Alphonso Lingis

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Alphonso Lingis
Born Crete, Illinois
Nationality American
Alma mater Catholic University of Leuven (PhD), Loyola University Chicago (BA)
Era 20th-century philosophy, Contemporary philosophy
School Continental philosophy
Institutions Pennsylvania State University (emeritus)
Main interests
phenomenology, Existentialism, Modern philosophy, Ethics

Alphonso Lingis (born November 23, 1933 in Crete, Illinois) is an American philosopher, writer and translator, currently Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. His areas of specialization include phenomenology, existentialism, modern philosophy, and ethics.


Lingis attended Loyola University in Chicago, then pursued graduate study at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. His doctoral dissertation, written under scholar Alphonse de Waelhens, was a discussion of the French phenomenologists Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre. Returning to the United States, Lingis joined the faculty at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, quickly gaining a reputation as the preeminent English translator of Merleau-Ponty and Emmanuel Levinas.[citation needed] In the mid-1960s he moved to Penn State University, where he worked at his translation projects and published numerous scholarly articles on the history of philosophy. During this period, he also began the habit of wide-ranging world travel that became an abiding theme throughout his written work.

His debut as a book author came in 1983, with Excesses, which combined anthropological scenes with references to the history of philosophy. His unique style, however, did not emerge until 1994, with the release of The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common, Abuses, and Foreign Bodies. Returning to his phenomenological roots, Lingis' 1998 book The Imperative offers his own criticism of phenomenology, based on a critique of Immanuel Kant's idea of the "categorical imperative" applied to human emotions as perceived in limit experiences. In 2000, Lingis returned to his 1994 project against both intellectual and emotional shallowness with Dangerous Emotions. This book provides access to a variety of limit-experience "dares" as well as a philosophy of emotions that covers a wide range of human experiences. In most of his subsequent texts, affects and encounters are responded by a sensitive, embodied and precise phenomenological attention, that each time are occasions for original ethical and philosophical thoughts.

Lingis has developed a reputation for eccentric public lectures, appearing in costume, with props, in total darkness, or speaking amidst strange background music or recorded screams.[citation needed] For example, on January 20, 1997, he delivered a lecture on animal metaphors for human behavior at a small gallery in the center of Kyoto, Japan, dressed as a Geisha before a screen of alternating projections of images of ablutions at the River Ganges, Jean Cocteau's film "La Belle et la Bête" and improvisations on the shamisen by Katagiri Mamoru. The lecture was attended by philosophy professors and graduate students of Kyoto University as well as the general public.[1]

Lingis's travels have shifted increasingly from Europe to the developing world, with especial bases in Bangkok and Rio de Janeiro. In recent years he has also renewed contact with his ancestral heritage, reaching a certain degree of prominence in Lithuania.[citation needed] Now retired from Penn State, Lingis lives near Baltimore, where he continues to write. His books have been translated into French and Turkish, among other languages. In the spring of 2004 the first college course on Lingis was offered at Towson University in Towson, Maryland, taught by Wolfgang W. Fuchs, co-editor of Encounters with Lingis (2003).


  • Excesses: Eros and Culture (1983)
  • Libido: The French Existential Theories (1985)
  • Phenomenological Explanations (1986)
  • Deathbound Subjectivity (1989)
  • The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common (1994)
  • Abuses (1994)
  • Foreign Bodies (1994)
  • Sensation: Intelligibility in Sensibility (1995)
  • The Imperative (1998)
  • Dangerous Emotions (1999)
  • Trust (2004)
  • Body Transformations (2005)
  • The First Person Singular (2007)
  • Wonders Seen in Forsaken Places: An essay on the photographs and the process of photography of Mark Cohen (2010)
  • Contact [photographs] (2010)
  • Violence and Splendor (2011)

Notable Translations (French into English):

  • Emmanuel Levinas, De l'existence à l'existant (1948)
  • Levinas, Totalité et infini: essai sur l'extériorité (1961)
  • Levinas, Autrement qu'être ou au-delà de l'essence (1974)
  • Merleau-Ponty, Le visible et l'Invisible (1964)
  • Pierre Klossowski, Sade, mon prochain (1947)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diary Notes of Michael Lazarin, Professor of English at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]