Levinas and Hitlerism, by Simon Critchley

In “Levinas and Hitlerism,” Simon Critchley discusses Levinas’ response to the question of how one might respond to Hitlerism beyond liberalism. He presents Levinas’ contention that National Socialism was right in its critique of disembodied liberalism in favor of a philosophy that begins from the feeling of identity between the self and the body. Critchley presents Heidegger as positioning himself as a proponent of this possibility in National Socialism for a thinking of facticity, but as nevertheless being a critic of its biological facticity. However, he presents Levinas’ intervention as the doubting of the stability of the very distinction between facticity and biological facts. Levinas is therefore led toward an alternative elemental philosophy that eventually describes a way out of egotistical and tragic finitude. Critchley examines the early essay “On Escape” as the primal form of Levinas’ entire problematic, namely, the tragic enchainment of the body to itself. He leaves us with the suggestion that freedom is precisely the acceptance of the fact of imprisonment and the poverty that comes with it.

Article available through Philosophy Documentation Center, here.


Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at The New School for Social Research, and part-time Professor of Philosophy at Tilburg University. He is the author of many books, including Bowie (OR Books, 2014); The Faith of the Faithless (Verso, 2012); and Impossible Objects (Polity Press, 2011). He is co-author (along with Jamieson Webster) of Stay Illusion: The Hamlet Doctrine (Pantheon, 2013). The third edition of his first book, The Ethics of Deconstruction (Edinburgh University Press, 2014), has recently been published. He currently moderates The Stone, an opinion series in The New York Times that features contemporary philosophers.

Simon Critchley, “Levinas and Hitlerism,” in “Philosophy and Race,” ed. Alexis Dianda and Robin M. Muller, special issue, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 35:1–2 (2014), pp. 223–49.

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