1st Edition

Plato and Levinas The Ambiguous Out-Side of Ethics

By Tanja Staehler Copyright 2010
    296 Pages
    by Routledge

    296 Pages
    by Routledge

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    In the second half of the twentieth century, ethics has gained considerable prominence within philosophy. In contrast to other scholars, Levinas proposed that it be not one philosophical discipline among many, but the most fundamental and essential one. Before philosophy became divided into disciplines, Plato also treated the question of the Good as the most important philosophical question.

    Levinas's approach to ethics begins in the encounter with the other as the most basic experience of responsibility. He acknowledges the necessity to move beyond this initial, dyadic encounter, but has problems extending his approach to a larger dimension, such as community. To shed light on this dilemma, Tanja Staehler examines broader dimensions which are linked to the political realm, and the problems they pose for ethics.

    Staehler demonstrates that both Plato and Levinas come to identify three realms as ambiguous: the erotic, the artistic, and the political. In each case, there is a precarious position in relation to ethics. However, neither Plato nor Levinas explores ambiguity in itself. Staehler argues that these ambiguous dimensions can contribute to revealing the Other’s vulnerability without diminishing the fundamental role of unambiguous ethical responsibility.

    a) The Central Question b) Plato’s Phaedrus c) Levinas’s Two Main Works d) Levinas on Plato e) Methodological Remarks f) Before Culture
    Part I: The Self Chapter 1: Preliminary Reflections on the Self
    a) Interiority and the Myth of Gyges b) Otherness in the Same
    Chapter 2: Dimensions of Corporeality
    a) Levinas and the Body as Vulnerability
    b) The Body in Plato’s Phaedrus
    Chapter 3: Enjoyment or Suffering? Modes of Sensibility
    a) The permanent truth of hedonist moralities
    b) Pleasure, Pain, and Vulnerability
    Part II: The Other Chapter 4: Origins of Speech
    a) Speech as Apology
    b) Socratic and Levinasian Teaching
    Chapter 5: The Ambiguity of Eros
    a) Levinas about Eros between Being and Non-Being
    b) Plato on Beauty and Wings
    c) The Place of Eros
    Chapter 6: The Ethical Relationship
    a) The Paradox of Ethical Resistance b) An Infinite Responsibility c) Getting under the Skin
    Part III: The Others Chapter 7: The Universality of the Good
    a) Levinas and Universal Humanism b) Plato and the Good beyond Being
    Chapter 8: Communities, Politics, Laws
    a) Plato on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Law b) Levinas and the Political Calculus
    Part IV: Historical-Cultural Worlds Chapter 9: The Critique of Writing
    a) Writing Versus Speech b) The Saying and the Said
    Chapter 10: The Ambiguity of the Aesthetic
    a) Images and Shadows b) The Irresponsibility of Art c) The Work and Tyranny
    Chapter 11: History and Culture
    a) Between Past and Future b) Levinas and the Stranger c) Philosophers and Strangers in Plato
    Chapter 12: Concluding Remarks on Ethics and Ambiguity
    a) Univocal Ethics? b) Ambiguity in de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas c) Attempting a Genealogy of Ambiguity d) Plato’s Contribution


    Dr. Tanja Staehler is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sussex.