The Open: Man and Animal
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In The Open, contemporary Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben considers the ways in which the "human" has been thought of as either a distinct and superior type of animal, or a kind of being that is essentially different from animal altogether. In an argument that ranges from ancient Greek, Christian, and Jewish texts to twentieth-century thinkers such as Heidegger, Benjamin, and Kojève, Agamben examines the ways in which the distinction between man and animal has been manufactured by the logical presuppositions of Western thought, and he investigates the profound implications that the man/animal distinction has had for disciplines as seemingly disparate as philosophy, law, anthropology, medicine, and politics.
constitutions is merely deceptive, and that an abyss lies between them which cannot be bridged by any mediation whatsoever. Yet in that case the total divergence of these two theses will suddenly become very clear to us, and thereby the essence of world.12 Captivation appears here as a sort of fundamental Stimmung in which the animal does not open itself, as does Dasein, in a world, yet is nevertheless ecstatically drawn outside of itself in an exposure which disrupts it in its every fiber. And
and brings to light as such. But here everything becomes complicated. For if what is proper to humanitas is to remain open to the closedness of the animal, if what the world brings into the open is precisely and only the earth as what closes itself in itself, then how must we understand Heidegger’s reproach of metaphysics, and of the sciences that depend on it, for their thinking man “beginning with his animalitas and not [thinking] in the direction of his humanitas”?9 If humanity has been
Religion, Morals, or Politics in the “European” or “historical” sense of these words. But Snobbery in its pure state created disciplines negating the “natural” or “animal” given which in effectiveness far surpassed those that arose, in Japan or elsewhere, from “historical” Action—that is, from warlike and revolutionary Struggles or from forced Work. To be sure, the peaks (equalled nowhere else) of specifically Japanese snobbery—the Noh theatre, the ceremony of tea, and the art of bouquets of
no longer has any natural function. The problem of the identity and integrity of the risen body thus Physiology of the Blessed quickly becomes that of the physiology of blessed life. How should the vital functions of the paradisiacal body be conceived? In order to orient themselves on such an uneven ground, the Fathers had a useful paradigm at their disposal: the Edenic body of Adam and Eve before the Fall. “What God planted in the delights of eternal and blessed happiness,” writes
assign certain identities. A serious scientific work such as Peter Artedi’s Ichthiologia () still listed sirens next to seals and sea lions, and Linnaeus himself, in his Pan Europaeus, classifies sirens—which the Danish anatomist Caspar Bartholin called Homo marinus— together with man and apes. On the other hand, the boundary between the anthropoid apes and certain primitive populations was also anything but clear. The first description of an orangutan by the doctor Nicolas Tulp in