Life, death and (inter)subjectivity: realism and recognition in continental feminism



I begin with the assumption that a philosophically significant tension exists today in feminist philosophy of religion between those subjects who seek to become divine and those who seek their identity in mutual recognition. My critical engagement with the ambiguous assertions of Luce Irigaray seeks to demonstrate, on the one hand, that a woman needs to recognize her own identity but, on the other hand, that each subject whether male or female must struggle in relation to the other in order to maintain realism about life and death. No one can avoid the recognition that we are each given life but each of us also dies. In addition, I raise a more general, philosophical problem for analytic philosophers who attempt to read Continental philosophy of religion: how should philosophers interpret deliberately ambiguous assertions? For example, what does Irigaray mean in asserting, ‘Divinity is what we need to become free, autonomous, sovereign’? To find an answer, I turn to the distinctively French readings of the Hegelian struggle for recognition which have preoccupied Continental philosophers especially since the first half of the last century. I explore the struggle for mutual recognition between women and men who must face the reality of life and death in order to avoid the projection of their fear of mortality onto the other sex. This includes a critical look at Irigaray’s account of subjectivity and divinity. I turn to the French philosopher Michèle Le Doeuff in order to shift the focus from divinity to intersubjectivity. I conclude that taking seriously the struggle for mutual recognition between subjects forces contemporary philosophers of religion to be realist in their living and dying. With this in mind, the lesson from the Continent for philosophy of religion is that we must not stop yearning for recognition. Indeed, we must even risk our autonomy/divinity in seeking to recognize intersubjectivity.


Ambiguity Autonomy Beauvoir Body Feminist Fluidity Hegel Intersubjectivity Irigaray Le Doeuff Life Love Mortality Natality Reciprocity Recognition Sovereignty Subjectivity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Regent’s Park CollegeOxfordUK

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