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Crossover QueriesDwelling with Negatives, Embodying Philosophy's Others$
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Edith Wyschogrod

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780823226061

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823226061.001.0001

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Fear of Primitives, Primitive Fears

Fear of Primitives, Primitive Fears

Anthropology in the Philosophies of Heidegger and Levinas

(p.488) 32 Fear of Primitives, Primitive Fears
Crossover Queries

Edith Wyschogrod

Fordham University Press

In a trajectory that leads from man in the state of nature to the emergence of the primitive in the science of anthropology, the generalizations of ethnography have infiltrated the philosophical discourses of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas. In a series of complex mimetic gestures and equally complex unsayings, each has appropriated the work of his anthropologically minded predecessors. Levinas identifies the Being of beings with Lucien Lévy-Bruhl's primitive sacrality, thereby unsaying Dasein understood in terms of its originary structure. The implications of anthropological tropes for Levinasian discourse are considerable. His depiction of the primitive points to the Janus face of some motifs in Totality and Infinity, as lying beneath and beyond representation and cognition. The primitive, when identified with the il y a as sensory inundation, replicates the uncontainability and excessiveness of the infinite. More originary than the temporalization of separated being, it repeats the non-time of alterity.

Keywords:   man, primitive, anthropology, ethnography, Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, sacrality, alterity, infinite

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