Larval Subject writes a good post following up on Scu’s discussion of the treatment of animal rights (see my last two posts). Larval goes in for a physics analogy, which I especially love since I’m doing a periodic jaunt on contemporary physics with a long, but clear, book on recent discoveries in physics:
When passionate attachments that organize a person’s cognition are endangered these distortions of thought seem to arise inevitably of their own accord. Here the situation is not unlike the bending of time and space that occurs in the vicinity of a massive object like the sun. You can’t approach a massive object directly– at least not without very powerful forms of propulsion –because of the manner in which the massive object curves space and time. Rather, these sorts of massive objects can only be approached asymptotically, through a curve.
I won’t discuss the physics, but one of the things that I ask of myself and others is about the “affect” of arguments. This isn’t even just for philosophical discussions, and obviously one can make this point through Spinoza or Freud or even Plato, I suppose: but there is the space of rational argument, but of course, there’s the stuff that drives you batsh*t crazy to talk about it. It’s not a sophisticated point, but obviously if one were to measure “reason” vs. “affect” in online communities, there’s a lot more of the latter than the former. And it’s often less fruitful to wonder about how someone reasons the way they do than why. Freelancer Extraordinaire, to make sure this stays with a quotidian example, was talking to me about an injustice she saw a friend committing. After about half an hour of discussing this one, I wanted to know why she was particularly affected about this problem, and we hashed that out.
And when it comes to animal “rights,” obviously, I could spend my time with the bad arguments—really people, I know this will make you scream irrationally, but they are pretty bad arguments for meat consumption, for example—or I could try to deal with the affect, which is really what Derrida does in that interview. (Isn’t this anyway a way of thinking through the supposed irrationalism of Continental philosophy: not just dealing with the formal arguments delivered at hand, but trying to uncover or at least discuss the material, ideological, or structural conditions that give rise to such arguments?)
I mean, how could one rationally argue that committing oneself to the ethical treatment of animals means hating humans, or arguing for a robust realism means hating them even more? We can talk about tactics–does supporting this mean that we’re denying this problem, etc.–but this is another variety of argument. I happen to have people in my life to whom I’m greatly attached (wow, that doesn’t sound as romantic as it should, but I try not to get too corny online), but that doesn’t mean that I hate other kids or other adults. That’s a simplistic way, fyi, that one can see the problems of Carl Schmitt’s analyses (besides, uh, the fascism…).
And much of what is done in animal studies is precisely an avenue for dispensing with the animalization of human beings (Esposito is wrong to say that it’s about some super-humanization in the quote Scu cites), and Derrida argues this himself at one point, and on this he’s right: you can spend forever knocking your head against the wall doing fine tuned critical race analyses that shows precisely how some excluded groups are treated and discussed like animals, but you can go all in and knock out the human/animal distinction that founds that exclusion. One can spend one’s time expanding the human club, which in some facile writers (not the good theorists of race) sounds like a “me, too!” analysis: this group has reason! they are just like you!
Or one can knock down the ontological fracture such that you wouldn’t even want to be part of that club (besides [Groucho] Marx’s dictum that one shouldn’t join a club to which one is invited])…