Irigaray and Hölderlin on the relation between nature and culture

Alison Stone

pp. 415-432

This paper explores the compatibility of Luce Irigaray's recent insistence on the need to revalue nature, and to recognise culture's natural roots, with her earlier advocacy of social transformation towards a culture of sexual difference. Prima facie, there is tension between Irigaray's political imperatives, for if culture really is continuous with nature, this implies that our existing, non-sexuate, culture is naturally grounded and unchallengeable. To dissolve this tension, Irigaray must conceive culture as having self-transformative agency without positioning culture as active vis-à-vis an inert and passive nature. I argue that Irigaray achieves this by conceiving culture to arise from a division internal to nature. She derives this idea from Hölderlin, who claims that nature originally divides itself into subjects and objects, and from Heidegger, who maintains that nature inflicts an originary violence upon itself. Critically reworking Hölderlin and Heidegger, Irigaray argues that male nature tends to turn against itself to generate an anti-natural, ecologically destructive, culture. She argues, however, that this tendency can be redirected and alleviated by the very cultural resources which male nature generates in dividing itself. Irigaray thus develops a unique way to advocate social change while recognising nature's profound impact and influence upon culture.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1023/B:MAWO.0000015897.03210.0b

Full citation:

Stone, A. (2003). Irigaray and Hölderlin on the relation between nature and culture. Continental Philosophy Review 36 (4), pp. 415-432.

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