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No Exit: Levinas' Aporetic Account of Transcendence

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image of Research in Phenomenology

In this paper I present Levinas' account of excendence in On Escape and Existence and Existents and show its continuity with his subsequent discussions of transcendence in Time and the Other, Totality and Infinity, and Otherwise than Being. I argue that Levinas' critique of the traditional idea of identity plays a decisive role in establishing the continuity between these various accounts as it provides the key to unlocking his account of transcendence as a formal structure. However, the meaning of trascendence lies not in the structure but in its concretization. Although Levinas initially presents fecundity as the concretization of transcendence, he ultimately identifies it as ethics. This development explains why Levinas himself preferred to think of himself as a thinker of transcendence or the holy rather than to be identified with ethics.


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