THE THINKING OF LEVINAS AND THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY



THE THINKING OF LEVINAS AND THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY


Ricardo Timm de Souza

1) Preamble[1]
Studies on the thinking of Emmanuel Levinas have traditionally privileged a phenomenological approach, which is very useful and understandable, given the importance of Levinas to phenomenology, and the importance of phenomenology to Levinas’ work in all of its features. Nevertheless, broader approaches that examine more precisely the historical-philosophical locus of the levinasian thinking as a whole are needed at this time in the reception of the lituanian-french thinker. In order to make this exam possible it is necessary to follow as much as the genesis of this work in, so to speak, “extra-phenomenological” philosophical terms – where the influence of Rosenzweig is decisive – as in terms of a possible dialogue with the contemporary political philosophy – and we refer here, as an example, the possibility of a advantageous approach with the political-philosophical concept of “state of exception”, either in it’s benjaminian descent or in it’s update in G. Agamben. In this work we intent, initially, to show how the work of Levinas can be understood as the revalidation of Rosenzweig’s political-philosophical testament and how, arising from this fact, it is possible to open, since the conception of human in Levinas, new chances for a critical reading of the “Aushnahmezustand” that characterizes the contemporary geopolitical community.
2) Introduction – the “State of Exception” as a rule[2]
“A tradição dos oprimidos nos ensina que o ‘estado de exceção’  no qual vivemos é a regra. Precisamos chegar a um conceito de  história que dê conta disso. Então surgirá diante de nós nossa tarefa, a de instaurar o real estado de exceção (...)”.
Walter BENJAMIN, VIII “Tese” Sobre o conceito de história[3]
Recently, the Italian philosophers G. Agamben has shown, in his work State of Exception, from different point of views and in an exact and extraordinary instigate fashion, the macro political actuality of this famous benjaminian Thesis. His works serves as a reminder to the necessity of keeping an awake spirit in order to realize the necessity of deeply questioning the mass of consecrated categories of the contemporary political philosophy, insofar it’s generality and many times it’s theorical distance regarding the daily life of people, that constitute the properly concrete of the institutions, the “people” and the “nations”. This statement does not imply in disregarding the major contributions of the contemporary political philosophy in what matters to us – the constitution of solid theorical references in the promotion of ever developing justice and democracy; what we are suggesting,  as a matter of fact, is that some other approaches, many times unknown and usually unconsidered by the currently predominant tendencies in terms of political philosophy, have much to add in the understanding and theorical improvement of any proposition that aims, precisely, the promotion of justice and democracy.
Such is the case regarding the thinking of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, usually unconsidered in terms of its relevance, precisely in contemporary political philosophy. Since, with the exception of authors such as Dussel, in one hand, and several political scientists and philosophers, specially Africans, that explore, each in a very specific fashion, the potential of a reading of Levinas and the political,  we have noticed a strong tendency in terms of considering Levinas’ thinking much more in terms of a radical (re)formulation of ethics –  and such an approach is very natural, since it is acknowledged that the author had given the most attention to this specific matter in most of his works –, than in the appropriation of his categories in terms of a deep re-elaboration and enormous enrichment in the proposition of a proper political philosophy to times that we are globally passing over, times in which the “state of exception is the rule” – I feel such disregard to the possibilities of contribution of Levinas’ theory constitutes a sort of iniquity towards the author and his works.
The goal of the present text is to explore some decisive dimensions of Levinas’ thinking to contemporary political philosophy, having the exam of some macro political concepts, such as the notion of “peace” as a main point of view. In order to do so, it is of extreme importance for us the exam of an indispensable author to the understanding of Levinas’ work in its historical-philosophical perspective: Franz Rosenzweig. And the link between these works is provided through an eminent category in all time political philosophy: the question of peace.
3) Rosenzweig and Levinas on peace.
            The fundamental question that is taken by us here may be presented in the following fashion: How is the theme of peace here proposed – in the sense of “peace building” and in times of “exception states” – since the thinking of two philosophers whose lives were definitively signed by catastrophic bellicose, and, in many ways, very, exceptional, happenings: Franz Rosenzweig e Emmanuel Levinas? As a linked question we propose: What really distinguishes the thinking of both actors? In other words: How, despite the latent similarity between the authors, may we understand the decisive perceptible differences of such works? We consider these questions of great importance since the answer that may be eventually noticed will add not only to the understanding of the deep structures of the XX century, but also to the understanding of the difficult social and philosophical-cultural actuality we live in the beginnings of this XXI century, in the sense above presented[4].
            At first, it is necessary to put lights on the general sense of the reading we are proposing. We intent above all, in this that must be read as a work of investigation of the deep roads of culture in the XX century, to establish and suggest in which way we may understand this time when heavy heritages from the XX century as a great civilizatory age are lived at dawn. The insecurity caused by the lose of sense of a closed, self-referred totality – or even the search for a totality, this great unsecurity defines the way this lose becomes intelligible. After centuries and centuries of dreams and search for a sufficient totality of meanings that would set the whole world clear in itself, now the occidental culture dive into the deepest abyss of radical uncertainties; and this is not only the world where Rosenzweig and Levinas lived, but also the world where we must live and survive.
            It is also necessary to emphasize that we are mostly interest at taking a general approach - though not a superficial one – of the totality of works of both thinkers, read since the prism of possible answers to one of the most intense questions that are proposed to us not only locally but globally: the problem of the reality of the Other human being, the problem that expresses concretely in the impossibility of postponing the urgency of justice in times that are mostly unjust. That is the reason why the word peace should not be here understood as the indicative of a question that has in the macro-political and macro-economical fields it’s main instance of validity and realization, but as a suggestion of the way in which the relation of the other human being must be taken, in case we want too take seriously the concrete, and not only theorical, possibility of an ethical world. “Peace” should hereby be understood, simultaneously as an ethical term and as the possible and necessary foundation of an ethic-political society.[5]  Hence, we shall analyze central aspects of the works of both authors, having the whole of their thinking as a background, which will allow us an approximation to the themes we take most of our efforts towards in this text.

a)      Rosenzweig and the great offering of peace
One of the most important phenomena of the 1800-1900 fin-de-siècle – and we could perhaps reward this period of time circa the XIX century -, in the European high-culture fields, especially in the German language influenced area (but also in other contexts, as, for example, Henri Bergson, in France), is the manner that assimilated Jews dealt with the great tension between tradition and contemporarity, meaning, the way they lived in the tension between Judaism, here understood not in the sense of a religion, but as a complex cultural sense to an intense and diffuse  time, and the “Christian” life of it’s time, at States hallmarked by political questions of growing severity. The question of surviving in this world is exactly the matter of some of the most prominent Jewish cultural characters of the time, such time in which the XX century actually begins. A time which is not hallmarked with chronological precision, but with a socio-cultural uniqueness that lasts since the second hath of the XX century until the migratory movement and the annihilation of countless intellectuals by the Nazis by the time of the Second World War[6]. From Hermann Cohen to Walter Benjamin, from Albert Einstein to Franz Kafka, from Sigmund Freud to Hannah Arendt and so many others: what we have here are persons that are found, not without dilacerating themselves in some fashion, between two worlds – the world of assimilation, that promised explicitly or implicitly the political and social integration, following the Illumines and the Haskala, and the world of disappointment, in which it were clearer and clearer that the promises – or the ancient dreams of assimilation and peaceful convivialence – would not be fulfilled,  at least not in the way the more ancient generations of Jews of German culture and language had thought. Such situation led to a tension of enormous complexity[7].
Rosenzweig takes very seriously the confirmation that the great philosophical proposals of the past are not enough to deal with the theorical battle of immense questions that the crisis in culture and rationality of his time was proposing. Naturally, his reading is not one to merely contemplate history since a “horizontal” point of view, which is overtaken by a great deal of unprecedented historical facts, but since a deep analysis of the past in its sense towards the present[8]. Above all, we must always insist on the fact that Rosenzweig thinks since the center of this confirmation; and this is the very thinking that shall lead him towards the deepest layers of his contemporarity, in his unique combination of dreams and hopelessness.
In a straightly fashion we could say the following: The Redemption Star – Rosenzweig most important work – proposes itself as a complex movement, which must be understood in a completely different manner of the common understanding of the philosophical systems of the tradition. It would be pertinent to examine this point of view as the addition of a unique dynamics of such a movement, found since its beginnings, the characteristic form of temporality, which constitutes the deep substance of Star as a whole: the blood of its body, in which the understanding lies the possibility of understanding Rosenzweig’s new thinking project as a whole. There are countless analyses possibilities that are here proposed; however, it is enough for us, in such a context, put lights on the following: this is the very fashion in which Rosenzweig could think. Such a thing seems very decisive for us: Rosenzweig’s existential thinking is not one of many ways of thinking that were possible to him, but the very form that was granted him, the only form that kept philosophing possible in his time for him.
All of this implies the following: Franz Rosenzweig had to articulate in his work the most important of his existential tension: his work is the very unfolding of this question. Here lies one of the most extraordinary aspects of such thinking. With a visceral connection to an ancient tradition, his very own “private” culture, Rosenzweig had to integrate within himself his absolutely present time and his past, in order to remain faithful to his anxiety for the most absolute actuality of his time.
What could we hereby understand as “actuality”? Exactly the dangerous situation of a world moving itself towards a dreadful abyss, a situation in which philosophy was no longer allowed to simply reorganize and actualize schemes from the past to approach itself.
Thus, it was necessary a “new thinking”[9] – a thinking that would address itself directly towards the nucleus of the happenings. Which happenings, specifically? Those facts that had definitely dilacerated the human hopes in rational projects of a “conciliatory peace”[10].
What I am implying here is that if philosophy, as Rosenzweig understood it, still has a place in culture, it is only in the sense of an extreme boldness, which strictly accepts nothing else as a foundation but an absolute cultural and existential nec-cessity (Not-wendigkeit), which is the best possible translation to human penury[11] in its proper sense.
Two subjects that we intent now to privilege in the present analysis of Rosenzweig work is the temporality and the originality of the multiple – themes that answer precisely the question of survival as the past falls apart and the challenges of the future.
Opposed to an interpretative line that ascends to the Parmedian inspiration, which is somehow present in all philosophical conceptions of history until Hegel – the identity between the being and the thinking – Rosenzweig utterly claims, since the beginning of his thinking, the absolute difference between the Self and the content of the thinking[12].
And opposed to the traditional form of philosophying – in which the temporality is in certain way treated normally as the scandal of the rational thinking – Rosenzweig takes a completely different position in his approach towards time. “Time” insofar Rosenzweig conception, is not just another element in the logic of space, or a data from cosmology or speculative philosophy, wheter it is arising from such diverse sources as Aristotle or Kant, but it is, simply, the only possibility of finding the Other as Other; which means: preserving the original multiplicity of the real.
The link between these two nuclei of Rosenzweig thinking – the original temporality and multiplicity of the real – constitutes, for us, the most profound and fundamental strata of his thinking. His thinking could be synthesized, in general lines, as the careful unfolding of this articulation. This sui generis unfolding, which overflows across the most diverse fields of culture, constitutes the uniqueness of Rosenzweig work; his erudite synthesis of a whole world of senses – his own world, and in a similar manner our own world as well – goes exactly towards this direction: at midst of a extraordinary multiplicity of new scientific and cultural figures, approaching in a new form the human, the sense of humanity that beats behind scientific and cultural discoveries. Nevertheless, this is not a sense that is subsumed in any idea of humanity that would have been buried by the catastrophe of the First World War and by the unrestrained progress that would be now “resurrecting”, such a sense is understood as the extreme concreteness, a concreteness that is found at the extreme, without this concreteness the world as such – hereby understood as the place where the other is met – can not even be conceived.
What would be the features that this extremely complex articulation could now assume?
Naturally, there are many possible answers. However, ours conduces itself in the inspiration of this text’s principal argument: the theme of peace – or, better to say the possibilities since peace and its rendering are made possible.
Consequentially articulating the diversity of the original, the concrete temporality of life thus presently means to once again think the possibility of peace since its founding impulse, in its originality. Without the multiplicity, without the irreductive other against the same we are still found in the undetermination of the neutral, the undifferentiated (???), which is not pacifical, but simply violent or dead. Without this time, which accordingly to Rosenzweig we ourselves are, this moment of absoluteness of the present in which we have to continually justify our existence, it would be impossible to think as much as to build a situation of true peace. Because “peace” means in its most remote origin to establish non-violation relation with the other, this means not reducing the Other to Myself - no-reduction which is the ethical recognition of the otherness of the other, of the other time that he is: the initial moment of any given possibility of properly human relation; the beginning of the building of an ethical world amidst the debris of a totality degenerated into infinite violence and fragmentation. The new thinking, the “experiencial” thinking (erfahrendes Denken)[13] assumes its true sense in the building of a viable human society: a temporal-ethical reordenation of the world since the human dimension of the construction of the sense of the world.
It is in this sense that one may realize that Rosenzweig work – which explicitly shows since its perspective, the conditions of such reordenation- , does not only speak implicit on peace: it constitutes by itself a great peace offering, maybe one of the greatest offers the XX century had met. It must be once again put onto lights that this is not some sort of theological figuration of peace as the concealment of the multiplicities of the diverse, the otherness of others that would lead to some sort of totality of thoughts, but the very opposite of such an approach: peace has a meaning here only as its constituted, against all odds, in the preservation of the sense of the multiple. Peace is the opportunity of encounter and realization of the encounter in the context of a temporality that assumes a sense exactly in the time in which this encounter actually happens, and at last constitutes this encounter as such.
b) Levinas and the possible effectuation of peace since the ethical reordenation of the world
Rosenzweig proceeded to the one that seems to us as the most grandiose trial in the philosophical XX century towards a profound renewal of philosophy, insofar philosophy itself since this renewal would assume intelligibility only when it remained faithful to the diversity of the real – strictly understood as what constitutes its primogenitive impulse[14].Philosophy could only mean, accordingly to the meaning of The Redemption Star, to take life so seriously that this could not be confused by any chance with the mere representation of the idea of life. Living means to remain faithful to temporality and to philosophy thus means to preserve and cultivate this temporality that we are and in which we live, and that constitutes our language (language that is the verbalization of the real, intelligible translation of the existential flux). Concretely, such datum mean that preserving the small infinite encounters of peace that may and ought to have a place amongst the many that are found in the universe of logical and that may transform this logical encounters where “one” plus “one” merely makes up “two” into an ethical encounter which is not quantifiable, but only humanely qualifiable where the encounter of “one” plus “one” makes up to infinitely more than “two”. Philosophying means to transform “quantity” into “quality”[15].
Nevertheless, it is evident that we realize that this grandiose peace offering was not only not accepted but also not understood, and all the inspiration that animated such an offering had historically failed, having the logic of war prevailed – and we do not refer only to the Second World War[16]. However, the world that prepared and took into action the Second World War was not a world to let itself be affected by rational arguments, and much less likely to take seriously arguments based on the courage and innovation such as Rosenzweig had been proposing. For the totality of war, in its diverse instances and phases, logic and justifications, there are only their own reasons that are almost always justly ideologically filtrated until they come to public opinion; these reasons are their own proper rationality, the self-reference among the alleged reasons and its process of justification. All the rest belong to the realm of the Strange, the other – straightly, the ones to whom the totality of the closed rationality, of the belligerence State, of the Same, is put into question by the mere fact that they are present. The other – others – must either accept the offering of war or, as they have weak or no power at all, or be simply annihilated – such is the logic of the War – and rather, in times where the “state of exception” is the rule, such is the logic of the everyday life of institutions and of peoples.
Levinas had to taste in his own flesh how efficient and implacable this logic truly is; as we all now, his entire family, with the exception of his wife and daughter – was decimated in a Nazi extermination camp.
Regarded that nothing else would differ Rosenzweig from Levinas, this happening seems enough to draw a factual line among these authors. Let us just say those were different times. For a world that could really follow how hell could be built on earth – not only in the distant front or in the battle fields, but in the veins where the blood of the dear ones being annihilated runs – not only were the offers of conciliation and peace in the past empty, they were simply offensive.
The thinking of Levinas is understandable, since its radicality, only when we keep clear the extreme tension that the necessity of thinking all that, at first overcomes any given possibility of unthinkable[17] thinking – and having to think those facts as such, since the hegemonic tradition of the occident.
It is not our purpose here a general presentation of Levinas’ thinking, we have done such a think in several other places[18], but rather an approximation of the general theme this text is dealing with. What is mostly important for us here is to examine the fashion in which Levinas proceeds a complete reordenation of the priorities of the philosophical thinking, having amongst his goals the intention to establish some substrata to a more pacific society in its deepest sense.
The original multiplicity that enlivens the work of Rosenzweig propose faced with the tradition of the ontological unity of thought a vigorous counterpoint, that remains very alive in Levinas and that, at last, is equally a condition to the understanding of his thinking. The Other may not be received unless as truly different, because his otherness is grounded to a pre-original dimension, no-neutralizable that rationality articulates exactly like a dimension of the “originality of the multiple”. From this originality comes the absolute necessity of not remaining indifferent, in case we do not want to yield to delirium or rational tautology, exactly because the extreme concreteness of the multiple resists against the strong tendency of, by intellectual synthesis, its energy ends up in a abstract-conceptual unity.
Such not indifference to the multiple – privileged in its anthropological dimensions – is defined by Levinas as ethical. The establishment of ethical relations means exactly to preserve and to promote the originality of the other as other, what means to establish ethics as prima philosophia.
And when originality of ethics is referred, we are not thinking about the postulation of some sort of ethics to be build as derivative of something previously existent in the universe of ontological references, but the carrying of the imperative of recognizing in the existent – and we allow ourselves to here utilize such dangerous terms – the negative or the averse of the ethical[19].
This negativity, that theorically is aprehendable since the great hegemonic history of the unfolding of the occidental logos[20], is factually experienced with special strength in the terrible happenings of the Second World War. However – and we are specially concerned about this topic -, not only had the Second World War such a strength, but every situation and social structure that would reproduce in some manner the reducing of the many to the one phenomena, from the Other to the Same, from the multiplicity to the violent totality, meaning, in the inspiration of Adorno, a strength that would subsume the variety of the real in the mere concept.
Such a thing shall always happen, accordingly to Levinas, in case ethics is not recognized as the basis of all sorts of philosophy. This means, in a very concrete fashion, either it is the dignity of the Other in the origin of all thinking, thinking that derives from the human relation without the whom nothing that is human can be understood, either the concrete Other is fastly metamorphosed into a purely logical other, reproducing the relation of violence most found not only in the world history, but also in the history of the thought; such close cousins.
Levinas thus translates the grandiosity of Rosenzweig in small and decisive elements, which not only make possible, but also legitimate, each truly human relation in its very definement(or?) as human. If Rosenzweig, as a philosopher of culture, thinks the possibility of peace in broad and complex civilizatory categories, Levinas, approaching himself from this original intuition, intents to arrive in the nuclei of the possibility of thinking peace as such, as consequence of the real encounter amongst the different humans, insofar it postulates the ethical as the proto-word of every possible origin of the world of human sense.

4) Synthesis – Peace and Ethics – the peace since the ethics
It is now the moment to synthetisy what we have examined so far.
The thinking of Levinas, considered since its multiplicity of consequences, is, without Franz Rosenzweig, only remotely intelligible. Levinas’ philosophy couldn’t, most likely, have reached the point of extreme radicality which was eventually reached, lacking the strong groundings of Rosenzweig’s thinking – which could in the present context be called a thinking of radical experience and preservation of the original multiplicity of the reality.
It is nevertheless necessary to realize that the thing that, accordingly to our perspective, irrefutably separates Levinas from Rosenzweig is not some sort of philosophical movement, such as phenomenology or any other, but the terrible happenings of the Second World War. Were Rosenzweig to face the war, he would have certainly written the Star in a completely different fashion, supposing he would write it at all; and it is because Levinas had to live through the war and what it had really meant, that he could reactualize the main institutions of the Star in a different fashion. If for Rosenzweig there was still some possibility of having hope in the construction of peace since the concealed dimensions of history, this hope assumes a completely different sense, a sense of originality of ethics, ethics that are beneath and beyond each possible conception of reality and that determines it as its true “foundations”[21]. And, on the other hand, it is only after Rosenzweig’s demise – with the growing conscience of the crisis of the foundation of a civilization that dives into catastrophe – that the idea of the “exception state that is the rule” could sketch out itself in its “benjaminian”[22] dimension.
If it is still possible to us to understand “ethics”, in Rosenzweig, from a statute that assumes from an absolutely necessary consequence of a very special “ontological” groundings: the grounds of primary multiplicity of the real -, such is not possible in Levinas case. For Levinas, ethics does not derive from an anterior grounding, as differentiated and faithful to the multiplicity of valuable ethical consequences as such groundings may be, but ethics are the very grounds in which thinking may be carried, as it sustains and determines rationatily.
Among these thinkers it is interposed the barbaricness of the Second World War and the holocaust, for the Second War – hereby understood in a mostly symbolic manner – definitively attests the falling of the old consciences, meaning, the definitively decadence of the conciliatory promises of rationality in the transcendental or ontological fashion of an immense share of the philosophical tradition. After the Second War, after the Holocaust, after the several wars that followed and its respective holocausts and its social and cultural metamorphosis, it is no longer possible to philosophy touched by ingenuity, for this happenings make evident the substance from which it is still possible to philosophy.
However, this extreme happenings not only had summed isolatly amidst the impersonal waves of history; they show how quotidian happenings are sharpen, “small” daily inhumanities not easily divisible amidst the super-abundance of historical facts – from misery to the infinite violences against the Other, in all its levels and display forms, not only logically articulate themselves as historical facts elapse, to the point they are turned into “normal” happenings, all of this “small” events must be approached. All violence against the other is, in this sense, warlike. The mental form that this war assumes is the insinuator replacement of the concreteness of the otherness by its mere concept.
We could even dare to say that exactly this constitutes the world we live in deepest structure. Shan’t it be a philosophy of dialogue – or a dialogue of philosophies and worlds – so necessary exactly because of this? Because the substance of a true dialogue is very hardly found, at least in the grandeur of concepts and cosmovisions that have as a grounding, in a last analysis, the “depotencealization” of the otherness of the Other through such general concepts as “progress”, “global order”, etc.?
To put it in another way, wouldn’t it be necessary to stand clearly on the fields where wars happens, not only in the rout of happenings that may be technically called “bellicose”, but also in the permanent state of war that actually determines many, not to say all of our contemporary societies?
Thus, were Rosenzweig and Levinas (as were several other thinkers) extremely right, when they, in an explicit or implicit fashion, found the nuclei of violence in the replacement of the Other for its mere concept – a voiceless concept, without language, accomplice to injustice and that finally open space to the replacement of the real temporality for its logical representations, in the tautological completeness of Totality?
Many historical happenings separate Levinas from Rosenzweig. A binding dimension, however, the most important one, survives any separation: the great and urgent necessity of philosophically unmasking the grounds of the state of violence we live in our globalized society – a gigantic task that would notwithstanding remain sterile were we not to invest in the generational nuclei of each possible human community. Both thinkers give us such a nuclei – the ethical, meaning, the no indifference in relation to the real other.
Accordingly to Emanuel Levinas – as well to Franz Rosenzweig – the construction of peace thus is, by a constitutive principle, the instauration of the Ethical as the deepest grounds of all human actions.
5) Conclusion – Levinas and the political philosophy in times of “Exception States”
A philosophical pattern of political philosophy that, moved by high ideals, ends up forgetting the swamp in which the real human relations are lived – the world of misery in its several senses, of delirious terrorisms and fundamentalisms, of effective or announce ecological and social castrophies, of the promiscuousness between science and the bellicose-economical interests, of the midiatical manipulations of all sorts – its a pattern of philosophy that lives in the unconsciousness of the time that actually goes by. The salvation of the best that modernity had to offer to the posteriority can not be accepted but in fragments, as in Adorno. After the failure of the great reports and the edificant speeches, lost in the storm of the real, the concept remains – the human, the living, lost amidst the petrifying of institutions in its violent and decrypted generalities, amidst the state of exception that is the rule – the violent rule. The failed totality[23], on its turn, generates the necessity of a very strong diachronicalization of the real, so that times, otherness, others may encounter themselves. It is at this point that the thinking of the otherness of Levinas is constitute as an essential contribution in order to conceive what may turn into the most radical founding of an equally most radical political philosophy – one that goes towards the roots of the questions and exorcisates the charms of a modernity that does not realize its failure as a civilizatory project – for it is the very concept of civilization – its sense, possible or unrenounceable- that is at stake. It is very likely that, with philosophical categories as unlikely to the dreams of modernity such as “replacement”, “otherness”, “ethics as fundamental”, “invested freedom” and others from the levinasian repertory, may we conceive a powerful alternative to the hegemony of the state of exception by the appearing of the properly exceptional that will come to reveal the true face of the state of exception in which we all live in – and here, accordingly to the arguments we have approached, or merely tangentiated, we find the “madness about justice”[24] – this “[irreducible] kind of justice, which isn’t law, is the very movement of deconstruction at work”[25], as Derrida says, that decides itself to remain and legitimate itself in each “instant of decision” of Rosenzweig. It should then be begun a “concept of history that [would] be able to deal with this”, as Benjamin desires –a concept that, in terms of eminently political philosophy, could deal with the human and with life, eventually lost amongst delirium, concepts and grand conceptions.

Translation: Fabrício Pontin




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[1] The general theoric basis of this text are developed mostly in our books Totalidade & Desagregação – sobre as fronteiras do pensamento e suas alternativas, Porto Alegre, Edipucrs, 1996; Filosofia mínima: fragmentos de fim-de-século, Porto Alegre, Pyr Edições, 1998; O tempo e a Máquina do Tempo – estudos de filosofia e pós-modernidade, Porto Alegre, Edipucrs, 1998; Existência em Decisão – uma introdução à obra de Franz Rosenzweig, São Paulo, Perspectiva, 1999; Sujeito, Ética e História – Levinas, o traumatismo infinito e a crítica da filosofia ocidental, Porto Alegre, Edipucrs, 1999; Metamorfose e Extinção – sobre Kafka e a patologia do tempo, Caxias do Sul, EDUCS, 2000; Sentido e Alteridade – dez ensaios sobre o pensamento de E. Levinas, Porto Alegre, Edipucrs, 2000, Ainda além do medo – filosofia e antropologia do preconceito, Porto Alegre: DaCasa-Palmarinca, 2002; Sobre a construção do sentido – o pensar e o agir entre a vida e a filosofia, São Paulo: Perspectiva, 2002; Sentidos do Infinito - a categoria de “Infinito” nas origens da racionalidade ocidental, dos pré-socráticos a Hegel, Caxias do Sul, EDUCS, 2003, O Brasil filosófico – história e sentidos, São Paulo: Perspectiva, 2003, and farther on several articles, books chapters, unpublished books and isolated texts.
[2] The first part of this text, here reviewed and severely changed, presented as section 3, was originally presented as a conference in the university of Kassel, Germany, in 2001 under the title “Denken und Frieden herstellen – das Denken von Franz Rosenzweig und Emmanuel Levinas im Kern der Ereignisse des XX Jahrhunderts”. A Portuguese translation may be found at SUSIN, Luiz Carlos et alii (Orgs.). Éticas em Diálogo – Levinas e o pensamento contemporâneo: questões e interfaces, Porto Alegre, 2003, p. 223-250.
[3] Apud LÖWY, M. Walter Benjamin: aviso de incêndio – uma leitura das teses “Sobre o conceito de história”, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2005, p. 83.
[4] The main argumentative lines of this work, that will not be hereby explicitated in all its details, derive from a group of texts that we’ve been editing through out the latest six years; such texts have in common, many times, the characteristic of concerning decisively with the questions that suggest the possibility to establish an ethical foundation to philosophy. To more references, go to the Bibliography in the end of the text.
[5] On the ethic-political standingpoints, accordinly to my book Ética como fundamento – uma introdução à ética contemporânea, São Leopoldo, Editora Nova Harmonia, 2004.
[6] See  SOUZA, Ricardo Timm de. “O século XX e a desagregação da totalidade”, in: SOUZA, R.T. Totalidade & Desagregação, p. 15-29.
[7] We have dealt with this subject, among several others, in our unpublished book Tensão e Construção- cultura e descoberta do novo em Kafka, Freud e Benjamin. 
[8] See accordingly to our book Existência em Decisão – uma introdução ao pensamento de Franz Rosenzweig, p.21-54.
[9] There is an English translation of this work that synthesizes straightly and in an intelligible fashion the whole of Rosenzweig philosophy: ROSENZWEIG, Franz (edited and translated from the German by Barbara E. Galli, with a foreword by Leora Batnitzky). The new thinking, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2000.
[10] See SOUZA, R.T., Existência em decisão..., Op. cit., p.29-54
[11] The Word “not”, which is in “Notwendigkeit”, also means penury, necessity in the sense of “privation” in German.
[12] See SOUZA, R.T. “Da neutralização da diferença à dignidade da Alteridade – estações de uma história multicentenária”, in: SOUZA, Ricardo Timm de. Sentido e Alteridade – Dez ensaios sobre o pensamento de E. Levinas, Porto Alegre:EDIPUCRS, 2000, p. 189-208.
[13] On the “experiencial thinking” of Rosenzweig See SOUZA, R. T. “O tempo e o novo – sobre o ‘Novo Pensamento’ de Franz Rosenzweig, in: FELTES, H. P. M. – ZILLES, U. (Orgs.), Filosofia: diálogo de horizontes – Festschrift em homenagem a Jayme Paviani, Porto Alegre-Caxias do Sul: Edipucrs-EDUCS, 2001, p. 299-314.
[14] See our already cit. “Da neutralização da diferença à dignidade da Alteridade – estações de uma história multicentenária”, in: SOUZA, Ricardo Timm de. Sentido e Alteridade – Dez ensaios sobre o pensamento de E. Levinas, Porto Alegre: Edipucrs, 2000, p. 189-208.
[15] See SOUZA, R. T. Existência em Decisão... Op. cit., p. 133-145.
[16] Let us remember that the XX century was documentally the century in which the greatest number of wars and belligerence situations were set.
[17] Here is a notoriously approaching with, among others, Adorno. See SOUZA, R. T. “Estética, sombras e história”, in: Totalidade & Desagregação..., Op. cit., p. 161-177.
[18] See Bibliographical references.
[19] Clearly, “negative” is hereby assumed in the sense of the adornian thinking.
[20] See our cited essay. “Da neutralização da diferença à dignidade da Alteridade – estações de uma história multicentenária”, in: SOUZA, Ricardo Timm de. Sentido e Alteridade – Dez ensaios sobre o pensamento de E. Levinas, Porto Alegre: Edipucrs, 2000, p. 189-208.
[21] We are very aware of the danger of the semantical ambiguousity of this term; however, such a term is practically inevitable.
[22] As interesting that the confront among the ideas of Benjamin with other authors that have approached, under diverse optics, this theme – specially Carl Schmitt- such confront does not have a place here. Check, for more about this matter, FLICKINGER, Hans-Georg. Em nome da liberdade – elementos da crítica do liberalismo contemporâneo, Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, 2003.
[23] See SOUZA, R. T. “O século XX e a desagregação da totalidade”, in: SOUZA, R. T. Totalidade & Desagregação. Sobre as fronteiras do pensamento e suas alternativas, Porto Alegre, EDIPUCRS, 1996, p. 15-29.
[24] T.N.: We here adopt the translation of Mary Quaintance for the following sentence “Et la déconstruction est folle de cette justice-là. Folle de ce désir de justice” which read as “And deconstruction is mad about this kind of justice. Mad about this desire for justice”. See DERRIDA, Jacques. Force of law. In Cardozo Law Review, II, 1990, 964-965.
[25] T.N.: Once again, I am indebt to the translation of Mary Quaintance, See DERRIDA, Jacques. Force of law. In: Cardozo Law Review, II, 1990. 964-965.

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