The Gift of Touch

Embodying the Good

By Stephen David Ross

Subjects: Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9780791438749, 389 pages, August 1998
Hardcover : 9780791438732, 389 pages, September 1998

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Table of contents


General Preface to the Project: The Gift of the Good

Introduction: Touching the Body of the Good

1. Mortal Bodies

2 Magic Bodies

3. Natural Bodies

4. Rational Bodies

5. Expressive Bodies

6. Prehensive Bodies

7. Fleshy Bodies

8. Disciplined Bodies

9. Full Bodies

10. Exposed Bodies

11. Fluid Bodies

12. Subject Bodies

13. Engendered Bodies

14. Queer Bodies

15. Surplus Bodies

16. Earthly Bodies




Traces Western ideas of corporeal bodies from Plato to contemporary feminist and postructuralist writings, with the purpose of reexamining the good, identified in Plato as that which gives authority to knowledge and truth.


The Gift of Touch is the third volume in Ross's ongoing examination of the Western philosophical tradition in ethical terms, from the standpoint of the good, giving rise to endless responsibilities, resisting the neutrality of being and truth. The first volume, The Gift of Beauty, explored the link between art and the good in the light of Nietzsche's revaluation of all values and the second volume, The Gift of Truth, explored the ways in which truth and knowledge answer to a responsibility beyond themselves, given from the good. This third book traces Western ideas for corporeal bodies from Plato to contemporary feminist and poststructuralist writings, understanding corporeal things throughout nature as heterogeneous and expressive, interpreted in ethical terms, in relation to histories of domination and resistance. At the heart of the book is a reexamination of the good, found in Plato as that which gives authority to knowledge and truth. The good gives being in abundance, understood in terms of endless responsibility, giving rise to an ethics of inclusion.

Stephen David Ross is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at the State University of New York, Binghamton. He is the author of The Gift of Beauty: The Good as Art and The Gift of Truth: Gathering the Good, as well as other books published by SUNY Press.


"Stephen David Ross has a special talent for pursuing the ramifications of a given topic, here the human body in its flesh and tactility, into the most engaging corridors of discussion. He takes generous account of the most important work that has been done on the body from Plato, Spinoza, and Whitehead through Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze and Guattari, Butler, Grosz, Lingis, and others. At the same time, he sets their work within the framework of his own evolving thought, especially that which bears on 'plenishment,' that is, the intersection of cherishment and sacrifice. He asks, 'How long before we care for abundance?' He sees abundance as 'given from the good' and thus as something that resists ethical and political neutrality. Coming to terms with the many kinds of body—expressive, fleshy, disciplined, exposed, engendered, queer, etc.—allows us to revise our sense of the good and to bring it down to earth in attentive and effective ways. His moving conclusion is that 'the infinite unfolding and refolding of corporeal bodies is plenishment in the earth, for the sake of the good, in memory of abundance.' This is a strikingly sensitive and illuminatingly original work." — Edward S. Casey, State University of New York at Stony Brook