A Big Success!

LEVINAS AND KANT: THE PRIMACY OF ETHICS

LEVINAS PHILOSOPHY SUMMER SEMINAR

July 7-11, 2014

                    

 

University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14260

Directed by Richard A. Cohen

 

           2nd Annual LPSS 2014 - University at Buffalo - A Big Success

Scholars from around the world travelled to Buffalo and engaged in a week long intense discussion of the philosophies of Emmanuel Levinas and Immanuel Kant, their similarities and differences especially regarding the primacy of ethics.  In addition to classroom lectures and discussions, informal conversations and socializing included group lunches on campus, an opening BBQ at Ellicott Creek Park on Monday evening, a Wednesday afternoon visit to Niagara Falls, including a ride on the Maid of the Mist and dinner at Top of the Falls Restaurant on Goat Island, and a concluding Friday Happy Hour and dinner at a local Buffalo restaurant on Maple Ave.  Here is a sampling of photos:

 

THEMES OF THE SEMINAR:

Both Emmanuel Levinas and Immanuel Kant assert the primacy of ethics.  At the same time, both see this primacy as supporting rather than undermining science.  Indeed, for Levinas ethics provides the very justification of truth.  Nevertheless, despite their proximity, these two thinkers are as far apart as classical and contemporary philosophy.  The critical idealism of Kant concludes and culminates the grand project of representational philosophy – the primacy of knowledge - which began with Parmenides’ equation of being and logos.  In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant shows the grounds and the boundaries of natural science and metaphysics.  Building on these analyses, in the Critique of Practical Reason, he shows the grounds and boundaries of rational ethics.  Post-Kantian thought from Schelling to Nietzsche to Heidegger, from Romanticism to Expressionism to Dadaism, breaks with Kantian objective rationality by shifting to creative imagination.  Levinas opens up a radically different post-Kantian path: renewing the primacy of ethics Kant proclaimed by liberating it from its Kantian dependence on objectivist rationality.  For Levinas neither science nor aesthetics but rather “ethics is first philosophy.”  Only in this revolutionary ethical reorientation of philosophy do science and aesthetics for the first time find their proper significance.   Thus Levinas does not reject ethics in a positivist or pretentious “beyond good and evil.”  But this is because ethics begins not in respect for law, not in autonomy, not in pure freedom, but rather in responsiveness to the suffering of the other person.  Moral responsibility emerges in and as the primacy of the other, the other’s transcendence as ethical obligation.  To better understand what is new in Levinas’s thought this seminar will compare and contrast it to Kant, and especially to the Kantian “primacy of practical reason.”   We will enter into a dialogue between Levinas and Kant based on the idea that though these two thinkers are radically separated by the divide between classical representational philosophies oriented by eternity, the soul and divinity, and contemporary philosophies which takes seriously time, history, language, the body and worldly being, that these two thinkers are in special and fruitful proximity across this divide. 

The seminar is composed of ten invited scholars – graduate students, post-doctoral students and professors - selected from applicants from around the world, plus a limited number of auditors It is directed by Professor Richard A. Cohen (University at Buffalo), assisted by two additional professors, in 2014: Professor James McLachlan (Western Carolina University) and Dr. Jolanta Saldukaityte (Vilnius, Lithuania)

 

Participants 2014

Viktoras Bachmetjevas, PhD candidate, Philosophy; Philosophy Instructor, Kaunas University of Technology &  Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania.

Kyle David Bennett, PhD, 2013, Philosophy of Religion, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA; Adjunct Prof. of Philosophy, Caldwell College, New Jersey, USA.

Sasha-Mae Eccleston, PhD candidate, Classics, University of California at Berkeley, USA; Mellon

Postdoctoral Fellow in Classics at Pomona College, starting Fall 2014.

Parnika Goel, PhD candidate, Philosophy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Kevin Houser, PhD candidate, Philosophy, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA.

Stephen J. Innes, PhD, 2013, Philosophy of Religion, King’s College London, UK; Graduate Teaching Assistant, King’s College London.

Ronke Oke, PhD candidate, Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, USA.

Irina Poleshchuk, PhD, 2009, Philosophy, University of Helsinki, FInland; Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland, and Docent, European Humanities University, Vilnius, Lithuania.

David Martinez Rojas, PhD candidate, Philosophy (Social and Political Thought), University of Sussex, UK.

Sarah Weil, MA student, Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

Auditors

Fosco Bugoni, BA student, Philosophy, University of Milan, Italy.

UB Graduate Students: Chris Buckman, Anthony Fay, Thomas Gezella, Emina Melonic, Zane Welte.

UB Undergraduate: Isaac Burger

       Schedule of the Seminar:

July 7-11 Mornings:

10:00am to 12:30pm: lecture by Richard A. Cohen and/or invited Professor; discussion afterwards.

Group Lunch: 12:30pm to 1:30pm

Afternoons, July 7, 8, 10, 11:

1:30pm to 5:00pm: “explication de texte” by participants; discussion afterwards

July 7: 6:30pm BBQ Ellicott Creek Park

July 9: 1:30pm to 8:30pm: excursion to Niagara Falls, USA, group dinner

July 11: 6:00pm Happy Hour and group dinner

       Location:

640 Clemens Hall, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14260  USA

The seminar participants will prepare by reading selected readings from Levinas’s two major works,Totality and Infinity (1961) and Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence (1974), Kant's Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793), "On the Miscarriage of all Philosophical Trials in Theodicy" (1791), as well as selected articles or portions of articles related to the Levinas-Kant encounter. 

         Seminar Director:

Richard A Cohen is a world-wide recognized Levinas scholar.  He is author of three books on Levinas: Elevations: The Height of the Good in Rosenzweig and Levinas (Chicago, 1994); Ethics, Exegesis and Philosophy (Cambridge 2001); and Levinasian Meditations: Ethics, Philosophy, and Religion (Pittsburgh, 2010).  He is also English translator and/or editor of four of Levinas’s books (Time and the Other and Additional Essays; Ethics and Infinity; Discovering Existence with Husserl; New Talmudic Readings); editor of Face to Face with Levinas (Pittsburgh, 1986); co-editor of In Proximity: Emmanuel Levinas and the Eighteenth Century (Lubbock, 2001); and author of many articles on Levinas and modern and contemporary philosophy.  He is Professor of Philosophy, acting Gordon and Gretchen Gross Professor of Jewish Studies, and Director of the Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage, at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), and Director of the Levinas Center.  

        Assisting Levinas Scholars

James McLachlan is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Western Carolina University.  He was an assisting professor in last year’s LPSS in Vilnius.  He is past co-chair of the Mormon Studies Group at the American Academy of Religion, member of the board of the Institute for American Religious and Philosophical Thought, and organizer of the Personalist Seminar.  His research interests include 20th century Continental thought, especially Levinas, Sartre and Berdyaev.  He also publishes on American and European Personalism, Process Theology, Romanticism and idealism, and Mormon Theology. 

Jolanta Saldukaityte is co-organizer of the LPSS, and was organizer of the centennial conference on the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas held at the University of Vilnius, Vilnius, Lithuania, April 2006.  She has published several articles on Levinas's philosophy, especially in its relation to the thought of Martin Heidegger. In 2011 she defended her PhD thesis at the University of Vilnius on "Thinking of Difference in Heidegger and Levinas."  

        Sponsors:

The Levinas Philosophy Summer Seminar is organized by Professor Richard A. Cohen (University at Buffalo) and Dr. Jolanta Saldukaityte; and sponsored by: The Levinas Center; Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage (including donation by Florence Edlin); Humanities Institute, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Buffalo, New York, USA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013

“Emmanuel Levinas: The Origin of Responsibility”

Levinas Philosophy Summer Seminar

Directed by Richard A. Cohen

July 8 to 12, 2013

Vilnius, Lithuania

 

Themes of the 2013 Seminar:

The ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) represents one of the most profound and innovative contributions of 20th century thought.  Levinas calls for a fundamental reorientation of life and thinking according to which not knowledge, or even aesthetics, but ethics - the elevation of the good - would be recognized as "first philosophy.”  The defining mark of ethics, however, would no longer lie in a concern for self, for self-esteem or the quest for happiness.  Rather ethics would originate in the more difficult primacy of the other person, as moral responsibility to and for the other person, to care for the other, and ultimately as responsibility to and for all others, the call of justice. 

The Levinas Philosophy Summer Seminar is an annual one-week long summer seminar of research and discussion.  The program begins July 2013, in Vilnius, Lithuania, birth country of Levinas.   In the summer of 2014 it will be held in Buffalo, New York, USA.  Each summer the focus will be on a different aspect of Levinas’s philosophy.  The seminar is composed of ten invited scholars, selected from applicants from around the world, and is directed by Professor Richard A. Cohen.  It is anticipated that at least one guest lecturer will also address the seminar.  

General Schedule of the first annual seminar, held in Vilnius, Lithuania, is as follows:

  • July 8th to 12th, 2013, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.

  • Mornings, 10:00 am to 12:30 pm: lecture by Richard A. Cohen and discussion.

  • Group lunch: 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm.

  • Afternoons: 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm: presentations by participants and discussions. 

  • Group dinner at local restaurant: 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm

  • July 10th: Wednesday morning lectures by James McLachlan and Chung-Hsiung Rai on "Levinas and Aesthetics", Afternoon trip to Kaunas

  • Thursday evening Roundtable Discussion: "Joyful Ethics". Location: La Boheme, Vilnius.  Open to the Public

To hear and see the lectures and presentation, click on: LPSS 2013 video

 

2013 Participant Selected:

INVITED SPEAKERS:
Prof. James M. McLachlan
(Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, USA)
Prof. Chung-Hsiung (Raymond) Lai ( President of Philosophy Association of Tainan, Taiwan; Dean of College of Liberal Arts, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan).

PARTICIPANTS:
Dr. Cyndie Sautereau (PhD, Philosophy, Laval University, Québec, Canada; Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Fonds Ricœur, Paris, France),
Dr. Irina Poleshchuk (PhD, Philosophy, Department of Social and Moral Philosophy, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; post-doctoral research, European Humanities University, Vilnius, Lithuania)
Assoc. Prof. Lin Ma (PhD, Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, Catholic University, Louvain, Belgium; School of Philosophy, Renmin University of China (Beijing))
Viktoras Bachmetjevas (PhD graduate student of Philosophy at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania)
Nicole Guerriero (MA, Philosophy, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Buffalo, USA; Toronto, Canada)
Raluca Badoi (PhD graduate student of Philosophy, Department of European Studies, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Prof. Igor Dukhan (PhD, Philosophy (Philosophy of Culture) and Architecture, Belarusian State University; Chair, Arts and Design, Belarusian State University, Minsk, Belarus)
Paul-Gabriel Sandu (PhD candidate in Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany;Romania)
Assoc. Prof. Abey Koshy (PhD, and Assoc. Prof, Philosophy, Dept. of Philosophy, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, India)
Mao Xin (MA, Theology and Religious Studies Department, PhD graduate student, Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK)

AUDITORS
Jake Adair (BA student of Philosophy, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA)

Olga Tomasello (BA student of Philosophy, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA)
Julija Tuleikyte (PhD graduate student of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)

 

Transportation and housing are the responsibility of participants.  Advice on Vilnius housing is available upon request. 

Richard A Cohen is a world-wide recognized Levinas scholar.  He is author of three books on Levinas: Elevations: The Height of the Good in Rosenzweig and Levinas (Chicago, 1994); Ethics, Exegesis and Philosophy (Cambridge 2001); and Levinasian Meditations: Ethics, Philosophy, and Religion (Pittsburgh, 2010).  He is also English translator and/or editor of four of Levinas’s books (Time and the Other and Additional Essays; Ethics and Infinity; Discovering Existence with Husserl; New Talmudic Readings); editor of Face to Face with Levinas (Pittsburgh, 1986); co-editor of In Proximity: Emmanuel Levinas and the Eighteenth Century (Lubbock, 2001); and author of many articles on Levinas and modern and contemporary philosophy. He is Professor of Philosophy, acting Gordon and Gretchen Gross Professor of Jewish Studies, and Director of the Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage, at the University at Buffalo, and Director of the Levinas Center.  

 

Locations: the July 8-12, 2013, Levinas Philosophy Summer Seminar will be held at the Jewish Culture and Information Center, located at 3a/5 Mesiniu St., Vilnius, Lithuania; Thursday evening roundtable at La Boheme.

Organizing Committee:

Professor Richard A. Cohen (University at Buffalo)

Dr. Jolanta Saldukaityte (Mykolas Romeris University)

Sponsors:

The Levinas Center, Buffalo, New York, USA

Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA

Jewish Culture and Information Center, Vilnius, Lithuania