Chapter I. Emmanuel Levinas
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Emmanuel Levinas was born in Lithuania in 1905, though he received a French university education, at Strasbourg. From here, as a student, he travelled to Freiburg where he heard both Husserl and Heidegger lecture. Through his Jewish background he knew Yiddish, and therefore enough German to comprehend the lectures of the two Freiburg philosophers: it was through this social coincidence that a conduit was created from Germany to Paris. As a philosopher in Paris, Levinas introduced and developed phenomenological themes, and became an immensely important influence, widely respected amongst younger philosophers. His institutional career was based on his position as Professor of Philosophy at the Sorbonne (Paris IV); now in his eighties, he has exercised a growing influence in his retirement. His work has evolved considerably in recent years. He suffered under the Nazis, and his work has always had a strong Jewish aspect: especially lately he has become a conscious philosopher of Judaism.