Coming to Life: Philosophies of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Mothering

By Sarah Lachance Adams; Caroline R. Lundquist | Go to book overview

3
Original Habitation
Pregnant Flesh as Absolute Hospitality

FRANCES GRAY

In this essay I develop a metaphor that evokes the idea of woman’s pregnant flesh as the original home and ground of human sociality. I explicate notions of flesh, of home, and of hospitality elaborated by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida and argue that these notions assume the temporal and existential priority of pregnant being. Underpinning my analysis is Edmund Husserl’s claim that the conscious body, as personal individual, presupposes “a plurality of subjects in mutual intersubjective understanding.”1 This decidedly Hegelian sentiment expresses the intuition that human selfhood requires human otherness. The existence of a “plurality of subjects in mutual intersubjective understanding” has a temporal and an existential priority over the personal. We are all born into worlds that already exist, and that will continue to exist once we die. We all come into being through our intertwining with those pluralities, which, in all of their manifestations, are the symbolic matrices with which we must contend as we grow into human being. In other words, the existential and temporal preconditions of our personal existences that help to bring us into human personhood, that help to orchestrate our subjectivities are, in essence, predicated on the plurality implicit in mutual intersubjective understanding.

I argue that the fundamental intrinsic relatedness of all human life expressed in the relationship between the pregnant woman and her “second subject” is the precondition for this plurality of subjects, for intersubjective possibilities within the already given, what has to be presupposed. Note

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