The Ethics of Uprootedness: Emmanuel Levinas's Postwar Project

in The Figural Jew

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780226315119
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226315133 | DOI:
The Ethics of Uprootedness: Emmanuel Levinas's Postwar Project

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In “Existentialism and Anti-Semitism,” Emmanuel Levinas claims that Jean-Paul Sartre, in his essay Réflexions sur la question juive, failed to acknowledge the internal meaning and essence of Judaism by describing Jewish destiny as a function of anti-Semitism. According to Levinas, existentialism negotiates between universalizing rationalism and a particularist philosophy of belonging by means of a method that confers utmost importance on the individual's concrete circumstances without reasserting a thinking of rootedness. In 1946, Sartre suggested that the Jews were merely the victims of a conflict between deterministic particularism and abstract universalism. In response, Levinas claimed that the Jew is the entrance itself of the religious event in the world. This chapter examines Levinas's reconfiguration of the notion of deracination as a moral idea in relation to Judaism and considers the tensions generated by this connection. It argues that Levinas's characterization of ethics as an uprooting of the self facilitates the revalorization of Jewishness and prepares the way for a theory of literary figuration as a function that uproots.

Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas; existentialism; Jean-Paul Sartre; anti-Semitism; Jews; deracination; ethics; Jewishness; Judaism; literary figuration

Chapter.  23565 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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