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Difficult Freedom: Essays on Judaism (Johns Hopkins Jewish Studies) Paperback – 30 Jul 2015


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Insofar as these confessional writings continue to a certain extent Levinas's meditations on the face, they are considered essential to a serious appraisal of his work as a whole. But there are additional reasons why these writings are of substantial interest. First, they make explicit a dimension in Levinas's work-its inspiration in or reference to Judaism-that is only implicit in the philosophical work... Secondly, these confessional writings in themselves constitute a remarkable access to and 'translation' of Judaism. MLN

About the Author

Emmanuel Levinas was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1906, and became a naturalized French citizen in 1930. His many books include Existences and Essences and Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence. He died in Paris in 1995.

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Reading publications that define the social ideology of Christianity, or reviews such as Esprit, one could gain the impression that Christianity, even Catholicism, was moving towards a less realist interpretation of the dogma underlying the religious life of the faithful. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A collection highly memorable and engaging 1 May 2000
By ODB - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Emmanuel Levinas takes Jewish thought to new levels, adding very new, yet very ancient ways of thinking into his works. He has several highly recognized works in the philosphy world- "Time and the Other", amd "Existence and Existents", but his works that build directly off of Jewish thought (such as this one) are my favorites. He manages to cut through the shell of everything and shed a beautiful yet heavy light on life.... I think it would be more fitting to put a Levinas quotes from Difficult Freedom in this review, and let you see for yourself.
"At the dawning of the new world, Judaism has the consciousness to possess, through its permanence, a function in the general economy of Being. No one can replace it. Someone has to exist in the world who is as old as the world. For Judaism, the great migrations of the people , the migrations among the people and the upheavals of history have never presented a deadly threat. It always found what remained to it. It has a painful experience of living on; its performance accustomed it to judging history and refusing to accept the verdict of a History that that proclaimed itself judge. Perhaps Jewish thought in general consists today in holding on more firmly than ever to this permanence and this eternity. Judaism has traversed history history without taking up history's causes. It has the power to judge, alone against all, the victory of visible and organized forces - if need be in order to reject them. Its head may be held high or its head may be down, but it is always stiff-necked. This temerity and this patience, which are as long as eternity itself, will perhaps be more necessary to humanity tomorrow or the day after tomorrow than they were yesterday or the day before." Difficult Freedom, p.166
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
difficult to read, perhaps, but will open up new worlds! 24 Aug. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Several essays on Jewish issues and a brief and quirky, incomplete autobiography of Levinas, perhaps the finest thinker in post-modern Jewish philosophy. In this little volume are commentaries on Biblical and talmudic material, thoughts about current philosophical trends, what it means to be a Jew in the modern and post-holocaust world by a thoughtful survivor, and his unique wordplay. This book will shake your assumptions to their foundations. Never a casual read, but amazing to study.
JUDAIC FAITH: for the thoughtful, post-modern individual: 19 May 2014
By barryb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
JUDAIC FAITH: for the thoughtful, post-modern individual:

FOR LEVINAS: the Judaic intellectual: “freedom” passes through these “8” steps:

1. “Masculine” individualistic violence of the unconscious of forming ecstatic intuitive units of meaning.
2. “Feminine” conjugal bond of being for “psyche”, through figuration based on uniting Epekeina-horizon with units of meaning in a pre-cognitive thought-picture.
3. Reaching “Understanding” through dialogue and interpretation, relying on prophetic-traces of promised messianic-era; and finding the “Epekeina-other” defined as the irreducible identity of “being” or “I AM”.
4. Articulated notion of “Investiture” (his version of “incarnation”); through a negation of the numinous concept of the sacred as revealed in the theatro-logical presentation of Moses on Sinai.
5. Then a taking-up of the name “ISRAEL”, as the exiled-self, relating to “humanity” before any “landscape” or geographical place.
6. Then taking up the modality and designation of “PHARISEE”; as the “writer-of-praxis”; who couples epistemology with speech and differentiation; in dialectical relationship.
7. Finally, the act of writing as “breathing-through-literature”. Similar to Derrida here. Writing can change history. Get literary and poetic work out there in the world where it can create alterity.
8. Lest we forget; now we inscribe our psyche-tablet in the “return” from “free-act”.

For Levinas the “Talmud” itself is an expression of Judaic-philosophy. Synthesizing Jewish Revelation with Greek thought. (p. 15). Therefore the “self” begins with the “traces-of-meaning” within this historical text and returns to it, after working through the “8” moments of “freedom” for new “inscribing”. He is doing that with this treatise. 60 pages are dedicated to structure, then he gives us 40 pages of commentary.

The Talmud has two parts: “Mishnah”- oral instruction & “Gemara”- elucidation and commentary. The “Gemara” includes “Aggadic-statements that address “interpretation”. This interpretive work is reawakened for Levinas. Thus the evolution of this treatise. The Pharisees favored the Talmud, but the Sadducees rejected it. That is why Levinas states that “Pharisee” is the name to be taken-up by the “writer-of-praxis”.

a brilliant manuscript, worthy of five stars
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Levinas attitude to Judaism 7 April 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Emmanuel Levinas came from an orthodox Lithuanian background but left for France in the 1930' to study with Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in Germany. In time he developed his ethical theory of "The Other" for which Levinas is famous today. He remained an observant Jew all his life but seperated strictly his involvement in the Jewish community with his academic life as professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne. He even published his "Jewish" books with a different publisher than his "philosophical" books. "Difficult Freedom" is a collection of his view on a variety of topics concerning Judaism, Zionism, Israel, God and is a fascinating read.
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