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Phenomenologies of the StrangerBetween Hostility and Hospitality$
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Richard Kearney and Kascha Semonovitch

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780823234615

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823234615.001.0001

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Words of Welcome

Words of Welcome

Hospitality in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas

(p.232) 13 Words of Welcome
Phenomenologies of the Stranger



Fordham University Press

Emmanuel Levinas signals the importance of hospitality for his approach to ethics and religion about two-thirds of the way through his first major work, Totality and Infinity. This chapter traces a turn in Levinas's thought that indicates a “being toward God.” It finds that in his work after Totality and Infinity, Levinas emphasizes that hospitality to the Other involves a passivity that has been habitually covered over. Nonetheless, this chapter asks whether hospitality does not involve a certain initiative on the part of the subject. It argues that this misses the “exorbitant hospitality” demanded by the Other according to Levinas. Finally, this chapter tackles the problem of gender that arises in Levinas's terminology wherein responsibility seems to rest on a binary opposition between Man and Woman. Not only does the divine Other exceed ordinary constraints, but Levinas's notion of gender also seems to transcend normal practical constraints, pointing to a sort of “impossible gender” to accompany “unconditional hospitality.”.

Keywords:   Emmanuel Levinas, hospitality, ethics, religion, Totality and Infinity, being, God, Other, gender

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