Foucault And Butler Orient Their Respective Philosophies Essay

Foucault And Butler Orient Their Respective Philosophies Essay

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Both Foucault and Butler orient their respective philosophies towards the idea of the body, and its relationship to sexuality and gender. Foucault, in his book, “History and Sexuality, Vol. I” asserts that bodies are constituted within a specific network of cultural influences. Whereas Butler, in her book, “Gender Trouble”, agrees with Foucault that the body is only understandable within the context of gender and sexuality, she argues that Foucault’s theory implies that there is a materiality (or ontological independence) of the body outside of those specific cultural regimes; while the body is shaped and determined by cultural influences, its concrete substance is continued in, and outside of, that connection. While Foucault provides the basis for discussion around the constitution of bodies within society, Butler’s continuation of Foucault’s philosophy on the body is a more coherent argument as it rejects the notion of a presupposed body before sex and gender is inscribed on it.
Foucault argues that the body is a site where discourses (including gender and sexuality) inscribe themselves. In “History and Sexuality Vol. I”, Foucault concerns himself primarily with the idea of sex, and how sex is influenced by, and influencing society and individuals. Sex is traditionally viewed as a real, biological entity from which we conclude that there is such a thing as sexuality. Foucault disagrees, arguing that sex is an “imaginary thing” produced by the idea of sexuality in order to maintain a coherent image (Foucault, 155-156). The body is a conglomerate of culturally constituted meanings, and sex is an “imaginary point” (CITE)- the mere result of a materiality. Nonetheless, sex and gender are primary ways in which societies organize and...


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...stood outside of the cultural influencers of sex and gender is damaging to people and politics. This does not mean that the body does not matter, as Butler asserts in her example on the documentary “Paris is Burning”. CITE. Bodies are sites that are inextricably bound up with gender, class, and race together, and to try to imagine one without the other is impossible. Although Butler’s theories have often been criticized for discounting the body, Butler argues that Foucault’s philosophy destroys the body by holding it up as a pre-cultural entity. Foucault maintains that the body has to be destroyed by culture in order for culture to emerge; culture has to make the body illegible before itself can be legible. Butler’s philosophies try to save the body by denying it materiality, by asserting that the body is only understandable within the context of gender and sexuality.

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