Contesting the Human: Levinas, the Body, and Racism

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Philosophy and Religious Studies

Publication Date

Fall 2006


In his 1934 essay “Some Thoughts on the Philosophy of Hitlerism,” Levinas identified two major movements within contemporary culture: liberalism and Hitlerism. At one level, these two movements are in strict opposition, but Levinas’s later work explores the way in which liberalism is implicated in the “hatred of the other” that pervades Hitlerism. In this paper, I argue that Cartesian dualism underlies two sorts of anxieties, both of which are expressed as racism. Levinas’s reconception of the body as ethically significant overcomes this dualism, and thus seems to hold promise as a method for undoing contemporary manifestations of racism.


This article was originally published in Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy


© 2006.