Questioning nature: Irigaray, Heidegger and the potentiality of matter [Book Review]

Continental Philosophy Review 36 (1):1-26 (2003)
Irigaray's insistence on sexual difference as the primary difference arises out of a phenomenological perception of nature. Drawing on Heidegger's insights into physis, she begins with his critique of the nature/culture binary. Both philosophers maintain that nature is not matter to be ordered by technical know-how; yet Irigaray reveals that although Heidegger distinguishes physis from techn in his work, his forgetting of the potentiality of matter, the maternal-feminine, and the two-fold essence of being as sexual difference means that his own concept of physis can be understood as another techn. Focussing in particular upon Heidegger's interpretation of Aristotle's privileging of morphé over hylé as a description of presencing into appearance, I show that for Irigaray the movements of presencing and absencing emerge out of a metaphysics that does not take into account the fluidity, the mixtures and interpenetrations of a nature that is limited by fecundity not by death. Our oblivion to nature is the greatest danger, and thus attending to our embodied and hence sexuate nature holds the promise of a new age, since it is rooted in the possibilities of the flesh revealed through the cultivated perception of sexual difference.
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