This article presents a new argument concerning the relation between Kant’s theory of race and aspects of the critical philosophy. It argues that Kant’s treatment of the problem of the systematic unity of nature and knowledge in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of the Power of Judgment can be traced back a methodological problem in the natural history of the period – that of the possibility of a natural system of nature. Kant’s transformation of the methodological problem (...) from natural history into a set of philosophical problems proceeds by way of the working out of his own problem in natural history – the problem of the natural history of the human races – and specifically the problem of the unity in diversity of the human species, in response to which he develops a theory of race. This theory of race is, further, the first developed model of the use of teleological judgment in Kant’s work. The article thus argues that Kant’s philosophical position on the sy... (shrink)
What happens when well-defined disciplines meet or are confronted with transdisciplinary discourses and concepts, where transdisciplinary concepts are analytical tools rather than specifications of a field of objects or a class of entities? Or, if disciplines reject transdisciplinary discourses and concepts as having no part to play in their practice, why do they so reject them? This essay addresses these questions through a discussion of the relationship between philosophy – the most tightly policed discipline in the humanities – and what (...) I will argue is the emblematically transdisciplinary practice of feminist theory, via a discussion of interdisciplinarity and related terms in gender studies. It argues that the tendency of philosophy to reject feminist theory in fact correctly intuited that the two defining features of feminist theory – its constitutive tie to a political agenda for social change and the transdisciplinary character of many of its central concepts – are indeed at odds with, and pose a threat to, the traditional insularity of the discipline of philosophy. It argues, further, that feminist theory operates with what we should now recognise as a set of transdisciplinary concepts – including, sex, gender, woman, sexuality and sexual difference – and that the use of these concepts in feminist philosophy has been the most far-reaching continuation in the late 20th/early 21st centuries of the critique of philosophy initiated by Marx and pursued by ‘critical theory’. This puts feminist philosophy in a difficult position: its transdisciplinary aspects open it up to an unavoidable contradiction. Nonetheless, this is a contradiction that can and must be endured and made productive. In order to draw out the specificity of the concept of transdisciplinarity at issue the essay begins with a discussion of attempts to define inter- and transdisciplinarity, particularly in gender studies. Arguing for the transdisciplinary origin of the concept of gender, it then suggests one way of understanding its function as a critical concept, before making explicit how this leads to the historical antagonism between traditional philosophy and the critical, transdisciplinary concept of gender and with feminist theory more generally. (shrink)
What does the study of Plato’s dialogues tell us about the modern meaning of ‘sex’? How can recent developments in the philosophy of sex and gender help us read these ancient texts anew? _Plato and Sex _addresses these questions for the first time. Each chapter demonstrates how the modern reception of Plato’s works Ð in both mainstream and feminist philosophy and psychoanalytical theory Ð has presupposed a ‘natural-biological’ conception of what sex might mean. Through a critical comparison between our current (...) understanding of sex and Plato’s notion of genos, Plato and Sex puts this presupposition into question. With its groundbreaking interpretations of the Republic, the Symposium and the Timaeus, this book opens up a new approach to sex as a philosophical concept. Including critical readings of the theories of sex and sexuation in Freud and Lacan, and relating such theories to Plato’s writings, _Plato and Sex_ both questions our assumptions about sex and explains how those assumptions have coloured our understanding of Plato. What results is not only an original reading of some of the most prominent aspects of Plato’s philosophy, but a new attempt to think through the meaning of sex today. (shrink)
In the philosophical works of Emmanuel Levinasʼs early career, it is in a phenomenology of Eros that he claims to have uncovered the site of what he calls ʻtranscendenceʼ. This is no small claim. According to the argument of the later Totality and Inﬁnity (1961), the history of Western philosophy is to be thought as the history of the ʻphilosophy of the sameʼ. Within this polemical generalization almost the whole of Western philosophy is characterized as a totalizing discourse which aims (...) to reduce everything to the categories of a thematizing consciousness. Conceptual structures are employed (or presupposed) in order to make diverse phenomena commensurable within a system, and according to Levinas this operation always constitutes a reduction of what is ʻotherʼ to the order of the ʻsameʼ. In agreement with a certain transcendentalism which is itself implicated in Levinasʼs critique, these structures of thought are then equated with consciousness itself; the thematizing project is one of mastery in which noemata will of necessity conform to noesis, in which the object is constituted for and by the subject. The experience of transcendence, so rare in this version of philosophyʼs history, is the experience of whatever is and truly remains other than me, recalcitrant to mastery through conceptualization and to the transcendental project of the subject to construe everything as originating from within itself. If, then, it is ﬁrst of all in the erotic relation that the possibility of the experience of transcendence is said to arise, Eros can in no sense be dismissed as an unimportant or peripheral theme for Levinas, and a full investigation is warranted, especially given the current interest in Levinasʼs work, interest which is not limited to the discipline of philosophy. Furthermore, as the notion of Eros is closely associated, textually and conceptually, with what Levinas calls ʻthe feminineʼ, critical attention has been excited amongst feminist scholars of various persuasions, with claims – both positive and negative – being made for Levinasʼs signiﬁcance as a resource for feminist philosophy and feminist politics. If assertions of a ʻLevinasianʼ feminism, no matter how qualiﬁed, tend to rest on the idea that Levinasʼs phenomenology of Eros, and analyses of ʻthe feminineʼ mark a break in or a new departure from a ʻmasculinistʼ tradition, this article seeks, in part, to argue to the contrary. (shrink)
This is a critical evaluation of the feminist philosophical literature on the work of Emmanuel Levinas. It brought to a close Sandford's research on Levinas, the main outcome of which was her "The Metaphysics of Love : Levinas and Transcendence".
Written for an introductory series, this book contains the outcome of research into the disputed place of Beauvoir's work within the French philosophical tradition, and the philosophical significance of various of her particular works.
Whilst the distinction between French and Anglo-American feminism was always rather dubious two specific linguistic differences between French and English have nevertheless determined two streams of feminist thought, and complicated the relation between them. Since the 1960s, English-language feminisms, in so far as they are distinctive, have centrally either presupposed or explicitly theorized the category of gender, for which there is no linguistic equivalent in French. At the same time, much (although not all) that came to be categorized as ʻFrenchʼ (...) feminism has been articulated around the category of le féminin, for which there is no ready equivalent in English, although there is an obvious translational choice: ʻthe feminineʼ. Various Anglo-American feminisms have made consideration of what have been seen as feminine attributes and values central to their critical and reconstructive projects, but it is not this (adjectival) sense which is at issue here in the translation of le féminin, a noun. For despite the fact that the French and English words connote differently (in particular, le féminin also covers most of what is meant by the English ʻfemaleʼ), ʻthe feminineʼ, as a direct translation of the different and specific uses of le féminin in various French discourses, has become a common category in English-language feminist discourse, specifically English-language feminist philosophy of a ʻcontinentalʼ disposition, where it is often presumed to be both the proper object of such a philosophy and the proper goal of feminism. But is it? Or what exactly is at stake in making it so? Is ʻthe feminineʼ a necessary or useful category for feminism today? (shrink)
In 1930 Husserl wrote that phenomenology is ‘a transcendental idealism that is nothing more than a consequentially executed self-explication in the form of an egological science, an explication of my ego as subject of every possible cognition, and indeed with respect to every sense of what exists, wherewith the latter might be able to have a sense for me, the ego.’ In transcendental-phenomenological theory, according to Husserl, ‘every sort of existent itself, real or ideal, becomes understandable as a “product” of (...) transcendental subjectivity, a product constituted in just that performance.’ This appears so inimical to the fundamental bases of feminist theory that the question of the very possibility of a ‘feminist phenomenology’ inevitably arises, not least because so much associated with the contributions of feminist theory to philosophy concern precisely the critique of the transcendental, isolated, disembodied subject. This chapter explores the different kinds of feminist phenomenology of pregnancy and birth with this problem in mind. Although phenomenology has developed and transformed itself in ways more accommodating to feminist theory we are still entitled to ask what makes it phenomenology? What are the presuppositions of any feminist phenomenology if it is still to count as phenomenology, rather than descriptive social-psychology or feminist metaphysics or feminist ethics? Is phenomenology essentially tied to first-personal description, or can third-person accounts be a legitimate part of its analyses? If third-person descriptions are accepted as a legitimate, what considerations govern the inevitable interpretative aspect of their analysis? Can there be any phenomenology, feminist or otherwise, without some conception of transcendental subjectivity? And what is at stake in the continued use of the transcendental problematic, granted its immanent phenomenological criticism and its various theoretical transformations? This chapter addresses the question of the philosophical specificity of feminist phenomenology by pursuing its distinction from the use of phenomenological research methods in practice disciplines and qualitative psychology, via two of the pivotal questions raised above: can there be any phenomenology, feminist or otherwise, without some conception of transcendental subjectivity? And what is the role of third person testimony in phenomenology? I will argue that the first of these questions remains a problem for feminist phenomenology, in a way that is not easily solved with recourse to third person testimony, the use of which remains under-theorized in the feminist phenomenological literature. Finally, I will show how the problem of transcendental subjectivity is particularly acute for the feminist phenomenology of pregnancy and birth when we consider the generative metaphorics of its philosophical origin in Kant’s philosophy. (shrink)
What is sex? Some feminists have harboured suspicions about this form of question, given its philosophical (or ‘metaphysical’1) pedigree. But philosophy no longer has the disciplinary monopoly on it. Indeed, with regard to sex, the more interesting task today is to pose and to attempt to answer the question from within a transdisciplinary problematic. For the question requires a theoretical response capable of recognizing that it concerns a cultural and political (and therefore neither a specifically philosophical nor a merely empirical) (...) problem. It requires an account of sex which is theoretically satisfying whilst being both adequate to and critical of everyday experience; a critical-theoretical account capable of embracing the everyday experience of sex, its lived contradictions. This article represents a first attempt to construct a transdisciplinary concept of sex to this end. It traces a line from Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex to some recent attempts to define ‘sex’ and various related but importantly different concepts, and ends by proposing an answer to the question ‘What is sex?’ that draws on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. For our transdisciplinary efforts will of necessity spring from some specific discipline(s) while not remaining confined within them, and not allowing them to remained confined within themselves (which has been something of a problem for philosophy, historically). (shrink)
This paper examines the metaphors of 'preformation' and 'epigenesis' in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and his other references to and various uses of theories of biological generation. It asks what these metaphor are meant to do, philosophically, and whether the idea of epigenesis, in particular, can help explain the specificity of transcendental idealism in relation to empiricism, or whether it illuminates anything concerning the status or the function of the categories. Discussing the most important interpretations of the epigenesis metaphor (...) in the Critique of Pure Reason by Philip Sloan, Günter Zöller and John Zammito, this paper suggests an alternative interpretation of the generative metaphorics surrounding Kant’s presentation of the spontaneous production of the pure concepts by the understanding. Placing the single reference to epigenesis in Critique of Pure Reason in the context of the book’s larger set of metaphors of generation, birth and biological ancestry, this paper argues that the generative model for the production or origin of the categories is in fact that of parthenogenesis, and that this is the only generative model that could have secured the epistemic status and legitimacy of the categories in the Critique of Pure Reason for Kant. This argument also reveals the gendered imaginary subtending Kant’s transcendental idealism and allows us to consider the implications of the parthenogenic model for Kant’s transcendental idealism in this light. (shrink)
This paper begins with a brief survey of recent attempts to identify the nature of Beauvoir’s contested relation to philosophy. It then discusses the transition from her early, more conventionally philosophical essays to her much more unconventional great work The Second Sex. It argues that the philosophical innovations of The Second Sex were dependent on Beauvoir’s relations to other disciplines and intellectual fields, such that Beauvoir’s philosophical originality has interdisciplinary conditions of possibility. The paper then argues that The Second Sex, (...) like feminist and gender theory more generally, has more in common with the twentieth-century tradition of critical theory than with any ‘disciplinary’ conception of philosophy. The paper concludes that, as the meeting point of critical theory and feminism, The Second Sex can best be seen as an example of ‘philosophical transdisciplinarity’, paving the way for the late-twentieth and twenty-first traditions of gender theory. (shrink)
This interdisciplinary article takes a philosophical approach to The Interpretation of Dreams, connecting Freud to one of the few philosophers with whom he sometimes identified - Immanuel Kant. It aims to show that Freud's theory of dreams has more in common with Bion's later thoughts on dreaming than is usually recognized. Distinguishing, via a discussion of Kant, between the conflicting 'epistemological' and 'anthropological' aspects of The Interpretation of Dreams, it shows that one specific contradiction in the book - concerning the (...) relation between dream-work and waking thought - can be understood in terms of the tension between these conflicting aspects. Freud reaches the explicit conclusion that the dream-work and waking thought differ from each other absolutely; but the implicit conclusion of The Interpretation of Dreams is quite the opposite. This article argues that the explicit conclusion is the result of the epistemological aspects of the book; the implicit conclusion, which brings Freud much closer to Bion, the result of the anthropological approach. Bringing philosophy and psychoanalysis together this paper thus argues for an interpretation of The Interpretation of Dreams that is in some ways at odds with the standard view of the book, while also suggesting that aspects of Kant's 'anthropological' works might legitimately be seen as a precursor of psychoanalysis. (shrink)
This chapter examines the apparent proximity between Schopenhauer’s and Freud’s views on the nature and importance of what is called, amongst other things, ‘sexuality’, the ‘sexual impulse’, the ‘sexual instinct’ or ‘the ‘sexual drive’. It argues, against the idea that Freud's conception is basically borrowed from Schopenhauer, for the originality of Freud’s early theory of sexuality and suggest that the significance of this theory, apart from its obvious psychiatric and social import, lies in its possible contribution to a philosophical anthropology. (...) The chapter returns to the first, 1905 edition of the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality to argue for the originality of Freud’s conception of the sexual drive, in relation to both his philosophical and his psychiatric predecessors. It argues that Freud’s terminological shift in the Three Essays from the Geschlechtstrieb to the Sexualtrieb, both of which Strachey translates as ‘sexual instinct’ is evidence of a theoretical shift. Examining the notion of the Geschlechtstrieb in Freud’s predecessors and its relation to presumptions about the difference between the sexes allows the distinctiveness of Freud’s conception of the Sexualtrieb and thus his theory of sexuality to stand out. After examining the claims in the literature concerning the relation between Schopenhauer and Kant on the question of sexuality, it lays out the conception of the Geschlechtstrieb in Freud’s immediate psychiatric predecessors and its connection to the treatment of the same topic in Kant, Schopenhauer and Hartmann. It then demonstrates, with reference to Freud’s shift to the use of the term Sexualtrieb, how Freud develops a conception of the sexual drive and of sexuality that is quite different to the conception of the Geschlechtstrieb in Schopenhauer et al. The chapter ends by suggesting how Freud’s theory of sexuality is a contribution to a philosophical anthropology based on considerations quite foreign to his predecessors. (shrink)
This article comprises a critical examination of some aspects of the English-language comparative literature on Heidegger and East Asian thought. It questions both its transcendental conceptual ground – the conditions of possibility for the comparative exercise – and its account of Heideggerʼs philosophy itself. For the comparative literature, I will argue, can only make its speciﬁc claims, sympathetic to the Heideggerian philosophical project, with a reading of that project that represses most of what is fundamental to Heideggerʼs conception of philosophy (...) and almost everything that we know about his politics. Furthermore, in its emphasis on the ancient it facilitates the repression of the history of Heideggerian fascism in modern East Asian, and particularly Japanese, thought. The point of this critical examination of the comparative literature is not, however, to expose a misreading of Heidegger. It is to reveal what is at stake in the mobilization of the imaginary geopolitical and geophilosophical unities of ʻthe Eastʼ and ʻthe Westʼ in relation to Heideggerʼs political-philosophical thinking of ʻthe Westʼ. Accordingly, I will look ﬁrst at the claims typical in the advocatory comparative literature and then at the problematic conceptual ground of the comparison, both in terms of its immanent logic and its relation to Heideggerʼs conception of the history of philosophy. (shrink)
This chapter discusses translators’ efforts to render the grammatical gender of Plato’s Greek in passages of the Republic, and to translate his terms noting differences between men and women with terms associated with the identity-defining concepts of sex and gender. It argues that the translation of 'genos' as 'sex' reveals less about the source text than about the role of the concept of sex in the translating culture. A discussion of a similar controversy in contemporary translation shows how debates over (...) the French translation of 'gender' as genre are embroiled in issues of national identity. The chapter demonstrates how translation and its analysis may simultaneously express and contest cultural assumptions about sex and gender. (shrink)