This essay argues that Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of embodiment can be an extremely helpful ally for contemporary feminist theorists, critical race theorists, and disability studies scholars because his work suggests that the gender, race, and ability of bodies are not innate or fixed features of those bodies, much less corporeal indicators of physical, social, psychic, and even moral inferiority, but are themselves dynamic phenomena that have the potential to overturn accepted notions of normalcy, naturalness, and normativity. Taking seriously Merleau-Ponty’s insistence that (...) our bodies are the means by which we directly engage with the world, I suggest, encourages us to be attentive to how an individual’s or group’s gender, race, and bodily abilities differentially affect how their bodies are responded to by other bodies. The responses of others, in turn, directly influences the significance of an individual’s actions within that situation. This essay provides a critical examination of specific feminist philosophers, critical race scholars, and disability theorists who creatively utilize Merleau-Pontian insights to illustrate, and ultimately combat, the insidious ways in which sexism, racism, and “compulsory able-bodiedness”, impoverish the lived experience of both oppressors and the oppressed, largely by predetermining the meaning of their bodily interactions in accordance with institutionalized cultural expectations and norms. (shrink)
If social, political, and material transformation is to have a lasting impact on individuals and society, it must be integrated within ordinary experience. Refiguring the Ordinary examines the ways in which individuals' bodies, habits, environments, and abilities function as horizons that underpin their understandings of the ordinary. These features of experience, according to Gail Weiss, are never neutral, but are always affected by gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, and perceptions of bodily normality. While no two people will experience the (...) ordinary in exactly the same way, the multiplicities, possibilities, overlaps, and limitations of day-to-day horizons are always intersubjectively constituted. Weiss turns her attention to changing the conditions and experiences of oppression from ordinary to extraordinary. This book is an impressive phenomenological, feminist reading of the complexities of human experience.M. V. Marder, University of Toronto, Feb. 2009. (shrink)
In Telling Flesh, Vicki Kirby addresses a major theoretical issue at the intersection of the social sciences and feminist theory -- the separation of nature from culture. Kirby focuses particularly on postmodern approaches to corporeality, and explores how these approaches confine the body within questions about meaning and interpretation. Kirby explores the implications of this containment in the work of Jane Gallop, Judith Butler, and Drucilla Cornell, as well as in recent cyber-criticism. By analysing the inadvertent repetition of the nature/culture (...) division in this work, Kirby offers a powerful reassessment of dualism itself. (shrink)
This essay focuses on Husserl’s conception of the natural attitude, which, I argue, is one of his most important contributions to contemporary phenomenology. I offer a critical exploration of this concept’s productive explanatory potential for feminist theory, critical race theory, queer theory, and disability studies. In the process, I draw attention to the rich, multi-faceted, and ever-changing social world that can be brought to life through this particular phenomenological concept. One of the most striking features of the natural attitude, as (...) Husserl describes it, is that it is not natural at all, but rather, is a developmental phenomenon that is acquired through, and profoundly influenced by, specific socio-cultural practices. To de-naturalize the natural attitude, then, is to recognize that the natural attitude is not fixed or innate but relative to a particular time period and culture, and therefore always capable of being changed. (shrink)
An important question that is often raised, whether directly or indirectly, in philosophical discussions of shame‐inducing behavior concerns whether the experience of shame has unique moral value. Despite the fact that shame is strongly associated with negative affective responses, many people have argued that the experience of being ashamed plays an important motivating role, rather than being an obstacle, in living a moral life. These discussions, however, tend to take for granted two interrelated assumptions that I will be problematizing: 1) (...) that the subject's shame is warranted; 2) that the shame is directly attributable to the subject's own actions. I challenge these assumptions by turning to a phenomenon I call secondhand shame, namely, shame that is induced by another person's shameless behavior. This essay examines the gender and racial dynamics that so frequently intensify secondhand shame, and suggests that this troubling phenomenon, when shared as a group experience, can be morally transformative, particularly when it leads to unified public resistance to shameless conduct. (shrink)
The essays presented here by Olkowski and Weiss attempt to situate Merleau-Ponty in the larger context of feminist theory, while impartially evaluating his contributions, both positive and negative, to that theory.
Over the last decade, the international media has devoted increasing attention to operations that separate conjoined twins. Despite the fairly low odds that a child or adult will survive the operation with all of their vital organs intact, most people fail to question the urgency of being physically separated from one’s identical twin. The drive to surgically tear asunder that which was originally joined, I suggest, is motivated in part by a refusal to acknowledge intercorporeality as a basic condition of (...) human existence that doesn’t undermine identity but makes it possible in the first place. (shrink)
This review offers a critical analysis of Shannon Sullivan's “feminist pragmatist standpoint theory” as a framework for thinking about issues of identity and truth. Sullivan claims that Maurice Merleau-Ponty's emphasis on an anonymous or pre-personal quality to bodily experience commits him to a false universality and that his understanding of bodily intentionality traps him in a subjectivist philosophy that is incapable of doing justice to difference. She suggests that phenomenology in general is theoretically limited because of its alleged subjectivism and (...) universalism, and she turns to Dewey's pragmatism to develop a “transactional model” of identity and truth. In response, I argue that Merleau-Ponty's descriptions of anonymity and intentionality do not entail either subjectivism or a false universality. I also challenge Sullivan's conception of truth as transactional flourishing by appealing to the “terrible truths” of violence and oppression. (shrink)
Though Young’s “Throwing Like a Girl” has been praised for pre-senting the “I can” body as more of an aspiration than a reality for many women in the world today, she has also been criticized for claiming that women’s typical modes of bodily comportment are contradictory, and thus that their experience of the “I can” body is compromised. From her critics’ perspective, Young’s account seems to imply that women’s experiences of embodied agency are inferior or deficient in comparison to men (...) who have been encouraged to maximize their physical capabilities. The question this essay addresses is whether the “I can” body is itself a suspect notion that should be rejected altogether, or whether the problem lies in its sexist, racist, and ableist history that has failed to acknowledge the di-verse experiences of embodied agency it was originally intended to describe. Quoique « Lancer comme une fille » ait reçu des éloges pour sa pré-sentation du « je peux » corporel non comme la description d’un état de fait, mais plutôt comme une aspiration pour beaucoup de femmes dans le monde contemporain, certains critiquent la présentation des modalités typiques du comportement corporel féminin comme « contradictoire », car il en découle que l’expérience par les femmes du « je peux » corporel est compromise. Selon ces critiques, l’approche de Young semble impliquer que l’expérience féminine de l’agentivité corporelle est inférieure ou déficiente par rapport à celle des hommes, ces derniers ayant été encouragés à cultiver au maximum leurs capacités physiques. Dans cet article, nous poserons la question suivante : le « je peux » corporel est-il un concept sus-pect que l’on doit rejeter, ou doit-on plutôt dire que le problème gît dans l’histoire sexiste, raciste et capacitiste de ce concept, une histoire qui n’est pas parvenue à rendre compte des diverses expériences de l’agentivité corporelle que le « je peux » visait décrire initialement. (shrink)
: This review offers a critical analysis of Shannon Sullivan's "feminist pragmatist standpoint theory" as a framework for thinking about issues of identity and truth. Sullivan claims that Maurice Merleau-Ponty's emphasis on an anonymous or pre-personal quality to bodily experience commits him to a false universality and that his understanding of bodily intentionality traps him in a subjectivist philosophy that is incapable of doing justice to difference. She suggests that phenomenology in general is theoretically limited because of its alleged subjectivism (...) and universalism, and she turns to Dewey's pragmatism to develop a "transactional model" of identity and truth. In response, I argue that Merleau-Ponty's descriptions of anonymity and intentionality do not entail either subjectivism or a false universality. I also challenge Sullivan's conception of truth as transactional flourishing by appealing to the "terrible truths" of violence and oppression. (shrink)
A critical application of Ruddick's model of maternal thinking is the best way to grapple with the ethical dilemmas posed by sex- selective abortion which I view as a "moral mistake." Chief among these is the need to be sensitive to local cultural practices in countries where sex- selective abortion is prevalent, while simultaneously developing consistent international standards to deal with the dangers posed by the use of sex- selective abortion to eliminate female fetuses.
This paper critically examines the practices of reading and writing through the differing perspectives offered by Kierkegaard, Sartre, Barthes, Foucault, and Derrida. Although Kierkegaard''s and Sartre''s respective views on reading and writing do not receive much attention today, I argue that both articulate (albeit in different ways) a notion of shared responsibility between reader and writer that is compatible with their respective emphases on absolute responsibility for oneself, for others, and for the situation. An advantage to both Sartre''s and Kierkegaard''s (...) accounts from a postmodern perspective, is that they affirm the simultaneity of individual and co-responsibility without appealing to a fixed or unitary self. (shrink)
The articles in this special issue of the Journal of Speculative Philosophy were selected from revised versions of papers that were originally presented at the fifty-ninth annual meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy in September 2021. This virtual conference took place on September 17–18 and 23–26 after the cancellation of the 2020 conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.Bonnie Honig and Mel Y. Chen gave the SPEP 2021 Plenary Addresses and we are grateful to be able to include (...) Honig's plenary, "Taking Back the Camera: Race and Agonism in Mr. Deeds and The Fits" in this special issue. Thinking both with and against Stanley Cavell's and Giorgio Agamben's respective readings of... (shrink)
The articles in this special issue of the Journal of Speculative Philosophy were originally presented at the fifty-eighth annual meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 31 to November 2, 2019. The meeting was hosted by Duquesne University. It featured two outstanding plenary presentations that bear mentioning even though they are not reproduced in these pages: Susan Stryker's "How Being Trans Made Me a Philosopher!" and Robert Brandom's "Magnanimity, Heroism, and Agency: Recognition as Recollection." (...) Stryker explained in her talk how she came to recognize and enact her identity as a trans woman, and to publish her pathbreaking paper, "My Words... (shrink)