Re-founding Philosophy with Self-Affection
In To Be Born, Irigaray writes that Socrates injunction to ‘know thyself’ amounts to ‘an injunction to begin dying while living’. This essay discusses the paradigm example of ‘dying while living’ in Plato’s Phaedo, which focuses on Socrates’ death, to offer a productive contrast with Irigaray’s emphasis on birth in To Be Born. I produce a reading of Socrates’ laying down of his logos as a form of therapeutic self-affecting but in question is the method and direction of (as well the relation to the other) in such a method. For Socrates, the direction is towards the forms of the immortal and he seeks to subsume his male others under his own discourse, making them the same, even though it is only he under sentence of death. I demonstrate how this arises because of the centrality in the dialogue of binding conceived as a binding of active and passive. I then discuss what is meant by affect to draw out how this togetherness of active and passive has also been implicit in historic conceptions of affect. Finally, I discuss Irigaray’s alternative in To Be Born, an alternation between work and repose in a self-affection that seeks to overcome the active and passive of past metaphysics, for one that seeks to bind body and soul through breath and meditative practices, to better recognise difference, self from not-self and to cultivate the dynamism appropriate to each singular being. In short, to continue living while alive, cultivating life instead of death.
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