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The animal that therefore I am (edition 2008)

by Jacques Derrida, Marie-Louise Mallet

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Member:hgoldsmith
Title:The animal that therefore I am
Authors:Jacques Derrida
Other authors:Marie-Louise Mallet
Info:New York : Fordham University Press, 2008.
Collections:Your library
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Tags:theory, posthumanism

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The Animal That Therefore I Am (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy) by Jacques Derrida

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Of course I'm going to use my review to promote my own work on animals and posthumanism. See my "How to Make a Human," Exemplaria 20.1 (2008): 3-27 (available here): my own work would have been impossible without Derrida. Non-medievalists will be most interested in the first 10 pages or so.

Anyone following Derrida's work on animals (in translation) is already familiar with the title essay and his takedown of Lacan (where Derrida puts under question the distinctions between reaction and response and feigning and the (purportedly uniquely human capacity of) feigning to feign). Now, however, you have JD's work on animals in Descartes, Kant, Adorno (who gets a gold star here: if JD had had time to develop it, so would Nietzsche, Kafka, and Montaigne), and Levinas. And, as a special bonus, a transcription of JD's extempore remarks on Heidegger and the animal. These remarks are heartbreaking, as they're full of asides on the lines of "since we have just 10 minutes" and "I'll do it, I hope, if I have the time and the strength." He would live for another 10 years, but that hope remained unfulfilled.

At the same time, the very presentness of his remarks, his apologies for keeping people from their dinner, keeps his thought here, perhaps more than anywhere else, in the moment, contingent, freed from the pretension of speaking from a place of Truth. He takes Heidegger down for, among other things, a lack of phenomenological rigor, whereas there is no moment in Derrida that I know (which isn't very far) where he is more mitsein (can I do that?) his topic, his audience, and even his readers, whose own dinners are suspended for a time while Derrida speaks, and wonders, once again. ( )
  karl.steel | Apr 2, 2013 |
Derrida just bein' Derrida (not snitchin' - that's Curtis just bein' Currrrtis; ask Cam'ron), with some cool ideas about humanity/selfness defining itself to itself by its (self-)consciousness of nudity in the inhuman gaze of the animal; of nudity, hence shame, being necessary to the human, and the animal being non-nude in its unclothedness; and ultimately, a tentative attempt at understanding the animal fuer sich, as opposed to animal as Unknowable (I move we retire "Other" wherever possible and replace with this term) against which humanity is defined (and is always post-, following after), and to come to terms with what the subjection of the animal means for the human. He expands Bentham's "Can they suffer?" to "Are there types of selfhood beyond the ones we know?" - and of course it follows that the man/nature duality is bunk, but that's almost by the by. There's something mad and beautiful in it - not "extend humanity to animals" but "situate the logos inside something inclusive and large, that encompasses but is not limited to it. Be Alice in Wonderland. Be Nietzsche crying for a horse. Salute the divine in a pet. When you don't know what's a mouth and what's a sex organ, imagine what it would be like to look at you and wonder the same thing."

And does Derrida have a pun for it? You better believe it. It's animot, which I can only take to be putting mots in amongst a verdance of animal-language that helps us take difference on trust, and imagine ways a skylark could be as nobly foreign as a chimaera. Don't kill the foreign just because it pins you down and stares at you and makes you feel shame. Don't let autobiography, identity, make you septic. Don't be Bellerophon.

But Derrida's better than me at saying great stuff without forcing it into the positive and the imperative, so let me leave you with a quote: "It would not be a matter of 'giving speech back' to animals, but perhaps of acceding to a thinking, however fabuous and chimerical it may be, that thinks the absence of the name and of the word otherwise, as something other than a privation." ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Jan 31, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 082322791X, Paperback)

The Animal That Therefore I Am is the long-awaited translation of the complete text of Jacques Derrida's ten-hour address to the 1997 Crisy conference entitled The Autobiographical Animal, the third of four such colloquia on his work. The book was assembled posthumously on the basis of two published sections, one written and recorded session, and one informal recorded session. The book is at once an affectionate look back over the multiple roles played by animals in Derrida's work and a profound philosophical investigation and critique of the relegation of animal life that takes place as a result of the distinction-dating from Descartes-between man as thinking animal and every other living species. That starts with the very fact of the line of separation drawn between the human and the millions of other species that are reduced to a single the animal.Derrida finds that distinction, or versions of it, surfacing in thinkers as far apart as Descartes, Kant, Heidegger, Lacan, and Levinas, and he dedicates extended analyses tothe question in the work of each of them.The book's autobiographical theme intersects with its philosophical analysis through the figures of looking and nakedness, staged in terms of Derrida's experience when his cat follows him into the bathroom in the morning. In a classic deconstructive reversal, Derrida asks what this animal sees and thinks when it sees this naked man. Yet the experiences of nakedness and shame also lead all the way back into the mythologies of man's dominion over the beastsand trace a history of how man has systematically displaced onto the animal his own failings or btises. The Animal That Therefore I Am is at times a militant plea and indictment regarding, especially, the modern industrialized treatment of animals. However, Derrida cannot subscribe to a simplistic version of animal rights that fails to follow through, in all its implications, the questions and definitions of lifeto which he returned in much of his later work.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:30 -0400)

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