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This volume contains the speech given by Derrida at Emmanuel Levinas's funeral on December 27, 1995, and his contribution to a colloquium organized to mark the first anniversary of Levinas's death. For both thinkers, the word adieu names a fundamental characteristic of human being: the salutation or benediction prior to all constative language (in certain circumstances, one can say adieu at the moment of meeting) and that given at the moment of separation, sometimes forever, as at the moment of death, it is also the a-dieu, for God or to God before and in any relation to the other.
In this book, Derrida extends his work on Levinas in previously unexplored directions via a radical rereading of Totality and Infinity and other texts, including the lesser-known talmudic readings. He argues that Levinas, especially in Totality and Infinity, bequeaths to us an “immense treatise of hospitality,” a meditation on the welcome offered to the other. The conjunction of an ethics of pure prescription with the idea of an infinite and absolute hospitality confronts us with the most pressing political, juridical, and institutional concerns of our time. What, then, is an ethics and what is a politics of hospitality? And what, if it ever is, would be a hospitality surpassing any ethics and any politics we know?
As always, Derrida raises these questions in the most explicit of terms, moving back and forth between philosophical argument and the political discussion of immigration laws, peace, the state of Israel, xenophobia—reminding us with every move that thinking is not a matter of neutralizing abstraction, but a gesture of hospitality for what happens and still may happen.
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