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Is There a Warrant for Levinas's Talmudic Readings?

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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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