Levinas and Theology by Michael Purcell

By Michael Purcell

Emmanuel Levinas used to be an important contributor to the sphere of philosophy, phenomenology and faith. A key interpreter of Husserl, he under pressure the significance of attitudes to people in any philosophical process. For Levinas, to be a subject matter is to take accountability for others in addition to your self. He looked ethics because the origin for all different philosophy, yet later admitted it can even be the root for theology. Michael Purcell outlines the elemental subject matters of Levinas' inspiration and the ways that they may be deployed in primary and sensible theology, and the learn of the phenomenon of faith.

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But, the question for Levinas is what provokes thinking, and what should thinking think about. Now, from a phenomenological perspective, philosophy, as the quest for knowledge, is the quest to know the meaning of things. Similarly, Jewish thinking – even from the ashes of the Holocaust – embraces the notion of a world which is meaningful and purposeful. Levinas, writing in ‘The Temptation of Temptation’, affirms that reality is meaningful. Expressed in terms of Talmudic commentary, to discover the meaning of creation ‘is to realise the Torah’, with attention to the ethics which the Law enjoins on Israel.

Now, although Levinas intends this ‘liturgical movement’ in a philosophical sense, it is not unrelated to liturgy as ritual. One ‘does’ the liturgy in order to become what the liturgy is – a responsible movement towards what is other than the self. In other words, we do not hear and understand and then do; rather, in the doing, we reach an understanding. Participation in liturgy and ritual becomes a pedagogy. The ‘daily regularity’ of attending to the Law inclines us towards the neighbour and, at the same time, to God.

The attributes of God are not given in the indicative, but in the imperative . . To know God is to know what must be done. (DF, 17) Doing comes before knowing. The importance of ritual is implicated here. Ritual is not, at first, slavish adherence to action, word, and gesture. Ritual is, at first, an undertaking in order that, in doing, understanding and transformation may follow in its wake. We do this in order to become what we do. Elsewhere we will speak of the liturgical orientation of the self.

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