Dominique Lestel – Like the fingers of the hand: Thinking the human in the texture of animality

Dominique Lestel

Like the fingers of the hand: Thinking the human in the texture of animality

“Like the Fingers of the Hand: Thinking the Human in the Texture of Animality”, in: Louisa MacKenzie & Stephanie Posthumus (eds.), French Thinking about Animals, East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, pp.61-73.

« Tout humain loge en lui l’ensemble des êtres vivants »

‘Every human carries within her the entirety of living being(s)’

Jin Oshige

European thought has traditionally addressed the question of animality in terms of a hygienic border – the problem being how best to characterize what distinguishes humans from animals – that is to say the ‘propre de l’homme’ or that which is ‘proper to the human’– namely, a characteristic that humans alone would own and that so differentiates them from other animals that it would push humans beyond animality. Such a notion is highly problematic. Searching for capabilities one would find only in Homo sapiens is a more reasonable project, on the condition, however, of being sensitive to the pitfalls of the concepts mobilized and to the vicissitudes of reasoning that one would be tempted to use to get there. To think animality today can not do without a ferocious deconstruction of contemporary comparative psychology and ethology. Since the end of the second half of the 20th century a growing number of theorists and activists of the animal cause have sought to give to humans and animals a similar legal status. I myself defend an even more radical posture, the premises of which can be found in Paul Shepard: humans constitute themselves as human in the very texture of animality, and human /animal interpenetrations do not belong to a more or less distant past but are still always present, even if human /machine connections have now entered into competition with them.

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