Levinas Unhinged

Levinas Unhinged

Levinas Unhinged presents philosopher Emmanuel Levinas as a metaphysician racked by the sensuous, and often terrifying, materiality of existence.


Through six heterodox essays this book extracts a materialist account of subjectivity and aesthetics from the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. More than a work of academic commentary that would leave many of Levinas’s pious commentators aghast, Sparrow exhibits an aspect of Levinas which is darker, yet no less fundamental, than his ethical and theological guises. This darkened Levinas provides answers to problems in aesthetics, speculative philosophy, ecology, ethics, and philosophy of race, problems which not only trouble scholars, but which haunt anyone who insists that the material of existence is the beginning and end of existence itself.


Admitting from the off that his aim is not to ‘get Levinas right’, [Sparrow] seeks to defamiliarize Levinas through a series of powerful readings, each foregrounding the strange, unsettling and liminal aspects of his philosophy: the centrality of the body, materiality, the night. The result is impressive. Sparrow presents a Levinas who is both haunted and haunting — and, a Levinas primed for an engagement with the turn towards the weird and visceral that we see in recent speculative philosophy. ~ Will Rees, 3:AM Magazine

Most 'defenders' of Levinas have undercut his genius by presenting him either as a pious old finger-wagging grandpa or as Jacques Derrida's halfhearted apprentice. In this book Tom Sparrow gives us the true Levinas: a formidable metaphysician who did more than anyone else to sensualize and concretize the work of Heidegger. Levinas is not in our rearview mirror, but remains in our motorcade today. He will still have much to teach us. Sparrow lucidly reminds us why. ~ Graham Harman, Associate Provost for Research Administration and Professor of Philosophy, American University in Cairo

Levinas Unhinged shows us another side of Levinas that is often ignored or overlooked. Sparrow's Levinas is foremost a philosopher of the night, attuned to the shadowy underbelly of appearances. Removed from his role as the high priest of ethics, Levinas appears in a new way. Now, the terms horror, indifference, and facelessness all come to the foreground as central to an understanding of Levinasian philosophy. This provocative reading is thus not only a challenge to Levinas scholarship, it is also a challenge to materialist ontology more broadly. The result is a worthy contribution to current debates in speculative realism and phenomenology. ~ Dylan Trigg, Research Fellow at École Normale Supérieure and University College Dublin

Tom  Sparrow
Tom Sparrow Tom Sparrow holds a PhD in philosophy from Duquesne University and currently teaches in the Department of Philosophy at Slippery Rock Univer...
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