The status of love in philosophy : an examination of the role of love (eros) in the work (or works) of selected French thinkers

This dissertation exposes the status of eros in the works of Levinas, Irigaray, and, Nancy. I begin by evaluating Levinass phenomenological analyses of eros in Time and the Other and Totality and Infinity. In order to fully appreciate this, however, I must necessarily also provide a summary overview of the central theme which guides Levinass work: the Other. This leads Levinas to develop ethics as first philosophy, which in turn implies that the reduction of the Other to the same is the unethical gesture par excellence. Levinas formulates eros as the equivocal par excellence; a profane relation with the radical alterity of the feminine. Eros, for Levinas, inevitably lapses back to the economy of the same, and hence he looks to paternal fecundity to understand a relation with alterity untainted by erotic sensuality. Moreover, I identify the themes in Levinass work which guide this dissertation: the plurality of being, the tactility of erotic caressing, transcendence in eros, sexual difference, the affair between love and death, revisiting Platos Symposium, and, the erotic relationship with alterity. Having exposed these themes, and pre-empting a feminist critique of Levinas, I move on to the work of Luce Irigaray. After contextualising Irigarays feminist project, I expose and evaluate her critical reading of Levinas, particularly in her essay The Fecundity of the Caress. For Irigaray, Levinas mistakenly assumes a universal masculine subject, which in turn denies the feminine (and thus empirical women) a chance to be subjects. The fact that Levinas considers eros profane suggests, for Irigaray, that Levinass phenomenology of eros is haunted by a patriarchal bias evinced in the way he turns to paternity to salvage eros from a damnable carnality. Irigaray, in contrast, asserts eros as a relationship between the two real poles of sexual alterity.

Eros thus holds potential as a just relation between the sexes. However, I find that Irigarays insistence on the biological markers of sexual difference becomes somewhat too idealistic. When compared with one another, Irigaray and Levinas arrive at an impasse which is solved by turning to the work of Jean-Luc Nancy. Nancy insists that love (including eros) cannot be thought as anything but an indefinite multiplicity. Nancys thought on love reflects his formulation of being-singular-plural, an ontology which asserts being-with is axiomatic in all philosophical investigations. In Shattered Love, Nancy deconstructs dialectics in order to show that love does not operate in a dialectical fashion. Both Levinass and Irigarays accounts of eros are exposed as dialectical. Nancy, in contrast, formulates love and sex/gender as the exposure of a subject to the relation with the other. Moreover, by examining Nancys thought on the body, eros can be derived as subtending all relations between sexed bodies. Thus Nancy figures eros as neither ideal nor profane, nor does he restrict eros to an ideal relation between the masculine and the feminine. However, Nancys opaque philosophy is not without fault. Although Nancy offers an interesting way in which to think eros, certain avenues of thought remain unexplored.

© 2012 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria

Please cite as follows:

Kourie, M 2012, _The status of love in philosophy : an examination of the role of love (eros) in the work (or works) of selected French thinkers_, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed _yymmdd_ < / >


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