A seminar with Simon Critchley | July 20-27, 2013
Levinas’s work has become a topic of intense intellectual fascination and factional disagreement in recent years. From the relative obscurity in which his work languished until the 1980s, Levinas’s conception on ethics has become a hugely influential and highly familiar position. But perhaps it has become too familiar, reduced to a series of platitudes about ‘the face of the other’, ‘alterity’ and ‘ethics as first philosophy’. The task of this year’s Tilburg Philsophy Summer School is to begin a process of creative defamiliarization of Levinas’s thought through nothing more complex than a reading of his work, that is to say, the major philosophical writings, but also the recently published opus posthumous. Levinas extraordinarily rich and powerful writing wildly exceeds any reductive caricature.
We welcome students with a general interest in Levinas’s thought. Although we will offer an introduction to his philosophy, the focus will be on two significant problems, or what one might call blind spots, in Levinas’s work:
(i) The passage from ethics to politics, in particular the relation of what Levinas sees as the ‘anarchy’ of the relation to the other to forms of political collectivity, in particular the state;
(ii) The relation between the purported nonviolence of the ethical relation to the other and the fact of violence, both political violence and violence in the broadest sense.
In addition to Levinas’s work, we will explore its relation to a number of thinkers who influenced him (Plato, Plotinus, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Husserl or Heidegger) or who he decisively influenced (Blanchot, Derrida, Irigaray, Butler).