“Where Were You When I Laid Earth’s Foundations?” Levinas and the Book of Job

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Although Levinas’s thinking has generated substantial attention for its emphasis on the irreducibility of alterity, an unconditional responsibility for others, and “ethics as first philosophy,” his accentuation of war and suffering, and hence “evil” in a capacious sense, as endemic to existence, has attracted less notice. In this paper, I explore the originality of Levinas’s reflections on evil in his essay “Transcendence and Evil” against the backdrop of his earlier identification of the “evil of being” and historical conceptions of evil as “privation of the Good” and theodicy. In shadowing the biblical Book of Job, Levinas’s insight into the “transcendence of evil,” with its tear in the fabric of being and disruption of subjectivity, represents, as explored in this paper, a striking departure from his previous considerations on evil and categorical rejection of theodicy, in its secular and theological forms, while nonetheless insisting on the redemptive breakthrough of the Good at the heart of darkness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-234
Number of pages32
JournalLevinas Studies
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Religious studies

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