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Giving Beyond the GiftApophasis and Overcoming Theomania$
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Elliot R. Wolfson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255702

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255702.001.0001

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Echo of the Otherwise and the Lure of Theolatry

Echo of the Otherwise and the Lure of Theolatry

(p.90) Chapter 3 Echo of the Otherwise and the Lure of Theolatry
Giving Beyond the Gift

Elliot R. Wolfson

Fordham University Press

This chapter explores the intricacies of Levinas's reflections on transcendence in the various stages of his intellectual biography, particularly as they relate to the tropes of the infinite and illeity that are essential to his conception of alterity. Deviating from Husserl's reflections on the intentional structure of consciousness, Levinas argues that infinity and transcendence, the wholly other, are to be excluded from the domain of phenomenology and the criterion of truth as the showing of what comes to light. The determination of the transcendence of the subject from the standpoint of the practical intentionality of affective life set Levinas on a course of thinking from which he never diverged, culminating in his more advanced articulations of ethics as first philosophy and the emphasis he placed on the radical transcendence necessary to establish the ground for genuine alterity. The phenomenological fascination with the nonphenomenalizable can be pinpointed as the essential thought that informed Levinas's critique of ontological realism—the narcissistic reduction of the other to the same—throughout his life, the philosophical venture toward a transcendence that is not to be relocated absolutely in the domain of immanence. The rhetoric of his texts indicate, however, that he could not avoid characterizing transcendence in personal terms that efface the clear distinction between human and divine and thus jeopardize the concept of an irreducible alterity of the transcendent that is truly other.

Keywords:   Theolatry, Alterity, Diachrony, Illeity, Transcendence, Intentionality, Ethics, Ontology, Metaphor, Invisibility/Invisible

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