The Wisdom of Love in the Service of Love: Emmanuel Levinas on Justice, Peace, and Human Rights

The Wisdom of Love in the Service of Love: Emmanuel Levinas on Justice, Peace, and Human Rights

The Wisdom of Love in the Service of Love: Emmanuel Levinas on Justice, Peace, and Human Rights

The Wisdom of Love in the Service of Love: Emmanuel Levinas on Justice, Peace, and Human Rights

Excerpt

Through the scholarship of Roger Burggraeve, professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of Louvain (Flemish campus), the social and religious writings of Emmanuel Levinas are attracting the increased attention of the English-speaking world that they so richly deserve. A student and close friend of Levinas, Professor Burggraeve wrote his doctoral thesis on Levinas' thought and defended it in 1980; since then he has focussed a considerable portion of his scholarly efforts on understanding and interpreting the works of Levinas. Professor Burggraeve's excellent little book From Self-Development to Solidarity: An Ethical Reading of Human Desire in its socio-Political Relevance According to Emmanuel Levinas appeared in 1985, and has been followed by numerous articles; his extensive bibliographical survey of works by and about Levinas was published in 1990, and places us forever in his debt.

This fine translation from the Dutch by Jeffrey Bloechl brings the work of Professor Burggraeve once again into the English-speaking world. We can now share his close association with Levinas, his painstaking scholarship, and even though Burggraeve concentrates on Levinas' thought, also catch glimpses of a fine moral theologian in his own right. His book would make an excellent text for any ethics or theology course.

As we have known from other sources, the ethics of the FrenchJewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) begins with the epiphany of the “face” of the other. At the same time in his first major work, Totalité et Infini (1961), he affirms that the other is invisible, in the sense that the face is irreducible to its phenomenality or appearance. This paradox of the epiphany as the invisibility of the other reveals the ethical meaning of the face expressed as the daily possibility of violence and as the prohibition of violence. Thus, for Levinas, ethics realizes itself as a “retaining” (une retenue,) or a kind of aloofness of the . . .

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