Tuesday, April 29, 2014
The New Yorker's Joshua Rothman, attended the black notebooks panel with Peter Trawny in New York.
But it’s also impossible to set aside Heidegger’s sins—and they cannot help but reduce the ardency with which his readers relate to him. Philosophers like to play it cool, but the truth is that intellectual life depends on passion.
A passion for reason, yes. Physicists have a passion, but I can't imagine them wringing their hands about Heisenberg, who accepted the call to Berlin U, in 1943, and spent the war trying to build an atom bomb. Any notion that physics itself is tainted by Nazism or anti-semitism, would be nonsensical, whatever Heisenberg personally thought. Philosophical thinking appears occluded by ad hominem talk. Perhaps that's the most troubling part of the current scandal. If so many smart people are perplexed, is there something rotten in ontology?
I have recently read Hutchens’ book on Levinas and Critchley’s first book on Levinas. Those two commentators arrive at very different estimates of the philosophical credibility of Levinas’ work. I await the reading of Critchley’s second book which is on its way to me.

I admire Hutchens' work. He reads and explains Nancy with great care and insight. But he succumbs to the likes of Badiou’s vulgar comment about dismissing Levinas’ religious context which then leaves only “a dog’s dinner.” The source for Badiou’s comment does not at all include evidence of a serious interest. Hutchens similarly, though more respectfully, dismisses Levinas after a thorough effort at understanding.

The issue, of course, is Levinas’ lifetime work to demonstrate that ethics comes before ontology. It comes as no surprise that ontologists find it necessary to counter his claim.

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