Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human

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Overview

Philosophy reads humanity against animality, arguing that "man" is man because he is separate from beast. Deftly challenging this position, Kelly Oliver proves that, in fact, it is the animal that reaches us to be human. Through their sex, their habits, and our perception of their purpose, animals show us how not to be them.

This kinship plays out a number of ways. We sacrifice animals to establish human kinship, but without the animal, the bonds of "brotherhood" fall apart. Either kinship with animals is possible or kinship with humans is impossible. Philosophy holds that humans is impossible. Philosophy holds that humans and animals are distinct, but in defending this position, the discipline depends on a discourse that relies on the animal for its very definition of the human. Through these and other examples, Oliver does more than just establish an animal ethics. She transforms ethics by showing how its very origin is dependent upon the animal. Examining for the first time the treatment of the animal in the work of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Agamben, Freud, Lacan, and Kristeva, among others, Animal Lessons argues that the animal bites back, thereby reopening the question of the animal for philosophy.

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Editorial Reviews

Environmental Philosophy - Brett Buchanan

A valuable resource within continental philosophy and animal studies.

Quarterly Review of Biology - Anthony J. Dellureficio

Oliver has made a convincing argument that the animal/human divide is much more complex than a simple dichotomy, and that our relationship with animals should be based on commonality, rather than what divides us.

Journal of Animal Ethics - Randy Malamud

There is, indeed, a philosophical counter-tradition dawning in the contemporary posthuman zeitgeist, and Oliver's book clears the decks in preparation for a new enlightenment.

Environmental Philosophy
A valuable resource within continental philosophy and animal studies.

— Brett Buchanan

Quarterly Review of Biology
Oliver has made a convincing argument that the animal/human divide is much more complex than a simple dichotomy, and that our relationship with animals should be based on commonality, rather than what divides us.

— Anthony J. Dellureficio

Journal of Animal Ethics
There is, indeed, a philosophical counter-tradition dawning in the contemporary posthuman zeitgeist, and Oliver's book clears the decks in preparation for a new enlightenment.

— Randy Malamud

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231147262
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 10/8/2009
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kelly Oliver is Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of more than fifty articles and fifteen books, including Women as Weapons of War: Iraq, Sex, and the Media; The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Theory of Oppression; and Family Values: Subjects Between Nature and Culture.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Biting the Hand That Feeds You: The role of Animals in Philosophies of Man 1

Part 1 What's wrong with Animal Rights?

1 The Right to remain Silent 25

Part 2 Animal Pedagogy

2 You Are What You Eat: Rousseau's Cat 51

3 Say the Human Responded: Herder's Sheep 79

Part 3 Difference "Worthy of Its Name"

4 "Hair of the Dog": Derrida's and Rousseau's Good Taste 97

5 Sexual Difference, Animal Difference: Derrida's Sexy Silkworm 131

Part 4 It's Our Fault

6 The Beaver's Struggle with Species-Being: De Beauvoir and the Praying Mantis 155

7 Answering the Call of Nature: Lacan Walking the Dog 175

Part 5 Estranged Kinship

8 The Abyss Between Humans and Animals: Heidegger Puts the Bee in Being 193

9 "Strange Kinship": Merleau-Ponty's Sensuous Strickleback 208

10 Stopping the Anthropological Machine: Agamben's Ticktocking Tick 229

11 Psychoanalysis as Animal By-product: Freud's Zoophilia 247

12 Animal Abjects, Maternal Abjects: Kristeva's Strays 227

Conclusion: Sustainable Ethics 303

Notes 307

Bibliography 339

Index 355

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2010

    Animal Lover Gets Lessons

    I don't know a lot about philosophy, but I am interested in animals and I learned a lot from this book. It made me think about vegetarianism and animal rights in new ways. And, is was funny!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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