By Derek Ryan
From caged orangutans to roasted pig, from puppy education to horse phobias, from speaking bees to ruminating cows, Derek Ryan explores how animals are encountered in theoretical discourse. throughout 4 thematically organised chapters on 'Animals as Humans', 'Animal Ontology', 'Animal existence' and 'Animal Ethics' he deals prolonged discussions of Nietzsche, Freud, Lacan, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Deleuze, Singer, Nussbaum, Adams and Haraway between others, in addition to full of life readings of up to date literary texts via Carter, Coetzee, Auster and Foer. meant as a source for researchers, scholars, lecturers and all these attracted to human-animal relationships, Animal concept: A serious Introduction offers an available and authoritative account of the demanding situations and power in considering and with animals.
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Additional resources for Animal Theory: A Critical Introduction
In The Emotional Lives of Animals, ecologist and ethologist Marc Bekoff goes as far as stating that anthropomorphism is a ‘necessity’ if we are to try to understand animal consciousness, but cautions that it ‘must be done care- a n i m a l s a s h u m a n s 41 fully, consciously, empathetically, and biocentrically’. To anthropomorphise biocentrically is to ‘make every attempt to maintain the animal’s point of view’ (Bekoff 2007: 125). . A touch of anthropomorphism, then, can catalyze a sensibility that finds a world filled not with ontologically distinct categories of beings (subjects and objects) but with variously composed materialities that form confederations.
In doing so, a sharp line is drawn between the humans who experience symbolic dreams and the animals that are merely objects of symbolic capture. Focusing on the phenomena of dreaming, Maud Ellmann raises the additional question of what this means for those humans who don’t experience symbolic dimensions to their dreams, like shell-shocked war victims who experience ‘literal re-enactments of traumatic events, undisguised by symbolic substitution. ’ However strange or exceptional this question may on the face of it seem, ‘it follows from the premise that human dreams are governed by the logic of symbolic substitution’.
76) In this passage Freud appears to align animals in their present state to a fixed nature (as opposed to humans who have a still developing culture). Animal life is suspended on two levels: firstly, in the curious speculation that animal evolution has now halted; secondly, in the unwillingness (couched as inability) to expand on these speculations about zoological life in more detail. In highlighting how animals are rarely considered by humans other than for their instrumental value, the irony is that Freud himself never attempts to answer these questions about different species.