By R. Clifton Spargo
Vigilant Memory makes a speciality of the actual position of Emmanuel Levinas's proposal in reasserting the moral parameters for poststructuralist feedback within the aftermath of the Holocaust. greater than easily situating Levinas's ethics in the higher context of his philosophy, R. Clifton Spargo bargains a brand new clarification of its value when it comes to history.
In severe readings of the bounds and likewise the heretofore untapped probabilities of Levinasian ethics, Spargo explores the impression of the Holocaust on Levinas's quite a few figures of injustice whereas interpreting where of mourning, the undesirable moral sense, the sufferer, and the stranger/neighbor as they seem in Levinas's paintings. eventually, Spargo levels past Levinas's particular philosophical or implicit political positions to calculate the required functionality of the "memory of injustice" in our cultural and political discourses at the features of a simply society.
In this unique and magisterial examine, Spargo makes use of Levinas's paintings to method our figuring out of the anguish and loss of life of others, and in doing so reintroduces a necessary moral aspect to the interpreting of literature, tradition, and daily life.
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Extra resources for Vigilant Memory: Emmanuel Levinas, the Holocaust, and the Unjust Death
Mourning, as I have previously argued in The Ethics of Mourning (2004), may well seem meaningful precisely in its resistance to symbolic, socially constructed meanings and may even be driven fundamentally by objections that seem tantamount to the ethical perception of injustice. Yet there is always a question at the far end of our mourning, imperfectly expressed though nevertheless persistent: what are we to make of a discourse of objections that remains, ﬁnally, without any object? Precisely those things to which a mourner can no longer sensibly refer are those upon which her mourning insists as centrally signiﬁcant, as though a course of unrealizable action were demanded by the persistence of reference within mourning.
For the most part the ﬁrst two chapters are offered as sympathetic, if also critical, elaborations of Levinasian ethics, whereas chapters 3 and 4, while still espousing the potential value of Levinasian ethics to our contemporary political thought, proceed much more dialectically—at times conceding points to important critiques (such as Badiou’s) of Levinas’s work, at times raising new lines of critique, and at other times bringing Levinas into conversation with contemporary cultural, political, and philosophical positions in need of rethinking.
Still, as the Holocaust is alluded to with ever greater frequency in the latter half of Levinas’s career, ethics is informed by imperatives that keep us mournfully mindful of the Nazi genocide. To the extent that the Holocaust is invoked as a superﬂuous sign of injustice, it characterizes the precariousness of ethics within philosophy as though ethics must run parallel hereafter to the political questions raised by post-1945 memory. In this respect ethics must be understood as a realm of thought, or a realm presignifying thought, in which the cultural space introduction 25 of the victim remains signiﬁcant, in which the one whose injustice cannot be simply articulated through representation or by our ordinary categories of justice persistently impresses herself upon the very meaning of justice.