Rejects Levinas’s argument for the preeminence of ethics in philosophy.
"Imagine listening at a keyhole to a conversation with the task of transcribing it, and the result may be a text similar to the present one." — from Part I: Stagework
In a series of meditations responding to writings by Emmanuel Levinas, David Appelbaum suggests that a flawed grammar warrants Levinas to speak of language at the service of ethics. It is the nature of performance that he mistakes. Appelbaum articulates this flaw by performing in writing the act of the philosophical mind at work. Incorporating the voices of other thinkers—in particular Levinas's contemporaries Jacques Derrida and Maurice Blanchot—sometimes clearly, sometimes indistinctly, Appelbaum creates on these pages a kind of soundstage upon which illustrations appear of what he terms "a rhetorical aesthetic," which would reestablish rhetoric, rules for giving voice—and not ethics—as the correct matrix for understanding the otherness and beyond-being that Levinas seeks in his work.
David Appelbaum is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at New Paltz. His many books include Jacques Derrida's Ghost: A Conjuration; The Delay of the Heart; Disruption; The Stop; Everyday Spirits; and Voice, all published by SUNY Press.