Emmanuel Levinas and the New Science of Judaism


  • Michael Sohn

Michael Sohn, 2121 Euclid Avenue, RT 1340, Cleveland, OH, 44115, m.sohn@csuohio.edu.


This article addresses Emmanuel Levinas's re-conceptualization of Jewish identity by examining his response to a question he himself poses: “In which sense do we need a Jewish science?” First, I attend to Levinas's critique of modern science of Judaism, particularly as it was understood in the critical approaches of the nineteenth-century school of thought, Wissenschaft desJudentums. Next, I detail Levinas's own constructive proposal that would, in his words, “enlarge the science of Judaism.” He retrieved classical textual sources that modern Judaism had neglected, while at the same time he enlarged Judaism's relevance beyond a historical community by turning to phenomenology as a rigorous science. Finally, I conclude with some reflections on the broader implications of this new science of Judaism for Jewish ethics and identity in a post-war period.