Levinas, Habermas and modernity
Nicholas H. Smith
Macquarie University, Australia
This article examines Levinas as if he were a participant in what Habermas has called `the philosophical discourse of modernity'. It begins by comparing Levinas' and Habermas' articulations of the philosophical problems of modernity. It then turns to how certain key motifs in Levinas' later work give philosophical expression to the needs of the times as Levinas diagnoses them. In particular it examines how Levinas interweaves a modern, post-ontological conception of `the religious' or `the sacred' into his account of subjectivity. Finally, the article looks at some problems that arise for Levinas once his position in the philosophical discourse on modernity is made explicit.
Key Words: Jürgen Habermas • Emmanuel Levinas • modernity • ontology • otherness • religion • social relation