“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cary Wolfe: SLSA Keynote 4

Pet pharmacology. Yet another lifestyle foible of the well to do? Reconcile, drug to treat separation anxiety, tastes like liver and is chewable (Prozac)
Why do animals develop mental illnesses and respond to the same medications?
These drugs were tested on animals anyway! Humans are using animal drugs!
Some animals flourish because they are animals.
And yet at the very same moment, billions of animals that exceed cats and dogs in capacities relevant to their standing have as horrible a life as one could imagine, also because they are animals.
So the trouble is a distinction between bios and zoe that cuts across species lines and obtains within the domain of human life itself.
Derrida: "the animal" is "asinine": an ideologeme
Esposito: we can only turn from thanatological logic only if we think animals as the subject of protection.
Subject is never separated from the living roots from which it is separated
Modality of bios that can't be inscribed to the conscious subject
Race and species must give way to their own deconstruction >> highly differentiated thinking of life in relation to biopower.

This doesn't mean (as Esposito says in Bios) that all life is equal. It's just that the human animal distinction is of no use whatsoever. Need to focus on shared plight.
Whose lives count as lives?
This makes a huge advance << liberal justice tradition (reciprocity, agency etc.)
But also a problem: of ethnocentrism.
Arendt: what constitutes the right to have rights?
"The Origins of Totalitarianism": universal human rights is dubious because it's << homo sapiens not membership in political community
Recourse to formal conventional rights
But pressure on this from historical fact that the call for the declaration of rights 1948 << stateless persons (bare life).
The right to have rights is indeed the question.
>> full complexity of the engagement with biologistic continuism (Derrida). Heidegger was right to reject homogeneous continuity between man and the animal. The questions are indeed phenomenological and ontological. What he was wrong about was his insistence that whatever is at stake corresponds to a difference in kind. Not effacing the limit but multiplying its figures.
Calarco: the presubjective conditions of subjectivity can't easily be restricted to human beings. Posthumanism must return to first philosophy to create a nonanthropocentric ontology of life-death.
(nice one Matt!)
Everything that is ethically relevant has nothing to do with the human animal distinction or any other biological distinction.
Rejecting continuism makes possible a more robust naturalistic account of what gives rise to what can't be reduced to the biological domain alone.

At the same time: law and ethics and justice challenge: within a parliament or political ecology of things, some are whos and not whats. Chimps, fleas, cage. Are there not qualitative differences?

Thickening and deepening our relation to objects and other things. Levi Bryant: the issue isn't one of excluding the human but how to extend the domain of value without humans being at the center.

Whether that domain of value can continue to be, even if humans cease to exist. If not we could only commit to relative values. Planet would just be, not be valuable or not, if no humans.

Ethics: to whom it matters cannot only be human. If the who is not a biological given but is rather an emergence << relation to the what, its outside, then the who is permanently open to the possibility of whoever it might be.

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