Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human by Kelly Oliver

By Kelly Oliver

Philosophy reads humanity opposed to animality, arguing that "man" is guy simply because he's break free beast. Deftly hard this place, Kelly Oliver proves that, in truth, it's the animal that teaches us to be human. via their intercourse, their conduct, and our notion in their function, animals convey us how to not be them.

This kinship performs out in a couple of methods. We sacrifice animals to set up human kinship, yet with out the animal, the bonds of "brotherhood" crumble. both kinship with animals is feasible or kinship with people is very unlikely. Philosophy holds that people and animals are specific, yet in protecting this place, the self-discipline is determined by a discourse that will depend on the animal for its very definition of the human. via those and different examples, Oliver does greater than simply determine an animal ethics. She transforms ethics via exhibiting how its very beginning is determined by the animal. reading for the 1st time the therapy of the animal within the paintings of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Agamben, Freud, Lacan, and Kristeva, between others, Animal Lessons argues that the animal bites again, thereby reopening the query of the animal for philosophy.

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We can have an ethical obligation to avoid making others suffer even if we cannot live up to that obligation every day. This may be a case of an infinite responsibility that outstrips our capacities or our identities. We are not capable of avoiding suffering, either for ourselves or for others. In the case of suffering, laws are never enough. Reducing animal ethics to questions of an ability to suffer, or capacities they share with us, leads to displacing ethical reflection onto moral rules or laws that—even though they go some distance in righting wrongs—do not bring us face-to-face with our responsibility or, more precisely, our responsibility for our irresponsibility.

This notion of sharing does not require having much in common besides living together on the same globe. But it does bring with it responsibility. The question, then, is not what characteristics or capacities animals share with us but how to share our resources and life together on this collective planet. My aim in this book is not only to propose an animal ethics but also to show how ethics itself is transformed by considering animals. In this regard, I am not arguing for animal rights but suggesting that our entire conception of rights, based as it is on assumptions about autonomous human individuals, is altered by animal pedagogy and animal kinship.

The consequences of Western conceptions of man, human, and animal are deadly for both animals and various groups of people who have been figured as being like them. Without interrogating the man /animal opposition on the symbolic and imaginary levels, we can only scratch the surface in understanding exploitation and genocide of people and animals. As Agamben declares, The very question of man—and of “humanism”—[that] must be posed in a new way . . it is more urgent . . to ask in what way—within man—has man been separated from 19 introduction non-man, and the animal from the human, than it is to take positions on the great issues, on so-called human rights and values.

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