Browsing Masters Degrees (Philosophy) by browse.metadata.advisor "Du Toit, Henriette Louise"
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- Item(Mis)identifying the phenomenological-semiotic locus of human sexual (in)difference(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2018-03) Mare, Alexander; Du Toit, Henriette Louise; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Philosophy.ENGLISH SUMMARY: The aim of this thesis is to critique the validity of selecting specific material features of human embodiment (such as sex or skin colour) as stable sources of identity. Insofar as such identities are generalised into rigid “types” of people using a feature of embodiment as an indicator of set membership (such as “male” and “female” within “sex”), I argue that such typologies necessarily misrepresent and subsequently mistreat people, since it is impossible to reduce human identity to either a single embodied feature or a small group of features, and therefore impossible to produce enduring descriptions of embodiment as a means of representing that identity. I hypothesise that such typologies are always descriptively distorted in attempting to describe human identity, despite being treated as universally applicable by their proponents, and consequently that attempts at deriving normative prescriptions from such typologies (such as racial segregation or heterosexual marriage) are bound to be unjustifiably exclusionary, since they differentiate and distribute moral treatment along an arbitrary and artificial axis of contingent and incomplete bodily sameness/difference. In critiquing the logic of appealing to embodied identity, I will focus on sexual embodiment and take the French feminist Luce Irigaray’s theory of sexual difference as an exemplar. Irigaray’s theory is a good example of an attempt at both deriving a universal typology of stable, unified human identities from specifically-selected bodily features, and at organising this typology into a social order. Irigaray’s theory assumes the existence of two and only two coherent sexual categories into which all persons naturally fall: male and female. It further assumes that the characteristics of each sex are not interchangeable between the sexes, and that these embodied features produce not only entirely different bodies but also entirely different subjectivities, capabilities, and worldviews. In contrast to the historical privilege accorded the male subject as the supposedly “universal” subject, Irigaray envisions a new society that breaks this hegemony of sameness with sexual difference, ordering society between two and only two different sexes. Part 1 of the thesis provides an exposition of Irigaray’s thought. Within Part 1, Chapter 1 explores Irigaray’s diagnostic critique of the patriarchal order. Chapter 2 explores the alternative to patriarchy presented in her own system of sexual difference. Part 2 of the thesis engages in a critical analysis of Irigaray’s theory. In Chapter 3 I argue that the most recent scientific evidence disproves the existence of two and only two sexes with distinct subjectivities, that the heteronormative and cisgender typology upon which Irigaray’s social vision rests unethically excludes non-binary persons and non-heterosexuals, that the sameness/difference binary is a pseudo-problem insofar as it still universalises “same” and “different” descriptions using the same contingent and arbitrarily-selected referent, and that both the patriarchal and Irigarayan definitions of “male” are distorted. With these findings I suggest that Irigaray’s notions of both “sex” and “difference” are untenable, problematizing her theory of “sexual difference” in general. Lastly, in Chapter 4 I briefly sketch the outline of an alternative theory of identity without embodied specificity, based instead upon the universally humanly shared characteristic of vulnerability.