Mystery and Method: The Other in Rahner and Levinas

By Michael Purcell | Go to book overview
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experience, "the overloading (surtendre) of traditional concepts" and the "overdetermination of ontological categories," break down, open onto a new transcendence, and are "transformed into ethical terms" (ibid. 115; see also Levinas 1987, 158, n.4). Reed writes,

At the very point where Kant and Husserl believe transcendental philosophy culminates -- the subject as transcendental ego or transcendental apperception, and presence as the temporal unity of experience -- Levinas turns to 'conjunctions of elements' in which these transcendental structures break up, or perhaps break down might be a more appropriate image. There is a source of signification for Levinas which transcends the transcendental, even understood in Husserl's 'broadest sense' ( Reed 1983, 257).

Levinas philosophy, then, "is transcendental insofar as he inquires back into the conditions of experience and the sources of its signification. However, insofar as he considers transcendence to be an event which no transcendental structure can comprehend with perfect clarity, his thought must be distinguished from every previous transcendental philosophy by its character as diachronic" (ibid. 258).

It is precisely this ethical transformation of the transcendental method, and the awakening of the phenomenological reduction to intersubjectivity that will enable us to further deepen and advance Rahner's theology.


Methodology stands under the aegis of alterity. If, as Levinas says, "philosophy is the wisdom of love in the service of love," then it will always be summoned to go beyond its current confinement and extend its endeavours to render an account of the relationship with the Other to the Other. That the text of philosophy arises, not primarily in solitary wonder, but in the dialogic context of the relationship with the Other, of and about whom questions are asked, and to whom answers are offered renders methodological transparency difficult. The Other is a question, the answer to which is always inadequate. Methodology is thus subverted in two ways: it can only proceed dialogically, as Rahner might term it, and diachronically, as Levinas indicates. Because the subject matter of philosophy is a relationship between the self and the Other who is excessive with regard to the self, but whose very excess will sustain the relationship, the Same and the Other can neither be said in the same time or the same place. Thus, methodology finds itself robbed of a stable ground which would provide a sure footing for its quest for transparency. Jacques Pohier


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