Cavarero's Puzzle: Ethics, maternity and loving "wrong"

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Adriana Cavarero’s ethics of inclination presents us with a puzzle. Arguing that inclination, understood as a posture of affective response towards the other (exemplified by the stereotypical image of the Christian Madonna inclining over her child) could help us construct a more peaceful world, she develops the familiar idea that love can help us work towards peace via a revalorisation of maternal love for a collective feminist political project. However, I identify that her argument contains two different models of maternal love. Whilst the first is a self-sacrificing love, the second, I argue, emerges in a subtle shift that renders love a form of altruism that is not self sacrificing. Intrigued by this move that remains unelaborated by Cavarero, I investigate what this means for her theorisation of love’s political import. Whilst I argue that the first, Levinasian, self-sacrificing model could too easily transform into violence, I posit that the second is not stereotypical maternal love, but illogical love – love that loves “wrong” in the eyes of our contemporary world. I read this second model as a practice of nonviolence, offering the potential to transform not just our own relationships and sense of self, but the very frames of intelligibility that patriarchal violence depends upon. Whilst my argument does not abandon Cavarero’s commitment to revalorise the maternal, it does invite us to re-imagine the everyday narrative of the maternal relation, and indeed, the love relation, not as a challenge to the posture of patriarchy, but as a challenge to its logic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-53
JournalJournal of Italian Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


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