File spoon-archives/phillitcrit.archive/phillitcrit_2000/phillitcrit.0004, message 11

Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 12:12:14 -0700
Subject: PLC: PLC Electric Animal

Dear Members,

Sorry for the post-and-run tactic, working in a vacuum sometimes forces one 
to shout and listen for echoes.  Thank you for the rapid responses.  I 
wanted to add that the description I pasted was prepared by the press but 
with my consent, of course.

I don't know that morality is tied to mortality in each of the thinkers 
I've discussed, certainly in some.  The "remarkable logical consenus," is 
not so remarkable, I agree, but it does appear repeatedly throughout the 
work I discuss.  It is not a position I am endorsing (how can one?), but I 
do find it an interesting form of phantasm, which creates a serious problem 
or crisis, esp. in the case of Heidegger.

As for the notion of the spectral and undead animal, I've argued that 
because they are denied the facilities for death as such--language, 
mortality, being, and so forth--animals are fused onto the phantasies of a 
technological ontology, perpetual life or animation.  (I'm moving very 

I look forward to hearing further responses and the kind of 
questions/problems this thesis raises.  And again, I appreciate the 
thoughtful responses.

Akira Mizuta Lippit

PS--"he," BTW.  Also, a number of books have addressed the question of 
animality, recently.  *Animal Acts* and *Animal Others* are anthologies 
that question the status of the animal.  I spoke at Milwaukee last fall, 
although I was unable to attend the symposium.  I imagine UWM will bring 
forth a book from their conference.  I participated in a Derrida colloquium 
at Cerisy in 1997.  The papers have been published in French, *L'animal 
autobiographique* (Galilee, 1999).  Tom Cohen, at SUNY-Albany, is preparing 
another anthology which features a translation of Derrida's essay, 
"L'animal que donc je suis," as well as work by Judith Butler and Brian 
Massumi, among others. I am contributing an essay on animal deaths on 
film.  It should be an interesting volume, I think.

At 13:08 00/04/24 +0200, you wrote:
>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 
>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 
>original thesis.  In fact, at least for philosophy (a point at which 
>etc. may scorn philosophy), philosophers from Aristotle on defined the 
>difference of humans as zoon logon echon -- the animal (genus) that has 
>(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 
>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, 
>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 
>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 ---

     --- from list ---


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