BSP Podcast: Jakub Kowalewski – Levinas and the Deformalisation of Time

podcast update

Season two of our podcast continues with another presentation from the British Society for Phenomenology Annual Conference 2017 in Brighton.

Season 2 episode 38: 18 July 2018

This recording is of Jakub Kowalewski’s presentation ‘Levinas and the Deformalisation of Time’. You can listen to this episode on the BSP’s Podbean site, and you can also find it on iTunes and all good podcasting apps by searching ‘BSP Podcast’.

Abstract: “In a 1988 interview Levinas describes deformalisation of the notion of time as the essential theme of his research. Commentators have usually interpreted this central Levinasian idea as a provision of a concrete experience in which the formal structure of time is realised. Although correct, this accepted definition is too general. As I will demonstrate in my paper, for Levinas, different concrete experiences not only realise time differently, but, more importantly, are able to impact on the formal structure of time-consciousness itself. In order to defend this thesis, I will argue that Levinas understands the form of time-consciousness as governed by a three-aspect internal tendency or ‘conatus’: a striving for the present; a horizontal synchronisation of the past, present, and future experiences; and a self-projection into the infinite future.  I will then examine the deformalisation of time in the phenomena of responsibility, fecundity, and death, in order to show the three distinct ways in which these phenomena modify, or put into question, the conatus characteristic of the form of time-consciousness. I will claim that a) responsibility for another human being interrupts the striving for the present, b) fecundity, and the time of the child it promises, refuses horizontal synchronisation, and c) death renders impossible the futural self-projection. I will conclude by suggesting that it is responsibility which occupies a privileged position with regards to the other concrete experiences which allow for the deformalisation of the notion of time.”

The British Society for Phenomenology’s Annual Conference took place at the University of Brighton, UK during September, 2017. It gathered together philosophers, literary scholars, phenomenologists, and practitioners exploring phenomenological theory and its practical application. It covered a broad range of areas and issues including the arts, ethics, medical humanities, mental health, education, technology, feminism, politics and political governance, with contributions throwing a new light on both traditional phenomenological thinkers and the themes associated with classical phenomenology. More information about the conference can be found here.