Reconsidering Difference: Nancy, Derrida, Levinas, Deleuze

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Overview

French philosophy since World War II has been preoccupied with the issue of difference. Specifically, it has wanted to promote or to leave room for ways of living and of being that differ from those usually seen in contemporary Western society. Given the experience of the Holocaust, the motivation for such a preoccupation is not difficult to see. For some thinkers, especially Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, and Gilles Deleuze, this preoccupation has led to a mode of philosophizing that privileges difference as a philosophical category. Nancy privileges difference as a mode of conceiving community, Derrida as a mode of conceiving linguistic meaning, Levinas as a mode of conceiving ethics, and Deleuze as a mode of conceiving ontology.

Reconsidering Difference has a twofold task, the primary one critical and the secondary one reconstructive. The critical task is to show that these various privilegings are philosophical failures. They wind up, for reasons unique to each position, endorsing positions that are either incoherent or implausible. Todd May considers the incoherencies of each position and offers an alternative approach. His reconstructive task, which he calls "contingent holism," takes the phenomena under investigation—community, language, ethics, and ontology—and sketches a way of reconceiving them that preserves the motivations of the rejected positions without falling into the problems that beset them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“May is to be congratulated for writing a book that is easily accessible, comprehensive, and original.”

—Evan Selinger, International Studies in Philosophy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271016580
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Todd May is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Clemson University. He is the author of The Moral Theory of Poststructuralism (1995), The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism (1994), and Between Genealogy and Epistemology (1993), all published by Penn State Press.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
1 From Communal Difference to Communal Holism 21
2 From Linguistic Difference to Linguistic Holism 77
3 From Ethical Difference to Ethical Holism 129
4 From Ontological Difference to Ontological Holism 165
Conclusions: From Difference to Holism 203
Index 207
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