Section Information for Spring 2017
This course is a close reading of Emmanuel Levinas’s Totality and Infinity. In his book Heidegger in France (characterized in a review by George Steiner as “intellectual history of the first rank”), the philosopher Dominique Janicaud wrote the following about the publication of Totality and Infinity: “[t]he resistance from the ‘Heideggerian circles’ was insufficient to discourage the average reader. In fact, it was necessary to have been very well versed in the debate on the ‘end of ontology’ to grasp the profound stakes of the book. And it required the exceptional lucidity of some particularly attentive minds such as Wahl, Ricoeur, Blanchot, or Derrida to recognize that these stakes—apart from any narrowly partisan position—were on a par with the most far-reaching intuitions of the Master of Freiburg [i.e. Martin Heidegger].” Levinas, who held the Chair in Metaphysics at the Sorbonne, is widely credited with re-introducing the question of ethics into the European continental philosophical context in such a way that challenges the tradition’s “reduction of the other to the same,” as well as the tradition’s understanding of ethics as following upon epistemology or metaphysics. On Levinas’s understanding, ethics is “first philosophy.” Totality and Infinity is the first major work from Levinas.
For students in the Traditional and Contemporary Philosophy focus, this course fulfills the advanced seminar requirement and the contemporary philosophy requirement. It may be used as an elective by students who have already fulfilled these requirements.
For students in the Ethics and Public Affairs concentration, this course may be used as an elective.
Close study of selected topics in current philosophical discourse.
May be repeated for credit when topic is different.