Desire and Justice : Levinas and Heschel on Human and Divine Pathos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Abstract

The article investigates notions of subjectivity, pathos, desire and God in the philosophies of Emmanuel Levinas and Abraham Heschel. By bringing the two philosophers into dialogue, the article aims to question Levinas’ conviction that the idea of a personal God, characterized by “divine pathos,” is a mythological remnant which unavoidably leads the subject into idolatry. Furthermore, it challenges the assumption, also held by Levinas, that a God who not only can be desired by human beings, but who is also a desiring God, necessarily puts us at the risk of disregarding our fellow human beings. Pushing this assumption to its limits, one can even ask whether the proposed redirection of the desire for God towards the other human being does not imply the risk of making the other person – the neighbor – an idol, and thereby deceiving her or him in a more intricate – but no less malign – way. Finally, the article suggests that part of the problem with Levinas’ assumption resides in his understanding of the nature of desire, more precisely, in his belief that there is such a thing as a non-erotic, “pure” metaphysical desire. It is argued that in order to attain a richer understanding of divine-human (but also of intrahuman) interrelatedness, it is necessary to recognize the unruly, erotic or even “impure” nature of desire. In this recognition lies the key to what can be termed, with inspiration from Heschel, a “theology of pathos.”

Details

Authors
External organisations
  • Stockholm school of theology
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Religious Studies

Keywords

  • justice, God, pathos, subectivity, desire, phenomenology
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSaving Desire : The Seduction of Christian Theology
EditorsLeRon Shults, Jan-Olav Henriksen
PublisherWilliam B. Eerdmans
Pages164-189
ISBN (Print)9780802866264
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes
Externally publishedYes