Luce Irigaray

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Luce Irigaray
Born (1930-05-03) 3 May 1930 (age 88)
Alma materCatholic University of Louvain
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolContinental philosophy
French feminism[1]
Notable ideas
"Women on the market"[2]

Luce Irigaray (/ɪˈrɪɡər/; French: [iʁigaʁɛ]; born 3 May 1930) is a Belgian-born French feminist, philosopher, linguist, psycholinguist, psychoanalyst and cultural theorist. She is best known for her works Speculum of the Other Woman (1974) and This Sex Which Is Not One (1977). Presently, she is active in the Women's Movements in both France and Italy.[3]


Luce Irigaray received a bachelor's degree from the University of Louvain in 1954 and a master's degree from the same university in 1956 and taught at a high school in Brussels from 1956 to 1959.

In 1960 she moved to Paris to pursue a master's degree in Psychology from the University of Paris, which she earned in 1961, she also received a specialist diploma in Psychopathology from the school in 1962. In 1968, she received a doctorate in Linguistics from Paris X Nanterre. Her thesis was titled Approche psycholinguistique du langage des déments.

She completed a PhD in Linguistics in 1968 from the University of Vincennes in Saint-Denis (University of Paris VIII). Her dissertation on speech patterns of subjects suffering from dementia became her first book, Le langage des déments, published in 1973. In 1974, she earned a second PhD in Philosophy.

In the 1960s, Irigaray started attending the psychoanalytic seminars of Jacques Lacan and joined the École Freudienne de Paris (Freudian School of Paris), directed by Lacan. She was expelled from this school in 1974 after the publication of her second doctoral thesis (doctorat d'État), Speculum of the Other Woman (Speculum: La fonction de la femme dans le discours philosophique, later retitled as Speculum: De l'autre femme), which received much criticism from both the Lacanian and Freudian schools of psychoanalysis. This criticism brought her recognition. But she was removed from her position as an instructor at the University of Vincennes as well as ostracized from the Lacanian community.

She held a research post at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique since 1964, where she is now a Director of Research in Philosophy. Her initial research focused on dementia patients, about whom she produced a study of the differences between the language of male and female patients.

Noted also is that in her writings, Irigaray has stated a concern that an interest in her biography would affect the interpretation of her ideas as the entrance of women into intellectual discussions has often also included the challenging of women's point of view based on biographical material. Her most extensive autobiographical statements thus far are gathered in Through Vegetal Being (co-authored with Michael Marder). Overall, she maintains the belief that biographical details pertaining to her personal life hold the possibility to be used against her within the male dominated educational establishment as a tool to discredit her work.[4]

Works and publications[edit]

Her first major book Speculum of the Other Woman, based on her second dissertation, was published in 1974, In Speculum, Irigaray engages in close analyses of phallocentrism in Western philosophy and psychoanalytic theory, analyzing texts by Freud, Hegel, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant. The book's most cited essay, "The Blind Spot of an Old Dream," critiques Freud's lecture on femininity.

In 1977, Irigaray published This Sex Which is Not One (Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un) which was subsequently translated into English with that title and published in 1985, along with Speculum. In addition to more commentary on psychoanalysis, including discussions of Lacan's work, This Sex Which is Not One also comments on political economy, drawing on structuralist writers such as Lévi-Strauss. For example, Irigaray argues that the phallic economy places women alongside signs and currency, since all forms of exchange are conducted exclusively between men. (See the essay "Women on the Market", which is Chapter Eight of This Sex Which Is Not One.)[5]

Irigaray draws upon Karl Marx’s theory of capital and commodities to claim that women are exchanged between men in the same way as any other commodity is. She argues that our entire society is predicated on this exchange of women. Her exchange value is determined by society, while her use value is her natural qualities. Thus, a woman’s self is divided between her use and exchange values, and she is only desired for the exchange value. This system creates three types of women: the mother, who is all use value; the virgin, who is all exchange value; and the prostitute, who embodies both use and exchange value.[6]

Within the same essay, "Women on the Market," Irigaray uses additional Marxist foundations to argue that women are in demand due to their perceived shortage and as a result, males seek "to have them all," or seek a surplus like the excess of commodity buying power, capital, that capitalists seek constantly.

Irigaray speculates thus that perhaps, "the way women are used matter less than their number." In this further analogy of women "on the market," understood through Marxist terms, Irigaray points out that women, like commodities, are moved between men based on their exchange value rather than just their use value, and the desire will always be surplus – making women almost seem like capital, in this case, to be accumulated. "As commodities, women are thus two things at once: utilitarian objects and bearers of value."[6]


Some of Irigaray's books are imaginary dialogues with significant contributors to Western philosophy, such as Nietzsche and Heidegger. However Irigaray also writes a significant body of work on Hegel, Descartes, Plato, Aristotle and Levinas, as well as Merleau-Ponty. She continued to conduct empirical studies about language in a variety of settings, researching the differences between the way men and women speak. This focus on sexual difference is the key characteristic of Irigaray's oeuvre, since she is seeking to provide a site from which a feminine language can eventuate.


Many feminists criticize the perceived essentialist positions of Luce Irigaray.[7] However, there is much debate among scholars as to whether or not Irigaray's theory of sexual difference is, indeed, an essentialist one. The perception that Luce Irigaray's work is essentialist concentrates on her attention to sexual difference, taking this to constitute a rehearsal of heteronormative sexuality. As Helen Fielding states, the uneasiness among feminists about Irigaray’s discussion of masculinity and femininity does not so much reveal Irigaray’s heteronormative bias, but "arises out of an inherited cultural understanding [on the part of her critics] that posits nature as either unchanging organism or as matter that can be ordered, manipulated and inscribed upon. Hence the concern over essentialism is itself grounded in the binary thinking that preserves a hierarchy of...culture over nature."[8]

W. A. Borody has criticised Luce Irigaray's phallogocentric argument as misrepresenting the history of philosophies of "indeterminateness" in the West. Luce Irigaray's "black and white" claims that the masculine=determinateness and that the feminine=indeterminateness contain a degree of cultural and historical validity, but not when it is deployed to self-replicate a similar form of the gender-othering it originally sought to overcome.[9]

Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, in their book about postmodern authors abusing scientific concepts (Fashionable Nonsense, 1997), consider Luce Irigaray naïve and clumsy when attempting to use hard-science terminology in her writings. They report examples of Irigaray thinking that Einstein was interested in "accelerations without electromagnetic reequilibrations" (a nonsense concept, page 107); confusing Special Relativity and General Relativity (page 107); arguing that E = mc² is a "sexist equation" because "it favors the speed of light over other [undefined, according to the authors] speeds that are vital for us" (page 109); messing up with fluid mechanics (pages 110–116) as well as with the basics of mathematical logic (pages 117–120).

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Irigaray, Luce (1974). Speculum of the Other Woman. (Eng. trans. 1985 by Gillian C. Gill), ISBN 9780801493300.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1977). This Sex Which Is Not One. (Eng. trans. 1985), ISBN 9780801493317.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1980). Marine Lover: Of Friedrich Nietzsche. (Eng. trans. 1991 by Gillian C. Gill), ISBN 9780231070829.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1982). Elemental Passions. (Eng. trans. 1992), ISBN 9780415906920.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1983). Belief Itself.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1983). The Forgetting of Air: In Martin Heidegger. (Eng. trans. 1999), ISBN 9780292738720.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1984). An Ethics of Sexual Difference. (Eng. trans. 1993 by Gillian C. Gill), ISBN 9780801481451.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1985). To Speak is Never Neutral. (Eng. trans. 2002), ISBN 9780826459046.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1987). Sexes and Genealogies. (Eng. trans. 1993 by Gillian C. Gill), ISBN 9780231070331.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1989). Thinking the Difference: For a Peaceful Revolution. (Eng. trans. 1993), ISBN 9780485114263.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1990). Je, tu, nous: Towards a Culture of Difference. (Eng. trans. 1993), ISBN 9780415905824.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1990). I Love to You: Sketch for a Felicity Within History. (Eng. trans. 1993), ISBN 9780415907323.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1994). Democracy Begins Between Two. (Eng. trans. 2000), ISBN 9780415918169.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1997). To Be Two. (Eng. trans. 2001), ISBN 9780415918145.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1999). Between East and West: From Singularity to Community. (Eng. trans. 2001), ISBN 9780231119351.
  • Irigaray, Luce (2000). Why Different?, ISBN 9780801493300.
  • Irigaray, Luce (2002). The Way of Love.ISBN 9780826473271.
  • Irigaray, Luce (2008). Sharing the World. (Eng. trans. 2008), ISBN 9781847060341.
  • Irigaray, Luce (2008). Conversations, ISBN 9781847060365.
  • Irigaray, Luce (2013). In the Beginning, She Was. ISBN 9781441106377
  • Irigaray, Marder (2016). Through Vegetal Being: Two Philosophical Perspectives. ISBN 9780231173865.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1996), "This sex which is not one", in Jackson, Stevi; Scott, Sue, Feminism and sexuality: a reader, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 79–83, ISBN 9780231107082.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1997), ""This sex which is not one"", in Nicholson, Linda, The second wave: a reader in feminist theory, New York: Routledge, pp. 323–329, ISBN 9780415917612.
  • Luce Irigaray (1999), "Philosophy in the Feminine", Feminist Review, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 111–114, ISSN 1466-4380.
  • Irigaray, Luce (2005), "In science, is the subject sexed?", in Gutting, Gary, Continental philosophy of science, Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy Series, Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 283–292, ISBN 9780631236108.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1981), "And the One Doesn't Stir Without the Other", Signs, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 60–67.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kelly Ives, Cixous, Irigaray, Kristeva: The Jouissance of French Feminism, Crescent Moon Publishing, 2016.
  2. ^ Luce Irigaray, "Women on the Market", in: This Sex Which Is Not One, Cornell University Press, 1985, p. 170.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ ledpup. "Luce Irigaray, "Women on the Market" | caring labor: an archive". Retrieved 2015-05-17.
  6. ^ a b Irigaray, L. (1985) "Women on the Market." in Rivkin, J.; Ryan, M. (eds) (1998). Literary theory, an anthology. Malden, Mass: Blackwell. pp. 799–811. ISBN 9780631200291.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Christine Delphy, L'Ennemi principal, tome 2 : Penser le genre (2001)
  8. ^ Fielding, H. (2003). "Questioning nature: Irigaray, Heidegger and the potentiality of matter". Continental Philosophy Review. 36: 1–26. doi:10.1023/A:1025144306606.
  9. ^ Wayne A. Borody (1998) pp. 3, 5 Figuring the Phallogocentric Argument with Respect to the Classical Greek Philosophical Tradition Nebula: A Netzine of the Arts and Science, Vol. 13 (pp. 1–27) <>.

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