For the Other, Beyond Ethics: Responsibility, Critique, and Praxis in Levinas and Adorno
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This dissertation grows out of the conviction that Emmanuel Levinas ethics and Theodor W. Adornos negative dialectics could supplement each other in mutually beneficial ways. While Levinas could provide an articulation of the prophetic ethical drive that underlies Adornos emancipatory project but lies beyond the reach of his dialectical approach, Adornos negative dialectics could offer a historical critique that Levinas (meta)phenomenological ethics calls for but fails to provide. The first part of the dissertation, including Chapters I and II, presents my theoretical engagement with the problem of the relation between ethics and politics in Levinas. The second part, including Chapters III and IV, is concerned with the possibility of a rapprochement between Adorno (and more generally Marx) and Levinas. The development of my analysis in the first two parts of the dissertation follows a spiral path, continuously returning to a tension, though each time in a more concrete form. It begins with the identification of this tension in its most abstract form as the relation between metaphysics and ontology, moves to a more concrete formulation of it in the relation between ethics and politics, and finally culminates in the articulation of the relation between critique and re-appropriation as the historically concrete form of the tension. My argument is that while this irresolvable tension is indispensable in all its forms, its most concrete form reveals a certain paradox that is the characteristic of our time. However, the characterization of the tension between critique and re-appropriation does not itself amount to the concretization of ethics, but rather demonstrates the formal structure of the process of concretization. The actual content of this process is necessarily dependent on the contingencies of the historical reality of politics and can be arrived at only through an engagement with the specific details of each case. It is the task of the third part of the dissertation, i.e., Chapters V and VI, to examine the implications of the tension between critique and re-appropriation for the analysis of a specific historical case, i.e., the (re-)appropriation of sacrifice in Ali Sharats revolutionary ideology.