Sunday, 9 July 2017
What does space flight signify for the Jewish philosopher? The first thing that strikes the eye is the way that Levinas puts Gagarin and Heidegger back to back. Strange comparison: what do the Russian cosmonaut and the rustic thinker of Todtnauberg have to do with one another? In fact, they represent absolute antipodes: Soviet Communism and German Fascism, technological wizardry and technophobic anti-modernism, vita activa and vita contemplativa. Most importantly, for Levinas this impossible couple stands for the choice between “enlightened uprootedness” (enracinement éclairé) and “earthly attachment” (attachement terrestre). By voyaging into space, man leaves behind his mythic homeland: even further, he discovers that this hallowed place was never anything but superstition and idolatry. Levitation makes of the human being a creature of the universe. Against the philosopher of the forest clearing, Levinas defends the astral desires of technological man.