Animal Crackers: Rationality & Animality in the Western Political Imaginary

Harrison, Paul R. (2004) Animal Crackers: Rationality & Animality in the Western Political Imaginary. In Bailey, C., Cabrera, D., & Buys, L. (Eds.) Social Change in the 21st Century Conference; Centre for Social Change Research.

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The issue of the animality of man is back on the philosophical and sociological agenda. At the philosophical level, this results from the more thorough-going critique of anthropocentrism and humanism in contemporary thought. At the sociological level, the re-emergence of the thematic of barbarism, on the one hand, and the emergence of the recognition of our 'posthuman future', on the other hand, has brought into question the centrality of the humanity of the human. I would like to consider four different but inter-related questions that circle around the issues of the subject, sexual difference and the difference between what has been called historically 'man' and animal before concluding with what could be called 'the comatose woman'. I will say a few things first about the emergence of the 'non-concept' of difference in contemporary thought and how it has been used to deconstruct the purported domination of the subject and the technological preformation of thought that flows from it. My argument will be that this reading of philosophy, as Derrida points out, brings to the fore the question of what the German language calls Geschlecht; that is, the question or questions of species difference, of sexual difference, of ethnic or racial difference. In sum, those differences that the subject of western metaphysics transcended, either non-dialectically or dialectically. These differences have been described conventionally as belonging to the order of nature, which is a categorization that deconstruction rejects. What might lie beyond nature and these 'naturalised' differences is a certain experience of an originary multiplicity of the world before its determination by subjectifying thought. The question that the issue of sexual and species difference raises, however, is: How can we both deconstruct the subject and the spiritualist metaphysics that determine it, while not falling into a naturalism or biologism that still requires both critique and denunciation? Is there not only a paradox, but a dangerous paradox in trying to think the multiple. It is my argument that deconstruction can not really answer these question and that this fact necessitates a re-evaluation of the subject and points to the limitations of postmodern notions of difference.

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ID Code: 639
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
ISBN: 1741070813
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Change (160805)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLITICAL SCIENCE (160600)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 Paul R. Harrison
Deposited On: 21 Dec 2004 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:09

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