Without Offending Humans: A Critique of Animal Rights (Posthumanities) (French Edition)
Elisabeth de Fontenay
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A central thinker on the question of the animal in continental thought, Élisabeth de Fontenay moves in this volume from Jacques Derrida’s uneasily intimate writing on animals to a passionate frontal engagement with political and ethical theory as it has been applied to animals—along with a stinging critique of the work of Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri as well as with other “utilitarian” philosophers of animal–human relations.
Humans and animals are different from one another. To conflate them is to be intellectually sentimental. And yet, from our position of dominance, do we not owe them more than we often acknowledge? In the searching first chapter on Derrida, she sets out “three levels of deconstruction” that are “testimony to the radicalization and shift of that philosopher’s argument: a strategy through the animal, exposition to an animal or to this animal, and compassion toward animals.” For Fontenay, Derrida’s writing is particularly far-reaching when it comes to thinking about animals, and she suggests many other possible philosophical resources including Adorno, Leibniz, and Merleau-Ponty.
Fontenay is at her most compelling in describing philosophy’s ongoing indifference to animal life—shading into savagery, underpinned by denial—and how attempts to exclude the animal from ethical systems have in fact demeaned humanity. But Fontenay’s essays carry more than philosophical significance. Without Offending Humans reveals a careful and emotionally sensitive thinker who explores the unfolding of humans’ assessments of their relationship to animals—and the consequences of these assessments for how we define ourselves.
where Aristotle declares what is proper to man in a way that, in turn, cannot not seem to us any less inaugural since we have not emancipated ourselves intellectually from this tradition even though contemporary knowledge seems to take us further and further away from it with vertiginous speed. Here then is that major premise of all metaphysics—and perhaps of any politics to come. “Now, that man is more of a political animal [politikon zōon] than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident. .
nothing more than the exemplary occurrence of the tie that fatally links the proper of man to the torture and murder of animals. One must not however believe that “animal liberation” activists were unaware of the objections that could be made to their arguments. As a way of making fun of his adversaries, Peter Singer even found a name: the “slippery slope argument,” the situation in which we would ﬁnd ourselves if the demarcation between man and animal were abandoned. “Once we allow that an
of man: Vassili Grossman, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Elias Canetti, Primo Levi, Romain Gary, and the philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer.28 They were the ﬁrst to dare to allow for the understanding that the fate of animals sometimes looked like the fate of Jews, unless it was actually the other way around. This analogy is no doubt up for discussion, yet it cannot be repudiated as blasphemy, for it comes from men who suﬀered in their ﬂesh and their history and who knew what they were saying
translation of a literary text is probably the least mechanical and automatic and most interpretative act there is. In this linguistico-genetic back and forth, is there not a clearly disconcerting occidental-centrism and a biblical quasi-fundamentalism? In this particular case, it is a matter of “changing God’s words,” says Kac. He modiﬁes divine prescription and disobeys him, but only by obeying him. At the very least, one can observe in this way of proceeding a theologizing epistemology that
of the word “culture” and forgetful in particular of the living being the animal is, is what has made these bloody exhibits possible, if not necessary. The principle of precaution has itself gone mad. Probably for political reasons, it has been taken to such a radical extreme that it has become excessive. Why, for example, do we need to slaughter 07chap7_Layout 1 7/10/2012 10:48 Page 131 The Ordinariness of Barbarity 131 herds aﬀected by the good old foot-and-mouth disease of our