Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reading Tina Beattie (with updates coming)

This will be a fractured effort to unpack what I'm reading, in the hopes of understanding it better myself. I worked on this a bit, then set it aside, then worked some more - because time has been broken up by personal and family struggles of various kinds. Those aren't going away, so even with the best of intentions, I am bound to get things wrong, miss things, or otherwise do injustices to this writer and Catholic feminist theologian I am trying to understand: Tina Beattie. Ergo the title parentheses, meaning  'more to follow.' I'm working my way through my third go at New Catholic Feminism, and still haven't gotten to my second pass with Theology After Postmodernity. So more will follow as I continue this journey, and I'll post it here (so if you like what you are hearing about reading Tina Beattie, check back in from time to time).

This big piece first, that also might get reworked.

The distinction between "material" and nonmaterial aspects of human life is a reflection of the Cartesian compulsion to find a bedrock of unquestionable truth with which to fill the void left by crumbling premodern certainties . . . it seems revealing that synonyms for "material" include "essential" and "relevant," whereas the word "immaterial" is generally used to mean "unessential" and "irrelevant," . . . we may in fact have been using the category "material" prescriptively, to cover that which is beyond question and once and for all given.  It appears to denote a reality posited as fundamentally "objective" and immune to the intervention of human consciousness.  As such, it may have served to alleviate some of the horror vacui generated by modern reflexivity and the gradual disjunction of language and reality in European history.  With God no longer at the helm,the specter of a plastic universe had to be kept at bay.  The existential significance of the notion of an immutable, objective substratum of reality grew out of the modern acknowledgement of a subject-object dichotomy.  The sovereignty of God was succeeded by the sovereignty of the material.  Even as reluctant a dualist as Marshall Sahlins concedes that "thought can only kneel before the absolute sovereignty of the physical world."

The notion of a distinct, material reality continues to provide the foundation for "objectivist" grand narratives in natural science even though the most cogent evidence against objectivism has come from Nobel Prize winning physicists such as Heisenberg.  The human sciences, on the other hand, have increasingly confined their attention to the images and projections of human subjects.  Objectivism and constructivism thus represent two opposite responses to the Cartesian dilemma.Human cognition is viewed either as an increasingly exact representation of reality or as a contingent construction of meaning-creating humans.  One position takes the object as its point of departure, the other the subject. Although from the outset coeval and defined by the same Cartesian matrix, the two alternative approaches have come to be associated with social conditions of "modernity" and "postmodernity," respectively . . .

Alf Hornborg, The Power of the Machine, p. 158

Which is why I'm still skeptical about this distinction.  Descartes sits hunched in the middle of all this; and he is a decidedly modern figure.  Not sure we are seeing post-anything, but instead an inevitability within modernity itself.  So when the following account of my reading of Tina Beattie brings to light the differences in our approaches to the topic of gender, her own grounding in post-modern philosophy, especially psycholinguistics, and my own non-exclusive reliance on the methods of historical materialism are not taken - at least for my own part - as somehow situated on the battleground between tendencies within feminism.  I find that her remarkable insights only extend, enrich, and enliven my own commitment to understanding the roots of male power and the devaluation of women . . . as Catholics.  We are trying to discern a thing with several crucial aspects.

I'm so glad I'd not read Catholic feminist philosopher/theologian Tina Beattie before I finished the book I wrote last year on war, gender, and church.  If I had, I would have been compelled to rewrite most of it to accommodate the insights that she provides in two - I would say - related books:  New Catholic Feminism- Theology and Theory (2006) and Theology after Postmodernity - Divining the Void (2013).

In my own book, Borderline - Reflections on War, Sex, and Church, I admit I was pretty thin on theology, and I was not familiar enough to presume to unpack Thomism in any detail.  It is kind of a memoir with long historical and philosophical notes that are meant to illuminate stories about war.  I wanted to speak concretely about war in my own experience as a former career solider, but in a way that established the common coordinates between war, the devaluation and exclusion of women, and various constructions of masculinity - and how these have been inflected in the thinking (and practices) of Christian men.  In the very end, I conclude (this is not a spoiler at all, I say it throughout) that dread is the psychic undercurrent that maintains the relation between masculinity and violence as well as masculinity and misogyny.  I dipped my toe into psychoanalysis with a riff on Jessica Benjamin's theses on intersubjectivity, gender, and domination and with Christoph Wulf's theses on mimetic learning.

My book was written as a Catholic, and it was written with a Christian/Catholic audience in mind.  That's why I feel like at the end of the path I traveled in writing that book, I found someone, whose footprints had crossed my own ahead of me, standing at the end of that trail.  And she was graciously prepared to guide me further into regions I'd not yet encountered. Tina Beattie's books - for me, at any rate - take up where I left off at the end of my own study.  Reading them, I have been taken much more deeply into the historical intersections of philosophy and psychology, as well as into how the preoccupation I share with her about gender and power relate to specifically Catholic (Thomistic) perspectives which have been formative in the promulgation of Roman Catholic doctrine about sex - doctrines which we both find deeply problematic.

I'll admit these were tough books for me (though I could hardly put them down when I had the chance to read them), because I had to make multiple forays into the internet for anything that would bring me marginally up to speed on St. Thomas and Jacques Lacan (Dr. Beattie's [post]modern analogue for Aquinas).  In New Catholic Feminism, she made frequent reference to Luce Irigaray, with whom I was passingly familiar through a general engagement with feminism over the last decade and a half; and my forced march through Lacan made Irigary a great deal more accessible, too (perhaps now I'll go back and look more closely into Žižek, too).  These efforts were cheap at twice the price, I must say.  And the yoke was further lightened by Beattie's lively and often lyrical writing style.

I tracked the latter book's appearance on Syndicate Theology, a theologians' symposium, where she got pushback from critics for not being enough like Fanon and for not hewing close enough for some folks' taste to particular readings of Aquinas (there are multiple and contradictory).  In my perhaps not that significant opinion, I heard little from either direction about the implications of her book for Catholic doctrine with regard to gender - at which both books take aim.  Speaking for myself, this is exactly what I want to learn more about, because it is in my view plainly the most important issue in the church as the church relates to the (post)modern world.

So perhaps I ought to get closer to the point, and explain as best I can what these books are about, and why I so earnestly recommend them.  In New Catholic Feminism, Beattie is unpacking gender in Hans Urs von Balthasar, the influential twentieth century Catholic theologian.  But von Balthasar's take on gender is an expression of the history of Catholic thinking on gender that is more thoroughly explicated in Theology after Postmodernity, as is the underlying psychology of that thinking..

To read Beattie, you'll need at least a passing familiarity with Lacan.

For Lacan, who is Beattie's Virgil through the intellectual cosmos of St. Thomas, this unfathomable Is (that fills us with dread as adults) is called simply, The Real.  Given that Lacan is an atheist, who is nonetheless a product of French Catholic society who recognizes the pivotal importance of Aquinas in the development of the post-Christendom continental collective consciousness (and who closely studied St. Paul!), The Real - as that which is incomprehensible - stands in for God, about whom St. Thomas said, if you can think of it, it is not God.  This un-knowable God for St. Thomas equals The Real for Lacan.

Hold that thought.

Lacan was a psychoanalyst, influenced by Freud as well as Aquinas, though Lacan departed from Freud in significant ways. For Lacan, the The Real is what we imagine our experience is during infancy, unmediated and the person has no sense of a boundary between himself (for Lacan, the person is male) and the world (which is mostly mother).  The person develops the capacity during early development for Imagination (during which we also imagine the earlier experience of the Real), which is not how we commonly think of the word "imagination" (it's a French thing), but it is a simultaneous dawning of an anxious recognition that one is separate somehow from the rest of the world, which corresponds to the emergence of desire and demand.  This stage is narcissistic, and it is called Imaginary because the child imagines himself (fantasizes) in ways that can re-incorporate the lost mother.  Whereas during the imagined Real phase, a drive or need could be satisfied - I hunger, I eat, I fall asleep, I shit, repeat - demand in the Imaginary stage is driven by desire, which is potentially infinite.  This is not a transient stage, but has attributes that will persist throughout life.  Desire is central to the Lacanian perspective; and the desire for The Real is a potentially infinite desire aimed at infinite incomprehensibility.  The Imaginary serves as a constant reminder of what one lacks (the fusion/unity one imagines s/he experienced in that primal Real stage).

(In the post-Freudian Lacanian map of the unconscious, that lack is The Mother.  This has a history which goes all the way back to pre-Christian Greece, through Christendom, and gets re-worked after what Nietzsche called the death of God, in the modern era.  As Carolyn Merchant showed in her book, The Death of Nature, Nature is synonymous through several epochs in the patriarchal mind with Female and Chaos.  Chaos, Nature, and Female become contingently interchangeable, and these then are associated with The Body, which is a constant reminder of vulnerability, weakness, and death.  This association survives the modern "death of nature" and the modern "death of God" and re-emerges in the unconscious.)

Back to childhood development.  The next phase in the maturation of the unconscious, according to Lacan, is inaugurated by the mediation of language, or The Symbolic.  Language prepares the person for entry into full society, but it is a disciplinary force.  It entails following rules.  Both Freud and Lacan gender this psychodrama in Oedipal terms.  I'm grossly oversimplifying, but language, or The Symbolic, is The Father, while The Real, the lack toward which desire is directed is The Mother, and in order for the person to fully develop, he has to resist the narcissistic Imagination that reaches for The Mother, and submit to/identify with The Symbolic/The Father.  This, of course, also means submission to the larger symbolic universe of contract, law, the state, and so forth.

In Freud's schema, the phallus (the actual penis) is profoundly important (Freud was a male, after all).  When the child discovers that the father has one and he himself (the normative person is the boy) has one, but that Mother does not, the child assumes the mother's has been chopped off.  The anxiety associated with this imaginary event is called a castration complex.  The unconscious fear that the father cut off the mother's penis sets up the Oedipal tension between father and child.  I desire Mother.  Mother desires Father (instead of me).  Father has the penis.  Mother then must desire the penis.  I want to be the penis Mother desires, but I am afraid Father will cut my penis off.  (Of course, for girls this is different, but the boy's experience, in Freud and Lacan, is the sun around which the girl's experience orbits.)

In Lacan, far more than in Freud, the dynamics of the unconscious are semiotic, they are signs rather than things.  When Lacan refers to the phallus, he is not referring to an actual penis, for example.  Yet in both, maternal dependency is seen as pathological at some stage, with Freud describing a "death drive" as desire directed at the pre-oedipal state, and which Lacan describes not as a drive toward death, but a desire to return to The Real as experienced during infancy.  I'll let Beattie herself describe this in an extended quote:

Unlike Freud, the Lacanian emphasis is on social and linguistic constructs rather than on the opposition between civilization and nature, but for both thinkers, the death-drive is associated with the acquisition of language through the prohibition of maternal dependence and intimacy, in a way that sets up a close association between woman, religion, and death:  [Beattie quoting Grace Jantzen here] 'In Lacan it is even more ovbvious than in Freud that death is conceptually linked with the female, and attempts at mastery of death with mastery of the female.'  Let me trace these connections and associations, through a brief excursus into Lacan's thought.

The linguistic turn that Lacan brings about in his reading of Freud situates language and desire at the very heart of the psychoanalytic process, in protest against theorists such as Melanie Klein, whose focus on the mother-child relationship he sees as neglecting the centrality of desire and the castration complex to Freud's theory.  For Lacan, language comes about as a response to the social imperative to assume a unified but illusory subjective identity (which is always masculine), through entry into the symbolic order, as a way of masking the inchoateness of the pre-subjective or imaginary stage associated with the circulation of desire between mother and child.  The acquisition of language is associated with what Lacan calls the mirror stage, because it begins with the infant's first external perception of itself as a separate individual, either through seeing its reflection in a mirror or through becoming aware of the way in which it is seen as separate by another, usually the mother.  Beyond the imaginary lies an even more primordial and inaccessible level of demand prior to any sense of differentiation or desire - the real - which is grounded in the primal sense of union with the mother.

In Lacan's linguistic appropriation of Freud, the castration complex is associated, not with the biological penis but with the symbolic phallus.  It is the one who is identified with possession of the phallus - an authoritarian father figure, who is not necessarily the paternal presence associated with the imaginary stage - who ruptures the relationship between mother and child, and who prevents the child from fulfilling its desire to be the exclusive object of the mother's desire for that which she lacks, the phallus.  The phallus thus marks the gap between the speaking subject and 'his' desire.  It is a third term introduced into the mother-child relationship, representing the law that prohibits desire.  But is is also a deception, insofar as the phallus itself is the object of desire.  Although sexual difference is organized around the masculine subject who has the phallus, nobody can in fact 'have' the phallus - it is not an organ or an object, but a signifier, indeed the signifier, which holds in place the fragile illusion of masculine identity.  Desire is focused on infantile desire, not to have the phallus but to be the phallus, since that is the lack that constitutes the mother's desire.  So the child's desire is not for the mother herself but to become the object of the mother's desire.  (NCF pp. 192-93)

Here is where God slips back into the picture via Aquinas, but this time not as the un-knowable God who corresponds to The Real, but as the disciplinary Father God.  It is around this gender bifurcation in St. Thomas that Beattie applies - and simultaneously critiques - Lacan.  Neither Lacan nor Aquinas invented their concepts de novo.  They inherited them; and Lacan came after Aquinas in whose shadow Lacan's work remained.  Beattie reverses the historic lens, however, and looks back at Aquinas through Lacan.

Aquinas has described God in both paternal (Symbolic) and maternal (Real) terms; and this exposes a contradiction that allows the feminist Beattie to valorize aspects of Aquinas for the purpose of reclaiming actually embodied women as sacramental beings.  Remember here that historic association between Female, Nature, and Body - and that each of these has been subordinated using the these in-common metaphorical coordinates: male over female, culture over nature, mind over body.

So there is a kind of pre-positioning of Lacan in Beattie's books.  I pray I haven't distorted this too much.

Next, in preparation, we need a few notes on Martin Heidegger, whose concept of Dasein - the inscrutability of conscious being - Beattie cites in preparation for her citations of Luce Irigary, who herself does a feminist reworking of Heidegger.

Heidegger is tainted.  He was an unrepentant Nazi, misogynist, and anti-Semite, yet still several feminist theorists and theologians make reference to Heidegger's insights into this (Heideggerian and Nietzschean) preoccupation with the "receding horizon" of Being that inevitably stacks paradox on top of enigma.

I have to compare my discomfort with Heidegger to my own discomfort at using the eschatological pacifist insights of John Howard Yoder (in my own pro-feminist book), when Yoder was discovered to have been a serial sexual predator against women.  Do the execrable aspects of these men's lives inevitably discredit anything they ever wrote?  Not necessarily, but it does force us to ask specific questions about what they wrote and how their ideas fit into practices and worldviews that are so deeply disturbing.

In the case of Beattie, through Irigary, and in reference to Heidegger, these feminists do not jettison history (anti-Semitism convicts not only Heidegger, but Elliott and Chesterton, and many others - misogyny convicts Nietzsche and about a thousand others), but read backward (as Beattie does through Lacan and into St. Thomas) into these historical figures through feminist eyes, feminist standpoints, what Joanna Hodge calls "brushing these texts against the grain to empower that silenced energy."  It's not as simple as babies and bathwater.

I'll suggest that feminism is exactly the movement that sheds more light on the sins of Heidegger and Yoder both, even as neither ever seriously engaged with feminist standpoints.  Fascism, as R.W. Connell pointed out, is a fundamentally gendered phenomenon; and Yoder inherited and subsumed almost two millennia of female exclusion in Christianity.  As Irigary herself points out, patriarchy has been sustained by a kind of historical "matricide," or the sustained silencing of women.

The crucial element of fascism is its explicit sexual language, what Theweleit calls “the conscious coding” or the “over-explicitness of the fascist language of symbol.” This fascist symbolization creates a particular kind of psychic economy which places sexuality in the service of destruction. Despite its sexually charged politics, fascism is an anti-eros, “the core of all fascist propaganda is a battle against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure.” ... He shows that in this world of war the repudiation of one’s own body, of femininity, becomes a psychic compulsion which associates masculinity with hardness, destruction, and self-denial

-Anson Rabinbach and Jessica Benjamin
..and this...

In gender terms, fascism was the naked reassertion of male supremacy in societies that had been moving toward equality for women.  To accomplish this, fascism promoted new images of hegemonic masculinity, glorifying irrationality (“the triumph of the will”, thinking with “the blood”) and the unrestrained violence of the frontline soldier.

-R. W. Connell 
In Yoder's case, as well, even though he was marginally familiar with the dominant liberal strain of feminism that had emerged as he wrote his most important works, he was quite simply blinded by his own privilege as a male, and the defensiveness that accompanies that kind of social power, and so he abusively exercised his power as a man, and a man in authority, within a kind of legalistic liberal interpretive framework that fails to factor pre-existing power into any concept of "consent."

So Beattie is not making excuses for Heidegger, nor is Irigary - her more primary interlocutor, for whose work an understanding of the Heideggerian Dasein - or inscrutable Being - is necessary.  Whereas Heidegger and Yoder both operate within a kind of "anesthesia of power," Irigary and Beattie, by "brushing the texts against the grain," reanimate the flesh and counteract that anesthesia.

In describing Heidegger's Dasein, Beattie writes:

Heidegger seeks to demonstrate that the development of metaphysics suppressed the experience of Being as being-in-the-world, and led to a highly conceptualized and abstract form of knowledge that fails to appreciate the wonder of the everyday coming into being of Being.  In particular, Christian ontotheology posits the idea of a supreme Being or God as origin, first cause, and ground of being, so that God becomes an entity among other entities . . . (Beattie, New Catholic Feminism, p. 52)
Here is that "univocal metaphysic" that emerged within the thought of John Duns Scotus when he attempted to understand God strictly on the basis of (thirteenth century) reason and philosophy.  Instead of Aquinas' "receding horizon" in the idea that "if you can think of it, it is not God," Duns Scotus tried to pull God inside the time-space continuum.  My breakfast is on that stove, and God is in heaven.

Beattie continues, re Heidegger and Being:

In our forgetfulness of Being, we have neglected the kind of knowledge that would constitute a constant attentiveness to this being of everyday life, in favour of ontological speculations that have little bearing on our experience of being in the world.  Instead of knowing the world through the wonder of the continuous unveiling of Being in beings, we have developed a representational theory of knowledge about the world through its relationship to abstract concepts that obstruct our openness to being-in-the-world.  (Ibid., p. 52)
But then she "brushes the text against the grain."

Excluded from philosophical speculation, woman's domain has been that of everyday being in the world, constituted by h er mundane relationships of care.  So does 'woman' not already mark that space of the immanence of Being that Heidegger claims has been covered over and rendered inaccessible and unthinkable?  Who has covered over her being, that she remains so invisible, even to Heidegger himself in his quest for other ways of being?  Western philosophy and theology have always associated women with being rather than doing, with immanence instead of transcendence, so might 'woman' be uniquely positioned in her ability to rethink Being from the position of Heidegger's beingness, and what might the implications be for our understanding of the relationship between human and divine being?

. . . for Heidegger, the question of sexual difference barely registers . . . (Ibid., p. 54)

Beattie's "against the grain" redemption of Heidegger is emblematic of her treatment of other male historical and philosophical figures, in particular Thomas Aquinas, through the likewise "redeemed" Lacan.

The "cleared space" of Heidegger's Dasein, in Beatties treatment, is the space for prayer - for that "amen to the world."  And it is here that she begins to simultaneously employ the insights of the several aforementioned, in addition to "the new Catholic feminism" (also Beattie's title) as articulated by Michele M. Schumacher - critiquing each in the process - to get at the core of her task.

. . . I seek a way beyond the politics of western liberal feminism, in order to develop a feminist theology of grace informed by a sense of the sacramentality of creation and by an awareness of the significance of prayer, revelation and faith for Christian ways of knowing, through a critical feminist refiguration of contemporary Catholic theology.  (Ibid., p. 4)
There is a kind of line that can be drawn from Nietzsche to Foucault to Judith Butler, a central thinker for postmodern feminism, what several Catholic writers, even the "new" Catholic feminists like Schumacher, somewhat dismissively refer to as "gender feminism."  (Heidegger is along that line, if not directly on it, and he accuses Nietzsche of retaining (gasp!) a metaphysics.)  That line from Nietzsche through Foucault and to Butler is a "genealogical" approach to moral inquiry - explained fairly well in Alasdair MacIntyre's book, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry.

In that book, MacIntyre writes as a Thomist (as, in many respects, does Beattie), and he asserts the "traditional" method of inquiry against the modern ("encyclopedist") method and the genealogical approach.

Beattie, on the other hand, is attending to feminism (to which MacIntyre only pays a cursory attention); and so Butler's post-Nietzschean feminism is compared with liberal feminisms as well as the Catholic apologetic feminism represented by Schumacher and others.  Even radical feminism (which is essentially post-marxist), which receives no direct attention in Beattie's books, as critical as it is of liberal feminisms, can be criticized as post-Kantian with Beattie's analysis in the same way as the radfems' liberal antagonists.

The emphasis on Butler is ironic, in that Nietzsche himself railed against the academic orthodoxies of his age and worked as an academic outsider, while Butler's ideas are almost hermetically sealed within the academy, and they have become a kind of academic feminist orthodoxy.  This is one reason Beattie's intervention is important and timely.

If one takes as the barometer of modern female identity a Judith Butler or a Luce Irigary one is confusing a highly stylized and dislocated form of academic rhetoric with questions of identity, belonging and meaning that actually situate women in the lived world of human relationships, economic realities, cultural expectations and religious practices.  It could be argued that some of the concerns expressed in postmodern theories of subjectivity are premised more upon the preoccupations of affluent western academics than upon the wider dilemmas of human subjects struggling for survival against the sometimes annihilating forces of the modern world.  (Ibid., p. 28)

What connects this lineage from Nietzsche through Foucault to Butler is anti-essentialism. As Beattie notes on page 33 of New Catholic Feminism, Butler and her acolytes are "invited to unmask all ontologies and essentialisms as discourses of power by means of which society reproduces the heterosexual body through the manufactured illusions of identity, interiority, nature and sexual embodiment."  Beattie acknowledges, as I do in Borderline, the hermeneutic value of Foucault and his theses on the culturally disciplined body.  But, as Beattie points out, the self in this idea of totalizing cultural construction (and transgressive performance as resistance to that discipline) attempts the complete evacuation of the body.  It is disembodied, inasmuch as - and here is where postmodernism is plain modernism - this body is unspecified, a pure abstraction.  This is plain modernity from its inception through Descartes through its codification in liberal law as "the individual" who is everywhere and nowhere, without a place, relations, history.

Here is where Alf Hornborg's words are apropos, cited in the beginning of this post.

Objectivism and constructivism thus represent two opposite responses to the Cartesian dilemma.Human cognition is viewed either as an increasingly exact representation of reality or as a contingent construction of meaning-creating humans.  One position takes the object as its point of departure, the other the subject. Although from the outset coeval and defined by the same Cartesian matrix, the two alternative approaches have come to be associated with social conditions of "modernity" and "postmodernity," respectively.
As Beattie summarized Butler, "the body itself becomes a mirage."  In fairness, Beattie acknowledges, using Butler's own words, that Butler bends the stick a long way, and that Butler admits that actual bodies are not "reducible to discourse."  And Beattie shows that Butler is onto something about "compulsory heterosexuality" as the basis of gender discipline, precisely by the reaction of the Catholic apologetic feminist stated fears of this "gender feminism."

Beatrice Coles - one of those apologetic feminists - writes, "Gender feminists - following the tracks of poststructuralist philosophers - are interested in deconstructing, among other things, language, family relationships, reproduction, sexuality, work, religions, government, and culture in general."

We shall be known by our fears.

Were these practices and institutions not so inflected with male power, perhaps these deconstructions would not be so fearsome (or necessary).  As we might say of the Reformation, we brought it on ourselves.  Yet the Cartesian matrix - dualism of subject and object, the basis of modern materialism - remains in place.

[W]ithout denying the insights of Butler's theory, there is a level at which her project remains fundamentally flawed, because it is trapped in the very materialism it seeks to escape. . . The self that refuses itself in the interests of the constant making and remaking of [the disembodied] self becomes a form of solipsistic exhibitionism that cannot break free of the constructs that constitute its deconstructive goal.  (New Catholic Feminism, p. 36).
More importantly, for Christians and Catholics, "Butler's secularism must pit itself against any possibility of an opening into transcendence or metaphysics, and this involves a sustained resistance to theology and an evasion of the questions that theology might pose to her enterprise."  (pp. 36-7)

Butler's interrogations of Lacan, however (and of Zizek and Laclau, Lacan's disciples), bring up a point that is embarrassing to the Catholic apologetic feminists, and their explicitly binary gender essentialism.  In gendering his associations of the Real, Symbolic, and Imaginary, Lacan's unknowable and un-representable Real is female.  This is but a half-step away from woman as chaos, as capricious nature, as lack, and as subject to masculine discipline.

Go deconstruction!

At any rate, these engagements of Beattie's are prefatory for her engagement of two more Catholic philosophers: Luce Irigaray and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Beattie's approach is fundamentally psycho-lingusitic, as are the approaches of these two thinkers and of Lacan.  The power of language is central to understanding them, and therefore to understanding Beattie herself.  Quoting Heidegger, "Language is the house of Being.  In its home man [sic] dwells."

Irigaray was a student of Lacan; and her signature critique of Lacan (and the Western intellectual pantheon of which he is a part) is based on the invisibility (or "exclusion") of women (through the tactic acceptance of male normativity, which she calls phallogocentrism). Her critique extends to Heidegger as well, in particular to his critique of Western modernity for its loss of the capacity to experience the wonder of Being, when women have been traditionally exiled from the male realm of culture and control into that very realm (of materiality, presence, and Being).  Perhaps women might have something to say about this; but it they do, Heidegger doesn't acknowledge it.

MORE TO FOLLOW - stay tuned

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