This book tackles one of the 20th century’s most complex philosophers, whose writings are difficult at best and enigmatic and confusing more often than not. Levinas was a philosopher, Talmudist, and “Renaissance man” par excellence. Marcus, an expert in Levinas and a practicing psychoanalyst, is also a prolific author of books and articles in the areas of psychology, religion, spirituality, race relations, forensic psychology, and theater. The author is more than up to the task in this fascinating book as he explores issues related to a psychoanalytic understanding of the Levinasian core principle of “Being for the Other” (manifested by “responsibility for the Other”) as applied to: existential and psychological understandings of anxiety, depression and terror; love (erotic and otherwise); the Holocaust and how the beliefs of Orthodox Jews (and other “believers”) enabled them to “make the suffering sufferable;” religion, and Judaism in particular; and, the implications for psychoanalysis in the real world. Clinical vignettes at the end of many of the chapters give reader a taste of how Levinas’ philosophy could be incorporated into therapeutic conceptualizations and/or interventions. Be prepared to stretch your mind, for this is not Levinas for Dummies (a never-written book). Patience and perseverance yield rewards in Marcus’ tinged-with-brilliance last chapter on a Levinasian-infused psychoanalytic approach to understanding personality, psychopathology, and treatment that may be consistent with Freud’s original idealized intent. Bibliography, index.
William Liss-Levinson is vice president, chief strategy & operations officer of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a consumer health research, information, and publishing company. He holds a Ph.D. in education and is a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Book Council.