The Feminine SymptomAleatory Matter in the Aristotelian Cosmos

The Feminine SymptomAleatory Matter in the Aristotelian Cosmos

Emanuela Bianchi

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780823262182

Publisher: Fordham University Press


The Feminine Symptom is a deconstructive, psychoanalytic, continental feminist study of Aristotle’s natural philosophy. It proposes that Aristotle’s theory of sexual reproduction is key to understanding his philosophical project as a whole. Just as a craftsman creates an artifact, the male supplies the form, which acts on matter provided by the female. The “feminine symptom” refers to the mechanism by which a female offspring is produced, namely a fault or misstep in the teleological unfolding of reproduction, occasioned by the presence of chance forces, but one that is necessary to the teleological cosmos. The book repositions Generation of Animals as the central text of Aristotle’s thinking, and traces the aleatory feminine symptom as accident, chance, coincidence and necessity operating in Aristotelian metaphysics and physics: in cause, place, motion, potentiality, and actuality, as well as exploring the relationship of Aristotle’s natural philosophy to Plato, atomism, and other predecessors. The methodology attends to Aristotle’s figures, his literariness and teleological momentum, seeking out textual aporias, slippages, and symptoms in relation to sexual difference. The analysis reveals the dual vectors at work in Aristotle’s thought: a movement toward system-building, hierarchy, and teleology, but also a phenomenological attunement to the singularity of things. The book engages Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle, and remedies the lack of attention paid to Aristotle by 20th-century French thinkers, and also addresses an Anglophone literature on Aristotle’s biology and feminism. The book develops a politics of “aleatory feminism” that converges with the contemporary turn to “new materialisms” in the theoretical humanities.