The drama of being: Levinas and the history of philosophy

Continental Philosophy Review 40 (3):251-273 (2006)
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The motif of the ‘drama of being’ is a dominant thread that spans the entirety of Levinas's six decades of authorship. As we will see, from the start of his writing career, Levinas consciously frames the tension between ontology and ethics in a dramatic form. A careful exposition of this motif and other related theatrical metaphors in his work–-such as ‘intrigue,’ ‘plot,’ and ‘scene’–-can offer us not only a better appreciation of the evolution of Levinas's thought, but also of his proper place within the western philosophical tradition. Levinas accuses western philosophers of being exclusively attuned to what he calls the ‘drama of existence.’ And even then, philosophers have eluded the implications of the tragic fatalism that define this drama. Philosophers are generally unaware of an ‘other scene’ that radically alters the fatalistic logic of the ontological drama. Levinas calls this other scene the ‘ethical intrigue.’.



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John Caruana
Ryerson University

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