Beyond human sense : aporias of animal alterity

Rajala, Markus Mikael (2022) Beyond human sense : aporias of animal alterity. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis offers a conceptual model that negotiates between several desiderata, including the following: 1) acknowledging both interspecies continuity and animal alterity without either anthropocentric assimilation or a traditionally essential separation; 2) registering ethico-politically relevant differences between species; 3) incorporating three types of approach to the question of animality that Matthew Calarco has distinguished: identity, difference, and indistinction. The model conceptualises both human and nonhuman lives as chiasms of appropriative sense and expropriative materiality: two heterogeneous dimensions to be blended in an ultimately aporetic middle term – one whose aporias reflect those constitutive of philosophy itself. Said chiasms also subtend human encounters of animal alterity. Further, these encounters are complicated by an aporia highlighted by Jacques Derrida: alterity is predicated on similarity. Yet this similarity is always a simulation, constructed by a perspective. Finally, it is argued (again following Derrida) that true alterity owes its resistance to a real exteriority. This latter, in turn, exposes human sense to a shared materiality. In these ways, the model brings together identity (similarity, continuity), difference (alterity), and indistinction. The concepts integrated by the model motivate its illustration, fleshing-out, and further development in terms of both Derridean deconstruction and Martin Heidegger’s thinking of the sense of Being. First, after an extensive interpretation of the latter, Heidegger’s zoontology is critically interrogated. A survey of empirical investigations in animal temporality is then used to argue that animal Being must be rethought by reinterpreting Heideggerian notions. Finally, it is argued that for Heidegger’s late thinking of the fourfold to accommodate this rethought animal Being, the fourfold must itself be reconfigured. Second, the model is developed in terms of the Derridean notions of alterity, ex-appropriation, and hospitality. This leads to an aporetic approach to animal ethics, one founded on the acknowledged necessity of sacrificing animals.

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