Levinas and Kierkegaard in Dialogue

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Overview

Few philosophers have devoted more than passing attention to similarities between the thought of Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian, and Emmanuel Levinas, a French Jew. Here, one of philosophy of religion's most distinctive voices offers a sustained comparison. Focusing on questions surrounding otherness, transcendence, postmodernity, and the nature of religious thought, Merold Westphal draws readers into a dialogue between the two thinkers. Westphal's masterful command of both philosophies shows that each can learn from the other. Levinas and Kierkegaard in Dialogue is an insightful and accessible contribution to philosophical considerations of ethics and religion.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Modern Theology
"[Westphal] has provided us with an important study, not only in terms of the ways it illuminates these two particular thinkers, but also in its careful comparative methodology that provides a useful model for further philosophical dialogue between past and present representatives of Jewish and Christian religious thought." —Daniel H. Weiss, University of Cambridge, MODERN THEOLOGY, 26.3 July, 2010

— Daniel H. Weiss, University of Cambridge

From the Publisher
"Westphal's book will set the terms for future debates about what at times seem like the indiscernible differences that make these two thinkers both very near and very far from each other. —Jeffrey Kosky, Washington and Lee UniversityThis is an important and engaging work that will help readers to understand better not only Levinas and Kierkegaard, but also the nature of otherness and transcendence." —Brian Treanor, Loyola Marymount University

"This is an important and engaging work that will help readers to understand better not only Levinas and Kierkegaard, but also the nature of otherness and transcendence." —Brian Treanor, Loyola Marymount University

Choice
. . . the first book-length comparative study of Kierkegaard and Levinas. . . . aptly sets the stage for a continuing conversation about existential philosophy . . .
Brian Treanor

"Westphal's book will set the terms for future debates about what at times seem like the indiscernible differences that make these two thinkers both very near and very far from each other. —Jeffrey Kosky, Washington and Lee UniversityThis is an important and engaging work that will help readers to understand better not only Levinas and Kierkegaard, but also the nature of otherness and transcendence." —Brian Treanor, Loyola Marymount University

M. R. Michau

Westphal (Fordham Univ.) has written the first book-length comparative study of Kierkegaard and Levinas, and for that reason alone it is worth reading for students and scholars of either major figure. The chapters are reworked articles and book chapters dating back to the early 1990s, so readers will discern that Westphal has been thinking about these figures for some time. The book comprises four units: "Revelation," "God," "Heteronomy," and "Reversal." Each unit consists of two chapters, and the layout is almost chronological in terms of their previous publication. This organization allows one to witness Westphal's thinking mature and develop, chapter by chapter. Although this volume is not the final word on Kierkegaard and Levinas studies, it aptly sets the stage for a continuing conversation about existential philosophy, phenomenology, the status of ethics, the place of religion in the present age, and sociopolitical theory, which has gone through the "postsecular" turn. Westphal's previous work is clearly focused on Kierkegaard and post/modern Christian philosophy, but the author is interested in and conversant with Levinas's Judaic tradition. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers. -- ChoiceM. R. Michau, Penn State University, December 2008

MODERN THEOLOGY - Daniel H. Weiss

"[Westphal] has provided us with an important study, not only in terms of the ways it illuminates these two particular thinkers, but also in its careful comparative methodology that provides a useful model for further philosophical dialogue between past and present representatives of Jewish and Christian religious thought." —Daniel H. Weiss, University of Cambridge, MODERN THEOLOGY, 26.3 July, 2010

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Merold Westphal is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University. His most recent works include Transcendence and Self-Transcendence (IUP, 2004).

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Introduction
Part 1. Revelation
1. Revelation as Immediacy
2. Revelation as Enigma and Paradox
Part 2. God
3. Teleological Suspensions
4. Commanded Love and Divine Transcendence
Part 3. Heteronomy
5. The Trauma of Transcendence as Heteronomous Intersubjectivity
6. Transcendence, Heteronomy, and the Birth of the Responsible Self
Part 4. Reversal
7. The "Logic" of Solidarity
8. Inverted Intentionality: Being Addressed
Notes
Index

Indiana University Press

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    It's alimentary, my dear Watson!'

    One of the most interesting parts of the book for me, someone with more expertise in literary studies, than philosophy, was when Westphal brings attention to the idea that the works of both Levinas and Kierkegaard can be read as alternative to the postmodernist notions of the last part of the 20th century. Westphal writes: "Postmodernity is the boy who shouts, 'the emperor has no clothes,' the investigative journalism that exposes the Wizard of Oz for the sham he is. To rediscover the self 'after postmodernity' is to discover a radical, heteronomous responsibility; and this is to resist the cynicism of dis-illusionment"(107). Heteronomy is surely a notion opposed by most 20th Century thinkers, but Westphal makes the case that both Levinas and Kierkegaard point their readers in the direction of a non-alienating dependence to the "good" of connecting with other people in the world. In other words, helping your neighbor is the way to overcome the dissatisfaction in life inherent in the outlook of many people today. It is also necessary to either making (in the case of Levinas) or maintaining (in the case of Kierkegaard) a relationship with the "Other," God.
    I picked up Levinas and Kierkegaard in Dialogue because I wanted to learn more about Levinas, and having a background in Kierkegaard, I thought it would be helpful to see Levinas's thoughts with textual comparisons from Kierkegaard. And it was. Some of the time. Other times, my lack of knowledge of Levinas (and other philosophers that Westphal brings into the conversation for the sake of context) glared back at me from the less than glossy pages. Better put, this is not a book for beginners. But, if you have a background in one or both of the philosophers, you may it to be an interesting, possibly challenging read with the potential for greater discovery. I have to go now, Totality and Infinity is calling.

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