Justice as Breath(ing)
Both Luce Irigaray and Adriana Cavarero have paid substantial attention to breath and breathing in their more recent work. Both continental thinkers appear to be responding to the “death-drive” of metaphysical (western) philosophy and attempt to transcend this fascination with the “long, last expiration” by re-focussing on the moment of the first breath and the relationship between breath and voice. Responding to the centrality of the visual in Emmanuel Levinas’s face-to-face encounter with the Other, both Irigaray and Cavarero argue for an ethics beyond the dying breath, arguments which reflect a concern with “an existence which is beginning” and thus transforming. Death by the Order of God is thus resisted and displaced by an ethics of responsibility towards the singular newcomer who invokes in us a sense of wonder, of the ‘not yet’. Breath, as proof of the proximity of the other, allows for a politics of resonance, a politics of the voice and the interweaving of voice and speech. This re-imagining of relationship and community brings us closer to the realisation that it is who I am listening to that demands my absolute attention – a realisation which takes us beyond the tragedy of the name and naming towards the birth of pleasure.
Keywords: Cavarero, Irigaray, Justice, Levinas, The Other
Prof. Narnia Bohler-Muller
Professor, faculty of Law, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University