The Universal Spirit and the Body of Differences
Recently, feminist theory has provided us with extraordinarily subtle analyses of the ways that the mind/ body split is inextricably bound up with the western discourse of gender. The work of Judith Butler is of particular importance. She argues that the critique of dualism is in fact at the heart of the founding text of modern feminist theory, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex:
Although Beauvoir is often understood to be calling for the right of women, in effect, to become existential subjects and hence, for inclusion within the terms of an abstract universality, her position also implies a fundamental critique of the very disembodiment of the abstract masculine epistemological subject. That subject is abstract to the extent that it disavows its socially marked embodiment and, further, projects that disavowed and disparaged embodiment on to the feminine sphere, effectively renaming the body as female. This association of the body with the female works along magical relations of reciprocity whereby the female sex becomes restricted to its body, and the male body, fully disavowed, becomes, paradoxically, the incorporeal instrument of an ostensibly radical freedom. Beauvoir's analysis implicitly poses the question: Through what act of negation and disavowal does the masculine pose as a disembodied universality and the feminine get constructed as a disavowed corporeality? (Butler 1990, 12)
I am tracing one of the historical trajectories along which this act of negation, disavowal, and construction takes place. In her book, The Man of Reason: “Male” and “Female” in Western Philosophy, Genevieve Lloyd has described the historical process within philosophy wherein the universal mind came to be identified as male, while the gendered body became female (1984, 7, 26). I am trying to do two things: to further specify the cultural mechanisms which rendered this gender ontology dominant in our formation and to show that and how “the Jew” has been constructed analogously to “Woman” within the culture and by a very similar historical vector. As I have argued in the first chapter, the specific historical occasion of the merger in Philo of Plato and Genesis 2 synergistically enhanced this ideological process in the world of Hellenistic Judaism and from hence to much of Christianity. In this chapter, I am going to concentrate on the question of gender through a close and contextualized reading of the crucial Pauline texts.