This Is Not Sufficient: An Essay on Animality and Human Nature in Derridaby Leonard Lawlor
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/i>/i>
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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 u nconditional 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.
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What People are Saying About This
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 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
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
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
Meet the Author
Leonard Lawlor is Faudree-Hardin University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Memphis. He is the author of five books: The Implications of Immanence: Towards a New Concept of Life; Derrida and Husserl: The Basic Problem of Phenomenology; Thinking Through French Philosophy: The Being of the Question; The Challenge of Bergsonism: Phenomenology, Ontology, Ethics; and Imagination and Chance: The Difference Between the Thought of Ricoeur and Derrida. He is the coeditor of Chiasmi International: Trilingual Studies Concerning the Thought of Merleau-Ponty and has written dozens of articles on Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Bergson, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur, and Gadamer. He is currently translating Merleau-Ponty's L'institution, la passivité and writing a book to be called Early Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy: Towards the Outside.
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