Essential Vulnerabilities

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ISBN 978-0-8101-6782-7

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3563-5

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ISBN 978-0-8101-2994-8
Publication Date
October 2017
Page Count
224 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Essential Vulnerabilities

Plato and Levinas on Relations to the Other
Deborah Achtenberg

In Essential Vulnerabilities, Deborah Achtenberg contests Emmanuel Levinas’s idea that Plato is a philosopher of freedom for whom thought is a return to the self. To the contrary, she agrees, Plato, like Levinas, is a philosopher of the other. While they share the view that human beings are essentially vulnerable and in relation to others, they conceive human vulnerability and responsiveness differently.

For Plato, when ones see beauty in others, one is overwhelmed by the beauty of what is, by the vision of eternal form. For Levinas, on the other hand, we are disrupted by the newness, foreignness, or singularity of the other. For him, the other is not eternal, but new or foreign. The other is an unknowable singularity. By bringing into focus these similarities and differences, Achtenberg resituates Plato in relation to Levinas and opens up two contrasting ways that self is essentially in relation to others.
About the Author

DEBORAH ACHTENBERG is a professor of philosophy at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the author of Cognition

“I don’t think I can overstress how generative this book is. Pairing Levinas and Plato like this allows for more refined answers to the questions ‘what is knowledge?’ ‘what is virtue?’ and ‘what is goodness?’ in both thinkers. In addition, Achtenberg offers a more refined view of how exactly it is that Levinasian epistemology serves as a critique of the Western philosophical tradition.”—Martin Kavka, coeditor of The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy: The Modern Era