In this rich intellectual history of the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas's Talmudic lectures in Paris, Ethan Kleinberg addresses Levinas's Jewish life and its relation to his philosophical writings while making an argument for the role and importance of Levinas's Talmudic lessons.
Pairing each chapter with a related Talmudic lecture, Kleinberg uses the distinction Levinas presents between "God on Our Side" and "God on God's Side" to provide two discrete and at times conflicting approaches to Levinas's Talmudic readings. One is historically situated and argued from "our side" while the other uses Levinas's Talmudic readings themselves to approach the issues as timeless and derived from "God on God's own side." Bringing the two approaches together, Kleinberg asks whether the ethical message and moral urgency of Levinas's Talmudic lectures can be extended beyond the texts and beliefs of a chosen people, religion, or even the seemingly primary unit of the self.
Touching on Western philosophy, French Enlightenment universalism, and the Lithuanian Talmudic tradition, Kleinberg provides readers with a boundary-pushing investigation into the origins, influences, and causes of Levinas's turn to and use of Talmud.
About the author
Ethan Kleinberg is the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor of History and Letters at Wesleyan University. He is the author of Generation Existential: Heidegger's Philosophy in France, 1927–1961 (2005) and Haunting History: For a Deconstructive Approach to the Past (SUP, 2017).
"Can we read Levinas's work as wholly immanent to the history of philosophy, or must we see it as the worldly trace of a transcendent truth? Kleinberg explores this contest between history and revelation without presuming to declare the victor. A venturesome and ingeniously crafted book that confirms the author's leading role in modern European intellectual history."
—Peter Gordon, Harvard University
"A boundary-pushing, interdisciplinary work, challenging scholars and students to think through and with the audacity of Levinas's claim for alterity."
—Sarah Hammerschlag, University of Chicago