Plenishment in the Earth

An Ethic of Inclusion

By Stephen David Ross

Subjects: Women's Studies
Paperback : 9780791423103, 430 pages, February 1995
Hardcover : 9780791423097, 430 pages, February 1995

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Table of contents

Chapter 1 Prelude

Cherishment, sacrifice, plenishment; inclusion and exclusion, domination and subordination. Heterogeneous kinds of the earth. Ethic of sexual difference. Circulation of the good from women to animals to nature, everywhere in the earth, related to natural kinds. Voice and structure of this book. Repeated movements around heterogeneity.

Chapter 2 Rest

Irigaray and question of sexual difference. Spinoza's exclusion of women from ethics. A different ethics. Relation to ecological feminism. Ethics of reading and writing; history of Western philosophy. Modulation from lrigaray's An Ethics of Sexual Difference to The Sex of Ethical Difference , to a sexed and bodily ethics. Ideas of economies, restricted and general, from Bataille. Levinas and endless responsibility. Heterogeneity and gender. The question of our age and impossibility of a universal We.

Chapter 3 Lullaby

Close reading of An Ethics of Sexual Difference . Question of sexual difference as the question of our age. Relation to Heidegger's question of technology. Poiesis and techne. Leading to first philosophy. Sexual difference and gender. Sexual difference and objectivity. Ethical difference and indifference. Place, displacement, places between (aentre ), reste. Intermediary figures. Space and time. Kristeva, Wit-rig. Spinoza's exclusion of women and animals. Kristeva, herethics, the Stabat Mater , ethics of sexual difference. lrigaray's reading of place and rest in relation to excess. Woman as no place. Heterogeneity, embodiment, mucosity.

Chapter 4 Rest

Continued reading of An Ethics of Sexual Difference . Woman as place of place. Aristotle, Plato, Whitehead, Spinoza. Sexual difference and embodiment. Sexual difference and women's jouissance ; ethical difference and jouissance of animals. Music and the Stabat Mater. Ethic of responsibility and proximity, herethics, expressed in song.

Chapter 5 Canon

Radical alterity as heterogeneity, between Levinas and Irigaray. Dyad of gender as a measure and sexual difference as heterogeneity. Dyad as binariness, master-slave, and face to face. General economy as circulation of dyads. Social contract as circulation of women. Foucault's view of power and money as restricted and general economy. Circulation of women and animals. Control of circulation as mastery and culture. Question of Western canon, restricted and general economy of reading and writing. Indefinite dyad in Philebus as account of measure and the good, poiesis and techne . Natural kinds circulating in general economy.

Chapter 6 Rest

Whitehead and dyadic oppositions. Trinh and hegemony of Western culture. Whitehead on public and private. Dewey on experience and nature, means and ends. Lyotard and the Différend , stocking up time. All dissolutions of binary opposition, measure, and restricted economy.

Chapter 7 Carnaval

Radical alterity as heterogeneity, between Levinas and Irigaray. Alterity and dyad human-animal. Heterogeneity face to face in Levinas and love, passing away from subjectivity to animals on the way to nature. Singer's defense of animal liberation, criticized as measured, depending on a criterion. Contrasted with cherishment and plenishment. Comstock on pigs and Taylor on wild living things. Contrasted with cherishment and plenishment. Examples of living creatures and other human beings with a knowledge they may know that we will never know. Derrida and Heidegger on Geschlecht : gender and essence of the human, the gift of language. Related to animal sacrifice. From Geschlecht, dividing humanity from animals, idea of kindred difference, including all kinds of things together in plenishment. History of domination of animals, from Old Testament through Aquinas. Dewey's view of nature as plenitude without exclusion.

Chapter 8 Rest

Ecological feminism. Environmental ethics. The masculine subject and domination of nature. Ethic of care. Gilligan and Nodding. Critique of ethic of care. Critique of bipolar ethics, feminist or otherwise. Critique of choice between ethic of care and of rights.

Chapter 9 Tango

Radical alterity as heterogeneity, between Levinas and Irigaray. Alterity as sexual, erotic, jouissance . Man and woman as categories of gender; gender as heterosexuality. Sexuality as rapture, madness, desire; heterogeneity. Heterogeneity face to face, intimacy, and proximity. Illich's view of vernacular gender and economic sex. Butler's critique of the categories of gender and of Wittig's undivided being and language. Response to Butler from within the univocity of being, language, and gender. Instability of categories of gender expressed as heterogeneity, erotic and altererotic. Derrida's critique of Dasein 's neutrality as repetition of sexual difference. Sexual difference as gentleness, strife, and erotic heterogeneity.

Chapter 10 Rest

MacKinnon's critique of sexuality in societies with gender inequality. Impossibility of love under conditions of gender inequality. Sexual domination and sexual violence. Domesticity, privacy, and subjugation of women, in relation to race, class, and culture. Subjection and abjection. Rape, sexual violence, and sexual intimacy. Ethical danger and proximity. No measurable difference, under law, between sexual violence and sexual intimacy. Proximity and danger, of what we cannot begin to imagine. Arendt's view of public as heterogeneity, no sense of heterogeneity in private. Domiciles as places of danger and violence. Plenishment insists that no kind may be assigned to suffer dangers of proximity.

Chapter 11 Walpurgisnacht

Witches as contaminated figures of destruction and disturbance. Wittig's The Lesbian Body as (lesbianized) rethinking of embodiment, violence, and sexuality, of heterogeneity. Contamination of sexual violence and relation to sacrifice. Witches and goddesses as figures of disturbance and violence.

Chapter 12 Rest

Rainbow-colored heterogeneity disturbing culture's mastery. Multiple kinds and kindred difference. Trinh's Master, First and Third World. Lugones and feminist obliviousness to color. Our own and others' heterogeneity. Our belonging to multiple kinds. Identity and heterogeneity; multiple identity; world-traveling. Nature's heterogeneity; multiple natural kinds. African witches; African philosophy. Intermediary figures and sovereignty. Dixon's account of African and European philosophy. Harding's critique. African and Aboriginal stories. Rejection of dichotomy.

Chapter 13 Rhapsody

General economy, song of the earth. Locality, inexhaustibility, ergonality. Cherishment, sacrifice, plenishment. poiesis and techne joined, not opposing. Work of the good. Sexed rights. Guidelines to an ethic of inclusion.





This book is an ethic of inclusion leading from gender and sexual difference through the social world of race and culture to the natural world.

Stephen David Ross is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at the State University of New York, Binghamton. He is the author or editor of nine other books also published by SUNY Press.


"The book engages a central question in feminist philosophy and centers on Irigaray's question of sexual difference, moving through this to an ethics of inclusion based on ethical difference. I like the way in which Ross boldly lays out his own view while utilizing, drawing on, and situating himself with respect to leading feminist philosophers/scholars. His way of thinking about justice, utility, and rights-based theory from the standpoint of a general economy changes how we think of oppression and how gender extends into nature's plenitude. " — Margaret Nash

"Ross never ceases to amaze me. He seems to have internalized all of the philosophically deep feminist literature and has come up with the most sophisticated metaphysical critique of sexual discrimination and separatism that I have yet seen in print. At the very least, I am certain that it is the best such work to come from a man's pen. " — Steve Fuller

"It brings together philosophical traditions that rarely speak to each other by formulating a unique history of the Western philosophical tradition. The point of the historical analysis is to bring us to another way of thinking through the meanings/possibilities/dangers of our times. There is nothing utopian in this advocacy of an ethics of cherishment, care and kinds, if by utopian we think of unrealistic fantasies. This ethic of caring confronts the necessities of injustice without bitterness or resignation. I like what it says and how it says it. " — Debra B. Bergoffen

"It led me to think a lot more deeply about personal identity, male/female relations, the human relationship with the environment, and spirituality, than other books have done. I'm already very well read in these areas, yet this book raised new issues for reflection and reopened many old issues; even when I disagreed with the author, I was led to fruitful reexamination of many important matters. The book led to personal and professional growth. " — Marilyn G. Holly