Materiality and language: Butler's interrogation of the history of philosophy

Philosophy and Social Criticism 23 (3):37-53 (1997)
In Bodies That Matter Judith Butler reflects upon the relationship between women and materiality in the context of the history of philosophy. She points to the presumption of the material irreducibility of sex as the ground of feminist epistemology and ethics and analyses of gender. She also finds a similarity between Aristotle's principles of formativity and intelligibility and Foucault's discussion of how discourse materializes bodies. While Butler's analysis reveals much about the history of philosophy with regard to the discourse on matter and women, nonetheless, she appears to begin with the notion of bodies as largely passive, even negative entities. Addition ally, her analysis also implies that principles of formativity and intel ligibility are historically contingent. This essay seeks to undermine those two positions in preparation for inaugurating a positive theory of fluid structures
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