Corporeality and the Glory of the Infinite in the Philosophy of Levinas

Edith Wyschogrod

in Crossover Queries

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226061
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235148 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Corporeality and the Glory of the               Infinite in the Philosophy of Levinas

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This chapter examines why Moses Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas thought that sensory images fail to convey the meaning of transcendence and why they thought that, by contrast, intellectual understanding as exhibited in linguistic signs provides a necessary precondition for such apprehension. It shows that Emmanuel Levinas has appropriated the an-iconicity of this tradition, while departing from its claims that insight into the divine nature can be obtained through rational intuition and inference. It then considers the ways in which tensions between corporeality and transcendence as generally manifested in Western theological tradition persist in Levinas's preempting and deconstructing of Edmund Husserl's phenomenology. These strains are most obvious in Levinas's description of the human face as incarnating ethical imperatives, but upon analysis they can also be seen when transcendence is troped as trace, the infinite, and illeity. Finally, this chapter looks at Levinas's use of the expression “the glory of the infinite” and argues that it points to a process of infinition rather than to a property of the infinite.

Keywords: Moses Maimonides; Thomas Aquinas; sensory images; transcendence; Emmanuel Levinas; corporeality; phenomenology; infinition; Edmund Husserl

Chapter.  6654 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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