By Jan Patočka
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Additional info for An Introduction to Husserl's Phenomenology
The best way to read the recourse Levinas’s work makes to religion is not in terms of an appeal to the Other as absolutely, dogmatically revealed, as both critics and disciples contend, but in terms of hermeneutical experience: the Other is experienced exegetically. The problematic status of Levinas’s thought derives not from its philosophical claims annulled by the dogmatic imposition of revelation but from the fact that these claims are not explicitly presented as midrash, which is a process of continuously reconstructing revelation and thus simultaneously deconstructing the idea of its pure givenness and transmission.
The concern seems to be that the uniqueness of Jewish wisdom is sacrificed by its translation into philosophical language. In Gibbs’s view, “the question of a remainder in translation, an untranslatable core, has serious implications. ” 31 Alluding to the problem of allegory in Levinas’s work, Derrida already wondered if “the spiraling return of Alexandrian promiscuity” could be staved off. 32 The choice between authenticity and allegory, however, presents a false philosophical dilemma. It makes the unintelligible assumption that Judaism is a conceptual scheme with its own contents (revelation) that are impenetrable to philosophy, and that philosophy provides its own independent scheme (reason) for thinking about the world.
It is by embracing the midrashic character of this ethics that we desublimate its gestural ethereality and harness its political mettle. Only by seeing ethics as the product of an emboldened philosophical interpretation can its apolitical, introverted, or anemic condition be overcome (see Chapter 6). In this view it is not simply that Levinas’s work extends from ethics to politics but that it never was apolitical precisely because it was never merely ethical; it was always religious, Judaic, and theologico-politically “communitarian” in a quite disrupted, entirely open sense.
An Introduction to Husserl's Phenomenology by Jan Patočka