How to read author: meditation on method

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Based on the reception of Emmanuel Levinas (1906–1995) philosophy in the English-speaking world, the paper highlights some tendencies in reading and commenting on classical philosophical works that have been the focus of attention for a long time. The author makes a suggestion that we can find persistent but nonetheless dynamic, patterns of commenting and interpreting. The first wave of Levinas studies was apologetic and laudatory. Its main task was to introduce new concepts, i.e. to paraphrase. The second wave was much more appropriative and critical. In this period, the scholars tried to apply the philosophy of the Other to existing problems or they tried to resolve the paradoxes that were the products of apologetic readings. The today’s third wave recreates and readjusts interpretive strategies inherent to the first and second wave. To explain this dynamics of reading, the paper introduces a normative scheme that consists of three regulative principles – “faithfully”, “truthfully”, and “ethically”. Due to this tripartite opposition, in which “faithfully” refers to fidelity to an original, “truthfully” refers to the search for universal truth, and “ethically” refers to the inaccessibility for an ego to grab hold of a text of another person, commenting grows intensive. In addition, the opposition of “faithfully” and “truthfully” demonstrates some liberty in such, to some extent, involuntary practice as commenting. This reflexion helps identify the current phase of commenting on classical texts and the intentions of readers and commentators. What is more, it provides justifications for innovative readings of Levinas’ oeuvre as well as the texts of other great philosophers.
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Archival date: 2019-04-24
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