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Levinas, Adorno, and the Ethics of the Material Other
Levinas, Adorno, and the Ethics of the Material Other
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Eric S. Nelson - Author
SUNY series in Contemporary French Thought
Price: $95.00 
Hardcover - 480 pages
Release Date: December 2020
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-8023-7

Price: $34.95 
Paperback - 480 pages
Release Date: July 2021
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-8024-4

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A provocative examination of the consequences of Levinas’s and Adorno’s thought for contemporary ethics and political philosophy.

This book sets up a dialogue between Emmanuel Levinas and Theodor W. Adorno, using their thought to address contemporary environmental and social-political situations. Eric S. Nelson explores the “non-identity thinking” of Adorno and the “ethics of the Other” of Levinas with regard to three areas of concern: the ethical position of nature and “inhuman” material others such as environments and animals; the bonds and tensions between ethics and religion and the formation of the self through the dynamic of violence and liberation expressed in religious discourses; and the problematic uses and limitations of liberal and republican discourses of equality, liberty, tolerance, and their presupposition of the private individual self and autonomous subject. Thinking with and beyond Levinas and Adorno, this work examines the possibility of an anarchic hospitality and solidarity between material others and sensuous embodied life.

“Eric S. Nelson’s most recent work is timely, provocative and substantively novel, arguing for a connection between Levinas and Adorno that is seldom made … Nelson has produced a highly commendable, superb guide and introduction to continental political philosophy of history in a new key.” — Symposium

“This is an extremely impressive, original, and thorough treatment of two key twentieth-century thinkers and their applicability to the most pressing social and political issues of our time.” — Jeffrey A. Bernstein, author of Leo Strauss on the Borders of Judaism, Philosophy, and History

“This book is an excellent and timely contribution to political and environmental philosophy, located around a nuanced historical and philosophical approach to Levinas and Adorno. It will be of great interest to anyone concerned with these figures or with the current moment.” — Martin Shuster, author of Autonomy after Auschwitz: Adorno, German Idealism, and Modernity

Eric S. Nelson is Professor of Philosophy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is the coeditor (with John E. Drabinski) of Between Levinas and Heidegger, also published by SUNY Press, and the author of Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in Early Twentieth-Century German Thought.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: On the Way to an Ethics of Material Others

Part I: After Nature: Ethics, Natural History, and Environmental Crisis

1. Toward a Critical Ecological Model of Natural History

2. Natural History, Nonidentity, and Ecological Crisis

3. Communicative Interaction or Natural History? Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature

4. The Trouble with Life: Life-Philosophy, Antinaturalism, and Transcendence in Levinas

5. An Ethics of Nature at the End of Nature

Part II: Unsettling Religion: Suffering, Prophecy, and the Good

6. Religion, Suffering, and Damaged Life: Nietzsche, Marx, and Adorno

7. The Disturbance of the Ethical: Kierkegaard, Levinas, and Abraham’s Binding of Isaac

8. Ethics between Religiosity and Secularity: Kierkegaard and Levinas

9. Prophetic Time, Materiality, and Dignity: Bloch and Levinas

10. Ethical Imperfectionism and the Sovereignty of Good: Levinas, Løgstrup, and Murdoch

Part III: Demanding Justice: Asymmetrical Ethics and Critical Social Theory

11. Equality, Justice, and Asymmetrical Ethics

12. The Pathologies of Freedom and the Promise of Autonomy

13. The Limits of Liberalism: Cosmopolitanism, Tolerance, and Asymmetrical Ethics

14. Recognition, Nonidentity, and the Contradictions of Liberalism

Epilogue: Nourishing Life, Unrestricted Solidarity, and the Good


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