Re: "Letter on Humanism"--Readings 6 & 7


Your missives are so packed that it is difficult to determine what to
respond to and how. Let me make a single response to one of your points.

On Mon, 10 Apr 1995, Iain Thomson wrote:

> A question
> that might help here is: Does history--taking history
> seriously--undermine Levinas's ontology? Does the ontology of the
> face-to-face that Levinas comes up with hold true as it is applied
> backward historically? If it does, and the argument could certainly
> be made (especially given Levinas's fondness for rather ancent
> sources), then we might have a place where a very sharp contrast
> between the two thinkers could be drawn. (One could of course still
> see Levinas's ontology as derivative of Heidegger's, but at least
> their real differences would begin to be clarified.

I would like to say that I am glad to see you suggest this. I am
currently working on a book where I historicize Levinas (doing to Levinas
what Hegel did to Kant, not that I am ambitious or anything), to show
that Levinas' position makes sense of history as well. In fact, I would
insist that Heidegger's reading of history is correct (though,
incomplete), but this does not preclude competing views. BOTH histories
occured. Futhermore, the relation between these histories is carefully
documented in a middle position (which is not a synthesis between Levinas
and Heidegger) in the history of Christian theology, which both is and is
not philosophy. That is to say, I agree with Heidegger that the Greek
legacy is picked up again in German Idealism (beginning perhaps with
Leibniz) after an absense, that Christian theology (from 100 to 1600 or
so) is not, properly speaking "philosophy". But then, I would point out
that the opposition between philosophy and theology needs to be
deconstructed precisely because this distinction keeps us from seeing
that *philosophy is the religious legacy of ancient Greece*. The
distinction between philosophy and theology obscures this "fact," but
also leads to the somewhat bizarre conclusion that every culture except
Greece developed religious philosophy, and only Greece developed a
non-religious philosophy. I admit that if I am not careful, I end up
asserting the possibility of a theology without God, which makes no
eymological sense, hence, once again, the need to deconstruct the
opposition. Once that is done, I think it should be fairly easy to show
Levinas' historicity. (Though I am far from completing this task, I do
have a working title: "From the Absolute Other to the Incarnate Christ."
It will document history from (roughly) BCE 1800 through the Protestant
Reformation. It will not be a history of Being, nor a fundamental
ontology, rather it will be a history of the Good. And it will probably
take me the rest of my life to complete. I have so much work to do. I
thank you already for your help.)


Anthony F. Beavers, Ph.D. / Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion
The University of Evansville / Evansville, Indiana 47722 / (812)479-2682
Metaethics, Metaphysics, Existentialism, and the Judeo-Christian Tradition
Visit the Academy of Human Arts and Sciences

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