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date: 20 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay outlines the trajectory of Levinas’s accounts of messianism and the Messiah, from his notebook writings while in captivity in the early 1940s through to two Talmudic readings of the mid-1980s. It argues that there is no stable account of messianism that lasts from the beginning to the end of Levinas’s career. There is an early phase, ending in the early 1960s, which is constituted by indecisiveness over whether it is my procreative acts or my ethical acts that put to rest my anxiety about whether the messianic age or the Messiah will ever enter history. The later phase fully detaches God from history, and it associates messianism with skeptical critique; on this account, messianism does not put an end to suffering. The essay concludes by arguing that a reader’s preference for one account of messianism over another has more to do with the temperament of the reader than with any objective properties of the account.

Keywords: Vassily Grossman, messianism, Michael L. Morgan, philosophy of history, procreation, prophecy, skepticism, religion, Judaism

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