Levinas’ Philosophical Origins: Husserl, Heidegger and Rosenzweig
This article explores the fundamental projects of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Franz Rosenzweig and how they might be important for Levinas. An analysis of Levinas’ origins helps to unravel the complexity of how he appropriates phenomenology, breaks up the structure of fundamental ontology and directs his focus to ethics, justice and eschatological messianism. In contrast to Levinas’ dialogical relation with Husserl’s phenomenology is his defiant opposition to Heidegger’s revival of ontology despite its major influences. With regard to Rosenzweig, Levinas’ debt to him is uncompromising as he has steeredLevinas towards a Biblical and non-phenomenal sense of alterity.
The writings of Husserl, Heidegger and Rosenzweig together form an invaluable source of notions and nascent ideas. Levinas has incorporated many of them by creatively enhancing and nuancing them. His originality, in other words, is significantly dependent upon their insights and developments. For example, he will use Heidegger’s thought to free himself from Husserl’s, and Rosenzweig’s to free himself from Heidegger’s. In some cases Levinas thinks otherwise than Husserl, Heidegger and Rosenzweig; he conceives of new ideas with the help of several other thinkers such as Plato, Descartes, Shakespeare, Blanchot, Levy-Bruhl, Dostoevsky, Vassily Grossman and Haim of Volozhin. However, as the writings of Husserl, Heidegger and Rosenzweig have made up the primary influences, I will limit my discussion to their pertinent contributions.
Morrison, G. (2005). Levinas’ philosophical origins: Husserl, Heidegger and Rosenzweig. Heythrop Journal, 46(1), 41-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2005.00249.x