An Essay on Animality and Human Nature in Derrida
Derrida wrote extensively on "the question of the animal." In particular, he challenged Heidegger's, Husserl's, and other philosophers' work on the subject, questioning their phenomenological criteria for distinguishing humans from animals. Examining a range of Derrida's writings, including his most recent L'animal que donc je suis, as well as Aporias, Of Spirit, Rams, and Rogues, Leonard Lawlor reconstructs a portrait of Derrida's views on animality and their intimate connection to his thinking on ethics, names and singularity, sovereignty, and the notion of a common world.
Derrida believed that humans and animals cannot be substantially separated, yet neither do they form a continuous species. Instead, in his "staggered analogy," Derrida asserts that all living beings are weak and therefore capable of suffering. This controversial claim both refuted the notion that humans and animals possess autonomy and contradicted the assumption that they possess the trait of machinery. However, it does offer the foundation for an argument-which Lawlor brilliantly and passionately defines in his book-in which humans are able to will this weakness into a kind of unconditional hospitality. Humans are not strong enough to keep themselves separate from animals. In other words, we are too weak to keep animals from entering into our sphere. Lawlor's argument is a bold approach to remedying "the problem of the worst," or the complete extermination of life, which is fast becoming a reality.
"This book is a crucial opening to the discussion of animality from within a deconstructionist perspective... Recommended." — CHOICE
"A succinct and remarkable book on the late Jacques Derrida's unfinished writing about the relationship between human and non-human animals." — James Zeigler, American Book Review
"Lawlor's book is a superb example of contemporary Continental scholarship. Offering insightful reflections in the spirit of Derrida." — Corinne Painter, Continental Philosophy Review
"This book is, like all of Leonard Lawlor's work, extremely well-researched, synthetic, and comprehensive. It is also an ambitious and philosophically daring book that is certain to provoke." — Michael Naas, professor of philosophy, State University of New York, Stony Brook
"Not only is this the first in-depth study on the subject of animality and the limit between the living called man and the one called animal-one that ties the subject in question to all major Derridean concerns-it is also, despite its small size, an extraordinary book on Derrida's thought as a whole. In fact, it is not just one among the still few really good books on this thinker, it is, perhaps, even the best book on Derrida so far." — Rodolphe Gasché, Eugenio Donato Chair of Comparative Literature, State University of New York, Buffalo
"In a masterfully pedagogical manner, Leonard Lawlor traces the extended trajectory of Derrida's devastating indictment of man's violence to (other) animals and philosophy's deep complicity in that violence. Lawlor's original and persuasive argument, affirming the essentially aporetic character of responsible ethical and political reflection, confirms him as one of Derrida's brightest contemporary readers." — David Wood, Centennial Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University, and author of The Step Back: Ethics and Politics After Deconstruction
"This remarkable book presents a powerful new reading of Derrida's philosophy. Leonard Lawlor shows how the question of animality and humanity relates to key concepts and concerns throughout his work, from the deconstruction of presence to the aporias of democracy today. He explores Derrida's relations with important interlocutors, such as Heidegger and Levinas, but also with important contemporaries, such as Deleuze and Foucault. This book will be necessary reading for years to come." — Paul Patton, professor of philosophy, University of New South Wales
List of Abbreviations
1. War and Scapegoats
2. Animals Have No Hand
3. A More Sufficient Response?
Conclusion: The Generation of the Incorruptibles