The language of non-contact as a feature of eros in Levinas has two features to the whole of his ethics, first is that love requires Infinity; the continued duality of lovers. Upon this is built the structure of time, in the fecundity of the subject’s desiring. Departing from Parmenides, Spinoza, and Hegel’s Unity of time, Levinas neither supports time as a ‘fallen form of being’ nor an historical return to metaphysical union. Secondly, by way of Levinas’ construction of non-contact, he avoids the tendency towards assimilation supported through philosophies and myths of unity. Levinas’ appeal to the Biblical myth of Adam and Eve as original difference supports duality and multiplicity. “The difference between the sexes is a formal structure, but one that carves up reality in another sense and conditions the very possibility of reality as multiple, against the unity of being proclaimed by Parmenides.”[1]

            This language and reasoning can have its own feminist criticisms, including the entreaty to a sexual dualism in the Biblical myth. To some feminists’ retrievals, dualistic binaries present just as troublesome as originary unity. In duality, other bodies and sexes are exposed to graspable knowledge even in absentee; as Beauvoir writes- “even if a man can subjectively go through erotic experiences without woman being present, she is objectively implied in his sexuality…Man discovers woman in discovering his own sex.”[2] Secondly, Irigaray finds a forgetting or sublimation of bodies in context of the language of non-contact. In Ethics of Sexual Difference Irigaray returns to Plato’s portrayal in the Symposium of Socrates and Diotima where the embodied, political, and familial features of fecundity are replaced in favor of the spiritual product of ‘immortal children’. Irigaray decides to uncover a fecundity in a sense that does not transcend the flesh, retains maternal creativity and avoid what she sees as an instrumentalization and violent inequality of love; whereby eros become a medium towards transcendence. Of the god Eros, Irigaray writes, the erotic became an intermediary condition; and love an institution of asymmetry; for Eros had been born of Plenty and Poverty.

            Despite Levinas’ attempt to depict human existence and relation as sensitive, creative, and passive, his language of the erotic has in feminisms continually been the subject of criticism revealing instrumentalist propensities. Levinas’ premise of the child, or ‘son’, being a precondition to truth, Iragaray suggests acts as a telos of paternity. Irigaray finds that the subject portrayed as male in Levinas finds the utility of the feminine to return transcendent via fecundity, the feminine remains deferred: “she, the beloved is plunged into the depths.”[3] This violence of the virile male subject who accomplishes the repetition or ipseity return by means of the feminine maintains woman as the modest beloved responsible only for the maintenance of desire.

            Kate Ince reveals that Irigaray does retrieve from Levinas’ voluptuousity a biological and ethical time that saves from the oppressions of Western metaphysics’ determinations of time which endanger with mechanization, and marginalize by the limitations of productivity. Levinas’ open loops of ipseity in continual and non-identical returns are anthropological and moreover ethical-relational erotic movements of time. In these movements, Irigaray finds an organic rhythm that as circular undermines the Modern linear constructions of disembodied time. Irigaray writes that as embodied mutually fecund and responsible subjects, there is a limit to the speed of growth; a relationality to temporality. Ince writes of Irigaray’s erotic temporality; its “rhythm is one in which pausing enables the subject to draw on material resources that remain forgotten and unused in an economy of the tekhne.[4] The cyclical, agriculture retrieval of feminine time by Irigaray signifies the natural economies of bodies in their creationality and need for replenishment saving bodies from the rigidity of technoscientific demands and its streamlining productivity: “[d]oesn’t the machine unceasingly threaten to destroy us through the speed of its acceleration?”[5] As Irigaray’s work on erotic temporality announces, the technoscientific poses multitudinous opportunities for feminist deconstruction, and warrants a thorough critique for its threats and positive retrievals.


[1] Levinas, Emmanuel. Time and the Other: and Additional Essays trans. Richard A. Cohen. (Pittsburgh:       Duquesne University Press. 1987), 85.

[2] De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex trans. H.M. Parshley (London: Everyman’s Library. 1993), 161.

[3] Irigaray, Luce. “The Fecundity of the Caress” Feminist Interpretations of Emmanuel Levinas ed. Tina       Chanter (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2001), 121.

[4] Ince, Kate. “Questions to Luce IrigarayHypatia; Spring96, Vol. 11 Issue 2, p122,          19p                 http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rlh&AN=9607022385&site=ehostlive,     136.

[5] Irigaray, Luce. An Ethics of Sexual Difference, trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill (New York:             Continuum. 2004), 63.

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