Monash University
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Aesthet(h)ics: On Levinas’ Shadow

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-05-17, 11:27 authored by Matthew Sharpe
Emmanuel Levinas' aesthetics has been critically discussed much less than other components of his philosophy. In one way, this is not surprising, given Levinas' wider post-war project. Nevertheless, in the late 1940s, the very time his influential later philosophy was taking shape, Levinas published a series of papers on literary criticism, and on the nature of art. Existents and Existence, the text where Levinas first announces his project of "leaving the climate" of Heidegger's thought, contains in its heart a remarkable discussion of modernist painting. Levinas' aesthetics, moreover, represents a provocative standpoint within modern aesthetic theory in its own right. As such, it stands as a partial corrective to the comparative – and surely surprising – dearth of phenomenological analyses of art, which at the same time contrasts markedly with Heidegger's renowned position in "The Origin of the Work of Art."


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