Philosophy reads humanity against animality, arguing that "man"
is man because he is separate from beast. Deftly challenging this
position, Kelly Oliver proves that, in fact, it is the animal that
teaches us to be human. Through their sex, their habits, and our
perception of their purpose, animals show us how not to be
This kinship plays out in a number of ways. We sacrifice animals
to establish human kinship, but without the animal, the bonds of
"brotherhood" fall apart. Either kinship with animals is possible
or kinship with humans is impossible. Philosophy holds that humans
and animals are distinct, but in defending this position, the
discipline depends on a discourse that relies on the animal for its
very definition of the human. Through these and other examples,
Oliver does more than just establish an animal ethics. She
transforms ethics by showing how its very origin is dependent upon
the animal. Examining for the first time the treatment of the
animal in the work of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Agamben,
Freud, Lacan, and Kristeva, among others, Animal Lessons
argues that the animal bites back, thereby reopening the question
of the animal for philosophy.
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