Phenomenology and the Non Human Animal: At the Limits of Experience

Friday, January 28th, 2011, 04:35 WIB
Phenomenology and the Non Human Animal: At the Limits of Experience

Name of Book :  Phenomenology and the Non Human Animal: At the Limits of Experience

Editor :  Corinne Painter & Christian Lotz

Publisher :  Springer, The Netherlands; 2007

Pages : 155


Phenomenology and the Non Human Animal: At the Limits of Experience examines in substantial ways how phenomenology can contribute to these debates. It offers specific insights into the description and interpretation of the experience of the non human animal, the relation between phenomenology and anthropology, the relation between phenomenology and psychology, as well as ethical considerations.

This book consists of: Introduction: Phenomenology and the Question of the Non Human Animal; and four sections which are: Section I: Phenomenology, Ontology, and Anthropology. Chapter 2; Attunement, Deprivation, and Drive: Heidegger and Animality, Gerard Kuperus (University of San Fransisco) explains Heidegger's analysis of non-human animals and his thesis about their "world poverty". He argues that Heidegger's analysis of the poverty of the non-human animals is central for his understanding of the distinction between human and animal, since it rests upon his non-traditional claim that whereas animals are deprived of attunement and moods, and thus deprived of full "worldhood", humans are defined precisely in terms of these phenomena.

In chapter 3: Being Beyond: Aristotle's and Plessner's Accounts of Animal Responsiveness by M. Oele examines Helmuth Plessner's philosophy of biology, focussing on his understanding of "responsiveness" and its relevance for the contemporary debate. As Oele argues, in contradistinction to other approaches to non-human animals, which do not pay serious attention to the robust manner in which animals live in their environments, she shows that organisms not only react to their environments in a very specific sense, but they respond to it. With the support of Aristotle's interpretation of touching and Plessner's theory of organisms, Ole develops a general conception of the "responsiveness of life."

The last chapter 3 in section one is:  How Not to be a Jellyfish: Human Exceptionalism and the Ontology of Reflection; written by T. Toadvine. He starts his considerations of “human exceptionalism” by pointing out that we have yet to find a philosophical solution to recent attempts in philosophy to break down the metaphysical thesis that there is a difference in kind between human and non-human animals. By drawing from Heidegger, Scheler, and Agamben, Toadvine argues that the “animal-human distinction goes to the heart of the phenomenological method.” As Toadvine points out, the human being seems to be the only entity that can ask for truth, which includes the request for truth regarding the distinction between human and non-human animals.

Section II: Phenomenology, Psychology, and Language. This second section comprises of two chapters i.e.; How Do Primates Think? Phenomenological Analyses of Non-Language Systems of Representation in Higher Primates and Humans is authored by  D. Lohmar. And chapter 6; Phenomenology and the Study of Animal Behavior by E. Ruonakoski deals with psychological themes in her contribution, Phenomenology and the Study of Animal Behavior. In her essay, Ruonakoski argues that there can in fact be a genuine dialogue between phenomenology and the study of animal behavior, primarily inasmuch as it can be a helpful tool for investigating and clarifying the relationship between the scientist and the research subject.

Section III: Phenomenology and Ethics which covers several chapters namely:   The Intentionality and Animal Heritage of Moral Experience: What We Can Learn from Dogs about Moral Theory comes from C.S. Brown; and chapter 8 is Appropriating the Philosophies of Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein: Animal Psyche, Empathy, and Moral Subjectivity by C. Painter. These two chapters talk a lot about ethics. Brown, for instance, argues that humans share with non-human animals an emotional world within which animal others care about the same things that humans care about, as he illustrates with reference to his canine companion. Further, the author of these chapters also comment there is a sort of “moral kinship” between animals and humans, which, if respected, provides the appropriate phenomenological ground for an ethics that respects all moral subjects.

The last section is Section IV: At the Margins of Phenomenology also contains two chapters. Chapter 9: The Human as Just an Other Animal: Madness, Disability, and Foucault’s Bestiary; L. Carlson. And Chapter 10: The Intertwining of Incommensurables: Yann Martel’s Life of Pi was written by J. Mensch.

Finally, what we can see from this anthology is that there are good expository and synthetic type essays in this book, explaining what Heidegger was saying about worldhood and animals, for example, or comparing Husserl/Stein's empathy account of intersubjectivity with Darwin-inspired ones. I like the opening essay jointly written by the editors, Painter and Lotz. It begins by quoting Max Horkheimer on the scientistic elimination of intrinsic value from the natural world. I would have been more interested in reading an essay treating such argument.

Summary by: Cut Mita