Bit of Levinas

"A Dominican father, for whom I have much admiration and who knows Hebrew admirably, said one day before me: what one takes for an infinite interpretation of the letter of Scripture is simply a reading that considers the entirety of the book as the context of the verse. It is not at all the two or three verses that precede or follow the verse on which one comments! For the absolute hermeneutic of a verse, the entirety of the book is necessary! Now, in the entirety of the book, there is always a priority of the other in relation to me." (Of God Who Comes to Mind 91).

The necessity of totality and its impossibility: these remain Levinas' preoccupations. How can I totalize that which remains in a formative relation to me? That which nourishes me? This is what undoes, silently, the "simply" of the dominican father, what maintains the infinity of interpretation. The Other (the experience of recognizing an infinite something beyond Being) which nourishes prioritizes another before me. I cannot help but interpret her, but such an interpretation must try to take account of everything (including that which cannot be accounted). Just as I cannot master the text, "only a vulnerable I can love his neighbor" (91). Levinas ethics proceed from a recognition of the limits of ontological knowledge, from a suspension of the need of the self in favor of Desire for the Other, from the impossibility of an absolute hermeneutic.

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