Harman’s on a tear today with his responses to me and Shaviro… He writes a bit up on Levinas’s biography and he’s right that this deserves more emphasis, though i did mention it:
Under these circumstances, I think it would have been understandable, perhaps even admirable, if Levinas had spent the rest of his life writing books with titles like: Heidegger Was an Evil Nazi, Not a Great Philosopher. Indeed, many people who weren’t even born yet at the time of WWII have written lots of things like that.
But Levinas never did that. He never wavered in his assertions that Heidegger was the greatest philosopher of the century and one of the greatest of all time. I find his attitude almost unnervingly serene.
Harman does mention the fact that Levinas was strangely treated under the Geneva conventions when taken prison by the Nazis at the beginning of World War II. Now, it just happens that I’ve been reading a book on Hitler’s eastern campaign and the author actually mentions Levinas as an example of the difference between the Nazi’s treatment of populations in the East and West. Basically, the author (I’m dropping the name) claims, persuasively, that the Nazis were overextended settling thousand year old racial animus in the East to afford to quell anything in the West, and thus were forced, more or less, to be somewhat better (which obviously is comparative) in the West. We often forget about the terrible toll that the Ukrainians and the Poles and Lithuanians suffered under the Nazi occupation (largely because local populations were handing over Jews to the SS, so that complicates the picture of victimhood), since they were oddly trying to make those territories into German lands, though only a bare few percentage of the people were of German origin (whatever that would mean).
Anyway, hat tip to Graham for the title of my next book. (Oh and check out his post on Shaviro and Levi’s latest…I almost spit out my cereal reading the last line…)