Can the Nonhuman Speak?: Breaking the Chain of Being in the Anthropocene

The fact that nonhuman animals share the power of communication, plus the likelihood that some share our capacity for ideation, demands reevaluation of why human ideas matter, and especially whether they adequately convey a sense of our place within the rest of nature. Nonhuman beings and phenomena may be intrinsically unhuman, but are not necessarily less important than us. Analysis of this difference-as-significance is an ongoing problem of the Anthropocene. This essay focuses on Arthur Lovejoy’s Great Chain of Being and Edmund Burke’s concept of the sublime, describing alternative ways of situating humans in relation to the nonhuman.