Not Yet Marrano
Not Yet Marrano
Levinas, Derrida, and the Ontology of Being Jewish
This essay explores the divergent though intertwined presentations of Jewish identity in the post World War Two philosophies of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. There is a temporal, geographical and cultural gulf that separates these two thinkers but these distances can be bridged at the site of Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1946 text Reflections on the Jewish Question insofar as Levinas and Derrida’s responses to Sartre create a textual intersection between Levinas’s “Being-Jewish” (1947), and Derrida’s “Abraham the Other” (2000). The relation and connection between Levinas and Derrida becomes more clear when one considers the way that Derrida’s essay is implicitly and more importantly a confrontation with the philosophy of Levinas. What’s more the texts by Levinas and Derrida are each predicated on responses to the philosophy of Martin Heidegger in relation to his involvement with the National Socialist party. Despite the separation between the texts, both these thinkers chose to replace, evade, or preempt this “Jewish Question” by instead posing the question of “being-Jewish” in response to the Holocaust, the Nazi Final Solution. This essay explores the ramifications of this connection in relation to Levinas’s ethical philosophy of the other in his “Talmudic writings” and Derrida’s category of the “Marrano."
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