Reed, Robert Charles. “Decreative Phenomenology”, Boston College, 2020. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:109009.
The dissertation addresses two interrelated questions through a reading of works by Emmanuel Levinas and Simone Weil: (1) what justification is there for the reality of ethics since the Shoah, and (2) what does the vulnerability of the person and of ethics imply about the nature of human subjectivity and its witness to atrocity? The thesis argued is that vulnerability is the one quality that best defines human existence at every level of experience, hence that ethics requires constant active preservation. After introducing Levinas and Weil through their ideas of substitution and decreation, respectively, we consider how their tolerance of contradiction defines a decreative hermeneutics, or self-abdicative interpretation of the world. Further preliminaries justify Levinas’s use of value judgments in philosophical arguments and review the relation of his and Weil’s thought to Heidegger’s philosophy, to Nelson Goodman’s notion of worldmaking, and to the problem of evil. Through Levinas’s controversial notion of persecution, the method of decreative phenomenology is developed as an approach to ethical problems that explicitly seeks to preserve the alterity of the other person. Applications include Levinas’s idea of subjectivity as expiation, the status of testimonial literature on atrocity, and the present-day totalizing legacy of the concentration camps.