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Centre for Research in Philosophy and Literature

The HypoCritical Imagination: Between Kant and Levinas

John Llewelyn
Warwick Studies in European Philosophy

'A true tour de force of a genuine philosophical imagination. It is a masterful achievement and stands as the best sort of challenge to philosophers working in the continental tradition today.'
Dennis Schmidt, Villanova University

In this boldly provocative study John Llewelyn argues that imagination has not been given its due. Imagination gets a raw deal from Emmanuel Levinas; and justice has not been done to it even by Immanuel Kant. Although the Critique of Pure Reason goes as far as to call it the 'common root' of sensibility and understanding, and although, according to the Critique of Judgement, imagination co-operates with reason in the feeling of the aesthetic sublime, it is by reason as opposed to imagination that the indispensable ethical contribution to this feeling is said to be made.

The HypoCritical Imagination: Between Kant and Levinas asks whether imagination might reach out as far as to touch the rational feeling that in the Critique of Practical Reason is named moral respect, reverence or regard. Might imagination stretch still further, below the moral law that is the ultimate object of awe for Kant to something like the an-archic enigma that Levinas calls the face? Is imagination given its due only by being extended beneath the Kantian root, across and below the discourses of all three Critiques, turned not simply, as the Neo-Kantian slogan enjoins, 'back to Kant', but back too beyond him, hypoCritically back beyond every root; so that only in doing justice to the imagination in this way would justice be done, as the Husserlian rallying call enjoins, 'to the things themselves'?

On the way to his affirmative answers to these questions, John Llewelyn conducts dazzling analyses of the work of, among others, Schelling, Hegel, Heidegger, Arendt, Derrida, and of the poetics of Emily Dickinson.

The HypoCritical Imagination: Between Kant and Levinas is a brilliant treatment of a pivotal yet under-exploited topic and is essential reading for students of philosophy, art theory and literature.

John Llewelyn first taught philosophy at the University of New England, Australia, and has been Reader in Philosophy at Edinburgh University and Visiting Professor at the University of Memphis and Loyola University of Chicago. His books include the acclaimed Emmanuel Levinas: The Genealogy of Ethics, also published by Routledge.