Being and Freedom: Ahmed, Irigaray and Beauvoir on Subjectivity, Lack and Liberation
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In this essay, I explore the concept of lack and its presence in the thought of Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray and Sara Ahmed. Simone de Beauvoir's The Ethics of Ambiguity establishes an ethical system based on the existentialist idea that every individual must make themself a "lack of being" because they have no essence and are fundamentally free. Luce Irigaray's This Sex Which Is Not One explores the inherent multiplicity and lack within the female body. Opposing popular psychoanalytical conceptions, Irigaray asserts that the female body is unfamiliar because it lacks male features and has both multiple features and a lack in their place simultaneously. Sara Ahmed's Queer Phenomenology utilizes phenomenological thought to analyze the way that an individual understands familiar and unfamiliar objects. Ahmed characterizes phenomenology thusly: "... [P]henomenology for Husserl means apprehending the object as if it were unfamiliar, so that we can attend to the flow of perception itself." Essentially, phenomenology observes the unfamiliarity of familiar objects. My analysis will begin by introducing Ahmed's concept of wonder as remembering the lack of unfamiliarity in familiar objects, actions or individuals. I will then utilize the concept of wonder to phenomenologically analyze the lack that Irigaray attributes to the female body in This Sex Which Is Not One. Finally, I will conclude with de Beauvoir's argument that one has a responsibility to make themself a "lack of being," meaning that they must recognize their lack of an essence and embrace their movement toward freedom.