In Search of the Good Life: Emmanuel Lev­inas, Psy­cho­analy­sis, and the Art of Living

Paul Mar­cus
  • Review
By – September 1, 2011
The many bril­liant works of Emmanuel Lev­inas range from the dif­fi­cult to mas­ter to those gras­pable only by those near­ly as gift­ed as Lev­inas him­self. So a col­lec­tion of psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic essays seek­ing to use Levinas’s teach­ings in the con­text of every­day life, yet writ­ten acces­si­bly, for a lay audi­ence, is an excel­lent project. This book large­ly achieves that aspi­ra­tion, although some­what uneven­ly— made up, as it is, of a series of essays, some of which are more suc­cess­ful than oth­ers in acces­si­bil­i­ty, and some of which are more suc­cess­ful than oth­ers in the con­vey­ing of Lev­inasian thought — its few flaws are well com­pen­sat­ed for by its pos­i­tives, and, of course, it is one of the few books of its kind. High points include Guard Your Tongue,” a well-done essay on gos­sip; and On Read­ing a Sacred Book.” While even this acces­si­ble series of essays are still com­plex and requir­ing of some inten­sive crit­i­cal thought, the work is emi­nent­ly read­able, and the prod­uct is a col­lec­tion well worth own­ing. Use­ful for rab­bis and any­one involved in coun­sel­ing, as well as any­one inter­est­ed in mod­ern Jew­ish ethics, and for libraries and Jew­ish insti­tu­tion­al collections.
Ami­tai Adler is a Con­ser­v­a­tive rab­bi. He teach­es and writes in Los Ange­les, CA, and has been pub­lished in Sh’­ma and Jew­ish Bible Quarterly.

Discussion Questions