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.
living beings, one that can be found at work in Schopenhauer’s writing. Without useless brutality toward metaphysical and legal humanisms, a pathocentrist perspective does in eﬀect allow us to establish the fact that the moral community is constituted not only by “moral agents” capable of reciprocity, apt to enter into contracts with full knowledge of what this means, but also by “moral patients,” which includes certain categories of human beings and animals. We can say that, on the one hand, the
species, a catastrophe that had already begun because of certain human actions. In this perspective, animals do not then constitute a mere allegory. They play a tautegorical role in the sense Schelling gave this neologism,37 in other words, even as they represent something other than themselves, society, they are nonetheless taken for themselves, in their own logic as living beings. “Let us not lose sight of the fact that everything is just as closely related and connected in the moral world as
it is in the physical world, that series are engendered there in the same order, that phenomena are grouped together and placed at diﬀerent levels with the same precision and the same symmetry, and that if not everyone is capable of producing the dawn of an era or the fall of an empire at any given moment in the same way we can predict the eclipse or the rise of a star, this is solely because the law of social movement is more complex than the law of sidereal movement, and that it is generally
diﬃculty is perhaps not without relation to the troubling logicization of an original constituent that, in the ﬁnal analysis, is not really synonymous with animality. Three remarks as a conclusion. First of all, it must be repeated that the great Husserlian inauguration of a form of reason that is constituent only in so far as it is itself constituted has, to a certain extent, allowed the animal not to be dispossessed. Second, in spite of the motif of the transcendental, we remain in a Leibnizian
Nauckhoﬀ and Adrian Del Caro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ), . 31. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow, § , in Human, All Too Human, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ), . 32. Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, . 33. Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow, § 34. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin, ), . 35. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and