What is love and why is it so important to understand and explore it?
Since Plato's Symposium (and maybe even longer) the meaning of love has been a significant topic of philosophers. Irigaray's exploration and discussion is refreshingly different. She, in a way, takes on the whole prior philosophic tradition.
This is tough but exciting. It requires a bit of patience to stick with Irigaray's argument for this whole book--both because of the denseness of her philosophic language and a difficult transation that she herself (almost apologetically) took a hand in, changing some of the terms used by her translators. But in sticking with her we learn that her "way of love" is a) really quite down to earth; and b) very poetic and all-encompassing. Both of these at the same time!
One of her most enticing notions is "letting be transcendence."
"To experience this co-belonging implies leaving representative thought and letting oneself go in the co-belonging to Being which already inhabits us, constitutes us, surrounds us. It presupposes, in fact, dwelling 'there where we truly already are' . . . In order to have access to it man has to leave his own world, or rather to partly open its limits. It is not in his house, including that of language, that he will find out how to enter a new historical era, a new speech. The feature referring to the specificity of man has to change place--passing from the relation to things to the relation to the other."
I think of "letting be transcendence" as the best possible communication between persons who love one another. It is a way of relating in which one does not define the other but leaves an open space and listens and watches to see how the other defines him or herself. By not defining or pre-categorizing the other, two together achieve something higher--the "letting be transcendence" which opens up a whole world, and a higher order of thinking and existing in the world.
Besides "letting be transcendence" there are numerous concepts and ideas she reveals along the "way of love" that captivate our imagination and make us want to be participants. Love for Irigaray is not some abstract notion or intellectual category--it is real, existing in the here and now.
It is exciting when you, as her reader, are going along with Irigaray on these flights. She makes love--actual physical, emotional love and being together--to be something transforming and visionary.
It is as though Irigary takes the actual physical proximity that we know of as fulfilling love and expands it outward into a view of the cosmos--and in a way that is the reverse of Plato and other philosophers. In the old fashioned way of looking at things philosophically, love seems more an abstract external concept or force that a man (if worthy) might access or partake of. But for Irigaray it is the concrete, immediate presence of love that generates this spiritual force outward.
Very cleverly she begins her treatise by discussing the word "philosophy" itself, asking the question why we have interpreted philosophy to mean "love of wisdom" instead of the "wisdom of love."
It requires concentration and a surrender to her text (almost like the surrender to love itself) to keep up with Irigaray on her remarkable journey, but the experience is well worth it.