Ben's Reviews > Time and the Other

Time and the Other by Emmanuel Levinas
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Aug 26, 2007

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Read in September, 2007

I wasn't crazy about the central argument of this book, though there were little pieces that intrigued me. As for the pieces that didn't intrigue me: for instance, he makes a long argument about death as the ultimate kind of alterity, one which the Other duplicates or mirrors. Buying into the argument means making some loopy assumptions about death, then some similar ones about Other-ness as a kind of alterity. Of course, this is the real meat and potatoes of the book. In the end, he uses this argument as the basis for a different account of human sociality and ethics.

Small pieces were interesting, though: for instance, the general idea that one can derive some notion of time right from the structure of social relations (or, in L's words, from alterity) is really interesting. Similarly, the idea that time presupposes some kind of self-consciousness (L uses words like existing and extistent to make this point) is pretty fascinating. I suppose that we would say that, for instance, an animal lives in time, but is hardly conscious of its time-ful-ness. It makes me wonder what a consciousness of time is a consciousness of, if that sounds right - of events and states, maybe. And then it makes me think of tense in language, and why it is difficult to learn... Hmmm...

So, it is a thought-provoking book.


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