On Love, Women, and Friendship: Reading Nietzsche with Irigaray

Willow Verkerk

Abstract

This essay examines Nietzsche’s accounts of love and the gender troubles of friendship. In many passages, Nietzsche situates love as an impairment to friendship. In particular, he believes that erotic or sexual love, understood as a drive that seeks to possess and control the other, prevents two people from entering into the shared project of friendship. Nietzsche implies that gender roles, and the cultural expectations associated with these types, make friendship very difficult between women and men. The reason why women in Nietzsche’s account cannot move from love relationships into friendship is because they are primarily esteemed for their fulfillment of gender stereotypes. In order to avoid the perils of assimilation, pointed to by Nietzsche, it is imperative to develop an ethics of friendship that changes the way people approach and love one another. Luce Irigaray present such an alternative with her account of wonder. She argues that recognition requires a negative movement in which one acknowledges one’s limits in understanding the other. Irigaray designates a transformative and activist potential to love, as a benefit to friendship in its erotic and practical qualities. She claims that when love is expressed alongside the passion of wonder there is a stronger potential for recognition between two people. With the assistance of Irigaray, this essay questions Nietzsche’s assessment that love is an impasse to friendship by asking if love need be as assimilating as Nietzsche proposes.

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