States of nature: The animal as object and ancestor in political thought
Concepts of personhood result from a repression of the animal and nature in the history of political philosophy. I examine the historical significance of the philosophical and political removal of the animal from the human domain. In particular, I turn to the history of metaphysical humanism and social contract theory to argue that the hierarchy of human over animal is a baseless and ultimately inhumane distinction of kind. Traditional contract theory presents a logic of mastery that collectively fictionalizes tales of savagery and cultural stagnation outside of industrial development. Consequently, both animals and nature are seen to lack moral worth outside of their applications to human labor.
By plotting the historical origins of the human/animal divide, I ultimately offer a rethinking of the human subject, not as anti-animal, but fundamentally comprised of animality. To rethink subjectivity in relation to animal life, I argue, will grant animals a subject position worthy of philosophical consideration, and thus entail an ethics based on the vital interests that they claim in their own right.
0615: Political science