Kang Yi — A Comparative Study on Between Luce Irigaray’ Thought and Taoism

Luce Irigaray has become a leading thinker notably because of her theory of sexuate difference. Her thought is studied by European and Anglo-Saxon scholars for her deconstruction of a mono subjective Western philosophy and re-constructing philosophy on two differently sexed subjects. The oriental themes concerning sexuate difference theory have been brought into sociological, religious, literary, and artistic studies beyond the previous philosophical and linguistic study. However, there is a lack of comparative study between Luce Irigaray’s thought and Taoist notions.

After deconstructing the patriarchal ideology and elaborating a feminine subjectivity, Irigaray tried to think about a non-patriarchal and non-matriarchal intersubjectivity based on the respect for sexuate difference. According to Taoism, yin and yang, which represent female and male, feminine and masculine, mother and father, and night and day co-exist peacefully so that everything should work well in the world. Yin and yang, as two different sides of the real, depend on each other without any hierarchy between them. The first point of my research concerns the relation to logos in Luce Irigaray’s thinking and in Taoism. The Luce Irigaray’ theory of sexual difference as something to do with linguistics and a deconstruction calling for difference against a logic based on sameness.. This means that sexuate difference implies an opposition to the traditional patriarchal logo-centrism. Logos has always had a very important role since the ancient Greece, but it must be put into question as the patriarchy and the phallocentrism. Difference stressed by Irigaray is incompatible with the meta-concept at work in western tradition which supports metaphysical significance, which means that sexuate difference is non compatible with the traditional logos. From the perspective of comparative studies, one can note that there is no concept corresponding to logos, and even to logic, in the traditional Chinese. As the meta-concept of Chinese philosophy, the Tao emphasizes the instant and an immediate intuition towards a more compromising and reconciling development, without binary oppositions. It is one of the reasons why scholars consider the Tao to be the Bible of women.

The second aspect of my research is about the attitudes towards language. Luce Irigaray believes that the traditional western language stiffens our breath” ( cf. To Be Two, 121), and she rebels against the past linguistic system, by which the other as woman is oppressed. In the keystone book of Taoism, it is said that said that “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name” (Lao Zi, 1). Lao Zi considers that “the language is dangerous, the system of language and the system of politics are always in a reciprocal relation”. (Aesthetics of Tao and Western Culture, 1) Lao Zi opposes the construction of a naming linguistic system because of the authorities’ and the politician’s aim about it, which means that he rejects the violence that a certain language can exert. The questioning and rejection about language by Lao Zi results from a reflection on the relationships between language and power. From a different cultural background, Irigaray questions the traditional western language and its patriarchal logic, as Lao Zi’s aimed to deconstruct the authority’s discourses in his epoch. My third point is about Irigaray’s “to be two” and yin-yang in Taoism. Irigaray claims that one should take the other as another subject with respect for the difference, and in order to set up a feminine subjectivity she creates very innovative theoretical stakes, for example the “mucous” and the “two lips”, and she uses the concave “speculum” to contrast the traditional “mirror”. In Taoism, the symbols of the female organs and the female features are emphasized too. Lao Zi does not consider the woman to be the other of the man, but an irreducible side which makes the Tao be complete so that, as a cosmological abstract model, the Tao could allow everything to run in harmony and so life to remain vivid. Irigaray questions Hegel’s family ethics, that is, the family which begins with three. In Taoism ethics “yin-yang” together compose a family in harmony and in peace. The function and influence of the combination or being together of yin-yang are highly prized in the documents unearthed.

As a conclusion: we need a reflection on Luce Irigaray’s thought from a Chinese researcher’s point of view. In fact, in contemporary Chinese society, everything following western standard and especially American standard is much appreciated, and everyone makes their best to follow the western principles. Unfortunately, we then face more problems than in the past. As far as Chinese academic tradition is concerned, dropping out of the tradition of intuition and embodiment in order to adopt the traditional western logic is not really wise, notably after our learning about Luce Irigaray’s thoughts. Thus, the significance of comparative study between Irigaray’s work and Taoism is crucial for Chinese culture and towards a world culture.