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Abstract

Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom engages the question of limits—physical, mental, and moral—through libertine philosophy and the orgy. Sade’s controversial exploration of human nature, generally marginalized in both philosophy and the academy, deserves a re-examination for its ontological utility. I read Philosophy in the Bedroom as an attempt at being-in-community as defined by Jean-Luc Nancy in his book, The Inoperative Community. Nancy’s radical conceptualization of community is contrary to common notions of the social “community.” He argues that true community is something that occurs in the disruption of the everyday social and political projects, and it is in this sense that I read Philosophy in the Bedroom as an attempt at Nancean community. For Nancy, community is an experience that presents to us the reality of our finitude by a process of mutual exposure to one another at our limits. I argue that Sade makes an attempt to reach these limits and generate community, and although he does not succeed, he points us in the right direction. I apply a critical Nancean lens to Sade’s text in order to understand its reasons for failure and to rescue his philosophy from its limited context.

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