Animals in Looking-Glass World: Fables of Überhumanism and Posthumanism in Heidegger and Nietzsche
“—then you don’t like all insects?” the Gnat went on, as quietly as if nothing had happened.
“I like them when they can talk,” Alice said. “None of them ever talk, where I come from.”
“What sort of insects do you rejoice in, where you come from?” the Gnat inquired.
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
Introduction. The question of the nonhuman animal is central, both strategically and in itself, to contemporary philosophy and politics; a matter of (right to) life and (putting to) death that always already exceeds the lives and deaths of “mere” animals. Indeed, the ever-increasing number of academic texts, artworks, manifestos, political treatises, and the like which constitute the field that has come to be known as “animal studies”—all of which, and in their various ways, refuse to remain deaf to the call and the demand of an animal appeal—clearly demonstrate that thinking nonhuman animals can no longer be penned within traditional domains of biology and ethology.1
As is well known, it is the delineation of difference from—and thus exclusion of—“the animal” which, as Jacques Derrida asserts, thus “institutes what is proper to man, the relation to itself of a humanity that is above all anxious about, and jealous of, what is proper to it” (Animal 14). Any such claim to human(ist) exceptionalism thus presupposes a structural logic of dependence-exclusion, an exclusive inscription that, as a function of power, falls back upon every (other) animal—whether that animal other be a nonhuman animal or, in being excluded from itself through a murderous theatrics of displacement, an animalized human—and renders them speechless, reduced to subjugated bodies which may be killed but never murdered.2 Such a symptomatic and systematic disavowal necessarily depends upon a homogeneous and privative determination of “animality,” one which, variously and fabulously clothed, returns throughout Western philosophy to open the space(s) for a “noncriminal” putting to death. Essential to the exclusive functioning of this anthropo-logic is the paradoxical reproduction of “the animal” as undying—that is, both as lacking the possibility of death and as sharing a transparent pathic communication, with each made reciprocally to ground the other—by which the murder of a nonhuman animal becomes ontologically impossible even as corpses are being produced in exponentially increasing numbers.Whether as untouched by the fall into self-awareness, or as soulless automatons under the technical mastery of man and definable only by lack, the figure of the undying animal remains central both to human exceptionalism and to figuring it a (human) right to do whatever we like to (other) animals. This logic must thus be understood as the entanglement of both material and symbolic economies, and in this the contemporary question of being-with other animals is not only a question of and to capital, a question of the literal rendering of animals’ bodies that underpins so many diverse industries, but is at once a demand which infinitely exceeds the economico-juridico-democratic ordering founded upon, and conserved by, the semantics of an agent-centered conception of subjectivity and of the sovereign (human) subject of rights and duties. Such thinking (of) animals is thus at once a thinking (of) posthumanism that has nothing to do with the generally liberalist conception of the “post-human” summarized by Cary Wolfe as an historical succession in which “the human is transformed and finally eclipsed by various technological, informatic, and bioengineering developments rooted in the early twentieth century” (“Bring the Noise” xi), but is rather that which marks the necessity of a thinking both beyond and before the “metaphysical anthropocentrism” which constitutes, as Matthew Calarco asserts, “[o]ne of the chief limitations for thought at present” (Zoographies 74).
In this, the attempt by Martin Heidegger to move beyond the closure of metaphysics remains invaluable to a rigorous posthumanist thought, and as such there has been much recent critical attention paid to the Heideggerian animal (most notably perhaps by Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, and Andrew Benjamin). As is by now well known, in the second part of the 1929-1930 seminar entitled The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude,Heidegger sets out on the way of a comparative analysis of three guiding theses: the stone is worldless, the animal is poor-in-world, the man is world-forming [der Stein ist weltlos, das Tier ist weltarm, der Mensch ist weltbildend]. While it is indeed plausible, and perhaps even unavoidable, to read in Heidegger’s tripartite schema the operation of an anthropocentric teleological dialectic, I aim to demonstrate that there is available another—nondialectical or para-dialectical—reading.3 This reading, in exploring the differences and similarities between the existential analytic and traditional metaphysics, discloses how the hermeneutic circle functions within Heidegger’s commitment to a “humanism beyond humanism” as outlined in his 1947 paper, “Letter on Humanism.” In this, I argue that Heidegger’s thinking does indeed break with the traditional metaphysical configurations of the human-animal relation, but, in that nonhuman animals are unthinkingly reinscribed as essentially undying, his philosophy remains ultimately enclosed within a metaphysical anthropocentrism and, as such, takes its place alongside traditional metaphysics in underwriting the industrialized holocaust of nonhuman animals under the sign of Gestell.
Nevertheless, it is by way of Heidegger’s going along with animals that, in (re-)turning to Nietzsche’s thinking (together) animals and the “as such,” I aim to demonstrate the necessity of (re)inscribing the having of a death, that is, the having of this death of this nonhuman animal and, in so doing, to interrupt such murderous metaphysical hubris. To give death to other animals: it is a phrase that aims to retainall of its ambivalence within capitalism—to give death as gift, a giving that ever again demands a response, rather than to calculate death whilst effacing the material fact of the day-to-day massacre of other animals, both nonhuman and human, on a scale that defies comprehension.
Fables of origin: Animals in the Mirror. In Being and Time (1927), Heidegger’s animal barely raises her head before finding herself (non)placed in negativity: not present-at-hand [Vorhandensein], not ready-at-hand [Zuhandensein], and, most definitely, not theDasein who, as something other than a living-being, is irretrievably distanced from the nonhuman animal which (rather than “who”) “merely has life” [des Nur-lebenden] and thus can only “perish” [verenden]. Located entirely negatively, the spectral figure of the animal nevertheless remains to haunt both the Dasein and Heidegger in its being-somehow-other-in-the-world. Returning to the question two years later in The Fundamental Concepts, Heidegger is called to devote almost one-hundred-and-forty pages to a questioning of the “essence of animality” (a questioning which, it should be noted, presupposes an ignominious reduction of the vast multiplicity of “living beings” to a single homogeneous “essence”). Along the way, he reiterates the unbridgeable distance between the Dasein and “the animal” in much the same terms as before, asserting that, despite the corporeal proximity, “being-with [Mitsein] [animals] is not an existing-with [Mitexistieren], because a dog does not exist but merely lives” (FCM 210). Such a way as Heidegger goes along is most certainly not, as he makes explicit, “an animal kind of way.” In this way, the proximity of the nonhuman animal paradoxically functions to reinscribe human (or at least Dasein) exceptionalism. Given the importance of the “way” for Heidegger’s thinking, such a way of (not) going (with) calls for a detailed analysis of its own, but for the moment it is enough to wonder about this uncanny crossing of proximity and distance that makes of every animal irreducibly other. An-other crossing that is perhaps a haunting or (and) a possession in that the Dasein would seem to share without sharing its “there” or its clearing with a living being-in-the-world that does not exist, and which the Dasein, in a (non)relation of absolute otherness, might perhaps pet but is essentially prevented from touching.
In the fourth chapter of Part Two of The Fundamental Concepts, and via the work of biologists Hans Driesch and Jakob Johann von Uexküll, Heidegger argues that the nonhuman animal is excluded from the worlding of world as a necessary result of its captivation [Benommenheit], that is to say, “[c]aptivation is the condition of possibility for the fact that, in accordance with its essence, the animal behaves within an environment but never within a world” (FCM, 239). This is because, as far as Heidegger’s animal is concerned, there can be neither anything beyond, nor any differentiation within, the disinhibiting ring which marks the absolute limit of her environmental capture. As a result of this essential undifferentiated absorption [Eingenommenheit], “the animal” can therefore never apprehend (“have”) “its” own captivation—that is, can never apprehend “its” own capture within a set—and hence “it” is poor-in-world [weltarm].4 Moreover, claims Heidegger, it is in following this conclusion concerning the way of animals that the essence of the human can be thenceforth disclosed: “In the end our … analysis of captivation as the essence of animality provides as it were a suitable background against which the essence of humanity can now be set off” (282). It would seem then, that the analysis of the animal’s way of being is undertaken solely in order that the proper essence of the human can be subsequently disclosed through the negation of its negation, that is, through the dialectical disclosing of the essence of world. Such a methodology thus presupposes a categorical and teleological human/animal distinction.
The condition of possibility of world, withheld as we have seen from the animal, “is” precisely the “having” of captivation as such, that is, the apprehension of the undisconcealedness of Being as undisconcealedness (i.e. of the withdrawal of Being). In other words, the human “is” only in this having of the “as”-structure [die ‘als’-Struktur], which is the condition of possibility for the logos, as it is only in having the “as” that the human is given to apprehend being as beings—the wonder that beings are which is the worlding of world—and thus, beyond the captivation of the disinhibiting ring, to perceive itself as an (individuated) being. This apprehension of ontological difference is nothing less than the apprehension of finitude, of the possibility of impossibility, and thus at once the condition of possibility for the Dasein’s existential projection of its ownmost being-toward-death. We can thus see how, in negating the ringed animal as without re(ve)lation and thus poor-in-world, Heidegger is thus free to posit the properly Dasein as that which “is” nearest to Being, and thus reserve for it alone the possibility of authentic existence. It is here then, with the capacity to apprehend something as something, that Heidegger draws the abyssal line between the human-Dasein and the animal, one which permits neither the possibility of a human animal nor that of a nonhuman Dasein. For as long as such a line remains unquestioned, Heidegger’s discourse (re)turns safely within the metaphysical humanist enclosure.
The nonhuman animal remains, however, and remains a problem. Given the essential withholding of apprehension from the animal, it is clear that the “poverty” [Armut] attributed to it by Heidegger can only ever be a “deprivation” [Entbehrung] when viewed from the perspective of the human, and thus, in truth, is neither poverty nor privation. This then, and as Heidegger himself points out, appears to disallow the positing of the tripartite thesis from the first, in that such an essential characterization is in fact conceived only in comparison with man and “not drawn from animality itself and maintained within the limits of animality” (270). Curiously, Heidegger does not object to this charge: to imagine otherwise, he says, is perhaps the privilege only of poets (271). Is it that Heidegger is thus staking a claim to philosophical poetry in opposition to the dialectic? Not objecting to the objection, Heidegger rather sets out to “weaken” [abschwächen] it, to set about “[r]emoving its force” [seine Entkräfting] (270). He does this, in fact, by affirming it: while the (perhaps unassailable) charge remains, he says, it nevertheless “surely suffices that … [it] has led us to our destination in a practical fashion” (272; emphasis added). Let us defer our objection, he suggests, because “[i]n spite of everything it has brought us closer …” (ibid., emphasis added). We have found our way, that is, because the essence of animality as being-captivated and thus poor-in-world—a thesis “which follows only if the animal is regarded in comparison with humanity” (271)—serves us as the “negative” by which our own “positive … proper essence has constantly emerged in contrast” (272). There is, however, no talk of sublation, no labor of the negative in what is only—as Heidegger repeatedly makes explicit—a comparative examination. It is rather the case, I would suggest, that the animal in Heidegger’s discourse is less a negative to be negated than a mirror which reflects only the essence of being-human that being-human itself renders invisible—a mirror in which “we humans” always already find ourselves, but without ever disclosing (if indeed such a disclosure were possible) the essence of animality.
Heidegger, as is well known, explicitly seeks to position his own discourse on the far side of the (en)closure of metaphysics, and thus, as he makes clear in the “Letter on Humanism,” outside of any traditional humanist expropriation:
Are we really on the right track toward the essence of man as long as we set him off as one living creature among others in contrast to plants, beasts, and God? … [W]hen we do this we abandon man to the essential realm of animalitas even if we do not equate him with beasts but attribute a specific difference to him. … Such positing is the manner of metaphysics. But then the essence of man is too little heeded and not thought in its origin, the essential provenance that is always the essential future for historical mankind. Metaphysics thinks of man on the basis of animalitas and does not think in the direction of his humanitas (227, my emphasis).
In The Open: Man and Animal (2002), Giorgio Agamben, citing the final sentence above (73), claims that Heidegger has indeed ignored his own prescription—this prescription which for Heidegger is “above and beyond all else” (“Letter” 227). At first glance, and given what I have argued above, this appears undeniable—Heidegger has indeed set off man in contrast to “beasts.” But this is not, however, to say that Heidegger has therefore “abandoned” man to the essential realm of animalitas, that is, the realm of (merely) living creatures. The opposite is in fact the case—Heidegger rather essentially abandons animalitas in order to think the essence of man. “[W]e ourselves,” says Heidegger, “have also been in view all the time” (FCM 272).
At this point it is helpful to return to Heidegger’s comment which serves as a coda to his analysis of the animal: “In the end,” he states, “our earlier analysis of captivation as the essence of animality provides as it were a suitable background against which the essence of humanity can now be set off” (282) [Am Ende ist die bisher aufgezeigte Benommenheit als Wesen der Tierheit gleichsam der geeignete Hintergrund, auf dem sich jetzt das Wesen der Menschheit abheben kann’ (Die Grundbegriffe,408)]. Any reading of the Heideggerian animal must return to, and negotiate around, these words, occurring as they do just prior to the first formal interpretation of the “as”-structure. Again, there is, and “in the end,” no sublation, no laboring negative, but only the apparent, hesitant aestheticism of the suitability or fittingness (geeignete) of the background which is—and withthe so to speak “innocent” qualification “as it were” (gleichsam)—provided by the animal. Against the background of the animal, the setting off of the human is thus doubled: in the first place, the human “stands out,” set off (abheben) from a background animality that serves to focus attention whilst harmonizing with its object, like the setting which displays a jewel to best effect. In the second, the animal provides the point of departure from which the Dasein might set off along the way that is proper to the human; that is, to take off (abheben) from the animal and, in so doing, to withdraw her value (abheben) in constituting the proper economy of man. This is to draw a very different kind of line, that of an organizational frame which, like that enclosing a painting, negotiates with both sides in order to establish and delimit its focus. Hence we can begin to understand Heidegger’s insistence that the correctness or otherwise of his claim for an essential poverty on the part of the animal must nevertheless await the disclosure of the essence of (human) world, as it is only then that one might “understand the animal’s not-having of world as a deprivation after all” (272).
Heidegger is thus booking a return passage, a reaching back to the animal such as is available only from within the human world, and he does so in order to legitimate the posited essence of animality which “founded” that world. It is a turn, that is to say, of and within the hermeneutic circle. We humans have thus been in view all the time “whether we wanted to be or not, although not in the form of some arbitrary and contingent self-observation or in the form of some traditional definition of man” (ibid.). Here then, in a gesture familiar from Being and Time, Heidegger sites his discourse outside of both the human sciences (specifically the biology of Driesch and von Uexküll) and traditional metaphysics. Outside, that is, such discourses in which thinking the human is “abandoned” to animal physiology on the one hand, and outside of a humanist metaphysics in which the reproduction of man endlessly and fallaciously depends upon the exclusion of the nonhuman animal on the other. Heidegger is thus claiming, despite the familiar, all-too-human attribution of ontological privation common to both the existential and the metaphysical, to have set off along a different way, one neither straight nor (self-)certain. Whether this brings us any closer to a thinking encounter with animals, however, remains to be thought.
This other way of thinking is, of course, the turning of the hermeneutic circle that is the existential analytic itself. As Heidegger makes clear in Being and Time, the circle of understanding “is the expression of the existential fore-structure of Dasein itself” (195), a positioning safely within the circle which ensures that, of all beings-in-the-world, it is only the Dasein which has the “possibility of existence, [and thus] has ontological priority over every other entity” (62). It is this privilege which gives to the Dasein alone “a positive possibility of the most primordial kind of knowing” (195). While a scientific discourse such as biology may indeed comport to entities not itself, when it comes to the Dasein however—as the sole being for whom Being-in-the-world belongs essentially—, an understanding of Being “pertains with equal primordiality both to an understanding of something like a ‘world’, and to the understanding of the Being of those entities which become accessible within the world” (33). We can thus see why, in his subsequent lecture course, Heidegger passes through “the essence of animality” in order to disclose “something like a ‘world,’” and why contemporary biology might provide just that point of departure. Thus, “[w]henever an ontology takes for its theme entities whose character of Being is other than that of Dasein, it has its own foundation and motivation in Dasein’s own ontical structure, in which a pre-ontological understanding of Being is comprised as a definite characteristic” (ibid.). That is, as that which “is” nearest to Being, it is the privileged position of the Dasein which justifies its understanding of animality on the basis of an understanding of the Dasein. The animal as constituted in biological discourse is in this sense an “empty form” from which its primordial sources have become detached, leaving only “a free-floating thesis” for which the hermeneutic method secures the access to the phenomenon that is its object so as to provide “our [human] passage [Durchgang] through whatever is prevalently covering it up” (61). Such a hermeneutic turn is, as Heidegger reiterates, a turning solely within the human-Dasein: “Philosophy … takes its departure from the hermeneutic of Dasein, which, as an analytic of existence, has made fast the guiding-line for all philosophical inquiry at the point where it arises and to which it returns” (62). The biological discourse of animality is thus, reiterated by Heidegger, simply the point of departure, where it arises in comparison to the Dasein and to which it always already returns. In other words, the essence of animality in The Fundamental Concepts is the radicalization of what the Dasein already possesses in, and is concealed by, the “everyday” existentiell discourse of Driesch and Uexküll’s biology, the necessarily ontical point of departure which provides the passage to an existential understanding of the human-Dasein. A passage or a way which, in going along with animals, never encounters—never touches—animalsat all.
That animals are without the “as”-structure and thus without possibility is assumed by Heidegger at the very beginning of Being and Time, and necessarily so given his way of thinking the indissociability of language and Being with the privilege of the Dasein—and thus of the latter’s identity with the human—during this period. Hence, and despite the distance claimed from both empiricism and traditional metaphysics, Heidegger must thus in The Fundamental Concepts similarly refuse animals entry into the reserve of language that is the preserve of the human, with the result that, while passing through the everyday discourse of biology, he thus grounds his reiteration of exceptionalism on the most traditional and “common sense” metaphysical definition of all: that animals are essentially condemned to captive instinct because of a lack of language. Moreover, in that language thus understood is—before and beyond the exclusively verbal—the condition of possibility of the open, Heidegger in fact extends the traditional definition in order to deny nonhuman animals the world. Indeed, that Heidegger chooses to illustrate this not with a poet, but with Saint Paul, should certainly give pause to all poor creatures deprived of voice along the way.
In order to better understand the consequences of this humanist turn and, moreover, to think how a turn of that circle may itself provide a way beyond the humanist enclosure, Agamben’s reading of the Heideggerian animal in The Open—referred to briefly above—provides both counterpoint and point of departure.
Seeking to problematize Heidegger’s claim (in the “Letter”)to have moved beyond “the manner of metaphysics,” Agamben’s reading comes to rest upon the claim that Heidegger posits profound boredom “as the metaphysical operator in which the passage from poverty in world to world, from animal environment to human world, is realized” (The Open 68). This has important consequences for Agamben’s reading: given that profound boredom marks the (evolutional and teleological) passage from the animal to the Dasein, it can only be that the “jewel set at the center of the human world and its Lichtung [clearing] is nothing but animal captivation; the wonder ‘that beings are’ is nothing but the grasping of the ‘essential disruption’ that occurs in the living being from its being exposed in a nonrevelation" (ibid.). As a result, the “irresolvable struggle between unconcealedness and concealedness, between disconcealment and concealment, which defines the human world, is the internal struggle between man and animal” (69). If humanity, Agamben thus asks, “has been obtained only through a suspension of animality, and must thus keep itself open to the closedness of animality, in what sense does Heidegger’s attempt to grasp the ‘existing essence of man’ escape the metaphysical primacy of animalitas?” (73).
In reaching this conclusion, however, there occurs in Agamben’s reading a necessary shifting or drifting of terms, a passage-over that is a passing-on-to (the nonhuman animal) which occurs precisely at the moment when Agamben introduces the notion of passage. Immediately following the description of profound boredom as “the metaphysical operator” in which is realized the passage from animal environment to human world, Agamben asserts that “at issue here is nothing less than anthropogenesis, the becoming Da-sein of living man” (68). In that it is only in and through profound boredom that the human-Dasein can apprehend the wonder “that beings are,” it is indeed the case that the “having” of captivation as such is “nothing less than anthropogenesis, the becoming Da-sein,” but this is not—and nor can it ever be—the becoming “of living man” in the sense of the passage from the “merely living” to the properly human-Dasein, a passage which marks and thus passes over the nonlocalisable moment between the still-animal and the already-Dasein and between the no-longer animal and the not-yet human. In order to better understand the stakes of Agamben’s reading, it is necessary to recall the two “original and importantly different determinations” which, as Andrew Benjamin demonstrates, “configure two of the dominant forms taken by the relationship between the human and the nonhuman animal” (“Particularity and Exceptions” 76). In the first, the production of the human is predicated on the death or nonexistence of the animal; whereas in the second, the human remains in a constant struggle with his or her own animality, an animality which must be repeatedly overcome in being-human. These two configurations endlessly reiterate the logic of dependence-exclusion, both erroneously defining the nonhuman animal by what he or she lacks within a teleological dialectic, and thus marking every nonhuman animal as incomplete, subhuman. Here, as I aim to demonstrate, Heidegger’s attempt to think humanitas outside of any such traditional metaphysical definition is taken by Agamben and unknowingly re-placed within the second configuration—an economy common to what Agamben terms the modern anthropological machine and, moreover, one which Agamben’s own notion of a sacred community prior to the positing of identity is, ultimately, unable to escape.5
Becoming-Dasein—that is, the Dasein “thought in its origin”—remains, as I have argued, for Heidegger a thinking solely in the direction of humanitas, in that the background which “sets off” is not that which is preserved and annihilated in the animal’s being raised up to the human, nor is it that which grounds the Dasein like its shadow (and thus up close to, touching). Rather it is the case that such a setting-off marks out Heidegger’s discourse of anthropo-genesis as a speculative thesis, one that offers a fantastic hypo-thesis or, “as [if] it were,” a fable—a fable that, true to (the) form, has always already sacrificed the animal to its very taking-place.
Being-captivated [benommen], “the possibility of apprehending something as something is withheld [genommen] from the animal. And it is withheld from it not merely here and now, but withheld in the sense that such a possibility is ‘not given at all’’’ (Heidegger FCM 247). Given this a priori withholding of the “as”-structure, what is most proper to the animal is its not-being-able to disclose the undisconcealed as undisconcealed and, at once therefore, neither can the animal ever apprehend concealedness, which, in that it presupposes its opposite, remains essentially unavailable. As a result, the animal can never become the Dasein—the passage between animal and human is always already impossible. Hence, whereas for Agamben animality abruptly comes to signify concealedness, and which makes of the struggle between unconcealedness and concealedness the struggle between man and animal, in fact the animal can be positioned at neither pole. Without relation, there can be no dialectical teleology, no possible negation of the negation of the animal, but only an abyssal rupture that marks out the animal at the limit of thinking, of thinking the Dasein, and of thinking finitude. Thus, while Agamben’s reading of becoming-Dasein as the bridge from animal to human makes of Heidegger’s discourse a reiteration of the aporetic site of the fault-line between the animal and the human—one which, as Agamben himself makes clear, “cannot be mended from either side” (The Open 36)—in fact there can be no crossing, no passage, and therefore no irresolvable conflict. There is, in short, no between of the animal and the human. Without relation, animals remain for Heidegger absolutely other, beyond what gives itself as food for (anthropocentric) thought and, as such, just as essentially excluded from concealment as they are from propriety and authenticity. It is rather that, in thinking the “having” of captivation, thinking humanitas is obtained in thought by the human in order to think the human-Dasein or, more precisely, to think the becoming of the human-Dasein. The irresolvable—in being ever reiterated—struggle between concealment and disconcealment, one necessarily ever denied to “the animal,” is thus the ontological struggle between improper “being-Dasein” and proper “becoming-Dasein.” That is to say, it is the struggle between “being-Dasein” understood in the sense of the specifically human undisconcealed absorption that is being-there as facticity [Faktizität] and falling [Verfallen], and becoming-Dasein in the taking-place of the possibility of the human-Dasein’s resolute openness in Being-toward-death. This is because it is the taking-place of the “having” of the “as” in profound boredom which is the condition for—and which always already escapes in—the uncanny experience of anxiety in which the Dasein is brought “back from its absorption in the ‘world’’’ (Being and Time 233) to find itself “face to face with the ‘nothing’ of the possible impossibility of its existence,” coming-to-be ownmost Dasein in being “disclose[d] the uttermost possibility” (310-11). On the one hand, then, there is the turbulent sham of “untruth” (Unwahrheit) “which brings tranquillized self-assurance—‘Being-at-home,’ with all its obviousness—into the average everydayness of Dasein” (223, 264, 233) and, on the other, the “truth” of existential projection in and as which, “[i]n the happening of uncanniness, beings as a whole open themselves up”(Introduction to Metaphysics 178).
Nonhuman animals, it is clear, essentially have no place in this struggle. Rather than a conflict between humanitas and animalitas, Heidegger puts forward a thesis which for him can only ever concern an entirely human(ist) struggle. While Agamben accurately describes the becoming-Dasein in the having of captivation, what he thenceforth shifts or passes on or over to the animal is the blindness of the everyday, the undisclosed in facticity and falling. The “absorption in itself” [Eingenommenheit in sich]of animal captivation can never be the “being absorbed in the world” [Sinne des Aufgehens in der Welt]of the Dasein, in that such captive everydayness of the latter “Being alongside” always already presupposes that structure of significance [Bedeutsamkeit] essentially denied to nonhuman animals. What then, is left for “the animal?” It can only be an (all too familiar) dissolution within the undifferentiation of thoughtless, instinctive reaction.
Whereas Agamben wishes to “restore to the closed, to the earth, and to lēthē their proper name of ‘animal’ and ‘simply living being’” (The Open 73), in fact the apprehension of the closed or the earth is rather the sense of that which exceeds sense: that which gives the Dasein to apprehend that beings are is their appearing as closed in the blunt materiality of their withdrawal. In other words, what have being named closed, earth, and lēthē constitute in their blunt materiality the taking-place of beings as such, and which can be apprehended only as meaning without sense (content) and as sense (sensibility) without meaning. In this affective manifestness [Offenbarkeit] as without sense, therefore, the Dasein comes to be(ing) always already in language. Becoming-Dasein thus remarks the taking-place of the ‘as’ which has always already escaped: when beings are apprehended as beings, the sense of that which withdraws has necessarily already taken-place—that is, the withdrawal of meaning has already become meaningful in its being apprehended—and in the (subsequent) wonder of the fact that beings are we are thus always already anxiously constituted within infinitely entangled structures of meaning. Such a withdrawal of meaning, therefore, is neither meaningless nor transcendental, but is rather that which exceeds every structure of meaning upon which nevertheless depends its affective manifestness—the uncanny disposition that is its apprehension, in other words, is necessarily a singular, historically situated event. We get some sense of this in Heidegger’s notion of “mood” [die Stimmung] or, more precisely, “attunement” [die Gestimmtheit] which, in the decade between Being and Time and the Nietzsche lectures, acquires a robust materiality beyond any reduction to the organismic: “[e]very feeling is an embodiment attuned in this or that way, a mood that embodies in this or that way” (Nietzsche I:100) and which—
always just as essentially has a feeling for beings as a whole, every bodily state involves some way in which the things around us and the people with us lay a claim on us or do not do so. … Mood is precisely the basic way in which we are outside ourselves. But that is the way we are essentially and constantly. (99) 6
In the third of the Nietzsche lectures two years later, Heidegger further clarifies this notion with the move from embodiment [das Leiben] to that of bodying [das Leibende], a shift which serves to highlight that “the body” [der Leib] never refers to its apparent “encapsulation” in the “physical mass” [Körper], but rather to “a stream of life” which “is transmission and passage at the same time” (Nietzsche III:79). A bodying, in other words,is never that of a substantial body that is thence contingently situated, but rather “is” the laying claim of sense in infinite singularity, that is to say, being-attuned in and as an essential and constant bodying is relation: being-exposed rather than a being that exposes itself. What the Dasein, in resolute being-towards-death, must ever again keep itself open to is not, as for Agamben, the closedness of animality, but to a letting lie before such as being as such comes to withdraw from sense. It is this which alone always remains to interrupt the capture of the closedness of the everyday, which remains to disrupt the disinhibiting ring of “the they” [das Man].
In The Fundamental Concepts as in Being and Time,Heidegger does not in fact (and as a result) think animals at all. Rather, and “in the end,” Heidegger offers only an extended animal fable, a fabulous sacrificial myth that, as (if) it were andin the background, sets off what is (arguably) most proper to man—that is, his own very origin. In our questioning, writes Heidegger, we always and inevitably “end up talking as if that which the animal relates to and the manner in which it does so were some being” (FCM255)—but it is not, in fact, some being, but rather, and only, human being: none other than the Dasein “we” always already are. We end up interpreting “the animal” as if she were human: anthropomorphically, in other words—in the form of a fable (in this seminar, it should be remembered, Heidegger is putting forward a thesis, that is, putting something forward for the sake of argument, andwhich Heidegger very rarely does). Traditionally dealing with origins, the generic fable is, after all and by definition, an anthropomorphic mirror in which, reflected in the exemplary figure of “the animal,” “we” humans are expected to re-cognize our ownmost proper mode of being. Here then, and for the sake of argument, Heidegger is proffering a fabulous drama, one in which is staged, as if in a mirror, the rigorously anthropocentric struggle between being that Dasein which has its demise [ableben] and becoming that Dasein which has dying for its way of Being (Being and Time 291). In another sense, however, it is also and at once an anti-fable, in that, given the imperative of an always already becoming again that is the gift of finitude, there can be no site nor sight of the Dasein’s phylogenetic Origin—as Heidegger is no doubt aware, a telling anthropogenesis can never be a tale of the Origin of the species, which would inevitably reiterate its auto-Destruktion precisely along the fault-line. Thus, an obvious question remains: “who” or “what” comes-to-be human? It cannot be a nonhuman animal, nor any other-being-in-the-world, essentially denied as they are access to the “as.” There “is,” therefore, no Origin. Rather, only the human always already comes-to-be after what Maurice Blanchot calls the “deluge” of language, of being as such: the human comes-to-be, and is called to Being, by being always already in language.
“We” humans are thus always already following the unsitable originary site of the fall into the “as”-structure, and it is the nonhuman animal who necessarily finds herself, without even the possibility of impossibility, nonplaced uncannily both before and after the world. And yet, it remains to ask, how can it be that, given the undifferentiated absorption that is instinctive reaction, “[t]he animal’s way of being, which we call ‘life’, is not without access to what is around it and about it” (FCM 198)? In that for Heidegger such a “not without access” [nicht zugangslos] can never be access to being as such, it soon becomes clear that “not without access” can only be a “seeming to have access” understood as a “not-having-in-the-mode-of-having.” It remains essentially the case, Heidegger insists, that the animal only “appears as a living being [als seiendes Lebewesen vorkommt]” (ibid.), and it is this mere “seeming like”or “appearing as” which gives rise to the claim of the animal’s “having” the “as.” And indeed, this reference to the animal appearing as [als] a living being is at once to explicate that very appearing:for Heidegger, both the appearing and the subsequent claim are pure anthropomorphisms, a necessarily human “talking as if” in which each and every animal is transformed into yet one more anthropo-magical mirror. Unable to differentiate beings as beings, animals thus only appear as living beings as a result of one exceptional animal’s “having” the “as”—an exclusive property which subsequently reduces every other-being-(not)-in-the-world to a dependence upon the ek-sistence of the human. Hence, one can now better understand Heidegger’s deferral of the disclosure of the essence of animality as something available only from within the human world. Other than as a ghosted outline, therefore, a phantom individuation through the looking glass that is the human-Dasein, all other beings remain essentially absorbed in the anonymous impersonal night of the es gibt.
It is here that the relation between Heidegger’s “decentred exceptionalism” and traditional humanist metaphysics is most clearly disclosed and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” provides the key. On one side, the radical antihumanism of the decentered subject is indeed, and contrary to Agamben’s argument, other to the traditional metaphysical definitions of the human. At the same time, however, its decentering of the exclusively human subject serves only to introduce the higher, überhumanism which Heidegger in the “Letter” claims is to be found within the existential analytic, the “sole implication” of which—
is that the highest determinations of the essence of man in humanism still do not realize the proper dignity of man. To that extent the thinking in Being and Time is against humanism. … [But] Humanism is opposed because it does not set the humanitas of man high enough (233-4, my emphasis).
According to this überhumanism there can be no possibility of an essential human-animal Mitsein, in that it is the human that always already constitutes (“subsequent” to its appearing) nonhuman beings as beings, and in this sense the nonhuman animal must thus always already come after the human: before the human there is (mere) “living,” but not “living be-ing” as such. Here then, Heidegger does indeed displace nonhuman animals outside of the humanist teleology of traditional metaphysics which, in that “the human” comes to be in and as the exclusion of the “animalistic ground” upon which it depends, marks (down) every nonhuman animal as incomplete, as subhuman. At the same time, however, he reinscribes an überhumanist exceptionalism insofar as being comes to be as such only in and as the human and thus, in its always already exclusion of an animal ground,the constitution of the “nonhuman animal” therefore dependsupon the human. Hence, while it is a radical reversal of the dependence-exclusion of the metaphysical humanist tradition, it is one which nevertheless remains within its economy—as if in a mirror. So it is that, in the telling of such a fabulous tale, nonhuman animals thus come to be(ing) only as spectral beings-for-man7—invoked from the deepest of depths, raised up to a ghostly appearance and allotted, so to speak, a brief graceless period before, for the most part, “disappearing” once again into the undifferentiation of the mass term “meat.”
Such an überhumanist a priori refusal of thinking animals—in every sense—has then, in going along with the traditional (metaphysical) denial of death to nonhuman beings, far-reaching and murderous consequences. Most important here is that, in the mirror of Heidegger’s resolution, and in common with Christian and Enlightenment tradition, animals have no death, no possibility, and no meaning—exscribed therein, written out in an all too human, all too familiar fashion, as soulless mechanisms working only until they run (or are ran) down. Reiterating the undying figure central to the two dominant configurations of metaphysics, Heidegger thus reiterates too the hubris of a human exceptionalism that, given the surety of absolute superiority, sanctions our doing whatever we like to (other) animals. Such putatively posthumanist thinking therefore, in its restaging of the eternal animal predicated upon the lack of language, reproduces a symbolic economy serving a capitalist dependent logic, one which ensures that the biological death of nonhuman animals—and thus of this death of this (farm, laboratory, or feral) animal—is considered at best epiphenomenal (rendered both symbolically and literally as “a fortuitous by-product”) and, at worst, a simple impossibility; that is, meaningless and thus unthinkable. In this sense, Heidegger thus unwittingly underwrites the material global practice of systematic violence and mass slaughter on a truly unthinkable scale in that, figured as undying, his discourse mimetically reproduces as ‘natural’ the material reduction of nonhuman animals to a state of ‘interminable survival’ that is at once a daily zootechnical genocide.8 It serves, that is to say, to naturalize capital’s waging of a (massively unequal) war on animals.
That, however, is not necessarily the end of Heidegger’s “just so” story. In that the animal, corralled within the Dasein’s reflection, remains unthought, the animal inevitably remains; andremains too for Heidegger, whose rigour will not allow his reservation to remain unspoken:
The difficulty of the problem lies in the fact that in our questioning we always and inevitably interpret the poverty in world and the peculiar encirclement proper to the animal in such a way that we end up talking as if that which the animal relates to and the manner in which it does so were some being, and as if the relation involved were an ontological relation that is manifest to the animal. The fact that this is not the case compels us to the thesis [nötigt zu der These] that the essence of life is accessible only through a destructive observation [Wesen des Lebens nur im Sinne einer abbauenden Betrachtung zugänglich ist], which does not mean that life is something inferior or that it is at a lower level in comparison with human Dasein. On the contrary, life is a domain which possesses a wealth of being-open [Offenseins], of which the human world may know nothing at all (FCM 255; translation modified).
It remains the case then, beyond what is yet one more anthropocentric mirror—beyond, that is, this “fact” which compels Heidegger to speculate—, that this necessarily destructive observing with and to which the animal is sacrificed nonetheless reserves and preserves for animals, on the far side of the abyssal rupture, the possibility of an unknown and unknowing being-open which remains to be (differently) thought.
Fables without Origin: Animals in the World. While it is indeed the case, as Derrida remarks, that Heidegger never seriously envisages the possibility of a “Mitsein with” the nonhuman animal, it is by turning to Nietzsche—retaining here the senses of both circle and dialogue—that we are able to gain a glimpse of what it might mean to think the multiple ways of being-animal andthe destructive observation together, rather than as mutually exclusive conditions. A thinking together that is, in other words, thinking encounters shared between animals necessarily thrown in the world in and of language. This is not to suggest, however, a (slightly or greatly) more inclusive, yet nevertheless homogeneous, category of beings. Any such delimitation would necessarily remain dependent upon that which it excludes, and would, as a result, be always already undone by the nonlocalizable moment of its fault-line. In fact, the opposite is the case. Just as it is not possible to efface the threshold of nonhuman-human difference by “simply” placing (and thus excluding) animals as “before” the taking-place of (human) language according to some kind of genetic, evolutionary timescale, neither is it possible—any more than it is advisable—to evade or to efface differences between animals, be they human and/or nonhuman, in the sharing of that very taking-place in and of language.9 A “body,” as Heidegger argues, is never that which subsequently encounters the world but rather, in its attunedness that is the essential and constant laying claim of sense, “is” a being-outside that singularly bodies. In this, I will argue, every so-called body, whether it is “one” we commonly call “animal” or “human” (or rather neither and both), is abysmally situated in-relation—i.e. in relation without relation—and, in being exposed across sense, meaning and world, it is only by way of the essential indecipherability of the other that an “I” might ever again come to be.
Moving through Nietzsche’s well-known but vertiginously productive 1873 essay, “On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense” [Über Wahrheit und Lüge im aussermoralischen Sinne] (henceforth cited as TL), it quickly becomes apparent that what Nietzsche calls “image” is in fact the originary forgetting which marks the having taken-place of language. This “image,” however, is explicitly nonanthropocentric, in that “language,” as we will see, must be understood here as incorporating all production of sense, that is to say, as extending to the tropological functioning of perception and affection.The movement of sensation is, in other words, a transference or translation [übertragung] within a nonnecessary (that is, creative or aesthetic) relationship. “To begin with,” writes Nietzsche, “a nerve stimulus is transferred into an image [Ein Nervenreiz, zuerst übertragen in ein Bild]” (82). In this, and right at the beginning, Nietzsche is thus making clear that “image” refers neither solely to human perception nor solely to visual perception, but rather to any and all perception and affection—that is to say, any filtering of information—each instance of which is always a translation: the image that “is” the touch of the sun’s warmth, that “is” the smell of honey, or that “is” the sound of thunder, and so on. Given that any such moment or movement of translation necessitates an over-leaping [überspringen] from one sphere into a second, absolutely heterogeneous sphere—i.e., an overleaping that marks out the image as vehicle to the stimuli’s tenor—every image is therefore a “perceptual metaphor”[die anschaulichen Metaphern]. Moreover, the inescapability of this discontinuity makes every perceptual metaphor necessarily inadequate—“a stammering translation into a completely foreign tongue” (86)—, one which cannot help but truncate, mutilate, and make monstrous. Nothing less than a material laying-claim in and as which a body comes-to-be, the sense-image is thus a vehicle ever lost to an erranttransmission, to dissemination. At once then, living beings possess only discontinuous metaphors of physical responses, responses which themselves mark the taking-place of material encounters. Hence, in coming to be only in and as a metaphorical vehicle always radically divided from the originary being-with of an encounter which can be neither perceived nor known nor re-presented, it thus follows that the Kantian “thing in itself”—which is “what the pure truth, apart from any of its consequences, would be” (82; my emphasis)—is necessarily an illusion. Every image then, every sense by which be-ing is outside itself, is thus not only a metaphor, but also always already an abuse of metaphor in that its analogy remains necessarily incomplete, and thus for Nietzsche, language in its broadest sense is the operation of catachresis.10
Never in a relation to or of truth, the sense-image is therefore—and “at most”—“an aesthetic relation or disposition [ein ästhetisches Verhalten]” (86). As well as deconstructing the traditional Platonic distinction between the sensible [aisthēton] and the intelligible [noēton], such aesthetic relating that is the production of sense is never, given the impossibility of independently existing entities, that of a subject-object relation. Furthermore, given that this being-disposed-outside that is to be attuned to a condition is the aesthetic production of sense, it follows that that which appears to us simply as “our bodies”—that is to say, the sense of a body—, as well as the sense of the self, of self-awareness, is necessarily founded upon an a priori infolding of the outside which always already interrupts any such delimitation. Every passion, being a moment and movement of translation, is thus at once an act of interpretation, just as every action is at once dependent upon a passive infolding of externality. The ek-static production of sense is thus irreducible to the modern Cartesian notion of egological “consciousness” and at once divested of both anthropocentric and organismic restriction; every nonhuman animal too is first of all be-ing outside itself, and thus it necessarily follows—and as Nietzsche insists—that they too come to their senses only in and as metaphoric perceptions.
Moreover, in focussing on the tropology of sense and hence of a technics at and as the origin of life, the self-proclaimed “last of the Stoics” irredemiably fractures any secure distinction between the “natural” and the “artificial,” disclosing the dark machinations of power that blind us to even the most transparent perception. When, in describing the translative mo(ve)ment in The Birth of Tragedy (1872), Nietzsche writes of a kind of inverse blinding in which “the bright image projections … [are,] as it were, luminous spots to cure eyes damaged by the gruesome night” (67), he thus gives us to think ourselves, avant la lettre, in the sightlessness of Heidegger’s captivated animal, essentially blind when faced with beings we can never apprehend as such. Moreover, in following the traces of Nietzsche’s text it soon becomes clear that any attempt at continuing to draw such a bold (Aristotelian, Cartesian and Heideggerian) dividing line between an “animal” reaction and a “human” response is ultimately untenable.11
This blinding, deafening, benumbing production (or rather, as we will see, reproduction) of perceptual metaphors necessarily places “us”—i.e. “us” beings that translate stimuli into images—always already “in” language: we are, in and as the transfer—and thus in and as existence itself—already in and as trope, inhabiting and being-inhabited by machines for generating meaning. Obviously, such practices of sense-production are not, or not only, language in the narrow sense of the written and spoken word. Nor is it the case, as we will see, that the image is a necessarily intermediate stage between nerve stimulus and intelligible word-concept (it is not the case, that is to say, that the image is not yet “language proper,” lacking only its teleological fulfillment). As a result, Nietzsche neither places “the animal” in a median position between non-life (entities which do not translate stimuli into imagery) and being-human (or being-Dasein), nor does he—and without denying the abyssal rupture remarked by the marker of proximal distance—mark out animals for an exclusion predicated upon their death or overcoming which would be to therefore prohibit the possibility of an animal-human Mitsein.
Despite Heidegger’s refusal of any such language to nonhuman animals, it is nevertheless here in terms of the metaphorical “image” that his writings and, after him, those of Jacques Derrida, enable us to better understand what is at stake in its dis-position. For Nietzsche, as we have seen, the image is a truncated translation of a response marking a material encounter. The image that remarks every perception is thus always an inadequate interpretation of a relation. Given this, and as will become increasingly clear, it can only be that the experience which Nietzsche calls the “first” image—a “unique and entirely individual original experience” that is “without equals” and thus “able to elude all classification” (TL, 83, 84-5) — is the perception of a singularity.12 Never a sense of the impossible thing-in-itself, the experience that is the “first” image is the perception of being as such—the “entirely individual original experience” that is the immediate perception of this uniquely situated relation of be-ing. The “as” of “as such” here remarks the excessive and discontinuous transport of metaphor, the discontinuous aesthetic (non)relation that remarks our exposure such that it is only as it is. In other words, the as such “is” the mo(ve)ment of language “itself”: the posit(ion)ing being and being posit(ion)ed of and in language. In The Coming Community (1990), Giorgio Agamben describes the event of singularity as follows:
I am never this or that [substance], but always such, thus. Eccum sic: absolutely. Not possession but limit, not presupposition but exposure. … Whereas real predicates express relationships within language, exposure is pure relationship with language itself, with its taking-place. It is what happens to something (or more precisely, to the taking-place of something) by the very fact of being in relation to language, the fact of being-called. … Existence as exposure is the being-as of a such. … The such does not presuppose the as; it exposes it, it is its taking-place. … The as does not suppose the such; it is its exposure, its being pure exteriority. (97-8)
In order to better understand this notion of the “first” image as the possibility of immediate perception as such, it is thus necessary to read in Nietzsche’s text a grammar marked not by the will but by a primordial passivity which contaminates all activity. In this, the unique, individual and original relation that is the singularity of the as such “is” the taking-place of language—the taking-place which is, as we saw with the apprehension of the closed or the earth in Heidegger, the singular laying claim of blunt materiality which withdraws in the relation that “is” being as such. This “original” relation, however, can never be perceived as such—that is, can never be the translative production of an image—in that it is precisely this immediate relation which must escape in the transference into the discontinuous domain that is its interpretation, its sense. The X of the original individual “acquaintance”always already remains, as Nietzsche writes, “inaccesible and undefinable for us” (83). In short, the image that is to perceive can only ever mark the escape of the originary individual relation as such in its being-sensed, the translation havingalways already taken-place of and in language.13
The word or concept “language” presents a problem here, however. Inevitably carrying its burdensome anthropocentric history before it, it tends unwittingly to limit its recall to the verbal, and thus to an exceptionalism which language here precisely puts out of the question. The petrified anthropo-logic that inheres in the term “language,” in other words, elides the sense of nonhuman animals. For this reason, I suggest that the originary relation of being as such is better understood simply as that in which the transfer of sense can take place. In this, the open that “is” being as such is precisely the taking place of the encounter of sense which escapes in its necessary translation, a mo(ve)ment which, in and as perception, has always already taken place. Here “sense” is chosen in that it retains, across the discrete domains of translation marked by sens and Sinn, its irreducibility to either the sensible or the intelligible, but it is rather that each always invests the other: entangled sense (common and uncommon) and sensibility, meanings without sense and sense without meaning. Sense [Le sens] is thus, as Jean-Luc Nancy writes,
the element in which there can be significations, interpretations, representations … it is the regime of their presentation, and it is the limit of their sense [sens] … Our world is a world presented as a world of sense [monde de sens]before and beyond any constituted meaning [sens constitué] (L’oubli de la philosophie 90-1).
Sense thus carries an imbrication of the material and the semiotic that always exceeds any reduction to the words spoken by human animals alone. The taking place of sense is at once the opening of and as language, and to a necessary mo(ve)ment which, in the proximal distancing of the “as,” installs a technics as and at the origin of sense. It is this, as we shall see, which renders untenable any recourse to the myth of a “natural” (tele)pathic animal communication and, ultimately, to the ideology of the undying animal.
Translation having always already taken place, this necessary falling away into the metaphoricity of sense—a fall which is also a surfacing, a coming to one’s senses and thence to one’s “self”—thus gives us to understand a “having” of the “as”-structure common to all perception (metaphor, by definition, being the taking of something as something else), rather than being the exclusive property of the Dasein. The “first” image to which Nietzsche draws our attention, the sense of this singular being as such, must thus be read as the coming-to-be that is the remarking of the taking-place of the “as” which has always already escaped. Here it is necessary to understand that such numerical markings as employed by Nietzsche are grammatical, and not genetic.14 The “original, unique and individual experience” is, in other words, that alien, uncanny transport that gives a being to apprehend that beings are in the blunt materiality of their withdrawal, a zoo-genesis in which the attunement of Heidegger’s “profound boredom”—a sense only of the reserve of being as such in the withdrawal of sense—is one shared potentially by every being (in be-ing disposed outside itself). Moreover, as the condition of possibility for the abyssal generalization of the image, this sense of that which escapes is necessarily a pure performative, referring only to itself and thus to its fantastic masking of the abyss. This follows necessarily from the fact that, for any translation-perception to “make sense”—that is, for an image to be apprehended, or rather recognized as an image—it must, upon its “first” appearance, always already be repeated (and so come to differently divide its indivisible essence). In this, the necessary iterability of a recognized sense—“an idealization that permits one identify it as the same throughout possible repetitions” (Derrida Specters 200)—at once remarks a sense of the temporal, with “sense of time” understood as the multiplicity of local economies that constitute the “time of sense.”15 Thus, what for Nietzsche is the metaphoricity of sense is perhaps better understood as the re-cognition of sense: “cognition”—the process of knowing in the broadest sense—here serving to recall the tropological movement by which sense is produced, a production which the recursive prefix remarks as always already a re-production. In summary then, the singular encounter as such is such that always already escapes in the necessary re-cognition of the perceptual metaphor as image, that is, in the sense of sensation as sensation—the sense that is tropologically produced as perception and affection.
Following from this, re-cognition in and as image therefore presupposes its siting within a co-originary structure of differential relation—that is, recognition presupposes a multiplicity of countersignatures—in that an image necessarily “means” only in and as its difference (to recognize the image of redness, for example, is always already to recognize not-redness). This re-cognition is, in other words, always already a repetition that is a falling into temporality and at once what Heidegger calls a “destructive observation.” This is because, being reiterated, any image is always already “becoming-sedimented” in that perception must necessarily ignore differences between singularities in order to recognize an image as an image, to recognize sense as sense. A recognition which, as Nietzsche tells us, in equating by forgetting or “omitting the aspects in which they are unequal” (TL 83), already marks the mo(ve)ment with the sedimentation of an habitual and conventional perceptual response. Thus, recognition dissimulates what it shows and that it shows—is, in a word, writing. All of which leads to the conclusion that there can be no recognition as such: the giving (of the) as such to recognition is thus always already a calculation, and thus there can be no recognition of recognition as such, no sense of the reproduction of sense, and thus no absolute distinction between the sensible and the intelligible. That it gives [es gibt] is given up in the recognition of its been given, which is at once the giving of finitude, of death. In every sense then, that which is encountered is defaced as it at once defaces that which encounters, its destructive observation reproduced behind our backs, so to speak—a machinic rumbling both before and beyond. Hence, always already differentially sited and cited, perception is always already apperception that is nonetheless irreducible to cogitating activity.
Here then, we have two distinct but indissociable sites of non-sense: on the one hand, the necessary withdrawal of being as such that is the condition of possibility for the production of sense (the taking place of language) and, on the other, the singular differences of a particular perception which are necessarily and violently effaced in its recognition (language always already having taken place). We can see, in other words, only because we are blind, can hear and feel only because we are deaf and unfeeling. This distinction is extremely important, in that it is the former which potentially interrupts the latter. For the moment, however, it is necessary only to note that it is the iterability of the image which, in its having taken-place (again), always already places being(s) in and as language, that it is iterability which “lets the traces continue to function in the absence of the general context or some elements of the context” (Derrida “Strange Institution” 64). And finally, it is only in and as the habitual effacement of difference—that is, through the idealization of iterability by which historicity is constituted—that be-ings are able to be, as it is only, as Nietzsche insists, “the petrification and coagulation of a mass of images” that produce the relatively stable contextual elements which allow beings—whether “human” or “animal”—to “live with any repose, security, and consistency” (TL 86). This is because, in that the recognition of an image presupposes its positing within a differential relation of images (that is, within contingent machines for generating meaning), the becoming-sedimented that is the image is at once the becoming-sedimented of reiterated combinations of component images (or component combinations thereof).16 The image then, the tropological making sense of sense, is always already the situated contraction of reiterated habitual sense-components within a relational structure. Such metonymies consist of a utilitarian and conventional selection or cutting out—that is, an habitual interpretation of meaning—according to its use within dominant social relations, and in this always already presuppose relations of power. Deleuze and Guattari make this clear in their gloss on the notion of opinion—a notion which, understood in the context of this text, can never belong exclusively to the human, and which will be further developed when I turn to Nietzsche’s definition of truth:
We pick out a quality supposedly common to several objects that we perceive, and an affection supposedly common to several subjects who experience it and who, along with us, grasp that quality. Opinion is the rule of the correspondance of one to the other. … It extracts an abstract quality from perception and a general power from affection: in this sense all opinion is already political (What is Philosophy, 144-5).
How (a) being makes sense, in every sense, can be thus considered sociopolitical, and in this, the non-sensing of singular differences as much as the habitually recognized sense of an encounter is an active-passive reproduction of power and of power’s limits (of the production and reproduction of norms). The recognized image—the necessarily reiterated metaphorico-metonymic perception—is therefore always already what we might (catachrestically) call an “image-concept” in that, in Nietzsche’s words, after it “has been generated millions of times and has been handed down for many generations … it acquires at last the same meaning … it would have if it were the sole necessary image and if the relationship … were a strictly causal one” (TL, 87). It is just such an habitual regulation of “making sense” which, as Nietzsche is at pains to point out, orders human and nonhuman animals alike. For all such be-ings then, tropes are necessarily machines of calculation and repetition that, beyond and before any “I,” habitually order the sense of the world. It is, in Heideggerian terms, that of always already being-thrown and falling into the everyday, into doxa. Thus it is that, in being always already outside ourselves (and to be otherwise would constitute an eternal present), every active-passive recognition that is “to sense” presupposes bounded and bonded structures of meaning, presupposes archives and relays, backloads and rhizomatic connections; presupposes the machinic operation of power. Always already an inter- and intra-action, “making sense” is thus, in short, an interpretative act of passion, at once both singular and habitual and inhabited by power that informs and conforms all knowing.
The “having” (in the sense of its having always already taken-place) of the (ap)perceptual metaphor—and thus of being-in-language—is thus to be always already excluded from the “unique and entirely individual original experience” that is the being as such of the singular encounter, of the such that it is (only) as it is. Constituted from outside of ourselves, this bodying which we ever again “are” is thus irretrievably ex-timate, always already requiring the crossing-through of being as such. Hence, the tropology of sense is not substitution, but rather constitution, of be-ing—an aesthetic relation without relation as a result of an exclusion from which nonhuman animals cannot therefore be excluded. On the one side (of a line that can no longer be drawn), it is undeniable that nonhuman animals are able to live socially with “repose, security, and consistency”—and yet such repose can only be granted by iterability. Hence, if one accepts that nonhuman animals are, as a result, gifted with response—that is, ek-sist in relation without relation—and thus respond-able and responsive, then being-exposed in an encounter presupposes asymmetrical relatings that cannot be determined in advance. On the other, if human hubris insists upon downgrading nonhuman response-ability to a “merely” “instinctive” reaction to (sedimented) perceptions—reactions whose gestures or signs are (somehow) passed down from generation to generation—must one not also read in the much-vaunted human response rather the captivation within the disinhibiting ring of the destructive conventional reaction? As Derrida writes, “what would ever distinguish the response, in its total purity, the so-called free and responsible response, from a reaction to a complex system of stimuli? And what, after all, is a citation?” (Animal 53-4). This response/reaction dichotomy has a long and illustrious philosophical history, but for the moment it is sufficient to gesture towards just one consequence of its ongoing deconstruction, one requiring a vast and painstaking analysis to unpack: to no longer be able to posit nonhuman animals as reactive mechanisms is necessarily to refuse the “premeditation” that determines a responsible (i.e. guilty) subject and which founds humanist-juridical discourse—if animals respond, or humans react, then the “responsible” intentional subject before the law becomes indeterminable. One can thus understand the considerable significance invested in its maintenance.
It remains to ask Nietzsche, however, as to the difference, if any, between the (human and nonhuman) metaphoricity of sense and the (predominantly human) sense of verbal language. For Nietzsche there is indeed a difference between “man” and “animals,” which is precisely the mark of marking out, of excluding and externalizing “the animal” upon which man depends in the production of the proper—albeit empty—concept of “man” itself. However, as we have seen, nonhuman animals cannot be excluded from the iterated image and its metaphorical displacement from the as such and, as a result, from the coagulated mass of images and their metonymic combinations that permit not only repose and security, but also and at once the having of sociopolitical castes and degrees, of subordinations and clearly marked boundaries. Nonetheless, this would seem to be exactly how Nietzsche describes that which does indeed mark out the nonhuman from the human animal: “[e]verything which distinguishes man from the animals depends upon this ability to volatilize perceptual metaphors in a schema, and thus to dissolve an image into a concept”; schemata which then allow “the construction of a pyramidal order according to castes and degrees, the creation of a new world of laws, privileges, subordinations, and clearly marked boundaries … the regulative and imperative world” (TL 84). Reading this section more closely, however, and in the hope of chasing down the difference which sites man’s mode of being-tropological as other to that of the animal, one discovers this difference does not in fact consist of man’s having the word (and thus the concept) but, quite simply, in man’s having of truth; a division which, at first sight, appears to unambiguously reiterate the long familiar metaphysical gesture which allocates—and in doing so defines—man and man alone as the site of teleological reason.
This is, however, impossible according to Nietzsche’s logic for several reasons. To begin with, in that the word “is not supposed to serve as a reminder of the unique and entirely individual original experience to which it owes its origin” (83), the word is therefore always already a word-concept and thus excluded from the singular “truth” of being as such. As with the image, the word is rather the site of an habitual re-cognitionthat ignores difference in order to let “the traces continue to function in the absence of the general context.” Moreover, within the bounded and bonded structures of meaning, within the machines of habitual recognition inhabited by power, word-concepts are inseparably entangled with image-concepts which compose the overwhelming majority of a human animal’s tropological functioning of perception and affection—for example (but not reducible to) kinesic and paralinguistic communications such as expression, tone of voice, movement and stillness, respiration, muscle tensity, even peristalsis—all of which, in that they are iterable and/or are read as such, function at the nonverbal “animal” level of the Nietzschean image; the vast majority of which, as noted above, are irreducible to the conscious Cartesian “I.” This strongly argues against the claim that human language in the narrow verbal sense evolved to replace crude so-called “animal” language in that, if indeed this were the case, then the evolving of this new, more efficient method would have resulted in the decay and disuse of “animal” language among humans.17 Given this, the “second stage” which for Nietzsche marks out the human—and again, it should be clear that the ordinal is solely a grammatical marker, and at once a mark of grammar’s “unconscious domination” (Beyond Good and Evil 217)—does not therefore bear the mark of a teleological progression, but must rather be thought of as another way or another mode of inhabiting and being-inhabited by generative structures of meaning. That is to say, being-human is simply being a way of inhabiting the abyssal technicity of language that remains always discontinuous with the multiplicity of other ways of being-animal but which is nonetheless shared across overlapping zones of indecipherability (the recognised “meaning” that is this encounter of an aspirated breath, for example, or of a stillness) in being-with others. Thus, and to use an exemplary nonhuman from amongst Nietzsche’s extensive bestiary, while being-gnat-in-the-world remains discontinuous to the plural ways of being-tiger, being-bird, or being-plant (or rather, being this “tiger,” this “bird,” or this “plant”), there is nevertheless no ontological difference dividing living-beings-in-the-world, no difference in essence between “the human” and “the animal” as there is for Heidegger (and all such quasi-individuated bodyings too, are always already relations of relations without relation). “[I]f we could communicate with the gnat,” writes Nietzsche, “we would learn that he likewise … feels the flying center of the universe within himself” (TL 79). Being (dis)placed in metaphor, there can “be” only correspondence without correspondence, relating without relation, a co-responding that always already interrupts every essence, disrupts every sovereign self. There can “be” no taking-place, only and ever (and which is neither “only” nor forever) an already taken-place and an always not-yet taken-place—no presence but only and ever difference and deferral. Living beings thus ek-sist in a relation without relation that can never be “natural” and thus, following Nietzsche’s logic and at once moving beyond it, “natural”—whether considered as a concept or a word, as a signifier or a signified or a referent—finds itself transformed into its opposite, into something fantastical, some fantastic thing which is not a thing, which is, and is nothing.18 For this reason, and contrary to the thought of Heidegger, it necessarily follows that nonhuman animals—both similarly and differently to man—apprehend a world.
Moreover, not only can there be no human exceptionalism on the basis of language and world, nor is it possible, as Nietzsche’s philosopher-gnat would tell us, to justify even an anthropological privilege:
the insect or the bird perceives an entirely different world from the one that man does, and that the question of which of these perceptions of the world is the more correct one is quite meaningless, for this would have to have been decided previously in accordance with the criterion of the correct perception, which means, in accordance with a criterion which is not available. (86)
The word-concept then, is another way of being in language, and thus of being in difference, but it is neither prior nor subsequent, neither before nor above, only an other—but not further (spatial or temporal), as we will see—translative dis-placement. And here too the question, and the nonhuman animal, remains: in reiterated giving voice—in the call calling for a response, in declaration and in warning, but also in the gesture of a paw or claw—do not certain animals “name” or “sign” an image recognised—and thus shared—by an other? It is clear that we have not yet located the “truth” that marks the human out from other animals, both the word and the image are necessarily dissimulations, habitual formations which, in permitting repose and security to both human and nonhuman animals, allow us to live and work together (and figured, in Nietzsche’s text, by man as he who “must exist socially and with the herd,” and then again, as he who must “lie with the herd”). Nevertheless, it is exactly here that the difference is found (without being founded), in that it is only man who invents—
a uniformly valid and binding designation … for things, and this legislation of language likewise establishes the first laws of truth. For the contrast between truth and lie arises here for the first time. The liar is a person who uses the valid designations, the words, in order to make something which is unreal appear to be real. … He misuses fixed conventions by means of arbitrary substitutions or even reversals of names. If he does this in a selfish and moreover harmful manner, society will cease to trust him and will thereby exclude him. (81, emphasis added)
“Truths” are thus habitual duties “which society imposes in order to exist,” to wit “to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors” (84). It is thus only from these necessary habits that there “arises a moral impulse in regard to truth” (ibid.), and it is this which marks the difference: only with the appearance of a moral impulse to truth, and thus of the moral exclusion of the lie, does “man” appear, and as different from the nonhuman animal. Whereas a nonhuman animal may “make something which is unreal appear to be real,” may misuse fixed conventions and perhaps be socially ostracised as a result, he or she cannot, however, lie in an immoral (or indeed, moral) sense, but only in an extra-moral sense.
The truths of men are, in short, “illusions which we have forgotten are illusions” (84), in that dissimulation is the condition of possibility for reason itself. Upon the abyss, “rational man” thus legislates, he universalises and, in so doing, constructs “values”—values which exclude, demonise; values which serve only to mark out. For Nietzsche then, the difference between human and nonhuman animals is the difference between the Law and making sense, between the reactive legislation of (illusory) moral truth and the aesthetic constitution of meaning. Being-animal is thus to be always already exposed with-in bounded structures generative of meaning, and yet without (or before) (the) Law in the double sense of the sovereign who is not subject to the Law but who, precisely because she is not a recognised subject of Law, finds herself nevertheless utterly subjected.19 Before the Law that is to say, not like Franz Kafka’s man from the country, but rather as a prisoner of his penal colony who must learn man’s law by her wounds, by its being written over and into her body. (For Kafka, it should be recalled, the law—inscribing innumerable yet indistinguishable deaths—remains indecipherable to the end, and whose monument is a death-machine that can no longer be maintained.20) Thus, given that “man” is nothing but the appearance of the lie within the concept of truth, it is not simply truths that are illusions, but also the phallogocentric superiority of “man” himself. Lacking any foundation, man necessarily builds his edifice of concepts only “from himself,” constructs a world “more solid, more universal, better known, and more human than the immediately perceived world” (TL 84) whose truths are “thoroughly anthropomorphic” and which can never be “really and universally valid apart from man” (85).
It remains to be seen, however, as to what this might mean for Nietzsche’s philosophy. Given that nonhuman animals similarly require an “inventive intermediate sphere and mediating force” (86), they are necessarily no closer to the immediate perception of this uniquely situated relation of be-ing, no more “originary” than the rational man in and as his moral schema. As a result, Nietzsche is by no means advocating a “return” to some kind of preverbal, quasi-“natural” state, which would be to advocate an impossible (and not only in that the “human” takes place only in and as the legislation of “truth”) and at once nonsensical movement from a cooler lie to a fiery lie, both of which relate only to one another and which are always “equally” displaced from the unique, individual and original relation (although no calculation can ever measurethis incommensurable proximity and distance of equality). In that one absolutely discontinuous vehicle can be no more truthful than a second (and thus there can be no judgments of absolute truth and value), there remains, in short, difference (or différance) without privilege. In this, it is clear that what Nietzsche seeks is not a simple inversion of exceptionalism which valorises the animal over the human (and thus reinscribes the human/animal division). Rather, what Nietzsche’s text gives us to think is a way of be-ing (human) with others who do not share our language, who are not Heideggerian reflections of ourselves, but are rather those others with whom or with which neither consensus nor essential disclosure is possible. Every interpretation of and as sense is, as we have seen, always a mis-re-cognition, that is to say, the necessary non-recognition—i.e., effacement—of the singular as such. Nevertheless, while the tropological movement can never be identical without ceasing to be interpretation, neither can it ever leave that which it interprets without ceasing to be its vehicle. The reproduced sense must remain, so to speak, always touching (on) the sensing-sensed encounter, must always—at some immeasurably proximal distance—be with, and in this the effaced materiality as such always remains to interrupt its habitual recognition. However, when necessary habit petrifies into dogma, into legislation, then, rather than an encounter of bodies constituted in and as relation, a mis-re-cognition comes to predetermine the sense of an encounter. That is to say, the attunement that is being-exposed is misrecognized in the strong sense, in that one holds to a recognized (sedimented) sense of the encounter prior to the encounter, and as such the encounter is essentially prevented from taking place: I see without having being seen, I touch without having been touched. Detached from that which gives itself to be interpreted, interpretation ceases to be interpretation and thus becomes Law. It is this latter misrecognition which, according to Nietzsche, is the mark of the human: the falling always already into the transcendental. The comparison with Hegel is instructive here: like Nietzsche, Hegel too argues that the concept “exists in the animal” but that only the human concept can exist “in its fixed, independent freedom,” that is, as a transcendental ideal.21 The difference lies in the fact that, for Hegel, it is precisely the animal which is necessarily “sick” and “anxious” as a result. (Following the argument explored here, however, it should be noted that “misrecognition”—the predetermining and thus prevention of the encounter—is necessarily confined neither to egological consciousness (human or nonhuman) nor to human verbal language (the latter which would reinscribe the familiar human/animal distinction posited on the basis of a properly human belief in God). The specific difference outlined by Nietzsche here is that of the moral legislation of truth common to human way(s) of being, rather than misrecognition per se, although even here it is by no means possible to rule out a priori an other way of being thus “morally impulsive” amongst nonhuman ways of being. As Derrida points out, “where there is transgenerational transmission, there is law, and therefore crime and peccability [il y a de la loi, et donc du crime et de la peccabilité]” (La bête et le souverain 152).)
It is in the face of this fall of language that Nietzsche—whose famous remark that “to believe in grammar is still to believe in God” is one to which we must not cease to respond—posits his notion of recursive artistic conduct.Such conduct is the vigilance of an affirmative response to the inartistic, reactive violence of misrecognition, a being-with which thus ever again preserves the possibility—the chance and the necessity preserved in the singular situated encounter—of that uncanny zoogenetic transport which gives (a) be-ing to apprehend that beings are in the blunt materiality of their withdrawal. In the face of blind universals, responsible conduct affirms that responsive touch which, always already exceeding the transcendental, remains always to come: a sense only of the taking-place of sense prior to its recognition, which (re)marks the opening of an unheard-of relation. The singularity—the individual—does not live, does not exist, but rather “is” that which exceeds every determinable form, “is,” in short, that which out-lives [überleben].22 Hence, as Werner Hamacher asserts, rather than “being a social or psychic form of human existence, the individual—exceeding type and genus—is the announcement of the Über-mensch” (‘“Disgregation of the Will”’ 159). Nietzsche’s over- or über-human is thus a call and a demand which, remaining always alreadyto come, thus withdraws from all re-cognition and, as such, exceeds all specular delimitation: interrupting, that is to say, the stage of Heidegger’s fabulous anthropo-magical mirror in and as a silent announcing which necessarily out-lives or sur-vives any enclosure of the properly “human.”23 Artistic conduct is thus a way of being-with-in-the-world, a conducting towards that response which, in its having always already taken place, constitutes a creative forgetting of being in encountering the wayin which something comes to be that which it is as such: “invention,” as Nietzsche writes, “beyond the limits of experience” (“The Philosopher” 53).
Being “clever beasts,” humans invented knowing and thus invented the division between humans and animals. Here then, we are returned to the inescapable destructiveness of any observation concerning nonhuman animal existence, of a “talking as if” in which the other of nonhuman being is, in a stammering catachresis, written over by way of all-too-human (pre)conceptions.24 Nothing, as Derrida says of this or that animal, “can ever rob me of the certainty that what we have here is an existence which refuses to be conceptualized [rebelle à tout concept]” (Animal 9). Here, I take Derrida’s ironic statement to mean that ways of being are in themselves the rebellious refuting of conceptualization, an indecipherable space in the putatively secure edifice of the certain world. Such ways of being in language are such that can never be securely delimited, but are rather ways of being-disposed-outside that presuppose as their condition the overlapping zones and jagged edges that reserve the space of ethical response. That is, of violent infolded encounters which, in constituting newly-opened spaces and asymmetrically inhabited by power, are by definition so de-formed as to be unrecognisable. While simple “communication” remains always already impossible, there remains, however, differential ways of being-with, of being-together as always already related in difference. To come to be in an artistic encounter is to be open to the incalculable, to that which exceeds sensible recognition—to say Yes to the chance and necessity of life’s ever again. It is not only to be exposed to the creative withdrawal of being as such, it is, moreover, to rejoice in the encounter, as indeed Lewis Carroll’s Gnat—the untimely cousin of Nietzsche’s gnat-metaphysician—expects of Alice, and of whom he awaits a response.
Conclusion. In a different direction then, upon a different path, it becomes imperative to disclose an other way to give death to—and to the giving of dying of—(human and nonhuman) animals. To give death to other animals: to give death as gift, the gift of and the giving that is the shared finitude of all living beings (a gift-giving Heidegger rejects out of hand in excising the “merely living” from living be-ing as such), a gift which renders impossible the monstrous hubris of an unthinking utilisation and consumption of fetishised (and thus doubly disembodied) flesh and corpses. Finitude is the condition of possibility for a thinking encounter, and it is finitude which is elided—rendered imperceptible, made nonsense—by an a priori unthought “truth” that over-writes other bodies, and which paradoxically calculates nonhuman animals as undying and, thus, killable. To give this death is to bear witness, to attest, being (always inadequately) response-able to this death of this other animal. Heidegger’s exclusive corral must be interrupted: despite the secular salvation dreams of the Enlightenment’s instrumental experimental thinking, no animal (in the broadest possible sense) can die in the place of the other, and in this sense it is indeed the case that dying can be neither given nor taken away. Nevertheless, as Derrida says, it is a “fact that it is only on the basis of death, and in its name, that giving and taking become possible” (Gift of Death,44). It is a death that necessarily must pass through, in being exposed across, an indissociably doubled abyss, that is, an abyssal structure of language which necessarily exceeds any reduction to the verbal on the one hand, and an abyssal bodying which exceeds any organismic delimitation on the other—a redoubled abyss that confounds any and every interior-exterior and/or organic-technological dichotomy.25
In refusing to efface the dying of animals, being-with nonhuman animals becomes possible. It is to recognize that language is not the reserve and the preserve of the human and, infinitely more than this, is never solely a “human” experience. Rather, being as such is always already shared, constituted by encounters across languages which (re)produce bodies “systematically mad” (in Jean-François Lyotard’s phrase) one to an other. Unlike Heidegger’s specular fable, the fable (with) which Nietzsche sets off is at once a nonfable and a counterfable: excluded from the myth of original plentitude in being always already thrown outside of ourselves, the shared finitude of be-ings in and as metaphors that mark our originary being-with necessarily calls for a response. Such thinking would necessarily move beyond both traditional humanist and Heideggerian überhumanist metaphysics, moving towards an always again rethinking (of) the destructive observation which is, of course, that very interpreting of something as such that Heidegger a priori denies to his fabulous “animal.” It is imperative, if we are to be (albeit inadequately) responsible within the midst of a largely unremarked global slaughter, for posthumanist philosophy to think both the finitude and the nonsubstitutable deaths of nonhuman animals. To think, that is to say, in sharing the proximal distance to the as such that is being-with, and thus to think the sharing of each other and of the world, always already separated by the greatest possible proximity.
Thanks to Jennifer Bajorek for reading the various drafts of this paper, and for her invaluable comments and suggestions.
1. Notable examples within (and across) various disciplines include: Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2010) and, ed., Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2003); Matthew Calarco & Peter Atterton, eds., Animal Philosophy: Essential Readings of Continental Thought (NY: Continuum, 2004); Matthew Calarco, Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida; Cora Diamond et al., Philosophy and Animal Life (NY: Columbia UP, 2008); H. P. Streeves, ed. Animal Others: Ethics, Ontology, and Animal Life (Albany: SUNY P, 1999); Andrew Benjamin, “What if the Other were an Animal? Hegel on Jews, Animals and Disease” (Critical Horizons: A Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory 8:1 (August 2007). 61-77.); Nicole Shukin Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2009); Carol J. Adams, Neither Man nor Beast: Feminism and the Defense of Animals (Edinburgh: AK Press, 1994); Ralph Acampora, Corporeal Compassion: Animal Ethics and Philosophy of Body (Pittsburgh: U Pittsburgh P, 2006); Donna J. Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2008); David Nibert, Animal Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002);and, in a related field, Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).
2. The genocidal economy of animalization is exemplified both by the Nazi demonization of Jews as Saujuden (“Jewish pigs” or “swine”), and by the image of Private Lynndie England leading a prisoner around on a dog leash in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
3. It is on the basis of a teleologico-dialectical reading that Derrida acutely contends that the “median character” of Heidegger’s animal threatens the order, implementation, and conceptual apparatus of the entire existential analytic (Of Spirit 57).
4. While the plurality of living beings can never be reduced to the single general term “the animal,” I have retained the term as Heidegger’s term—along with the attendant so-called “neutral” pronoun—where necessary so as not to distort Heidegger’s idiom any more that is inevitable in every translative interpretation (the same is true of Nietzsche later in the text). Nevertheless, it is hoped that such reductive grammar henceforth sounds and resounds its unacceptability.
5. The modern anthropological machine which produces “bare life” by “excluding as not (yet) human an already human being from itself, that is, by animalizing the human, by isolating the nonhuman within the human … the animal separated within the human body itself” (The Open 37), clearly depends upon the second configuration. Agamben’s utopian community prior to identity, meanwhile, in inverting the dystopian machinic production of bare life, necessarily remains caught within its economy. As Andrew Benjamin demonstrates, Agamben’s undifferentiated ontology effaces the specific functioning of power by refusing what Benjamin calls “a relation of porosity and negotiation,” a refusal which in fact mirrors the machine’s refusal of precisely that problematized relation in the production of an ineliminable difference—a difference which, by the fact of its being produced,presupposes a primordial relatedness. See “Particularity and Exceptions: On Jews and Animals.”
8. As Derrida writes, contemporary agribusiness condemns nonhuman animals to “an artificial, infernal, virtually interminable survival, in conditions that previous generations would have judged monstrous” (Animal 26).
9. The huge variety of nonhuman animals that populate Nietzsche’s texts—all those gnats, spiders and worms, the entire bestiary that attends Zarathustra’s under-going, the birds that soar above and the blond beast that stalks throughout—has inspired an equally huge variety of interpretations ranging from a reduction, on the one hand, to either rhetorical flourishes or simple anthropomorphisms and, on the other, to evidence of Nietzsche being “a visionary philosopher of what it means to live as an animal being” (Acampora & Acampora 2). Notable examples include Heidegger’s “Zarathustra’s Animals” in Nietzsche vol. 2; Margot Norris, Beasts of the Modern Imagination: Darwin, Nietzsche, Kafka, Ernst, and Lawrence (Baltimore: JHU Press, 1985); Vanessa Lemm Nietzsche’s Animal Philosophy (Bronx: Fordham UP, 2009); and Acampora & Acampora, which, in addition to the essays collected therein, contains Brian Crowley’s invaluable “Index to Animals in Nietzsche’s Corpus.”
10. On Nietzsche’s thinking (of) metaphor, and thus of the “truth” of “truth,” important texts include Sarah Kofman’s now canonical Nietzsche and Metaphor (Paolo Alto: Stanford UP, 1972); Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, The Subject of Philosophy (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 1979); Andrzej Warminski’s reading of visibility and blindness in “Prefatory Postscript: Interpretation and Reading” in Readings in Interpretation: Hölderlin, Hegel, Heidegger (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 1987); and Gary Shapiro Alcyone: Nietzsche on Gift, Noise and Women (Albany: SUNY P, 1991). Texts which take “On Truth and Lie” as their specific focus, and in addition to Kofman above, include Paul de Man’s “Rhetoric of Tropes (Nietzsche)” in Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust (New Haven: Yale UP, 1979) and “Anthropomorphism and Trope in the Lyric” in The Rhetoric of Romanticism (NY: Columbia UP, 1984); Warminski, “Towards a Fabulous Reading: Nietzsche’s ‘On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense’” (New School Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 15 : 93-120); and Jean-Luc Nancy, “’Our Probity’ On Truth in the Moral Sense in Nietzsche” in Looking After Nietzsche, ed. Laurence A. Rickels. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990. 67- 89). Finally, it is necessary to include here Jacques Derrida’s “White Mythology” in Margins of Philosophy (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1972) which, while reading “On Truth and Lie” only “indirectly,” as Warminski points out, it nevertheless remains one of its most far-reaching readings.
11. Derrida, as is well known, seeks throughout his writings to deconstruct this traditional distinction which, from Aristotle onwards, has been employed to reduce “animality” to a meaningless mechanical instinct in opposition to which the would-be autonomous human response can thence be constituted.
12. On the singularity of Nietzsche’s “individual,” see Werner Hamacher, ‘“disgregation of the Will’: Nietzsche on the Individual and Individuality” in Premises: Essays on Philosophy and Literature from Kant to Celan (Palo Alto: Stanford UP, 1996).
13. In a related context, see Andrzej Warminski’s reading of the unsublatable excess of the always already (no) more “example of example” that disarticulates Hegel’s reading of “sense-certainty” in “Reading for Example: ‘Sense-Certainty’ in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit” (Diacritics 11:2 [Summer, 1981]. 83-95).
14. By contrast, Vanessa Lemm in Nietzsche’s Animal Philosophy reads Nietzsche’s ordinals as genetic, rather than grammatical. Such a reading, however, necessitates the reduction of Nietzsche’s notion of memory to that of human memory alone (and thus “inseparable” from the “transposition (Übertragung) of an intuited metaphor into a word” [135, emphasis added]), and this despite the fact that, on the previous page, Lemm cites Nietzsche’s assertion that memory is “the quantity of all experiences of all organic life, alive, self-ordering, mutually forming each other, competing with each other, simplifying, condensing and transforming into many different unities. There must exist an inner process, which proceeds like the formation of concepts [Begriffsbildung] out of many singular cases [Einzelfällen]” (Kritische Studienausgabe 11:26, qtd. in Lemm, 134).
17. It can be argued that verbal language also serves to distract from, or mask, kinesic and paralinguistic dissemination, and can do so only because it is considerably less efficient. Emil Menzel has shown, for example, that not only are chimpanzees “masters of gestural subtlety,” but also that the most dramatically humanoid of their gestures are made only “by the most infantile and inexperienced animals”—the use of which decreases as the young chimps gain experience, and thus subtlety (Noske 148). This is not, however, to suggest that verbal distraction is a uniquely human trait.
18. At times, however, Nietzsche suggests that anthropogenesis “takes place” only when man (who is not yet “man”) banishes “the most flagrant bellum omni contra omnes [war of each against all]” in order to live socially (TL, 81). In this, Nietzsche in fact falls foul of the nature/culture dichotomy which his own text is in the process of rendering inoperative. As Donna Haraway acutely remarks, “[t]he naturalistic fallacy is the mirror-image misstep to transcendental humanism” (When Species Meet 79).
21. In fact, it is possible to read Nietzsche’s entire essay as a revalued rewriting of this sentence from the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline and Critical Writings (qtd. in Benjamin ‘What if the Other were an Animal?’ 67).
24. The emphasized of is here being made to do double (subjective and objective) genitive duty: the other of nonhuman be-ing as that which both “belongs” to a nonhuman animal (in relation to a human animal), and that which be-ing (whether nonhuman or human) always already (re)produces.
25. On this indissociably doubled abyss of language and body, see Cary Wolfe’s “Flesh and Finitude,” in which he considers “the fact that there are two kinds of finitude … [and that] the first type (physical vulnerability, embodiment, and eventually mortality) is paradoxically made unavailable—inappropriable—to us by the very thing that makes it available: … the finitude we experience in our subjection to a radically ahuman technicity or mechanicity of language” (27-8).
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―――. “The Philosopher: Reflections on the Struggle between Art and Knowledge.” Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870’s. Trans. & ed. Daniel Breazeale. New Jersey: Humanities Press International Inc., 1993. 3-58.
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―――. “Flesh and Finitude: Thinking Animals in (Post)Humanist Philosophy.” SubStance 37:3, 2008. 8-36.