Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, by Cary Wolfe

By Cary Wolfe

In Animal Rites, Cary Wolfe examines modern notions of humanism and ethics through reconstructing a bit recognized yet an important underground culture of theorizing the animal from Wittgenstein, Cavell, and Lyotard to Lévinas, Derrida, Žižek, Maturana, and Varela. via certain readings of the way discourses of race, sexuality, colonialism, and animality engage in twentieth-century American tradition, Wolfe explores what it skill, in idea and demanding perform, to take heavily "the query of the animal."

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7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great. 8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes. (Qtd. in Ferry, 67–68) There is much to remark on here, but the philosophical platform of deep ecology may be boiled down to this: the ultimate good is not harmony with nature, or even holism per se, but rather something much more specific: biodiversity.

In this sense, the end of nature “is surely the secret dream and longing” of postmodernism understood as the “cultural logic of late capitalism” (46). “Ecology,” however, “is another matter entirely,” Jameson writes; and what is at question is whether the “nature” of postmodern ecology “is in any way to be thought of as somehow the same as that older ‘nature’ at whose domestication if not liquidation all Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought so diligently worked” (47). As Jameson notes—and one can’t help but recall the expressed or residual misanthropy of some deep ecologists in this connection—very much to the point here is how concepts of nature are always inseparable from those of human nature.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Ferry is unable to satisfactorily address an important issue raised by animal rights philosophy, one I have already touched on: that the discourse and practice of speciesism in the name of liberal humanism have historically been turned on other humans as well. ) To his credit, Ferry seems to recognize this problem. “This distinction between humanity and the animal kingdom seems to carry horrifying consequences in its wake” (12), he writes. “It is impossible to avoid racism and its political consequences if one subscribes to the belief that primitive man cannot attain authentic humanity due to his essence or nature” (13).

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