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Post-universal philosophy

Been thinking about an expression I employed to describe what I am after in my forthcoming book in the preface (and was mentioned in Harman's preface to present the project): Jewish animism. My thoughts took me back to a text Levinas' wrote in the mid-1950s, "Le cas Spinoza", compiled in Difficile Liberté. There he makes clear, as elsewhere, the distinction between the Jewish and the Christian ways. Spinoza appears as someone who helped universalizing Christianity by placing it outside the strictly religious terms. Christianism became universal and ceased to need to be a religion - it became a rational religion. Greek reason becomes Christianized supposedly in the form of nihilism (a God that is assassinated), colonialism (there are news to be spread independently of who we meet) and self-salvation (the joy of being anonymous and self-sufficient, immune to the appeals of the others and having no debts). The lay counterpart of Christian thought spells universality instead of proximity, law instead of justice, indifference to any new meeting unless it speaks to reason instead of a commitment to the possibility of sanctity and, finally, a moral code that can be learned once and for all (and corrected once and for all). 

The charge against Spinoza that Levinas rehearses is that it silenced a Jewish thinking development that would be going against the Christian grain - which included, among others, Rosenzweig who Levinas understands was utterly ignored. Even without quite being able to assess the width of the gesture of splitting Judaism from Christianity, I suspect it reaches the very idea of Zionism around which most of Jewish religious or lay thought revolves. But I think Levinas is also aiming at something else that converges with Jewish animism and the very idea of indexicalism as I put forward in the book: the idea that reason can be coupled not with universality but rather with appeals to justice from the transcending other in our proximity. Universality would be not the only suitable path to engage with philosophy. One can conceive - also in the manner of animist groups that conceive meeting as prior to the pieces of news a meeting can provide - a path that thinks from different points of departure. Maybe we can envisage a philosophy that moves away from the attraction of universality. (And maybe this would entail an altogether different relation to self-preservation and to paradox.)


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