Time and history as parameters of liberation : Some indications from levinas and nāgārjuna

Journal article

D’Arcy May, John. (2014). Time and history as parameters of liberation : Some indications from levinas and nāgārjuna. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion. 27(1), pp. 20-34. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.v27i1.20
AuthorsD’Arcy May, John

‘Historicity’, the realisation that cultural values, religious beliefs and scientific ideas are historically conditioned, transformed the study of religions in the nineteenth and twentieth 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 Na4ga4rjuna’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.

JournalJournal for the Academic Study of Religion
Journal citation27 (1), pp. 20-34
PublisherEquinox Publishing Ltd
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.v27i1.20
Scopus EID2-s2.0-84982816886
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range20-34
Publisher's version
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication process dates
Deposited18 May 2021
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