Nancy Levene

Nancy Levene is an associate professor of religious studies at Yale University. She works on root concepts that structure the humanities, including history, modernity, religion, reason, the West, and the global, and on problems common to the disciplines in both the humanities and the social sciences. She is the author of Spinoza’s Revelation: Religion, Democracy, and Reason (Cambridge, 2004) and Powers of Distinction: On Religion and Modernity (Chicago, 2017), and her current research is on the motif of the end of metaphysics.

Posts by Nancy Levene:

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

On inclusion

In a recent piece in The New York Times’ column The Stone, philosophers Jay L. Garfield and Bryan W. Van Norden lament the blindness of contemporary philosophy departments towards cultures outside the West. Since such departments promulgate a specifically Euro-American philosophy, they should either identify themselves accordingly or expand to include non-Western materials in their curricula. The argument raises a long-standing but still urgent question in the humanities and social sciences. What is it to expand canons of study when the principles of those canons are themselves specific? This is not, to be sure, how Garfield and Norden see it. The canon of philosophy is rather precisely non-specific and can—indeed must—be expanded without further consideration. That academic philosophy does not do so is not principled but simply prejudicial.

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Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Paul Kahn’s roots

Paul W. Kahn’s Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty is a compelling book, though compelling in a sense not unlike an intellectual bruise one is drawn to press on again and again. Ostensibly a re-purposing of Carl Schmitt’s 1922 Political Theology, Kahn’s book possesses a more ambitious armature than his title and the format of following Schmitt’s chapter scheme might suggest. Kahn is a legal scholar by training, and interested here in the problem of sovereignty, which takes him deep into questions of law, jurisprudence, constitutional reasoning, and forms of political organization. It is no less notable, however, that Kahn’s project weighs in on four classic philosophical and political problems . . . .

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Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Commentaries on our age

Varieties of Secularism in a Secular AgeEach contributor [to Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age] delivers a reading of Taylor’s work, helping to evaluate its significance, critical flaws, and lingering questions. They are companion pieces, then, and work best with a knowledge of the book. Their strength as a whole lies in the seriousness with which they address Taylor’s grand narrative and the sprightliness with which they point puzzled readers to related topics and avenues. Does Taylor’s book deserve such scrupulous attention? I am inclined to weight this question from the opposite side. Some of the essays in Varieties are so thought-provoking that I feel grateful to Taylor for having occasioned them, even if his own book is rather more exasperating than, as some of his readers would have it, major or magisterial.

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Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

The third rose

“Youth Without Youth” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Gun violence, sexual congress, female nudity, metaphysics.

So warns the caption to Manohla Dargis’s review
in the New York Times. […]

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Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

The forces unleashed

stillborn11.jpgJust what or who or where is religion for Lilla himself? Is the problem really the Bible—that, in addition to being modern, “we are heirs to the biblical tradition”? This seems so profoundly to beg the question. What makes the Bible the Bible if not the passion (“the forces unleashed”) that would so obviously survive its exile? What makes revelation (the divine light) different from lucidity (the natural light) if not the thing they precisely share: the appetite that drives human beings towards at once hedgehog-like commitments to the whole and fox-like commitments to the piecemeal and the plural. Reason and revelation are names for human desires, but from neither of these desires, then, can there be any separation.

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