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Is There a Warrant for Levinas's Talmudic Readings?

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image of The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy

Levinas's Talmudic readings have played an important role in defending the claim that the discipline of modern Jewish philosophy cannot be reduced to a list of assimilationist thinkers. This article argues that this claim is defendable, but only if the premise of the claim ceases to be the content of Levinas's Talmudic readings: "The Temptation of Temptation" wrongly takes its sugya as representative of Judaism as a whole, the differing mathematical calculations between Levinas and the sugya he treats in "The Pact" suggest that the Talmud assumes a Rousseauian amour-propre, and "And God Created Woman" implies that Jewish ethics is not opposed to Jews' assimilation. I instead suggest that Levinas's Talmudic readings serve to promote the fecundity of Judaism; it is only through such "bad" readings that historical determinism can be conquered, and a messianic future becomes possible.


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