a claim seems to exceed the bounds of what scientific activity can produce. This example shows how ethics exceeds theoretical knowledge. The same goes for the `practical.' Why do we think that segregation is wrong or unjust? Why is excluding the `other' from basic political participation, and the responsibility and rights it entails, a problem? Political theory and practice, which in its way is a kind of `scientific ethics,' can also lead to problematic situations. How are we able to judge or discern or resist claims that seek to justify unethical attitudes and practices?Read more ›
At times, I didn't think I would finish the book. I knew I loved Levinas, but in this book the phenomological analyses are so thorough and extensive, that I wondered if it was the same author at times or when I'd find the definitive Levinasian mark of ethics, of the face. However, I am very happy that I did finish this book. Virtually the first half of the book is about Separation - an ambivalence in which a being masters and enjoys but is also dependent on the resources of the world. Interiority does not commence as a cogito or reason, but as enjoyment (of the world). Every being, in their enjoyment of this life, is separated from a totality that would fully account for all of them. The vertigo of existence, of the "il y a" ("there is"), is subsided in the prolongation of labor and in the dwelling. However, the interior economy is still not in a "face to face."
Only separated beings can enter into a face to face and share their resources with an Other.
Finally, the last sections (beginning from section 3) of the book begin to look a lot like later Levinas, and he goes into extensive and radical analyses of the ultimate, irreducible relation of the face to face and its highly ethical situation. He ruminates on goodness, justice, language, plurality, and peace.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love Hegel, Husserl, Zizek, Lacan ... I cite them so that you don't think I hated this book simply because I can't stand the "conviluted" type of philosophy. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ferdino
This book was a major game-changer for me. I'd read quite a bit of so-called "continental" philosophy before discovering it, and then quite a bit more before... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Dylan O'Brien
NEW METAPHYSICS OF "UNIVERSAL INCARNATION":
MASTERPIECE: this manuscript is considered essential reading for anyone researching phenomenology or post-modern thought. Read more
Interesting book, good for skimming, thought provoking, original concepts, but abstract and in rather hard to read quasi broken EnglishPublished on November 3, 2013 by Vincent Bataoel
Great text. Levinas is, I think, a very under appreciated philosopher. This is an important text for anyone interested in phenomenology or philosophy of mind (especially... Read morePublished on November 2, 2013 by Tom Schulte
I read this book after graduating from Catholic graduate school years ago. It is incredibly dense, but worth every hour spent deciphering its scope and message. Read morePublished on August 17, 2012 by JeffMulac
I loved this book in my twenties and still love it. Its insights are timeless and can appeal to people of all ages and, in my view, different religions. Read morePublished on May 9, 2010 by Joseph Wronka
There's no doubt that this is a difficult read. I would urge anyone tackling this great book that they skip Levinas' Introduction, saving it until the end. Read morePublished on October 3, 2007 by D. R. Greenfield