Cover image for Entre nous : on thinking-of-the-other
Entre nous : on thinking-of-the-other
Lévinas, Emmanuel.
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Uniform Title:
Entre nous. English
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xiii, 256 pages ; 24 cm.
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B2430.L483 E5813 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Originally published in France as Entre Nous: Essais sur le penser-a-l'autre (Editions Grasset & Fasquelle, 1991), and spanning the years 1951 to 1988, this collection of 20 essays and interviews presents an overview of the ethical philosophy of French philosopher Levinas. Proceeding from the tradit

Author Notes

Emmanuel Levinas was born in Kovno, Lithuania, to an Orthodox Jewish family. Hebrew was the first language that he learned to read; he also acquired a love of the Russian classics, particularly works by Pushkin and Tolstoy which first stirred his philosophical interests. Levinas studied in Strasbourg, Freiburg, and Paris, developing a particular interest in the philosophers Henri Bergson, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger. He became a French citizen and eventually a prisoner during World War II, at which time his entire family was exterminated. After the war, Levinas taught at Poitiers, Nanterre, and eventually became professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1973. He has also been deeply involved in the problems of Western Jews, including active membership in the Alliance Israelite Universelle, an organization established in 1860 to promote Jewish emancipation.

The experience of the ravages of totalitarianism during World War II convinced Levinas that only a rediscovery of the specificity of Judaism could deliver the modern world from itself. Levinas's central concern is with "the other"---not the self or the cosmos, but the faces of other persons who make a claim on us and provide traces of the working of an infinite other. Totality and Infinity (1961) is a central but very difficult text. In it Levinas argues that Western philosophy has been captured by a notion of totality from which nothing is distant, exterior, or other and that, thus, when persons who are different confront such totalistic ways of living and thinking, they go to war. Moving beyond totality and war requires a notion of transcendence or infinity, which can bring peace. In fact, religion is, according to Levinas, "the bond that is established between the same and the other without constituting a totality." Levinas maintains that "the existence of God is not a question of an individual soul's uttering logical syllogisms. It cannot be proved. The existence of God . . . is sacred history itself, the sacredness of man's relation to man through which God may pass. God's existence is the story of his revelation in biblical history."

Levinas has said that the most common objection to his thought is that it is utopian, for people are always asking, "Where did you ever see the ethical relation [with the other] practiced?" But Levinas is convinced that, although concern for the other is "always other than the "ways of the world,"' there are "many examples of it in the world." This is the reason that his writings on Judaism, such as Difficult Freedom (1963) and Nine Talmudic Essays (1968), are at least as important as his philosophical texts.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Entre Nous contains a number of short essays and conversations by Levinas, dating from 1951 to 1988, that serve as an excellent introduction to one of the most influential Continental philosophers. Levinas, a professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne who died in 1995, maintained that ethics, not ontology, is "first philosophy." The confrontation of one person with another was for him the basic situation from which philosophy starts. When standing face-to-face, people make an unconditional ethical claim on each other. Neglect of this claim vitiates the thought of Heidegger, by whom Levinas was influenced but against whom he rebelled. The essays on French philosophers, including Lévy Bruhl and Marcel, are exceptionally stimulating. This important collection is highly recommended for academic libraries.‘David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Entre nous: Penser `a l'autre (1991) was the last book that Emmanuel Levinas prepared for publication; he died in 1995. In this volume he gathered together 3 early essays from the 1950s, along with 17 more recent essays, most of them from the 1980s; the result is the most definitive, accessible, and cogently argued statement of his philosophy that Levinas ever published. What makes Entre Nous so remarkable is that it summarizes and clarifies the central arguments of his long career. The essential insights and contributions of Levinas's two major works, Totality and Infinity (CH, Jun'70) and Otherwise than Being (1974), whose analyses and rhetoric are difficult and convoluted, are restated in Entre Nous with grace and lucidity. Here Levinas's philosophical vocation as the phenomenologist of the ethical and social relation is presented in a historical as well as an analytical context. This volume is also unique in its presentation of Levinas's most suggestive ideas about the history of philosophy from Plato and Plotinus to Bergson and Heidegger. Levinas's effort to shift the focus of philosophy from the ontological emphasis of Heidegger's Dasein to his own ethical-religious response to "the fact of the other" powerfully defines the struggle of contemporary philosophy to redefine the relation of theoretical and practical reason. Upper-division undergraduates and above. N. Lukacher; University of Illinois at Chicago

Table of Contents

Is Ontology Fundamental?
The I and the Totality Levy-Bruhl and Contemporary Philosophy
A Man-God?
A New Rationality: On Gabriel Marcel Hermeneutics and the Beyond
Philosophy and Awakening Useless Suffering Philosophy, Justice, and Love
Nonintentional Consciousness From the One to the Other: Transcendence and Time
The Rights of Man and Good Will Diachrony and Representation
The Philosophical Determination of the Idea of Culture
Uniqueness Totality and Infinity Dialogue on Thinking-of-the-Other "Dying for..."
The Idea of the Infinite in Us The Other, Utopia, and Justice