Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 133-158

First online:

Proximities: Irigaray and Heidegger on Difference

  • Krzysztof ZiarekAffiliated withDepartment of English, University of Notre Dame

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Explicating Heidegger's and Irigaray's critiques of difference, this essay proposes a new approach to the crucial concept of relationship in their thought. Articulated as proximity rather than difference, such relationality works in a manner that is non-appropriative and free from power. The essay shows that at the center of Heidegger's questioning of being is not the ontico-ontological difference but the notion of nearness (Nähe), elaborated by Heidegger as a critique of the metaphysical logic of difference and relation. Linking Heidegger's nearness with his critique of power in the recently published Besinnung, the essay explains how such relationality exceeds the parameters of power (machtlos). The remainder of the essay investigates the way in which Irigaray's reformulation of sexual difference as an ethics of proximity similarly calls into question the differential economy of being and aims at a new model of non-appropriative relation. While Heidegger links the change in relation from power to letting be to a decisive confrontation with modern technicity, Irigaray criticizes this approach and reformulates the question of technology through the prism of sexual difference. By taking into account the often ignored aspects of Irigaray's thought - temporality, event, proximity - the essay situates Irigaray's ethics and culture of sexual difference not only beyond the discussions of essentialism but also outside the equality-difference debates.