Sexuate difference, ontological difference: Between Irigaray and Heidegger [Book Review]

Continental Philosophy Review 43 (1):111-126 (2010)
Animating Luce Irigaray’s oeuvre are two indissociable projects: the disruption of Western metaphysics and the thinking of sexual difference. The intersection of these two projects implies that any attempt to think through the meaning and significance of Irigaray’s notoriously fraught invocation of sexual difference must take seriously the way in which this invocation is itself always already inflected by her disruptive gesture. In this paper, I will attempt to elucidate one moment of this intersection by focusing on her critical engagement with Heidegger. In L’oubli de l’air , Irigaray criticizes Heidegger’s interpretation of the principle of identity as instantiating the same neglect of sexual difference that has been inscribed throughout the history of Western metaphysics. Moreover, Irigaray identifies the vestigial traces of this metaphysical legacy in Heidegger’s commitments to phenomenology. My claim, however, is that if we turn to Derrida’s second Geschlecht essay in order to mediate between Irigaray and Heidegger, the coimplicative nature of their projects comes into focus: on one hand, Derrida identifies within Heidegger’s work an incipient articulation of the very notion of sexuate difference that, on Irigaray’s reading, Heidegger’s work requires but nonetheless elides; on the other hand, Derrida’s rereading of Heidegger’s phenomenological commitments corroborates the philosophical significance of Irigaray’s intervention by recontextualizing the parameters that delimit her invocation of sexuate difference.
Keywords Irigaray  Heidegger  Derrida  Sexual difference  Phenomenology
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DOI 10.1007/s11007-010-9136-7
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