In Proximity: Emmanuel Levinas and the 18th Century

In Proximity: Emmanuel Levinas and the 18th Century Melvyn New with Robert Bernasconi and Richard A. Cohen, eds.

Texas Tech University Press, 2001
ISBN: 0896724514

In a world in which everything is reduced “to the play of signs detached from what is signified,” Levinas asks a deceptively simple questions: Whence, then, comes the urge to question injustice? By seeing the demand for justice for the other – the homeless, the destitute – as a return to morality, Levinas escapes the suspect finality of any ideology.

Levinas’s question is one starting point for In Proximity, a collection of seventeen essays by scholars in eighteenth-century literature, philosophy, history, and religion, and their readings of Spinoza, Kant, Goethe, Wordsworth, Behn, Defoe, Fielding, Sterne, Diderot, Laclos, and Mendelssohn. The title In Proximityalone speaks volumes about Levinas’s philosophy and its relevance today. “If it is true that we are, through technology, moving closer and closer to one another,” writes editor Melvyn New, then “the importance of proximity and our response to it cannot be overstated.” For the contributors to this volume, the question of whether we may, ethically, appropriate the object of study for our own causes has become vital. Levinas asks us to see ourselves, our own reading, “in proximity” to what is not ourselves, not our understanding of the world.

The dialogue created among the essays themselves establishes an enormous diversity of texts and ideologies to which Levinas can contribute something of significant value.

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