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Semantics of Proximity: Language and the Other in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas

Semantics of Proximity: Language and the Other in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas 213 Semantics of Proximity: Language and the Other in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas KRZYSZTOF ZIAREK State University of New York at Buffalo The thought of Emmanuel Levinas concerns itself with what overflows thinking, with the "unthinkable" par excellence, with otherness. It situates itself against the background of the ontological tradition of Western philo- sophy, which, in Levinas' view, precisely thinks the other, and thus inevitably compromises his alterity. In the opening pages of Totalité et Infini (Totality and Infinity), Levinas characterizes this tradition as the dominion of the Same (le Même), of the totalizing thought, which in the process of self- identification subsumes all alterity and makes it merely a necessary part in the self-conscious play of the subject.' In distinction from the totalizing modes of thinking, the aim of Levinas' philosophy is to treat the other in such a way that he would remain "unthinkable," absolutely exterior and non- thematizable. Since, as Levinas himself remarks, modern philosophy treats thought as coextensive with, and inseparable from, language (Tel, 180/TI, 205), the attempt to secure the exteriority of the other inaccessible to consciousness is interlinked with the question of the essence of language. Thus, in a manner parallel http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Research in Phenomenology Brill

Semantics of Proximity: Language and the Other in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas

Research in Phenomenology , Volume 19 (1): 213 – Jan 1, 1989

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 1989 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0085-5553
eISSN
1569-1640
DOI
10.1163/156916489X00128
Publisher site
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Abstract

213 Semantics of Proximity: Language and the Other in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas KRZYSZTOF ZIAREK State University of New York at Buffalo The thought of Emmanuel Levinas concerns itself with what overflows thinking, with the "unthinkable" par excellence, with otherness. It situates itself against the background of the ontological tradition of Western philo- sophy, which, in Levinas' view, precisely thinks the other, and thus inevitably compromises his alterity. In the opening pages of Totalité et Infini (Totality and Infinity), Levinas characterizes this tradition as the dominion of the Same (le Même), of the totalizing thought, which in the process of self- identification subsumes all alterity and makes it merely a necessary part in the self-conscious play of the subject.' In distinction from the totalizing modes of thinking, the aim of Levinas' philosophy is to treat the other in such a way that he would remain "unthinkable," absolutely exterior and non- thematizable. Since, as Levinas himself remarks, modern philosophy treats thought as coextensive with, and inseparable from, language (Tel, 180/TI, 205), the attempt to secure the exteriority of the other inaccessible to consciousness is interlinked with the question of the essence of language. Thus, in a manner parallel

Journal

Research in PhenomenologyBrill

Published: Jan 1, 1989

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