Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

On "loving the neighbor" : the implications of Emmanuel Levinas' intensification of ethics after the Shoah / by Eleanor Pontoriero.

Publication | Library Call Number: B2430.L484 P66 2002

My thesis examines the ethic of heteronomy put forth by twentieth century Franco-Jewish thinker, Emmanuel Levinas. I focus specifically on the Jewish particularity of his ethic, which responds to the human genocide of the twentieth century, specifically, the Shoah. I locate what Levinas says of this ethic in relation to significant twentieth century responses to the philosophical discourse on the death of God. These include Sigmund Freud's suspicion concerning the viability of a universal ethic in the face of anti-Semitism and his concern with “the Jewish question” in Civilization and its Discontents ; the disavowal of religion and moral nihilism of the post-Hegelian, post-Christian tradition in which I locate Jacques Lacan and the Heideggerian resonances in Seminar VII: An Ethics of Psychoanalysis which erase the significance of “the Jewish question”; the “disdainful spiritualism” that Levinas attributes to Martin Buber's I and Thou, and the latter's onto-theological response to the death of God; and finally, Paul Ricoeur's critique of Levinas which is anticipated by Buber's question: is there not also an ethic toward oneself? The point of convergence for each of these thinkers with Levinas is the imperative of loving the neighbor which, in its response to the crisis of modernity (which I refer to in terms of the Shoah as a historical manifestation of “the death of God”) aims to redefine the confluence of philosophy, ethics and religion in a postmodern era. In doing this, I show how Levinas' response to the Shoah not only intensifies the need for ethics and a return to religion beyond faith and the bounds of mere reason, but also points toward a vision of social justice in his view of Messianism which embraces the global community. I also speak to the implications of the Levinasian ethic which are significant to the continuity of Jewish identity in the Diaspora, religious pluralism, the issue of rights and responsibilities and a global ethic addressed at the World Parliament of Religions and a rapprochement between Jews and Christians after Auschwitz.

Pontoriero, Eleanor.
Record last modified: 2018-05-25 09:44:00
This page: