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Levinas's Philosophy of Time
Gift, Responsibility, Diachrony, Hope
Eric Severson




Duquesne
2013 • 384 pp. 6 x 9"
Phenomenology / Ethics & Moral Philosophy

$35.00 Paperback, 978-0-8207-0462-3



“Not only has [Severson] written a learned and readable work of scholarship, he has produced a key to interpreting Levinas’s entire body of work, from... [continued in Reviews below]”—Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Over the course of six decades, Emmanuel Levinas developed a radical understanding of time. Like Martin Heidegger, Levinas saw the everyday experience of synchronous time marked by clocks and calendars as an abstraction from the way time functions more fundamentally. Yet, in a definitive break from Heidegger's analysis of temporality, by the end of his career Levinas's philosophy of time becomes the linchpin for his argument that the other person has priority over the self. For Levinas, time is a feature of the self's encounter with the face, and it is his understanding of time that makes possible his radical claim that ethics is first philosophy. 

Levinas's Philosophy of Time takes a chronological approach to examine Levinas's deliberations on time, noting along the way the ways in which his account is informed by aspects of Judaism and by other thinkers: Rosenzweig, Bergson, Husserl, Heidegger. The progression in Levinas's account, Severson argues, moves through his viewing time as a gift or a responsibility in earlier works and culminates in the groundbreaking expressions of his later works in which he rests his resounding philosophy of radical responsibility on an understanding of time as diachrony. Further, by focusing on this progression in Levinas's thought, Severson brings new insight to a number of aspects in Levinas studies that have consistently troubled readers, including the differences between his early and later writings, his controversial invocation of the feminine, and the blurry line between philosophy and religion in his work.

Finally, drawing on Levinas's own acknowledgment that significant work remained to be done on the concept of time, Severson considers the problems and benefits of Levinas's understanding of time and ultimately suggests some possibilities for thinking about time after Levinas. In particular, he reconsiders Levinas's account of the feminine and gender, identifies an implict 'fourth person' that functions behind the scenes of Levinas's work, and highlights the concept of hope in both a future justice and the possibility of a restoration that is not egocentric but for-the-other.

Reviews / Endorsements

“Not only has [Severson] written a learned and readable work of scholarship, he has produced a key to interpreting Levinas’s entire body of work, from his earliest to his last. This key — Levinas’s understanding of time — unlocks Levinas’s famously ‘radical claim that ethics is first philosophy.’ Severson’s book is at its best when it’s exploring the connection between time and some other theme, whether Hitlerism, capitalism, hope, or language.” —Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“While focused on an explication of Levinas’s complex and shifting idea of time, Severson’s rich discussion connects the thematic of time to many other notions of Levinas’s, including escape, hypostasis, presence, dwelling, transcendence, proximity, and infinity. . . . An original contribution to both Levinas studies and to understanding the idea of time in the continental tradition. While any serious Levinas scholar will want to read this book, continental philosophers with an interest in time will wish to engage it as well.” —Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy



Wed, 18 Oct 2017 13:40:51 -0500