Ethan Kleinberg, associate professor of history, associate professor of letters is spending the year as director of the Vassar-Wesleyan Paris Program and an invited scholar at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. During the Fall 2010 semester, Kleinberg delivered two lectures based on his current book project, The Myth of Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas is a French Jewish philosopher who turned to the use of Jewish sacred texts in the service of rethinking Western philosophy in the years following World War II and the Holocaust.
His first lecture was titled “En temps fini, en temps infini: à la recherche de la transcendance dans les lectures talmudiques d’Emmanuel Levinas” (Finite Time and Infinite Time: Tracing Transcendence to Emmanuel Levinas’s Talmudic Lectures), held at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales-Paris on Nov. 16. Kleinberg focused on the ways that Levinas looks to the philosophical idea of infinity in relation to the finitude of human being to establish an Ethics and how this transcendent idea of infinity can be traced to his lectures on the Talmud.
His second lecture was titled, “L’infini chez Levinas comme une optique du divin: Levinas contre la totalité hégélienne et l’historicité heideggérienne” (Levinas’s concept of Infinity as an optic to the Divine: Levinas’s confrontation with “totality” in Hegel and “historicality” in Heidegger”) held at the Université de Rouen on Dec. 1. Kleinberg demonstrated the way that the concept of “infinity” in Levinas’s philosophical work can be seen as an optic point or access to the Divine and how Levinas’s uses this to construct an “anti-totalitarian” philosophy that confronts the work of Hegel and Heidegger.