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The Animal That Therefore I Am

Jacques Derrida

Publication Year: 2008

The Animal That Therefore I Am is the long-awaited translation of the complete text of Jacques Derrida's ten-hour address to the 1997 Crisy conference entitled The Autobiographical Animal,the third of four such colloquia on his work. The book was assembled posthumously on the basis of two published sections, one written and recorded session, and one informal recorded session.The book is at once an affectionate look back over the multiple roles played by animals in Derrida's work and a profound philosophical investigation and critique of the relegation of animal life that takes place as a result of the distinction-dating from Descartes-between man as thinking animal and every other living species. That starts with the very fact of the line of separation drawn between the human and the millions of other species that are reduced to a single the animal.Derrida finds that distinction, or versions of it, surfacing in thinkers as far apart as Descartes, Kant, Heidegger, Lacan, and Levinas, and he dedicates extended analyses tothe question in the work of each of them.The book's autobiographical theme intersects with its philosophical analysis through the figures of looking and nakedness, staged in terms of Derrida's experience when his cat follows him into the bathroom in the morning. In a classic deconstructive reversal, Derrida asks what this animal sees and thinks when it sees this naked man. Yet the experiences of nakedness and shame also lead all the way back into the mythologies of man's dominion over the beastsand trace a history of how man has systematically displaced onto the animal his own failings or btises. The Animal That Therefore I Am is at times a militant plea and indictment regarding, especially, the modern industrialized treatment of animals. However, Derrida cannot subscribe to a simplistic version of animal rights that fails to follow through, in all its implications, the questions and definitions of lifeto which he returned in much of his later work.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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Foreword / Marie-Louise Mallet

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pp. ix-xiii

Jacques Derrida often expressed his intention to one day put together in a large work the texts he had written on ‘‘the animal.’’ Although he had his heart set on such a project, various pressing tasks persistently pushed it aside. In 1997, for the ten-day Cerisy conference on his work whose title, ‘‘The Autobiographical Animal,’’ he had expressly chosen, he wrote ...

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Chapter 1: The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)

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pp. 1-51

In the beginning, I would like to entrust myself to words that, were it possible, would be naked. Naked in the first place—but this is in order to announce already that I plan to speak endlessly of nudity and of the nude in philosophy. Starting from Genesis. I would like to choose words that are, to begin with, naked, ...

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Chapter 2: ‘‘But as for me, who am I (following)?’’

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pp. 52-118

‘‘But as for me, who am I (following)?’’ Whether I address this question to you or ask it, in the first instance, of myself, it should concern only me, myself, me alone. And every response that I give to it will belong to a self-definition, as a first autobiographical gesture involving only the writing of my life, myself, me alone. Yet you well know that this question is so much older than me: ‘‘But as for me, who am I?’’ It shows ...

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Chapter 3: And Say the Animal Responded?: to Jacques Lacan

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pp. 119-140

Would an ethics like that Levinas attempts be sufficient to recall the subject to its being-subject, its being-host or -hostage, that is to say, its being subjected- to-the-other, to the Wholly Other or to every single other? I don’t think so. More than that is required to break with the Cartesian tradition of the animal-machine without language and without response.1 It takes more than that, even ...

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Chapter 4: ‘‘I don’t know why we are doing this’’

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pp. 141-160

I don’t know why we are doing this . . . or where you are getting your stamina from [laughter] . . . to be able to continue to listen to me! Don’t think for a moment that I am insisting on having the last word, or on being not only ‘‘the last of the Jews,’’ or ‘‘the last of the eschatologists,’’ but really ‘‘the last to speak,’’ the last of the last, speaking. By no means, ...


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pp. 161-176

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246878
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823227907
Print-ISBN-10: 0823227901

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2008