General Interest Postmodern Philosophy: Introduction To Derrida/Levinas On Ethics / Religion (part 2)

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General Interest Postmodern Philosophy: Introduction To Derrida/Levinas On Ethics / Religion (part 1)


In the western philosophical tradition, Greeks such as Aristotle really emphasized an ethics of self-realization and did not emphasize my self-sacrifice to love and serve the needy other.

In the preamble last time we talked about a loving, forgiving Jesus, and a loving, forgiving Stephen who is an idealized type of Jesus exemplifying the core mandate of love (agape) of enemy, dying in forgiveness that ultimately struck a chord and led to Paul’s conversion. But let’s press beyond Acts’ idealization of Stephen.

As I said previously, regarding Paul’s conversion, if he was being honest about it, we seem to get the idea that he was affected by the point that the Christians he was persecuting would not renounce Jesus and his blasphemous re-interpretation of the Hebrew tradition, even when horribly threatened. But more than that, and this is key historically, Paul says in his letters he was persecuting a movement that had two of his relatives, Junia and Andronicus, high up in the movement, so this certainly could have led to the cognitive dissonance that led to the conversion experience hallucination. McGrath comments that:

  • Paul’s zeal for his national identity may have been solidified by having a cousin (or other relative) who married a foreigner, and then later it may have been seeing the prospect that his relatives might be killed as a result of his kind of zealous opposition to the Christian movement that created the psychological state that led to his turnaround.

Romans 16:7 is the only place in the New Testament where Junia is named, although some have also identified her with a woman from the Gospels named Joanna, the wife of Chuza, who appears in Luke 8:1–3 and the narrative where the women visit the tomb of Jesus towards the end of the Gospels.

This is where Goicoechea is going to situate Derrida’s critique of Levinas, with “Christian loving enemy” idealization of Jesus and Stephen. Goicoechea comments that

  • So Levinas does not look into the face of Nietzsche any more than he looks into the face of Kierkegaard: he treats neither The Works of Love, which belong to Kierkegaard and not his pseudonyms, nor the amor fati and love of all existence that in The Antichrist Nietzsche connects with the all-loving Jesus. Nietzsche’s Jesus has an agape that really loves the enemy for Nietzsche loves most of all the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount. Derrida is a much more complete reader of both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche than is the Levinas of Totality and Infinity and so when Derrida deconstructs the early Levinas and helps him move to the later Levinas of Otherwise Than Being Derrida will have the complete Kierkegaard and the complete Nietzsche in mind and not settle for a misreading of the faces of those two.

Goicoechea, David L.. Agape and Hesed-Ahava: With Levinas-Derrida and Matthew at Mt. Angel and St. Thomas (A Doxology of Reconciliation) (PES / Postmodern Ethics Book 7) (pp. 55-56). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.