Being at Home in Nature: A Levinasian Approach to Pagan Environmental Ethics
Keywords:environmental ethics, Jewish ethics, pagan worldview, Levinas
AbstractPagans have accused Judaism of a transcendental disregard for nature, while Jewish thinkers have suggested that paganism exhibits a natural, if primitive, disregard for ethics. For the most part, the paganism of which Jewish philosophers have spoken is understood as religion that has not yet developed any awareness of or respect for God, rather than contemporary Paganism. Pagans have cited some biblical texts in environmental work done by Jewish philosophers and activists. It seems obvious that individual Pagans and Jews have more or less appreciation of nature based on their personal inclinations; there are certainly many examples of good work being done on both sides. Addressing the basic difference in worldview or cosmology that underlies the accusations, I suggest a supplementation of Jewish and Pagan ideas, drawing on the work of the (post)modern Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1906–1995). If Levinas’s under¬standing of transcendence is interpreted in terms of a lateral transcendence of one’s own ego, and one’s limited view of the world, rather than the vertical transcendence of nature, his ethical theory can contribute to the development of interpersonal environmental ethics in a contemporary Pagan worldview.
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