By Colin Davis (auth.)

ISBN-10: 0230287476

ISBN-13: 9780230287471

ISBN-10: 1349407496

ISBN-13: 9781349407491

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There is no fixed meaning of texts, but only an adventure of meaning, an event which is always different. As Gadamer insists, all acts of understanding are unique, not reproductions of given meanings which can be definitively established: 'Es geniigt zu sagen, dais man anders versteht, wenn man uberhaupt versteht' (I, 302) (It suffices to say that one understands differently, if one understands at all). The adverb anders (differently), italicized in Gadamer's text, is important here. Otherness inhabits the very act of interpretation, as both its object and its commanding principle.

22 But in the 1940s at least, Levinas's views are uncompromising; and those views are never straightforwardly retracted in his later writing. As Robbins puts it in reference to Totalite et infini, for Levinas 'poetry is described as and aligned with everything that ethics must struggle against'. 23 Poetry, which stands for art in general in Levinas's writing, is an ethical scandal; and I suspect, reading the overwhelmingly hostile language of 'La Realite et son ombre', that Levinas himself did not fully understand the reasons for his opposition to art.

He stresses the otherness, rather than the sameness, of the object of understanding; and he insists that interpretation is a productive, dynamic activity rather than the reproduction of given but temporarily occluded meanings. Moreover, the casting off of the accidental associations of the interpreter, which is central to Ast's philological endeavour and to much of the hermeneutic thinking which follows him, is simply impossible from Gadamer's perspective. We are in fact largely constituted by those 'accidental associations' - education, upbringing, class, race, culture, time - so that to cast them off, rather than returning to the unity of spirit, would be to cease to exist at all.

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Ethical Issues in Twentieth-Century French Fiction: Killing the Other by Colin Davis (auth.)


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