File spoon-archives/phillitcrit.archive/phillitcrit_2000/phillitcrit.0004, message 14

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 14:52:35 -0700
Subject: PLC: PLC  Electric Animal

Thanks for the continued discussion, Reg.  I've argued in my book that at
the moment animals began to disappear--which is to say, at the moment the
disappearance of animals became something of a phenomenon or anxiety--they
were replaced by various forms of technology: engines, electricity, cinema,
among other forms.  The phantasm erupted from the attempt to connect the
disappearance of animals to the rise of industrial and communicational
technologies.  If animals were incapable of dying, then technology, which
carried with it the phantasy of perpectual life--perpetual motion, or
animation--came to be seen as a repository for an animality which was being
displaced but could not--according to logic of a certain Western
ontology--die.  I can't cite all the examples here, but Edison's
experiments with AC electricity, for one, are haunted by animality.  Others
might include Bell's telephones, "horsepowered" engines, and so on.

At 11:19 PM 4/27/00 +0200, you wrote:
>I supposed the obvious answer would be 'read the book,' but, would you
>mind saying
>a bit more about what you mean by "animals are fused onto the phantasies
>of a
>technological ontology, perpetual life or animation?"  I would agree
>especially within the Roman and Medieval ontology of nature that
>explicity posited
>a telic continuity stretching from lifeless matter up to god, animals
>play an
>important role in this, 'filling in' some gaps between humans and
>lifeless nature,
>just as angels did between humans and god.  However, I'm not sure what
>you mean by
>a technological ontology (much less the phantasy of one) or why
>perpetual life or
>animation is a basic premise of this.  Granted, people and cultures
>haven't stopped
>hoping for immortality, and perhaps technology (Frankenstein) is a means
>to this,
>one that may 'try it out first' on animals, but I don't see what the
>ontology is
>here, nor in what respect animality as such is an issue in technological
>Akira Mizuta Lippit wrote:
>> 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
>> quickly.)
>> 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
>> >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
>> >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
>> >
>> >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
>> >
>> >Ciao,
>> >Reg
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >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
>> > > limited in audience - so, I am curious.

>> > >
>> > > Sincerely,
>> > > Peter Rugh
>> > >
>> > > (unpublished philosophy student)
>> > >
>> > >      --- from list ---
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >      --- from list ---
>>      --- from list ---
>     --- from list ---

     --- from list ---


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005