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Time and History as Parameters of Liberation: Some Indications from Levinas and Nagarjuna

May, John D'Arcy (2014) Time and History as Parameters of Liberation: Some Indications from Levinas and Nagarjuna. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 27 (1). pp. 20-34. ISSN 2047-704X


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‘Historicity’, the realisation that cultural values, religious beliefs and scientific ideas are historically conditioned, transformed the study of religions in the 19th and 20th centuries. The fusion of ontology, phenomenology and hermeneutics revealed an existential dimension of historicity, which was expressed innovatively – if enigmatically – by the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas in his critiques of Husserl and Heidegger.

Underlying the concepts of history and narrative is the problem of understanding time. For Levinas, this is bound up with the encounter of self and other (in his terms: the entry of the Other into the Same, thereby opening a perspective on the Infinite and awakening consciousness). Unlike Heidegger, Levinas understood death on the basis of time, not vice-versa, and his explorations into the relationships of time, death and the other amount to a transformation of the presuppositions on which Christian faith and theology have been based for centuries.

Buddhism, seen through the prism of Nāgārjuna’s dialectic, deconstructs these presuppositions in an even more radical way; the question is, at what cost? Only a careful understanding of non-dualism and the two levels of truth, conventional and transcendent, prevents him from losing his foothold in history altogether and with it any basis for a liberation that issues in a viable ethic. The dialogue between these two radical accounts of liberation, one Jewish, the other Buddhist, stimulates Western Christianity to rid itself of anthropomorphisms and outmoded metaphysics and rediscover the life-structuring and identity-building stories which, in a comparative exchange with the Buddha-legend, could allow Christian and Buddhist ‘theologies’ to collaborate.

Item Type: Published Articles
Repository Version: Author's Final Manuscript
Keywords: time, history, liberation, Levinas, Nagarjuna
Fields of Research: 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2299 Other Philosophy and Religious Studies > 229999 Philosophy and Religious Studies not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
Subjects: A - Philosophy
A - World Religions
College/Association with University of Divinity: YTU: Yarra Theological Union
Depositing User: Dr John D'Arcy May
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2016 04:11
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2016 05:36
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/2069

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