Phenomenologies of the Infinite: Lévinas and Marion in Dialogue
(Instructor: Crina Gschwandtner, Ph.D.)
Fall 2012 – Thursdays, 5-7 PM
This course will explore the relationships between the philosophies of Emmanuel Lévinas and Jean-Luc Marion, both important French phenomenological thinkers. Jean-Luc Marion’s work is deeply influenced and shaped by that of Emmanuel Lévinas. In many ways, Marion can be said to extend further Lévinas’ project of a phenomenological account of alterity by opening phenomenology not merely to human otherness, but to any sort of difference (especially that of the divine). Both thinkers claim that their projects are faithful to the phenomenological tradition, yet they both challenge it as well, often in strikingly similar fashion. Both philosophers are also continually accused of subverting phenomenology with theological imagery and content, subjecting it to a “theological turn” or misusing it for purely or primarily apologetic purposes. Despite these similarities in their work and reception, Marion rarely acknowledges Lévinas’ influence on his thought explicitly, nor does he refer to him very often outside of a few essays in which he addresses him directly (usually by criticizing him).
In this course we will focus on the various parallels and differences between the two thinkers and will trace the ways in which they influence each other. We will examine how they are grounded in the phenomenological tradition and also attempt to subvert it and examine the question of whether they can still be said to be phenomenological thinkers. We will explicate the ways in which they grapple with the theme of alterity (especially the encounter between self and other) addressing explicitly Marion’s criticisms of Lévinas on this point. We will also focus on the religious imagery in their work and examine the particular and different ways in which they configure the relation between human and divine other. After laying an introductory groundwork for the work of each thinker individually in the first couple of sessions, the approach in the rest of the semester will be mainly topical and comparative.
Required Readings (list is still rather tentative; feel free to e-mail me over the summer to confirm final list): Levinas, Emmanuel. Ethics and Infinity. Duquesne University Press, 1985. Levinas, Emmanuel. God, Death and Time. Stanford University Press, 2000. Levinas, Emmanuel. Basic Philosophical Writings. Indiana University Press, 1996. Levinas, Emmanuel. Totality and Infinity: An Essay in Exteriority. Duquesne University Press, 1969. (We will probably not be able to read all of this, but at the very least the central section on the “face.”) Levinas, Emmanuel. Entre Nous: On Thinking-of-the-Other. Columbia University Press, 1998.
Marion, Jean-Luc. The Visible and the Revealed. Fordham University Press, 2008. Marion, Jean-Luc. Essential Writings. (ed. Kevin Hart) Fordham University Press, 2012. Marion, Jean Luc. Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Givenness. Stanford University Press, 2002. (We will probably not be able to read all of this, but will read a significant amount, depending on whether the previous title is published in time for us to use it in the course.)
We will also read various individual articles and chapters in larger volumes.
Projected Assignments: weekly question(s) sent to instructor before class session one in-class presentation/leading of (part of) a seminar session one term paper
For the first session, please read Lévinas’ Ethics and Infinity (a collection of radio interviews that give a basic introduction to Lévinas’ philosophy). If you can manage, also take a look at the two essays “Transcendence and Height” and “Substitution” in Lévinas’ Basic Philosophical Writings.
Please feel free to contact me, if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org