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Between East and West

Between East and West: From Singularity to Community

Luce Irigaray
Translated by Stephen Pluháček
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    Between East and West
    Book Description:

    With this book we see a philosopher well steeped in the Western tradition thinking through ancient Eastern disciplines, meditating on what it means to learn to breathe, and urging us all at the dawn of a new century to rediscover indigenous Asian cultures. Yogic tradition, according to Irigaray, can provide an invaluable means for restoring the vital link between the present and eternity -- and for re-envisioning the patriarchal traditions of the West.

    Western, logocentric rationality tends to abstract the teachings of yoga from its everyday practice -- most importantly, from the cultivation of breath. Lacking actual, personal experience with yoga or other Eastern spiritual practices, the Western philosophers who have tried to address Hindu and Buddhist teachings -- particularly Schopenhauer -- have frequently gone astray. Not so, Luce Irigaray. Incorporating her personal experience with yoga into her provocative philosophical thinking on sexual difference, Irigaray proposes a new way of understanding individuation and community in the contemporary world. She looks toward the indigenous, pre-Aryan cultures of India -- which, she argues, have maintained an essentially creative ethic of sexual difference predicated on a respect for life, nature, and the feminine.

    Irigaray's focus on breath in this book is a natural outgrowth of the attention that she has given in previous books to the elements -- air, water, and fire. By returning to fundamental human experiences -- breathing and the fact of sexual difference -- she finds a way out of the endless sociologizing abstractions of much contemporary thought to rethink questions of race, ethnicity, and globalization.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50792-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    “There is much that is strange, but nothing that surpasses man in strangeness” (Sophocles, Antigone, vv. 332–333).

    To be sure, our age has much that is uncanny, but less than man himself, however. What is uncanny about it comes from what is uncanny about him, and all the interpretations of our ill-being, all the remedies that are proposed or provided are powerless to account for the cause of the worrying if they do not question what man has been for centuries: they are too partial and superficial and do not get back to the source from which the danger...

  5. The Time of Life
    (pp. 21-48)

    I will situate these questions under the sign or the oracle of opening, thus of egological nonclosure, of renunciation of narcissistic self-importance, the first condition of listening and of speaking that the tradition of India taught me.

    According to this tradition, no theory or practice is ever completed. Both are always evolving. The task is to try to connect the here and now of today, this present moment of our life, to the reality of yesterday and that of tomorrow. It is useless therefore to do too much in order to immortalize the whole immediately. It is impossible. On the...

  6. Eastern Teachings
    (pp. 49-72)

    To explain what Western culture has given me—and not given me—and what the practice of yoga and its tradition have given me—and not given me—is not a simple task to carry out. In the development of a life it is not always easy, in effect, to distinguish what comes from one source and what comes from another. However, I am going to try to formulate—at the request of François Lorin to whom I owe much knowledge acquired thanks to yoga—some contributions and deficiencies of this tradition that seem to me rather clearly identifiable at...

  7. The Way of Breath
    (pp. 73-92)

    Breathing corresponds to the first autonomous gesture of the living human being. To come into the world supposes inhaling and exhaling by oneself. In the uterus, we receive oxygen through the mother’s blood. We are not yet autonomous, not yet born.

    In fact, we forget this first and last gesture of life. To be sure, we breathe on pain of death. But we breathe badly, and we worry little about the air that surrounds us, our first food of life. We put ourselves under stress in order to force ourselves to breathe: we carry out athletic performances in polluted air,...

  8. Being I, Being We
    (pp. 93-104)

    We find ourselves today faced with a new situation with regard to culture: we are witnessing a growth of information in space as well as in time, an accumulation of knowledge on diverse levels and, at the same time, a loss of human consciousness. We know more things but we return less to ourselves in order to examine the meaning of all these things for a more accomplished human becoming. We are discovering that many realities have remained unknown to us up until now but the discoveries that we are making are so numerous that we forget somewhat the reality...

  9. The Family Begins with Two
    (pp. 105-120)

    Recently, in the context of a colloquium, I was explaining the necessity of refounding the family on a more conscious and more civil alliance between man and woman. A man intervened, saying that the family began with three and not with two. I am not in agreement with such a position. In my opinion, a family is born when two persons, most generally a man and a woman, decide to live together on a long-term basis, to “set up a home,” to recover an old expression that, deep down, is beautiful.

    To start a home and family is to set...

  10. Approaching the Other as Other
    (pp. 121-130)

    We have been educated to make our own all that was pleasing to us, all that we admitted into our proximity, into our intimacy, all that surrounded us.

    On the level of consciousness, on the level of feelings, we make our own what we approach, what approaches us.

    Our manner of reasoning, even our manner of loving, corresponds to an appropriation. Our culture, our school education, our cultural formation want it this way: to learn, to know, is to make one’s own through instruments of knowledge capable, we believe, of seizing, of taking, of dominating all of reality, all that...

  11. Mixing: A Principle for Refounding Community
    (pp. 131-146)

    Not so long ago, the founding of a home was a matter of alliance between properties, between names, between common laws. The girl and the boy were given permission to leave the paternal house on condition of perpetuating the patrimony, the titles, the customs. Leaving one’s home, yes, but in order to remain among ourselves.

    Marriage was supposed to preserve wealth from all deterioration, customs from all change. Nothing foreign was supposed to alter the intimacy constructed between those of the same group, passed on by the ancestors. The principle task of future spouses came down to bequeathing the heritage...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 147-148)
    (pp. 149-152)