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Carnal Knowledge

As she is the first “object” in the consciousness of the child, any ambivalence toward the mother is transferred to all women and to the environment at large—that is, to nature. But rejection of the feminine presence is only half the story of this ambivalent relationship to otherness. The remaining half is a longing for union or merging with it. In the male-dominated society, the female is for the male a symbol of the mysterious Other, inspiring not only the drive to conquer and contain it but also to open to it and merge with it. These are two phases in an epistemic cycle, which begins with opening and ends in closure—properly, of course, to reopen on some new level or in new territory. The fundamental mistake involved in intellectual fixity is to identify knowledge strictly with the closure phase, and with a negative view of the Unknown or Other as something to be isolated, contained, resisted or denied. This cycle may also be understood in terms of the metaphor of assimilation. As food, the known is the part of reality that is already dead, consumed, digested. The unknown part is the fresh and unconsumed, to which we are drawn by appetite and eros.

RELATED TAGS: [longing for union, The Unknown, The (mysterious) Other, (psychological) projection, dialectic/epistemic cycle, feminine presence/ethos, ambivalence toward mother, intellectual fixity, metaphor of assimilation, (knowledge and) eros]

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