Shared authorship is unusual in philosophy, and the reader's expectations for a new mode of writing to come from these thinkers would be justifiably high: Irigaray is known for her original account of generative potential between two Irigaray , and for her phenomenological treatment of the way in which each pair of lips always already harbors a multiplicity of hetero-auto-affective conversations Irigaray ; Marder's prolific work features meditations on the ethical import of encounters with radical alterity Marder , and, informed by the forgotten "vegetal" history of philosophy, an appreciation of the multiplication without return of heterogeneous individualities Marder ; Marder But the potential for a changed way of writing together goes undeveloped.
I begin by recounting Irigaray and Marder's depiction of their correspondence and hopes for their work. I then address its content from the points of view of environmentalism, deconstruction, feminism, and animal ethics. In their preface, Irigaray and Marder recount how their original plans for the book did not come to fruition, so to speak. In these few cowritten pages, they remark: "If originally we imagined that it [ Through Vegetal Being ] would develop from dialogues corresponding to the theme of each chapter, we quickly understood that this plan was too ambitious or not yet suitable for various reasons" ix.
Michael Marder’s “Through Vegetal Being” winner of the ICA Book of the Year 2016
As scholars and collaborators they were simply too different: "Our approaches to the problem were quite different, and to distinguish our positions at theoretical, ethical, and political levels, while treating our common objective, proved to be impossible" ix.
The difficulties were confounding enough that at one point "[t]he dilemma was either to give up our project or to invent another presentation for the volume that suggested development toward a future dialogue" ix. The two decided on a version of the latter. The result is an awkward division of the book into two, without clear indication for a "future dialogue. Reading Marder's chapter, "Irigaray's Water Lily," Irigaray experienced a return to herself with a difference, an experience that "was not at all narcissistic, but, instead, a feeling that may occur in a first encounter" 3.
Irigaray was thus inspired to believe in "the possibility of a relationship between us and its fecundity, perhaps shareable with others through a common work" 3. Meanwhile, Marder quotes her Sharing the World , returning praise: "[y]ou are not afraid to risk opening your world to others with a candor and energy I can only admire" He goes on to caution: "[b]ut, to share the world, it would be necessary to share the risk too—without seeking protection behind the heavy armor of criticism" Irigaray and Marder raise questions about the dangers of overcoming nihilism and doubts concerning the communication of an "experience of the vegetal world" 7.
Despite the promise of a fecund encounter and a sharing of world, however, such questions are either neglected or pursued by Irigaray and Marder independently. It is disappointing but also ironic that Irigaray and Marder do not work with their differences.
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