The Ongoing Creation of Humanity: Emmanuel Levinas and the Ethical Sense of "Chosen People"
Ambrosio, Francis J
Froman, Wayne J
THE ONGOING CREATION OF HUMANITY:EMMANUEL LEVINAS AND THE ETHICAL SENSE OF "CHOSEN PEOPLE"Johanna Gross, M.A.Chair: Wayne J. Froman, Ph.D., Francis J. Ambrosio, Ph.D.ABSTRACTThis thesis frames and examines fully an understanding of the ethical sense of a "chosen people," described through the phenomenological lens of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. In working toward a means to animate the tenor of customary "chosen people" discourse the religious, historical, and cultural expressions of "chosenness" within Judaism are traced from biblical sources until the present day. This is followed by an elucidation of Levinas' phenomenological description of subjectivity as "substitution," or as the infinite responsibility of the one-for-the-other, as rendered in his major philosophical texts, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, and Otherwise than Being, or Beyond Essence.It is argued in this thesis that Levinas' depiction of "chosenness," not as exceptional privilege and inflated self-esteem, but rather as the fundamental characteristic of the morally responsible human, found primarily in his "confessional" writings, translates to the notion of a "chosen people," whose unremitting obligation to respond to the needs of the other, is ultimately for the benefit of all humanity. This thesis proceeds to explore contested notions of universalism and particularism, which are, then, discussed in relation to "chosen people" discourse, reflected in philosopher Jacques Derrida's work on "exemplarity" in his "Philosophical Nationality" seminars, as examined by Dana Hollander and Sarah Hammerschlag.A critical proposal is finally made for a compelling appreciation of human "creatureliness" and the ongoing work of the goodness of creation, which it implies, outside of any conventional religious comprehension, although finding resonance in biblical narrative. The value in approaching the idea of a "chosen people" through its ethical considerations lies in the opportunity that such an approach could provide for inter-religious and cross cultural dialogue, in the contemporary pursuit of peaceful relations among people, and among nations.
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