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death of the animal

April 2, 2009

The Death of the Animal includes responses from a varitey of philosophers and writers. Below is a response from J. M. Coetzee

(1) When one is misunderstood it is usually because one has expressed oneself badly. So let me reiterate: there are human beings who, pushed into a corner, may be induced to say that it is the possession of reason that defines humanity, but who prefer not to be pushed into corners, and who at other moments in their lives, sometimes through words but far more often through their behavior, give expression to a conviction that we are most ourselves (meaning specifically that we as human beings are most ourselves) when we are living ourselves out most fully, or, as I earlier put it, are “brawling and guzzling and fucking” in our human way, just as “animals” (their way of putting it) are most themselves when they are doing the equivalent in their own animal way.

The more radical among such folk might even go on to say that to them what makes animal flesh better to eat than other food is precisely that another being has had to die in order for them to be fed: in effect, that by devouring not just the material residue of another being but the life of that being too, they are made more full of life themselves.

Philosophizing—it seems to me—is an activity unique in that it does not start out by demarcating its territory, putting bounds around itself. Thus it seems to me a legitimately philosophical problem how one is to confront an opponent who in some respects—e.g., where the satisfying of his/her human appetites is concerned—gives little or no weight to reasoning and the fruits of reasoning. (read full excerpt)

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