Pregnant Materialist Natural Law: Bloch and Spartacus’s Priestess of Dionysus

Idealistic Studies 52 (2):111-132 (2022)
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In this article, I explore two neglected works by the twentieth-century Jewish German Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch, Avicenna and the Aristotelian Left and Natural Law and Human Dignity. Drawing on previous analyses of leftist Aristotelians and natural law, I blend Bloch’s two texts’ concepts of pregnant matter and maternal law into “pregnant materialist natural law.” More precisely, Aristotelian Left articulates a concept of matter as a dynamic, impersonal agential force, ever pregnant with possible forms delivered by artist-midwives, building Bloch’s messianic utopia. And Natural Law resurrects the Stoics’ concept of natural law as drawing on a prehistoric matriarchal utopia, later channeled by earth goddess cults misconstrued by the nineteenth-century German anthropologist Johann Jakob Bachofen as political matriarchy. I then conclude by linking this pregnant materialist natural law to Dionysus as son of the Great Mother Goddess. Though stigmatized throughout homophobic Western history for his queerness and maternal dependence, Dionysus is also the patron god of Bloch’s hero, the slave revolutionary Spartacus, paramour of a priestess of Dionysus who prophesied his divine mission of liberation.

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Joshua M. Hall
University of Alabama, Birmingham


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