Friday, November 18, 2011
Donald L. Turner on the animal in Heidegger.
While non-human animal being is subjective and not “worldless” like the being of the stone, the non-human animal is capable of only a limited range and depth of experiential relationships—unlike human Dasein, who is the only being constitutionally able to relate to anything “as such.” According to Heidegger’s description, non-human animals “have” a world, but they are “benumbed” or “bedazzled” by it and are unable to recognize this or anything else “as such.” He contrasts this relative shallowness of non-human animal experience with the richness of “world-forming” human Dasein. Elsewhere, along similar lines, Heidegger discusses the “abyss of essence” that separates the human who can think, speak, and “have hands” (as opposed to mere grasping organs) from the ape that cannot (“Thinking”). While Heidegger denies that his ontological discourse regarding non-human animality implies any corresponding ethical determination, his consideration of the ontological difference between the being of humans and that of other animals, like Kant’s less extensive reflections, facilitates responding to thinkers who inappropriately apply conventional inter-human systems of contractual, symmetrical, “ethics of the same” to the relationship between humans and other animals, which is structurally non-contractual, asymmetrical, and rooted in ontological difference.
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