Levinas Between German Metaphysics and Christian Theology

Leora Batnitzky

in The Exorbitant

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230150
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235711 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Levinas Between German Metaphysics and Christian Theology

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This chapter argues that Levinas's positive relation to the Western philosophical tradition is far more complex than his interpreters have allowed. At the same time, Levinas's relation to Judaism is far more complex than Levinas and his interpreters suggest. Analyzing Levinas's messianic claims for philosophy in the context of the historically religious roots and aspirations of modern German philosophy, the chapter considers some broad affinities between Levinas's philosophy and Christian theology, in terms of both form and content. Drawing on the recent work of intellectual historians Ian Hunter and Walter Sparn, it argues that the development of modern metaphysics historically transformed what had been the social function of Christian theology. In this sense, Levinas's positive use of the term metaphysics is akin to the historical function of Christian theology, as well as to the historical function of what became post-Christian (or post-Protestant) metaphysics. To make this argument, the chapter reconsiders Levinas's interpretation of Rosenzweig to shed light on Levinas's conceptions of “philosophy” generally, and his conception of “incarnation” in particular.

Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas; Judaism; Ian Hunter; Walter Sparn; philosophy; Christian theology; metaphysics; Rosenzweig

Chapter.  6446 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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