Levinas And Heidegger's Relationship With Death

3063 Words13 Pages


Joshua Vantard
Phenomenology & Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Institute of Philosophy
Catholic University of Leuven

The notion of death held an extremely significant role in Heidegger’s philosophy. Heidegger's analysis of death influenced later leading continental thinkers to follow in his footsteps. One of these was Emmanuel Levinas. This is not entirely surprising as for a short time Levinas was a pupil of Heidegger. Despite the brief pupilage there were sharp distinctions. One of these is the way in which they saw death on an unstructured level at least. Levinas and Heidegger had competing phenomenological
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In Being and Time, Heidegger conceived of an ontological conception of death. Death is very much among us everywhere we go. People die every day in hospitals, war-zones, and accidents and in many other situations. Although there is such an unquestionable prevalence of death, Heidegger believed the death of other people, not just if they are a stranger but even if they might be a friend or family member; can in no way match the loss accompanied by ones own death . We each have a personal relationship with death. Death is not shared and therefore not transferable in a figurative sense. It is also of course not transferable in a literal sense. The death of one cannot be substituted or reversed by the death of another. Too often, death is passed off as a normal phenomenon . We see others die whether they are soldiers, strangers or loved ones; but we never see ourselves die. Although we can have authentic relationships with these loved ones, our Dasein ceases only in our own death regardless. The death of a loved one is of course the first pressing confrontation we face with death. In spite of this, before the true contemplation or occurrence of our very own death, death is not seen as something especially pressing or near. The everyday mention of death normalizes out the term throughout a great number of mentions, so that it reduces itself to…show more content…
Firstly, can we build upon these two descriptions and come up with phenomenological conception of being towards death that can take some of the most favorable or likely elements of Levinas, the same of Heidegger and combine the two? Levinas and Heidegger’s disagreement on being towards death characterize not only a debate in the academic world of philosophy, but also popular culture and the aporia which people in modern world may endure quite regularly. They may be unable to pick between the two or, may regularly switch between the two depending of course on their consequential relationship with the Other. How can we develop a phenomenological conception that unifies the two? I believe that those such as Steve Jobs are somewhat of a cross between Heidegger and Levinas' view, and there are many versions of such crosses . It would be interesting to put this into a phenomenological description. To do this in a nutshell without citations would be much easier than of course to cite and discuss with the many thinkers of the past. It would be a pleasure to write about this in a future
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