The Imaginary Jew, by Alain Finkielkraut//The Wisdom of Love, by Alain Findielkraut

By Gibbs, Robert | Shofar, April 3, 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Imaginary Jew, by Alain Finkielkraut//The Wisdom of Love, by Alain Findielkraut


Gibbs, Robert, Shofar


The Imaginary Jew, by Alain Finkielkraut//The Wisdom of Love, by Alain Finkielkraut

These two volumes import French culture to North America. Published in 1980 and 1984 in France, they have a natural location in the intellectual world of France -- although they disturb and criticize it in new and important ways. Arriving here almost fifteen years later, they are not so easily located. Clearly, these are not simply entries in the culture wars, nor are they Jewish Studies monographs. Their value, however, surmounts the question of placement because they represent a most readable introduction to a critical perspective on being Jewish and an ethics of responsibility which are still unfamiliar here.

The importance of The Wisdom of Love is more obvious. It is an introduction to the themes of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995). Although many books of Levinas' have been translated and others have been published on Levinas' thought, he is still largely unknown. For the Jewish intellectuals in France, Levinas was a giant -- the true leader of a resuscitation of Jewish thought and intellectual life. Levinas was both a philosopher, teaching at the Sorbonne and writing on phenomenology and metaphysics, and a Jewish leader, teaching in the community and training teachers for the Alliance Israélite Universelle. His ideas have had influence across a wide range of European culture from Derrida and Lyotard to Liberation Theology, to the Solidarity movement in Poland, and so on.

Finkielkraut does not present a discussion of Levinas' thought in any systematic or exegetical manner. He takes Levinas' central concept, the face, and then explores how it relates to other aspects of our culture: to love, to antisemitism, to revolutionary politics, and so on. Levinas himself was largely unwilling to engage in this interdisciplinary cultural motion. He retained his loyalty to philosophy and only occasionally wrote at length about literature or culture. Thus Finkielkraut accomplishes, in the French context, an extremely valuable task: he makes the philosophy speak to vital and vibrant issues in the contemporary culture. But this is not simply a question of applying a new idea, for the face opens a critical perspective on our world, and indeed in Finkielkraut's world even more obviously.

Levinas' central idea is that I am responsible for the other person who faces me, that her face challenges me and puts in question my place in the world as well as my world view. The face is the way that the other person disrupts my image of her. The face shatters the images I form; it is a breaking through the physiognomy of nose, eyes and mouth, calling me to respond. Levinas himself develops the philosophical (and theological) significance of this responsibility for the other person, daring to make the ethics of responsibility a First Philosophy, a point of orientation for all thinking and particularly for all discourse. The breakthrough in Levinas' thought is to make an infinite responsibility for others the orientation for our way in the world.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Imaginary Jew, by Alain Finkielkraut//The Wisdom of Love, by Alain Findielkraut
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.