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Full Access A Scientific Reading of Levinas’ Response to Heidegger: The Redemptive Edge of Time

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A Scientific Reading of Levinas’ Response to Heidegger: The Redemptive Edge of Time

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Abstract In responding to Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas characterized time as revelatory and redemptive. For Levinas, Heideggerian being was self-contained and self-identical, and therefore unable to generate the sense of novel possibility which occasions the fleeting present. Something similar to Heideggerian Being may be said to have taken hold in the nineteenth century with the development of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics was portrayed as the “arrow of time” moving inevitably toward universal heat death—cosmic stasis or self-identity. I argue that modern physical science itself does not fully validate this portrayal. There are, at the metaphysical level, explanatory gaps or openings which suggest other, more hopeful possibilities. These openings, I submit, are analogous to the ruptures of otherness which Levinas identified with the generosity of being and time’s redemptive aspect.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, 4086 JFSB Brigham Young University Provo, UT 84602 david_grandy@byu.edu

10.1163/156852412X631655
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Abstract In responding to Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas characterized time as revelatory and redemptive. For Levinas, Heideggerian being was self-contained and self-identical, and therefore unable to generate the sense of novel possibility which occasions the fleeting present. Something similar to Heideggerian Being may be said to have taken hold in the nineteenth century with the development of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics was portrayed as the “arrow of time” moving inevitably toward universal heat death—cosmic stasis or self-identity. I argue that modern physical science itself does not fully validate this portrayal. There are, at the metaphysical level, explanatory gaps or openings which suggest other, more hopeful possibilities. These openings, I submit, are analogous to the ruptures of otherness which Levinas identified with the generosity of being and time’s redemptive aspect.

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2012-01-01
2016-12-09

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