Colin Davis, Jr.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the work of Emmanuel Levinas, widely recognized as one of the most important yet difficult philosophers of the twentieth century.
In this much-needed introduction, Davis unpacks the concepts at the center of Levinas’s thought—alterity, the Other, the face, infinity—concepts which have previously presented readers with major problems of interpretation.
Davis traces the development of Levinas’s thought over six decades, describing the context in which he worked, and the impact of his writings. He argues that Levinas’ work remains tied to the ontological tradition with which he wants to break, and demonstrates how his later writing tries to overcome this dependency by its increasingly disruptive, sometimes opaque, textual practice. He discusses Levinas’s theological writings and his relationship to Judiasm, as well as the reception of his work by contemporary thinkers, arguing that the influence of his work has led to a growing interest in ethical issues among poststructuralist and postmodernist thinkers in recent years.
“This is an excellent introduction to Levinas’ writings. It will appeal as much to students of literary theory and rhetoric as to those whose initial interest is in the philosophical, ethical, and religious aspects of Levinas’ thought.” — John Llewelyn, University of Edinburgh
“Davis has managed to write an introduction to Levinas’s thought that retains a respect for its complexity while concomitantly presenting it in a way that clearly illuminates its signature features and Levinas’s most compelling concerns. Davis’s introduction to Levinas welcomes even the most unfamiliar student of his work into an open discussion, which seems to take as its main objective the demythologizing of the complexity of Levinas’s work. This introduction thus achieves its name by not taking too much for granted, by providing probing critique with compassionate admissions, by giving Levinas’s work a space in which to live and defend itself, while concomitantly engaging his most ardent critics.” — The Review of Metaphysics