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Levinas's Symbiotic Phenomenology of Infinity and Totality


Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/11081

Levinas's Symbiotic Phenomenology of Infinity and Totality

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Title: Levinas's Symbiotic Phenomenology of Infinity and Totality
Author: Wood, Christian
Advisor(s): Thomson, Iain
Committee Member(s): Bussanich, John
Taber, John
Bishop, Steve
Department: University of New Mexico. Dept. of Philosophy
Subject: Philosophy
LC Subject(s): Levinas, Emmanuel--Criticism and interpretation
Whole and parts (Philosophy)
Degree Level: Doctoral
Abstract: I present a novel interpretation of Emmanuel Levinas's phenomenology wherein I argue that his seemingly antagonistic and exclusive notions of "totality" and "infinity" are best understood, rather, as symbiotic, interdependent, and mutually conditioning. My demarche uses close textual analysis, constant reference to Levinas's (admittedly sparse) comments on philosophical method, and an important return to, and then departure from, Cartesian thought in order to advance my thesis that infinity and totality are essentially intertwined and "symbiotic." As such, they are not essentially opposed in any sort of preferential, evaluative, or eliminative sense, to name some prominent (and misguided) caricatures that regrettably pervade many aspects of Levinas scholarship, whether pro or contra Levinas. I use this insight to show that certain Levinas commentators misunderstand the meaning of, and relationship between, "totality" and "infinity." Lastly, as against those who claim that Levinas essentially has no philosophical argument in such works as Totality and Infinity, I show that Levinas's argumentative rigor and strategy is best understood by way of a carefully nuanced and textually documented interpretation of the way that "infinity conditions totality."
Graduation Date: July 2010
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/11081

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