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DifferencesRe-reading Beauvoir and Irigaray$
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Emily Anne Parker and Anne van Leeuwen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190275594

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190275594.001.0001

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Beauvoir, Irigaray, and the Ambiguities of Desire

Beauvoir, Irigaray, and the Ambiguities of Desire

(p.177) Chapter 6 Beauvoir, Irigaray, and the Ambiguities of Desire

Gail Weiss

Oxford University Press

Focusing first on Beauvoir’s discussion in The Ethics of Ambiguity of the will to be and the will to disclose the world, I argue that the irresolvable tension between these equally human desires produces an understanding of desire more generally, and sexual desire in particular, as fundamentally ambiguous. I turn to Beauvoir’s positive accounts of female sexual desire in The Second Sex, and, her descriptions of lesbian desire in particular, to support and elaborate this reading. Next, I show how Irigaray’s descriptions of the “excesses” of female sexual desire and pleasure build upon, yet also complicate, Beauvoir’s view of the essential ambiguity of desire precisely because Irigaray emphasizes the irresolvable multiplicity and interconnectedness of pleasure and desire. I conclude by suggesting that for both philosophers, it is the ambiguity of desire that animates the pursuit of an ethical life.

Keywords:   assuming one’s ambiguity, will to be, will to disclose the world, relational ontology, ontological freedom, ethical choice, alterity, desire

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