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    ‘To See a Face is Already to Hear “You Shall Not Kill”’: Levinas’s Development of Hermeneutic Phenomenology

    Murphy, Daniel (2018) ‘To See a Face is Already to Hear “You Shall Not Kill”’: Levinas’s Development of Hermeneutic Phenomenology. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This study investigates the significance of hermeneutic reasoning in Emmanuel Levinas’s development of phenomenology. It does so by tracing the chronological progression of Levinas’s thought from his initial engagement with the work of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in the 1920s up to and including the publication of his first major work Totality and Infinity (1961). The study reveals that Levinas addresses his main topics of concern in phenomenology, namely, ‘the brute fact of being’ and ‘the face of the Other’, only with the assistance of the hermeneutic approach toward phenomenological research advanced by Heidegger in Being and Time (1927). It argues that Heidegger’s version of phenomenology, therefore, holds much more importance for Levinas’s own manner of thinking than Husserl’s scientific approach toward phenomenological research as pioneered in the Logical Investigations (1900/1901) and Ideas I (1913). Nevertheless, this study also demonstrates that Levinas undercuts both Husserl’s establishment of phenomenology as ‘transcendental idealism’ and Heidegger’s reformulation of phenomenology as ‘fundamental ontology’ through an immanent critique of Heidegger’s stress on the ‘understanding of Being’ in Dasein as the most concrete form of experience. Levinas does this, firstly, by discovering the absolute position of the lived body as it exists prior to the ‘understanding of Being’ in Dasein and, secondly, by showing how ‘the brute fact of being’ and ‘the face of the Other’, two concrete experiences omitted from the phenomenological research of Husserl and Heidegger, affect us from this specific position. Necessary for addressing these topics in phenomenology are concrete descriptions of particular ‘affective dispositions’ as well as a hermeneutic attitude embracing language as the constitutive source of meaningful experience. As a result, this study contends that Levinas adopts Heidegger’s approach toward phenomenological research in order to overcome ‘fundamental ontology’ which, subsequently, leads him to develop the very idea of hermeneutic phenomenology.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Levinas’s Development; Hermeneutic Phenomenology;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > Philosophy
    Item ID: 15396
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2022 12:31
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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