QU professor authors article about 20th century Jewish philosopher


Robert Manning | Photo courtesy of Quincy University

QUINCY — Robert Manning, professor of philosophy at Quincy University, recently authored an article titled “Emmanuel Levinas, Father William Richardson and the Return of the Irresponsible Subject.”

The article was published in Middle Voices, the journal of psychology of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. This volume is dedicated to articles on psychological dimensions in the work of Levinas, a 20th century Jewish philosopher of ethical responsibility.

The article discusses a famous encounter between Levinas and Father William Richardson, a Jesuit priest and psychoanalyst, in 1962. At a party, Levinas told Richardson of his own personal suffering as a Jewish prisoner of war in a Nazi camp and of his parent’s suffering in another Nazi camp — something he rarely spoke about. Richardson regarded the way Levinas shared this personal information as quite rude.

Richardson gave a talk about this encounter titled “The Irresponsible Subject” in a 1993 conference in Chicago. Rather than concern himself with the revelation of Levinas’s suffering as a Jewish person, Richardson psychoanalyzed Levinas to explain why he could have been so rude to him at the party.

In a press release, Manning stated, “In my essay, I argue that the whole incident and Richardson’s interpretation of it reveals something about our human ability to use concepts and our intellectual abilities to insulate ourselves from the otherness of other people. This is more than ironic considering that Levinas’s philosophy is all about our ethical responsibility to other people, an ethical responsibility that derives not from commonality because they are like us but from radical difference and otherness.”

Manning joined the Quincy University faculty in 1990 and was the first recipient of the university’s award for scholarly achievement. He earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago and is the author of two books and several articles published in top journals in the fields of philosophy and religious studies, including Philosophy Today and The Journal of Religion. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Romania in 2006-07 and has spoken at philosophy conferences in eight foreign countries.

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