Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Katz, Claire. "Review of Michael L. Morgan's DISCOVERING LEVINAS." NDPR January 12, 2008.

I can no longer count the number of times that I have heard people say that Emmanuel Levinas is one of the most difficult philosophers they have ever encountered -- and this comment is frequently uttered by those trained primarily in "Continental" philosophy. One can only imagine then how Levinas's project might appear to those unequipped with the vocabulary and conceptual frameworks of Husserl and Heidegger, Rosenzweig or Bergson, on whom so much of Levinas's work relies. Michael Morgan's book, Discovering Levinas, is a masterful reading of Levinas. It not only provides a clear account of Levinas's ethical project for those trained in European philosophy, but it also makes Levinas's account of the ethical accessible to those who are not. In so doing, Morgan acknowledges the ways that analytic philosophy and continental philosophy remain different in their methodologies and their concerns. And yet in spite of these differences, Morgan demonstrates what is lost when we maintain the boundaries that divide professional philosophy. Morgan's story for coming to this project is worth repeating here for it not only provides his motivation and his credentials, but also reveals a philosopher at his best. In an all too familiar story where Levinas could be interchanged with any number of thinkers, Morgan tells us in his Preface that he attempted to read Levinas many times but never made it past the first few pages and quickly put Levinas aside, moving on to other projects. He then agreed to team teach a course with Paul Franks on Levinas and Rosenzweig, the latter, though just as impenetrable as Levinas, was a thinker much more familiar to Morgan. (Morgan and Franks had translated and edited a collection of Rosenzweig's writings.) Before the class began, Franks moved from Indiana University to Notre Dame and Morgan was left to teach the class solo. Rather than drop Levinas and limit the course to Rosenzweig, Morgan rose to the challenge. As he worked through the material with his students and watched them become entranced by Levinas's ideas, Morgan continued to find new ways to decipher and explain those ideas. . . . Read the rest here:

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