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date: 18 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The present study claims that Levinas’s engagement with early modern philosophy can be understood as an attempt to appropriate the tradition of modern rationalism by transforming it on the basis of its own internal limits. The article shows this by analysis especially of Levinas’s interpretations of Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant but also of Rousseau, Berkeley, Malebranche, Leibniz, and Pascal. Levinas’s appropriation of early modern rationalism is a transformation from a rationality of ontology and totality to an ethical rationality, anchored in the desire of the infinite and threatened by the rationality of totality. In Levinas’s eyes, it is Immanuel Kant who proves that this particular rationality of a practical infinite does not have its only origin in a religious tradition (that of the Talmud), but it also has another origin in the philosophical tradition of rationalism itself.

Keywords: Levinas, rationalism, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Rousseau, ontology, Talmud, Judaism

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