The time of images and images of time: Lévinas and Sartre

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In this paper, Lévinas’s criticisms and reformulations of Sartre’s phenomenology of imagination, in the early text “Reality and its Shadow,” are explored in detail. Levinas's own views on imagination and art are shown to be intimately linked to his critique of Sartrean temporality, insofar as they rely on a renewed phenomenological examination of sensation. As a result, understanding Lévinas’s discussion of the image provides benefits for grasping his notion of the instant and its importance for some of his own positions vis-à-vis temporality, e.g. on the future and death. The manner in which Lévinas takes issue with Sartre through a phenomenology of the image and and its composition in sensation is first investigated by looking at Lévinas’s novel choice to situate his descriptions of the image with respect to the function and power of art. Nevertheless, despite this crucial decision on Lévinas’s part, departing from earlier phenomenological accounts, there are clear parallels can be drawn between Lévinas’s and Sartre’s descriptions of the image. The similarites and differences between their treatments of the image and the role played therein by the materiality of sensation are then elucidated in terms of the ‘amphiboly’ of the image, distinguishing the image in both its representational and anti-representational characteristics. From there, we proceed to examine the amphiboly of the image according to its temporality attributes, seeing how for Lévinas and Sartre the temporality of the image, as that of an instant, relates to the temporality of consciousness in general.
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Archival date: 2016-08-29
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