Disputes in the "metaphysics" of ethico-political transformation: a re-assessment of the speculative philosophies of Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas.

McGettigan, Andrew (2006) Disputes in the "metaphysics" of ethico-political transformation: a re-assessment of the speculative philosophies of Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

My thesis contests a putative congruity between Derrida and Levinas concerning discussions of responsibility, ethics and otherness. It attends to the fundamental `metaphysical' differences between the two with respect to ontology, language and historicity. Consequently, it foregrounds two distinct conceptions of philosophy, which differ with respect to task, strategy and presentational form. Since Levinas's key notion of the `face' [le visage], which cannot be equated to any actual countenance, breaks with phenomenality - no small issue for an avowed phenomenology - this thesis will begin by treating the category of the other (or. Other) in Levinas's writings as a conundrum. By analysing the two major topographies of the Other developed by Levinas in Totality and Infinity and Otherwise than Being (with particular attention to their differences), I ask: who or what counts as the other for Levinas? Concurrently, I track Derrida's writings across his career to see if he can be held to subscribe to either of these models, noting the transformations that Derrida effects upon Levinas. By analysing them in tandem, the metaphysical and speculative contours of both thinkers (which if not neglected in the secondary literature are transformed into quasi-theological positions) come to the fore. Thereby, this thesis seeks to revive questions of speculative thought in contemporary philosophy, whilst simultaneously asking how this speculative dimension preserves its status as philosophy despite its break with norms of written form and argumentation. Crucially, this is the terrain on which Derrida, in `Violence and Metaphysics', had first criticised Levinas - his lack of attention to language and presentation meant his writing remained non-philosophical. `... exteriority and alterity are concepts which themselves have never surprised philosophical discourse. Philosophy by itself has always been concerned with them. These are not conceptual headings under which philosophy's border can be overflowed: the overflow is its object. Instead of determining some other circumscription, recognizing it, practicing it, bringing it to light, forming it, in a word producing it (and today this word serves as the crudest "new clothes" of the metaphysical denigration which accommodates itself very well to all these projects), in question will be, but according to a movement unheard of by philosophy, an other which is no longer its other. ' Jacques Derrida `Tympan' [1972] translated by Alan Bass in Margins of Philosophy (Brighton, Harvester Press, 1982), pp. ix-xxix; pp. xiii-xiv. `As has often been remarked, one of the gravest misfortunes that can affect a writer of great intellectual seriousness and strong ethical passions is to have his ideas "naturalized" by the English. ' Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin Wittgenstein's Vienna (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1973), p. 19.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted to 'Middlesex University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Research Areas:Theses
School of Media and Performing Arts > Media & Performing Arts
ID Code:6907
Deposited On:20 Jan 2011 12:46
Last Modified:20 Jul 2014 13:48

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