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This article is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

Levinas George Steiner

This is, certainly in France, but also at other points in the European climate of philosophy, Emmanuel Levinas's hour. The bibliography of his works and of secondary material, published in 1986, is already distinctly out of date. A voluminous special issue of l'Herne, that useful and very Parisian mode of 'consecration', is to be issued in the coming summer or autumn. Theses and colloquia multiply. Now eighty-four, Levinas can consider, perhaps with some benign irony, not only the late flowering of his reputation, but the variousness and even self-contradictory reach of his influence. At least three principal directions have emerged.

With Jan Patocka writings are now becoming generally available in the West, Levinas is the most creative of Husserl's followers in philosophic phenomenology (he studied with the master during 1928-9). More specifically, it is Levinas who, in such seminal treatises as De l'existence à l'existant (1947), En découvrant l'existence avec Husserl et Heidegger (1949), and that most taxing but crucial of books, Autrement qu'être ou au-delà de l'essence (1974) has sought to delineate the phenomenological stratum in Heidegger's ontology and to elucidate critically the Heideggerian indebtedness to and dissent from Husserl. Levinas's expositions and further explorations of the phenomenological approach to consciousness and the vexed problems of interpersonal perception are largely instrumental in the current return to Husserl's early works and to the late Husserl's reading of the crisis of European man.

A second branch is that of Judaica. It may prove to be the ...


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