Not One, Not Two: Toward an Ontology of Pregnancy

Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 3 (4):1-23 (2017)
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Basic understandings of subjectivity are derived from the principles of masculine embodiment such as temporal stability and singularity. But pregnancy challenges such understandings because it represents a sort of splitting of the body. In the pregnant situation, a subject may experience herself as both herself and an other, as well as neither herself nor an other. This is logically untenable—an impossibility. If our discourse depends on singular, fixed referents, then what paradigms of identity are available to the pregnant subject? What could be the pregnant subject's ontology? Eric Bapteste and John Dupré offer the idea that organisms are processual beings. In their view, the ecological interrelationships between the objects of biology are defining, and render them dynamic processes, rather than stable things. Does Bapteste and Dupré’s processual ontological account accommodate pregnant organisms, including pregnant people? Here, I analyze the processual account and determine whether it can accommodate the phenomenon of pregnancy. I find that a processual ontology captures a great deal about pregnant embodiment and is a significant improvement over Cartesian and anti-metaphysical accounts. However, in order to accommodate pregnancy, what we still need from an ontology is the inclusion of subjectivity.

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Maja Sidzińska
University of Pennsylvania


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