Irigaray (book review) Rachel Jones

Towards a Sexuate Philosophy


101013: i had heard of Irigaray, knew she is an important feminist philosopher, knew of her through other works, but this is the first book I read of her. this is definitely a favourite. it is perhaps helpful to have some reading, some knowledge of other, previous philosophical work, as this is critique leading to her work...


it is helpful to know Plato, particularly his image of the cave, but rather than writing against it or reversing polarities, she creatively uses his words to write through it, write further with it, write how the 'speculum mirror'- as used to investigate cavities, interiors, of the human body, particularly gynaecological inspection- show what is not said, and this certainly inspires rereading the work. Irigaray uses words and images that are already in the image, that are suggestive, with her investigation by metaphoric philosophical 'speculum' mirror', of different, female, perception, and this is useful technique...


it is also helpful to know your Descartes and Kant, to follow her radical extensive reading of how the woman, the feminine, is diminished in their work, how the signal dualities of western metaphysics are furthered from Plato and Aristotle, the identities of male/female in form/matter, in this close inspection of this way of thinking, these male-centered concepts of being not critically examined...


it is also helpful in inspiring a new look at masters of western thought, such as Freud, with whom I had intuitively disagreed but never read enough to understand why. read here...


in fact, every tentative intuitive judgement I had thought of everyone from the big name philosophers to the playground Freud and Lacan, is here addressed and informed. makes me want to read her, more than just go to the texts she works through, but it is her approach as a feminist that uncovers sexism in thought, which I enjoy greatly but cannot claim to have the same facility. I am only a man, straight, privileged, healthy, smart enough and fortunate enough to be so without much thought. I want to believe this does not discount any awareness, any understanding, any way of thinking, but such innovative critical thought comes slowly to me...


I am greatly impressed with her discovery of 'being two', of our continued disregard of our maternal heritage, of being born of woman, and how she can revise Heidegger's existential demand of accepting our each personal Death, in order to live, with that existential knowledge or remembrance of our each personal Birth, in order to live, and this idea does make me want to read more on her, as I have found the phenomenologists from Husserl to Merleau-Ponty to be so interesting...


there is so much here, even her suggestion to not reduce the 'different to the same', the unexamined subject always being male, the 'being two', the alterity, of human life and thought- this seems to lead too much to dreaded essentialism, this insistence on ontological rather than simply ontic difference of male and female, and privileging this over racial or class disputes, seems too much an emphasis on what is different from man to woman, rather than what is shared. guess that her work answers these fears, but finally it is perhaps personal idea that rather than becalmed homosocial worlds for men and women, separately, I prefer shared world however tempestuous, however being man or woman is a constant question. more to read...

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