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Irigaray and Lyotard

Irigaray and Lyotard: Birth, Infancy, and Metaphysics

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  • Rachel Jones


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-162
Number of pages24
Issue number1
Early online date28 Oct 2011
StatePublished - Feb 2012


This paper examines the ways in which Luce Irigaray and Jean-Francois Lyotard critique western metaphysics by drawing on notions of birth and infancy. It shows how both thinkers position birth as an event of beginning that can be reaffirmed in every act of initiation and recommencement. Irigaray's reading of Diotima's speech from Plato's Symposium is positioned as a key text for this project alongside a number of essays by Lyotard in which he explores the potency of infancy as the condition of philosophy itself. Despite this potency, however, Lyotard suggests that metaphysics is haunted by a melancholia that is inseparable from the limits of thought. I argue that Irigaray is able both to explain why western metaphysics is constitutively melancholic and to offer a shift in perspective that means we are not inevitably condemned to melancholia. The paper concludes that while Lyotard's account of infancy challenges the terms of western metaphysics from within, Irigaray's reassessment of our beginnings in birth offers the possibility of an alternative metaphysical horizon.



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