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"The Presence of the Other is a Presence that Teaches": Levinas, Pragmatism, and Pedagogy

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Although Levinas talks about ethics as a response to the other, most scholars assume that this "response" is not something tangible—it is not an actual giving of food or providing of shelter and clothing. But there is evidence in Levinas's own writings that indicate he does intend for a positive response to the Other. In any event, while he acknowledges that the other is the sole person I wish to kill, killing the other, within an ethical framework would be a violation of that response. The failure to respond to the other ethically requires us to ask if Levinas's project needs an educational philosophy or a model of moral cultivation to supplement it. This essay explores this question by putting into conversation Levinas's ethical project and his interest in Jewish education with John Dewey's philosophy of education and its relationship to the political community. This exploration will help us see what this field of research might offer in promoting the cultivation of ethical response as Levinas envisions it and what its limits are.


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