File spoon-archives/phillitcrit.archive/phillitcrit_2000/phillitcrit.0004, message 10

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 13:08:19 +0200
Subject: Re: PLC: Electric Animal

This thesis, it seems, rests on many premises for which, I imagine, the book
argues.  I admit I haven't read the book -- the blurb actually peaks my interest
in doing so -- but what seems strange to me is the implication that the broad
consensus in Western thought that animals do not have language is a particularly
original thesis.  In fact, at least for philosophy (a point at which biologist,
etc. may scorn philosophy), philosophers from Aristotle on defined the specific
difference of humans as zoon logon echon -- the animal (genus) that has language
(specific difference).  So, this is sort of stating the obvious.  What would more
original is, for example, Umberto Ecco's work in which he discusses animal
language in the Medieval Ages  -- or even now.

The part about mortality and language -- well, considering the list of
philosophical landmarks that are named (Derrida, etc.,), it's not too surprising
to find mortality and language linked together.  Heidegger said a long time ago
that humans are mortal (they die), animals simply perish or wear out, which is
something else, and the reason for this is that they do not have the horizon of
understanding that only a being with language can have.  I don't know if this is
the direction that she goes in, but if so, that too isn't very startling, though
the 'animals can't die' sounds quite provocative.

What really sounds odd to me is the notion that animals have some "spectral undead
being."   It's  true that the way animals get thought about and represented in
Western art is as an instantiation of a species rather than a singular being (dogs
being something of an exception here, which is one reason I've taken some interest
in the representation of dogs as 'liminal' figures in Renaissance art), but I'm
not sure what this haunting could be other than nature generally as 'other.'

I have to say the last stuff, about Electric Animal and technology being the
repository of an unmournable animality leaves me clueless.

If she didn't just post and run, it'd be nice if Akira could shed some light!


PCR wrote:

> There is an odd statement claiming to be Lippit's thesis, and I am not sure if
> it is correct, but I have always found morality bound to mortality. The
> sentence is this:
> Akira Mizuta Lippit wrote:
> > Lippit arrives at a
> > remarkable thesis, revealing an extraordinary consensus in Western thought:
> > Animals do not have language, and hence cannot die.
> I suppose language is something only moral mortal beings (animals) are capable
> of inventing, but it is not essential to their mortality, nor does its absence
> immortalize their being. I am pointing this out to stimulate conversation, not
> to be merely "picky" about words. The book sounds interesting, but possibly
> limited in audience - so, I am curious.
> Sincerely,
> Peter Rugh
> (unpublished philosophy student)
>      --- from list ---

     --- from list ---


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