Philosophy and Animal Life

Stanley Cavell, Cora Diamond, John McDowell, Ian Hacking, and Cary Wolfe

Columbia University Press

Philosophy and Animal Life

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Pub Date: December 2009

ISBN: 9780231145152

184 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $28.00£24.00

Pub Date: June 2008

ISBN: 9780231145145

184 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $80.00£67.00

Philosophy and Animal Life

Stanley Cavell, Cora Diamond, John McDowell, Ian Hacking, and Cary Wolfe

Columbia University Press

Philosophy and Animal Life offers a new way of thinking about animal rights, our obligation to animals, and the nature of philosophy itself. Cora Diamond begins with "The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy," in which she accuses analytical philosophy of evading, or deflecting, the responsibility of human beings toward nonhuman animals. Diamond then explores the animal question as it is bound up with the more general problem of philosophical skepticism. Focusing specifically on J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals, she considers the failure of language to capture the vulnerability of humans and animals.

Stanley Cavell responds to Diamond's argument with his own close reading of Coetzee's work, connecting the human-animal relation to further themes of morality and philosophy. John McDowell follows with a critique of both Diamond and Cavell, and Ian Hacking explains why Cora Diamond's essay is so deeply perturbing and, paradoxically for a philosopher, he favors poetry over philosophy as a way of overcoming some of her difficulties. Cary Wolfe's introduction situates these arguments within the broader context of contemporary continental philosophy and theory, particularly Jacques Derrida's work on deconstruction and the question of the animal. Philosophy and Animal Life is a crucial collection for those interested in animal rights, ethics, and the development of philosophical inquiry. It also offers a unique exploration of the role of ethics in Coetzee's fiction.

This intriguing collection of essays challenges the reader to confront the inherent vulnerabilities and limitations of the human condition and the deflections and avoidances of traditional philosophical argumentation. Taking as their point of departure the insurmountable mysteries that characterize our relationship with nonhuman animals, the authors illuminate the importance of acknowledging human finitude and the irreducibility of reality to definitive philosophical description. These essays make an important contribution to contemporary reflections on philosophical skepticism.

Gary Steiner, John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy, Bucknell University

We live at a time in which the human relation to animals is transforming at an astonishing rate. This change has two decisive aspects. On the one hand, in conditions that are often unbelievably appalling, certain animal species are being produced, bred, and slaughtered on an unprecedented industrial scale. On the other hand, there is also a growing and equally unprecedented recognition of the moral status of animal life, and for some people the treatment of animals in the production of food for human consumption has become so cruel and so mechanized that, in its essence, it is strictly comparable to genocide. Today it is more urgent than ever to explore and assess our understanding of animal life not only from a scientific point of view but from a philosophical one. This book is a landmark for such an undertaking. With contributions from the very best and most thoughtful philosophers of our time, it provides a new benchmark for the level at which our thinking must be pitched to do justice to this theme—and justice to animals, our most other others.

Simon Glendinning, reader in European philosophy, The London School of Economics and Political Science
Introduction: Exposures, by Cary Wolfe
1. The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy, by Cora Diamond
2. Companionable Thinking, by Stanley Cavell
3. Comment on Stanley Cavell's "Companionable Thinking", by John McDowell
Conclusion: Deflections, by Ian Hacking

About the Author

Stanley Cavell is the Walter M. Cabot Professor Emeritus of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University. His books include Philosophy the Day After Tomorrow, The Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage; and The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy.

Cora Diamond is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Philosophy and professor of law at the University of Virginia and the author of The Realistic Spirit: Wittgenstein, Philosophy, and the Mind.

John McDowell is University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Mind and World, Mind, Value, and Reality, and Meaning, Knowledge, and Reality.

Ian Hacking is University Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Toronto and held the Chair of philosophy and history of scientific concepts at the Collège de France. His books include The Social Construction of What?, Historical Ontology, and The Taming of Chance (Ideas in Context).

Cary Wolfe is Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor of English at Rice University. His books include Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory, and the edited collection Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal. He is the founding editor of the series Posthumanities at the University of Minnesota Press.