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Embodiment in the Early Writings of Emmanuel Levinas

Domenii publicaţii > Stiinte umaniste + Tipuri publicaţii > Articol în revistã ştiinţificã

Autori: Cristian Ciocan

Editorial: Jeffrey Bloechl, Duquesne University Press, Levinas Studies. An Annual Review, 4, p.1-20, 2009.


Examining the problem of embodiment in Levinas’s philosophy produces a constellation of questions that has no simple answer because the problem hidden therein is neither uniform nor homogeneous. Is there a philosophy of flesh in Levinas? Has this French philosopher actually developed a phenomenology of embodiment that we can place in relation to those of Husserl or Merleau-Ponty? That is, how well and through what aspects of the ethical subject has Levinas described an incarnate subject? How does living embodiment determine the subjectivity of the subject? What are the corporeal phenomena that play a part in Levinasian thought, and how does he articulate these phenomena? Ultimately, what are the lines of forces, according to Levinas, that structure the phenomenon of the flesh? In attempting to clarify the problem of embodiment in Levinas’s philosophy, our analysis will follow this problem chronologically, hoping to catch obliquely in Levinas the theme of embodiment: both its evolution and its metamorphosis in his diverse work.
We can delimitate four main phases in Levinas’s work: the first would be the phase of the 1930s (the exegetical commentaries on phenomenology, but also the essays “Some Thoughts on the Philosophy of Hitlerism” and “On Escape”; the second is the phase shortly after the Second World War (Existence and Existents, Time and the Other); the third phase centers around Totality and Infinity (1961), in so far as the last phase formed around Otherwise that Being (1974). Our question thus becomes: how did the problem of the flesh arise in Levinas, and how did his interpretation of the phenomenon of embodiment evolve in his work? Given that this investigation is too broad to clarify in a single article, we will only attempt to address the first two parts of this project, focusing on what has been called “the early Levinas,” leaving aside for later work, the task of carrying this problem through the “second” or “later” Levinas.

Cuvinte cheie: Levinas, Body, Nudity, Vulnerability, Ethics