Abstract: Levinas's conception of ethics has the structure of a phenomenology of Jewish law ( halakhah ) that privileges the heteronomous command over the rational deliberations of the subject. In this respect Levinas resembles neo-Orthodox Jewish thinkers. However, those who endorse halakhah as a system of heteronomous law frequently oppose it to ethics. They argue that the notion of obeying a mitzvah (commandment) from God requires one to sacrifice one's own conception of the good. Thus on the one hand Levinas' account of ethics closely resembles halakhah , while on the other hand the halakhah undermines the priority of ethics as Levinas understands it. The conundrum is resolved when we see how Levinasian ethics and halakhah both take exegetical responsibility for the heteronomous commandment. The moral act of midrash maintains the compatibility between ethics and halakhah but leads us to regard Levinas as a post-Orthodox halakhic thinker.
Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies – Purdue University Press
Published: Feb 14, 2009
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