Levinas's important works in phenomenology include Existence and Existents, Totality and Infinity, and Northwestern University Press's The Theory of Intuition in Husserl's Phenomenology. He died in 1996.
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An Important Translation, Even If Incomplete15 May 2007
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Cohen's translation includes many of Levinas' important essays on Husserl, and holds a special place in Levinas scholarship for this reason. The essays in the book range from the 1930s to the 1980s, so it is useful for tracking the development of Levinas' reading of Husserl over the years. More important, the articles in this book show that for Levinas phenomenology isn't something to "escape" but is to be taken seriously. We can see this much in his two articles from 1959, "Reflections on Phenomenological Technique" and "The Ruin of Representation". As a book on Levinas' relation to Husserl, this work is indispensable.
However, this English translation is not without its problems. The full title of the French publication translates as _Discovering Existence with Husserl and Heidegger_ and the book itself contains articles on both Husserl and Heidegger. The translator Richard A. Cohen modifies the book's title and most of the articles on Heidegger are not included in the translation. Why would a translator modify the title of such an important book in Levinas' oeuvre and then omit many of its articles? In his foreword Cohen does not give an answer. It turns out, then, that this translation does not give a full picture of Levinas' relation to phenomenology, for Levinas' reading of Husserl is in many ways influenced by Heidegger.
Although the translation is incomplete, it is still important because it contains articles by Levinas that have not been published elsewhere in English.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A View onto a New Plateau6 Jan. 2011
Michael H. Shenkman
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It is such a pleasure to read the work of a world-class philosopher who is also a superb writer. When it comes to grasping phenomenology, maybe nothing less would do. I recommend this book as an introduction to Husserl's difficult corpus, but also and even more importantly as an orientation to what phenomenology opens up to perception, thought and comprehension. Levinas offers a way to realize how Husserl points to a moment of our creaturely constitution that precedes our being conscious of it. I agree with Levinas that Husserl himself remains ensconced in the problems of knowledge, and I also agree with Derrida who points out that Husserl (and to some extent Levinas) remain within the traditional metaphysical rendering of knowledge. Still Husserl's orientation toward constitution and emergence of lived experience adumbrates (to use a Husserlian word) a different plane of existence than is available through our objectifying, identifying, same-making natural attitude and science. Levinas brings this awareness to life, calling it "awakening," and contrasting it to the deadened, somnambulant world of commerce, exchange and discourse. The first essays provide a sweeping and penetrating overview of the Husserlian project. In the middle essays Levinas allows his own views of the primacy of ethical philosophy and the Other to appear. I especially enjoyed the essays in the last section, where Levinas exquisitely articulates the new sensibility Husserl opens onto. In my humble estimation (and this is what Derrida points to as well, in Speech and Phenomena), we are being introduced here to a realm of existence that cannot be adequately approached through translations, extensions or inversions of classical disciplines. Instead, the very aliveness of the "primal impressions" that Husserl delineates calls for a new level of human engagement, a new facultative capability. Even Levinas comes up short there. But developing such a new capability is now in play, in the works of our mystics, artists and prophets. I am sure of that (see [...]). To arrive at a suitable description of what it to be engaged, and to develop a curriculum and regimen and even a practice to foster such a development requires deep study and constant consideration of what Levinas offers us in this superb volume.