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Levinas, The Material, and Ethics

North American Levinas Society

12th Annual International Conference

Loyola University Chicago

Chicago, IL, USA

July 24-27, 2017


Plenary Speakers:

Adriaan Peperzak, Loyola University Chicago

Tom Sparrow, Slippery Rock University

Annual Talmudic Lecture: Georges Hansel, SIREL


Director: Hugh Miller, Loyola University Chicago

Associate Director: Jacob Torbeck, Loyola University Chicago




“The Other’s material needs are my spiritual needs,” Levinas says, quoting Rabbi Israel Salanter. “In corporeality,” he says in Otherwise Than Being, is to be found “the duty to give to the Other even the bread out of one’s own mouth and the coat from one’s shoulders.” Matter and corporeality are thus at the center of ethical service, of “hospitality.”

But the general problem of matter, materiality, corporeality is much broader. In more traditional philosophical systems, ancient, medieval, modern, and postmodern, the question of matter is of great importance. From the ancient notions of it as the locus of potentiality, the principium individuationis, and the counterpart to form, to the modern notions of it as ideational content, the noematic correlate of noesis, the origin of consciousness according to emergent accounts, and in the so-called “New Materialism,” matter has been a central concern of foundational thought.  But what happens when, not metaphysics or the question of the Being of beings, but ethics becomes “first philosophy”? What rôle does matter then play in the development of such an ethics, and of the philosophy or theory conditioned by such a beginning?

This conference welcomes papers addressing the issues of the material, the corporeal, in their relation to the ethical, and the political.

As has become customary in NALS over the years, however, we also welcome papers on any topic in Levinas studies that happens to be of interest to you. The official language of the conference will be English and so while we welcome papers by non-native speakers, we suggest that all papers be translated for delivery.

The deadline for receipt of proposals for individual papers or for three-person panels (of no more than 500 words) is Wednesday May 31st, 2017. Due to time considerations, this deadline is firm. Please send all proposals to Hugh Miller at All submissions will be acknowledged. Notifications of the acceptance of proposals will be sent out by June 7, 2017. For registration and fees payment, conference program (when settled), and travel/lodging arrangements, please visit for the link to the 2017 conference page, coming shortly.

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