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Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel:
The Irresolvability of the Gadamer-Habermas Debate



Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?

  —Matthew 27:46

We have known since 1994 that the first inscription of sexual difference into philosophical discourse occurred over two hundred years previous with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. For it was that year Copjec published her Read My Desire, a text whose final essay reveals the structural homology between Kant’s two pairs of antinomies and Lacan’s two sets of sexuated formulae. As is well known, Žižek has recognized how this insight is far from a mere curiosity. Fully acknowledging his debt to her, Žižek has led his Slovenian school in extending the spirit of her work through further Lacanian appropriations of Kant, thereby enriching our understanding of both the German philosopher and the French psychoanalyst. Yet what is generally overlooked is how Copjec's reading of Kant is rather unique in the world of textual analysis. For if we consider this reading itself as sexuated in nature, we see that it finds in the first Critique a reified version of its own methodological approach. It is as if we are dealing here with a type of thought which seemingly grounds itself in what it finds in the text through the very process of its de-limitation, as if this gesture of thought is tautological and thus somehow clears the space for its own arrival. Yet such 'topological thought' is really nothing new, as this is precisely what occupied Lacan in his last years when he actively sought to release the immense revelatory potential of topology to establish novel insights in all manners of discourse. In this paper this potential will be applied to one type of discourse – textual discourse – as it is our contention that topological thought is inscribed by the sexuated formulae and that its logic can be employed for textual analysis. Specifically, we intend to conduct a sexuated analysis on those texts which comprise what has become known as the Gadamer-Habermas Debate which took place in the late-1960's and early-1970's. Once the formulae (or antinomies) have been rendered into suitable terminology, we will find that such an analysis can accurately depict this debate, although in a sense slightly different from Copjec's finding. Whereas in the case of Kant sexual difference was found to be inscribed in a single text, in the case of Gadamer-Habermas this difference most readily runs across the debate and can be said to account for its divide.

We take up Gadamer and Habermas each in turn to argue that their respective theories can be conceived as two distinct Lacanian sexuated positions1 whose logic – as per Copjec2 – thus follows one of the two corresponding types of Kantian antinomy.3 Through the development and discussion of formal articulations of their respective antinomies, Gadamer's feminine-mathematical space is shown to take logical priority over the masculine-dynamical space occupied by Habermas. In order to better facilitate the 'impossible' comparison between the two, the analysis is focused on a limited number of common terms adopted during the time of the debate,4 particularly the key disputed terms of tradition and authority. This will provide opportunities to examine their respective views on those topics indispensible to any sexuated discussion, inclusive of reason, existence, negation and the nature of language. Ricoeur's 'resolution' to the debate will provide a minor negative to better bring out the approach of this paper which seeks to demonstrate that since Gadamer and Habermas are split along sexuated lines, their debate is irresolvable.

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