Wayne State University Press


Before it became the test case of what is human in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?1 the android had a prehistory in the course of two earlier novels by Philip K. Dick: We Can Build You2 and The Simulacra.3 Dick's first androids, fresh off the same assembly line that the Disney imagineers had up and running already in the 1960s, were caught in the headlines of two consumer projections. Because their designers wagered that reenactment of historical events was the future in entertainment, the original androids or simulacra replicated figures from the American Civil War. But Barrows, the entrepreneur in We Can Build You to whom these designers must turn for backing, saw another future along the lines of his investment in outer space—and it would require mass production of androids to shield the colonists from psychoticizing loneliness by providing the illusion of life next door. Thus the first mass production line of androids in Dick's future worlds, in The Simulacra, turns out units of famnexdos, each one a family next door. It is in the first place this arrangement, and not the limited life span of artificial life, against which the androids rebel in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Next door to us on Mars or in California, the androids are lonely, too.

In We Can Build You the Lincoln simulacrum debates Barrows on the incontrovertible differences separating machines, animals, and humans. Lincoln cranks up and through the age-old discourse on man-the-machine, which, at the tail end between its legacies, [End Page 106] begins and ends with specism. Barrows states that man is a certain kind of animal (the kind, he says, with a handkerchief in his back pocket). What, then, is an animal? Not something manufactured like you, Barrows counters. But Lincoln argues that the "making" a machine manifests goes into man as well. That leaves soul, which Barrows, as self-made man, would forego together with—it's a package deal—the creator:

"Then you, sir, are a machine. For you have a Creator, too. . . . He made you in His image. I believe Spinoza . . . held that opinion regarding animals; that they were clever machines. The critical thing, I think, is the soul. A machine can do anything a man can—you'll agree to that. But it doesn't have a soul."

"There is no soul," Barrows said. "That's pap."

"Then," the simulacrum said, "a machine is the same as an animal. . . . And an animal is the same as a man."4

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the android test is legend to the mapping of the posthuman largely owing to its decontextualized installation within the film adaptation Blade Runner (1982), which seems more closely aligned with the earlier two novels' rehearsal address to the android. The equation between android and human that we are left with in Blade Runner (which is by and large, in the context of the novel, a propaganda film in support of the android cause) checks only one reality, namely, that of cinema itself. On screen, human actors might as well be androids or the miraculated-up men and women Schreber encountered as he entered the recovery phase of his psychosis.

Although in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the android is conceived as postmachinic, innocent bystanders still flash on machinic parts and partings when the android hurries past. The artificial animals that pick up the lack of living animals and that, unlike the androids, are machinic compel a sense of empathy against which the androids are proof.

In your dreams Freud5 viewed machines, devices, gadgets—in a word, recognizable technology—as representing and repressing the dreamer's own genitalia or, as Victor Tausk6 reformatted the lexical entry along the same lines, the dreamer's connection or disconnection with the mother's body as with his own. Put in yet other but still parallel terms, this time as supplied by Hanns Sachs,7 technology in psychotic delusions turns on recovery, creating a respite from the crisis of uncanniness that must result when one overstays one's homecoming in primary or body-based narcissism. Flashes of technodifference pull apart nondifferentiation in life-form as in life's decay. [End Page 107]

The postmachinic android, as new species, does not, not even possibly, exist. If we seem to recognize in the replicant just the same the poster teen of suicide, wipeout, fadeaway, before which we must swerve into the break we get for recovery, then it is still our own media rebound that we are picking up and personalizing or neotenizing. Abandonment of belief in miraculated-up figures passing as humans and their acceptance instead as fellow men was the one concession to reality required in Schreber's case for restoration of his legal rights but also if one's recovery in the new world order of mediatization is to be judged successful; that is, stabilized or encapsulated around maintenance of diplomatic relations with the outside human worlds that traverse one's own.

When in the novel, hunter-tester Deckard, rattled in the cage of his belief in a clear distinction between humans and androids, proposes adding to the test, which would still be aimed at identifying androids, supplemental questions measuring empathy with androids, he comes closer to Dick's own metaphorical or metaphysical reading of the terms of the distinction on which the author brooded in numerous interviews and essays. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? we begin to identify the projection of what the so-called android is through the seeing ego of Isidore, a radiation-spawned chicken head. This cretin or Christian follower of Mercerism, the local secular cult of empathy with animals (which has way more in common with a word from Nietzsche's Zarathustra than with the whole of the Judeo-Christian tradition), finds himself hosting runaways who turn out to be androids. Returning from an errand on their behalf, Isidore discovers in the hallway a spider, which as living animal amounts to the greatest prize and affirmation in his stricken world. The androids holed up in his apartment are attending to the broadcast of an investigative report on the swindle of Mercerism led by Buster Friendly, who, like most of the 24-7 celebrities of the culture industry, is yet another undercover android. When Isidore returns, his guests alternate between rapt attention to the Friendly news and raptor attention to the specimen. Does it really need eight legs? Snip! The mutilation of the spider conducted as their own investigative report might count as child's play if, in young adults, it didn't merit consideration as psychopathy. But more precisely, what the androids automatically improvise is a session of animal testing, which belongs to the reversed or disowned prehistory of the new world order's founding test of empathy. Androids see through our attachment to animals and the group bond it guarantees as ideological ruse whereby they are denied their equal rights. But this turn to politics covers in [End Page 108] the tracks of regression and resistance the more direct hit or fit between their rebellion and the totemic parental or ancestral guidance that animals transmit as mourning assignment.

In "Mourning and Melancholia,"8 Freud gives in passing his estimate that the average time span of mourning is two years. That the two-year span is indeed the basic unit in every chronicle of unmourning can be found confirmed over and over again in occult fiction. In Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), for example, it is always after another period of two years has passed that Victor Frankenstein renews his vows with the pursuit of unmournable body building in lieu of letting go and putting to rest what is already at rest. To give a related example from the outer limits of the psy-fi complex, we find in one of the fictionalized projections of space travel that Wernher von Braun cowrote in the late 1950s that the two-year span also comes up in scheduling for the future: "There is no way of predicting the exact state of health of any individual for more than two years in advance."9 The two-year period is thus doubly marked: it is a period on average immune from interruption by losses or further losses and at the same time the period the work of mourning can put to a death sentence, the period or point where mourning can also turn around into unmourning. It is both the time-altering span of the present going on recent past and the pre-cog scan of the immediate future. This is the double point around which the android is constituted. The android is granted a life span of four years—a couple of two-year spans. When an android gives his or her age—a calculation that is difficult for the android, too, given the influence of false memories and apparent age—two years have passed and another two lie ahead. The androids, who, as instant imitation youths, skip, like our pets, childhood in the human sense, are like teenagers to the extent that, since on a metabolically amped schedule, like that of our companion species, they forever die young.


In Dick's oeuvre the schizo inside view of entropy or death drive as the purpose and momentum of life is punctuated, granted an intermission, or is in fact initiated over the first see-through view of the human across from you, taking it interpersonally, but as skeletally robotic Gestell. For the time being, then, the prosthetic frame of technorelations survives the decay that uncovers it. In addition to the resilience of the internal prosthesis, there is [End Page 109] another emergency break you get in the face of dissolution. What can reverse the collapse into the so-called tomb world is the reanimation of extinguished animals leading the falling world to rescue.

Tomb world is a citation from Ludwig Binswanger's "Case Study of Ellen West."10 The complete dialectic that Binswanger developed to illuminate this case includes, at the other end, on high and untouchable, the ethereal world. Binswanger captures his patient's bind in the word Schlinge, a sling, snare, or even noose, which turns out to be an animal trap: the word that pulls itself over the sling, Verschlingen, means to sling something down, to eat ravenously, like an animal. As she demonstrates for Binswanger, this is precisely how Ellen eats when she eats like she wants or has to: she wolfs it down. In the span of her waiting around and her overweight the problem of food and death drops her like gravity into the grave world.

Dick contemplated the tomb world in a science fiction frame that left out the one-way opposition with the ethereal world. The fantasy genre, to which the ethereal world belongs, was not only Dick's first contact with and choice of fiction, but it also engaged him and his delegates throughout his work as fateful temptation. In an interview, Dick turned up the contrast between fantasy and science fiction within their respective spans of retention:

In fantasy, you never go back to believing there are trolls, unicorns . . . and so on. But in science fiction, you read it, and it's not true now but there are things which are not true now which are going to be someday. . . . It's like all science fiction occurs in alternate . . . universes."11

The basis of fantasy's appeal, at least according to J. R. R. Tolkien (in "On Fairy Stories"),12 is Christianity: the fantasy that is also true. The happy ending may be escapist in everyday life, but in the end (of life) it becomes the Great Escape, the overcoming of death that Christianity advertises. In this life, we pass in and out of fantasy. When we die, however, we enter fantasy, the other world, for keeps. Although a declared Christian, Dick was also paranoid and wary, therefore, of unambivalence. Even in Ubik,13 where the interchangeable essence of consumer goods that promote perfectibility announces itself in the last commercial spot as the Christian God, nowhere does the novel admit truth in advertising, which would be the fantasy moment in this doubly Mass culture.

In an astounding about-face of denial, Binswanger identifies the one-sided world of ethereal fantasies or wishes as the province of both Christianity and psychoanalysis. But thus he secured a [End Page 110] discrete position for his own identification with his patient, who had already seen two classical analysts. Binswanger chose to side with Ellen's preference for the other world, even in effect to assist in her suicide, which, he agreed with her, represented her last chance at a freeing, if not free, act, since otherwise she faced only the prospect of chronic schizophrenia unstoppably creeping in. The aberrant act, which Binswanger privileged as the last try by Dasein to come to itself, become itself, could take the form, on the side of chance, of physical illness, the sudden death of a family member, an attack, a shock—and, on the sidelines of acting out, we encounter suicide, murder, other acts of violence, arson, or letting one's own hand burn slowly on the stove. In this latter case, it was Binswanger's patient Ilse14 who thus marked the onset of her breakdown. By dedicating the hand burning to her father standing by, she handed it all to her father and led Binswanger by this hand to her stabilization. After one year at the institution, Ilse could return home completely cured of the acute psychosis.

Before her hospitalization, Ilse kept exceedingly busy following her "hand-up" routine. While thus taking too much upon herself, as Binswanger emphasizes, "she read Freud."15 When next she treated herself to a recuperative stay at the local health resort, Ilse recognized that a reading (out loud) of a novella by Gottfried Keller she attended was the framing of multiple references to her. According to Freud, this last resort could be seen as the place where recovery in fact commenced with the onset of delusions of reference. She felt she was being "made the center of attention." Or again, "Well, they wanted to test me—how I would react."16 Thus the hand she gave her father and extended through the father transference to her treating clinicians was not as decontextualized as the sacrifice of Binswanger's interpretation but already belonged to the relay of tests.

But testing in paranoid schizophrenia, Binswanger argued with regard to another patient, Suzanne Urban, inhabits reality testing only as forever condemned site:

While experience advances from one step to the next, in other words discursively, guided by the reliability, constancy, and consequentiality of this natural mode of experience always and again subordinated to testing, the delusional experience turns around constantly in a circle.17

In her "Martyrology," as she herself referred to her condition, Suzanne could not be tried by new test questions that otherwise belonged outside this circling of the delusional experience. [End Page 111] Experience did not expand its stock of the new but rather confirmed original reservations. The delusional world was thus "reliable," "without question," in other words "untested."18

The vanishing point of reality in Suzanne's case is framed by torture-testing machinery reminiscent of Schreber's delusional system, which Binswanger however reduced in his interpretation to stage machinery in the service of unfree acting or acts determined by mere designs:

The reduction of world in this delusion to a mere contact world is also connected with the predominance of technology and the technical apparatus. Technology becomes here thoroughly stage technique, that is, it serves with its machines mere realization of a certain intention or design, here, then, the design of endangerment, humiliation, martyrdom, annihilation.19

Suzanne Urban's delusion surpasses every tragedy—"even" (Binswanger adds for the sake of comparison) "the most gruesome Baroque drama."20 Binswanger emphatically separates the psychotic stage of martyrology, on which Suzanne succumbs to the so-called bloody apparatus of destruction, from melancholia proper. And yet Walter Benjamin, following Freud, realigned, between the lines, the "melancholia" on the Trauerspiel stage with the endopsychic Sensurround of Schreber's own martyrology as so-called tested soul.

What falls up between these cracks is the too often missed connection between Benjamin's Origin of the German Mourning Play21 and his later media essays, in which testing occupies the foreground. But the Baroque martyr pageant, as Benjamin emphasized, was already withdrawn from the only genre of Passion that Inquisitioning minds wanted to know. That the martyr began to fill out a Job application is a measure of the unsecuring of bonds of faith. According to Benjamin, the Baroque martyr drama "has nothing in common with religious concepts," and the martyr is thoroughly embedded in "immanence": "[H]e is a radical stoic and executes his test or trial in the context of a royal or religious dispute, at the end of which torture and death await him."22 As parallel universal to tyranny's restoration of order, this stoic technique thus establishes a state of emergency of the soul or psyche.23 The excavation or restoration of these test connections in Benjamin can be submitted as case in pointing out the metapsychological fact, as presented by Avital Ronell in The Test Drive, that "the very structure of testing tends to overtake the certainty that it establishes when obeying the call of open finitude."24 [End Page 112]

While on the road through recovery, Binswanger's patient Ilse underwent a series of delusional tests and torments:

After the patient was placed in our institute, the delusions of reference spread further, along with delusions of love. These latter manifested themselves not only in Ilse's belief that she was loved and tested by the doctors but also in her compulsion to love the doctors.25

The doctors were increasing

all the drives in her so as to make her purge herself of them—the drive toward love and the drive toward the truth. That, to her, represented her "treatment," one which she felt was very strenuous. Soon she considered it merely torture.26

During this relay of testing and torture Binswanger lets us hear the footnote drop: "What Ilse called the 'treatment' is, of course, her delusion. No psychoanalytical experiments whatsoever were conducted."27 Suzanne never could get out of the rut of her martyrology, but Ilse helped herself to the restoration of reality testing. Reality testing and transference (and, unnamed but implicated in the line up, mourning, too) were the two or three things Freud knew about the separation or borderline between normal-to-neurotics and psychotics. Reality testing and mourning are even closer than device and application. Mourning is reality testing. (There is no reality quite like that of loss.) Hence it is a certain relationship to loss (as in melancholia) that "tows" the bottom line of psychosis. And, as the case of Ilse demonstrates against Binswanger's designs, to find missing what otherwise defines psychotic states by process of its elimination means to redraw borderlines of legibility between neurosis and psychosis inside psychosis.


In The Open: Man and Animal,28 Giorgio Agamben's close reading of Heidegger on man and animal issues in the flat line that "bare life" is the last stand or understanding of man and animal—of man as animal—in the only context left for our consideration of the social relation, that of Foucault's biopolitics. But the nonmachinic android that Dick introduced at this juncture as figment of our teen age revalorizes bare life as electro-cute and thus issues with the group psychology, as Nietzsche did in his detours through Christianity, the extended warranty of legibility and possibility. Without [End Page 113] animal access or in circumvention of the totemic work of mourning, the rebel androids nevertheless forge their in-group bond experimentally out of live or life transmissions: drugs, disease, and media.

In the close quarters given "rescue" between "saving" and "redemption," Agamben sends Benjamin to head the Heidegger reading off at its impasse by conjuring up a "rescued night." Though this night or nothingness cannot be saved or redeemed, it does qualify for allegorical rescue. Agamben thus gives Benjamin the last word as outside chance of pulling up short before "the nothing," even though or especially because Benjamin is dead set up as outgunned by the momentum and weight of the Heidegger reading or, rather, by the dynamic of its Before and After, its history. But in giving Heidegger the floor, Agamben can't floor it anymore, but must spell out the in-appropriation of the animal that Heidegger saw himself up against.

In Agamben's The Open, it is thus up to Heidegger to admit the Freudian tradition of contemplation of man and animal (which incorporates Darwin and was inherited by the Frankfurt school, the station stop missing from Agamben's itinerary of Benjamin's thought). Agamben on Heidegger on Rilke:

At work in both Nietzsche and Rilke is that oblivion of being "which lies at the foundation of the biologism of the nineteenth century and of psychoanalysis" and whose ultimate consequence is "a monstrous anthropomor-phization of . . . the animal and a corresponding animalization of man."29

Rilke's poetic word thus "falls short of a 'decision capable of founding history,' and is constantly exposed to the risk of 'an unlimited and groundless anthropomorphization of the animal,' which even places the animal above man and in a certain way makes a 'superman' of it."30

As Binswanger comes close to working through a phenomenology of the psychotherapeutic setting toward a social ontology based on Heidegger's ontology, he turns to Jakob von Uexküll,31 the figure Agamben followed into the corners in which Heidegger backed up animals. If humankind inhabits countless worlds while holding a world in common, then the psychotic, in foregoing the common world, fits the worlds within worlds von Uexküll claims for the animals. Binswanger:

Just as we would say that it is not possible to describe the psychosis of a person if one has not first thoroughly traversed his worlds, just so von Uexküll says: "It is not possible to describe the biology of an animal if one has not completely circumscribed the circles of its function." And as [End Page 114] we would say furthermore: therefore one is justified to assume as many worlds as there are psychotics, von Uexküll says: "Therefore one is fully justified to assume as many surrounding worlds as there are animals."32

For the complex of readings that have become the environment of von Uexküll's corpus, it is the notion of the moment in a world of marking or noting that commands these pages as the very translation scene of their words or worlds of difference. Here we restore what Agamben in The Open leaves out of his close paraphrase of the tick passage from the 1933 pamphlet Excursions through the Environments of Animals and Humans, through which von Uexküll popularized the work that had established his reputation twenty-five years earlier. At the close of his presentation of the tick's environment or perceptual field as impoverished but secure world, von Uexküll notes that from this one inside view one can derive the basic traits for the construction of environments that would apply to all animals. But there is an additional capacity characterizing the tick, which, von Uexküll promises, "opens up for us a yet wider insight into the environments."33

The tick is able to wait for indeterminate spans of time for the survival of its species. Then von Uexküll notes that for which Agamben was lying in wait: the Zoological Institute in Rostock, Germany, has kept a tick ticking eighteen years and counting simply by depriving it of nourishment. Agamben lets this reference, which concludes a section of The Open, resonate indefinitely, deprived of its environment in the text, von Uexküll's introduction of the moment as the smallest possible and most basic span of time during which the world stands still. Stylistically at least, as transition, the tick here is almost Freudian. The eighteen years of the Rostock tick calls up the same number in another setting; namely, one-eighteenth of a second, which is how long the moment of man lasts. At this moment a footnote delivers the proof:

The proof of this is provided by cinema. During the screening of a strip of film the pictures must leap forward jerkily one after another and then stand still. To show them as sharply as possible the jerky leaping forward must be made invisible with the aid of a filter. The darkening which thus occurs is not perceived by our eyes if the standing still of the picture and its darkening transpire within one one-eighteenth of a second. If more time is taken intolerable flickering ensues.34

The duration of the moment differs from animal to animal. But however we compute the moment of the tick, it is beyond possible to endure an unchanging environment for eighteen years. [End Page 115] At this point, Agamben misreads or mistranslates von Uexküll's assumption that a sleeplike state suspends the tick's long time, a state to which we humans have recourse, according to von Uexküll, whenever we must wait for extended periods, but, according to Agamben, every night when we sleep. That we should sleep, like Ellen West, only to cut the loss of waiting in half indeed loses von Uexküll's attentiveness to the knowledge in the waiting of animals.

What Benjamin referred to as the optical unconscious was opened up through opportunities available in filmmaking and projection, for example, for speeding up and slowing down our perceptual field. Benjamin's examples might be found summarized in a Disney film like The Desert Lives (1953). Just add rainwater, and the hatching, crawling, blossoming, and pollination across the desert surface can be viewed on screen in no time. But von Uexküll underscores that the opening up of the range of our seeing ego probe, which no longer need stop short before invisibility, extends to the animal environments that whiz by us or just drag along, but which now can be made perceptible to us through their technically possible calibration.

That a perceptual environment can be, at least as far as timing goes, another world is what we learned first from animals and psychotics and that, according to von Uexküll, cinema proved. In Dick's Martian Time-Slip,35 the autistic boy Manfred, who is growing up schizophrenic, is considered a case for testing new theories from Switzerland about the relative slowness of the psychotic perceptual environment, which registers the normal environment or common world only as unbearable fast forwarding. Manfred leaps so far ahead that it's the future—and you only know it's the future, unmediated by wish fulfillment or fantasy, if it's the tomb world. Jack Bohlen, a recovered schizophrenic, is hired to build a machine that translates the input of the common world as audio and video recordings slowed down to fit Manfred's perceptual environment. The boy's communications would then in turn be up to speed by the time they reached our ears.

This time machine modifies the environment or perceptual field to unblock communication the way training lays claim to trainability. In the closing chapter of her study Adam's Task,36 Vicki Hearne introduced autism research into the interdisciplinary exploration of how training of dogs and horses meets their trainability more than halfway as ennobling test. Autism may indicate that something like training or, better yet, trainability is the more fundamental criterion of relationality and possibility than speaking or not speaking. Yet this human illness, like boredom, the [End Page 116] Heideggerian supplement that Agamben also tries to take against the animalization and technologization of humans as supplies, doesn't commit us to sharing one continuum with the trainable animal. Whereas animals are so generous in answering us, the constitutively human ability to speak can also always mean not to answer, not to be answered by, the other.37

Hearne wagers that the first time we find that the request we were taught to pronounce is insufficient to guarantee the response of the other, the paradoxes and muddles that thus begin to arise drive us to philosophy and poetry. The resulting focus on certain aspects of our intellect and imagination, to come full circle within what is human, ends up manifesting, though in less extreme form, autistic self-stimulation behavior. The autistic child would thus appear to be the by-product of our unique evolutionary development, according to Ivar Lovaas according to Hearne. The trainable animal matters, Hearne adds, to "a tribe as lonesome and threatened most of the time as ours is,"38 Because the animal answers, training is what we offer in exchange to enact our gratitude.

In his study of animals and humans, psychoanalyst Gustav Bally39 enters a field overcrowded with precursors, mainly von Uexküll and his students, which as too much information or over-stimulation in the animal's perceptual field would guarantee for the animal, by veiling the single-minded goal, a freer play of mental faculties. Expanding on this anxiety in influence, Bally summarizes findings that prove that in animal testing the best results are obtained through a noncatastrophic but unexpected stimulus. Animal testing and the study of animal behavior and learning are sometimes on the same field. Stimuli that are punitive make the animal more careful, expand the view of the surrounding environment, and lead to new solutions. A measured electrical shock turns out to be most effective in producing a beneficial startle response as alarm signal. The alarm effect of unknown factors opens up the animal's immediate environment and differentiates it. The animal given a good enough start stops short and begins to suffer thought. According to Bally, "the animal has not become, as one might assume at first sight, entirely the function of the sensory apparatus, like someone submerged in meditation. It is entirely—possible movement. . . . Often whole sequences of movement are executed as in an experiment. . . . Animals think through movement. Thinking, says Freud, is a testing activity."40

In the second half of the study reserved for humans at play Bally singles out the dog as singularly ready for the good impressions that even chimps can't make.41 Already a puppy can observe and [End Page 117] follow human sleight of hand and remember which hand holds the food. The canine ready positioning for receiving the impressions of training or testing exceeds a one-way field of behavior study and modification to include a mode of communication modeled on interspecial exchange.


While Vicki Hearne tacked onto her philosophical study a brief afterword calling for extension of the rights of seeing-eye dogs to all trained companion dogs, Donna Harraway42 has been seeking to rewire relations with our "companion species" along the functional lines to which we owe our working relationship. I'm in support of putting the shepherding dogs back to work in a clearing provided ultimately by website politics. But while I want to bark back in support, I cannot get around the primal time that inevitably mediates our first interspecial relations and renders them profoundly allegorical on or in a stage of mourning play. Let this be my intervention.

In Origin of the German Mourning Play, Benjamin underscores that we encounter the dog as allegorical figure of melancholia. This Hund casts its breath and shadow upon the Und. The dog is emblematic of the dark side of melancholia via the rabid or manic issue of the fragile spleen's degeneration in melancholic humans and in afflicted dogs. But on the lighter side, as Benjamin concludes this emblem label, it is also the dog's perseverance and sagacity that inspired the image of the inexhaustible brooder, the other melancholic. This double significance of the dog as melancholia mascot finds another outlet at the same time in Franz Kafka's "Investigations of a Dog" (1922). The canine protagonist is bipolar, if you take his history, but remains throughout the story the melancholic brooder whose endlessly erring path of investigation is accordingly ascribed at one fragmented juncture to an aberration that the "primal fathers" set in motion.

In a letter dated 17 December 1934, Theodor Adorno responded to Benjamin's "Kafka" by twice intervening from within the lexicon of Benjamin's own Origin book. Because Odradek dwells in the house of the father as his "care" (Sorge) and "danger," we are given here, according to Adorno, the prefiguration of the overcoming of the creaturely relationship to guilt. This Sorge—"truly a Heidegger placed on his feet"43—is the promissory cipher of hope. Benjamin replies with gratitude on 7 January 1935: now [End Page 118] for the first time he finds he can address Kafka's "Investigations of a Dog" (which he misremembers in its title as "Notes of a Dog" and thus places in the position of communication).44 Prior to Ador-no's interventions, Benjamin found that this particular story, like a foreign body, withheld from him its "genuine word" ("eigentliches Wort").

In the recent past investigation into the origin of the Hund/Und was in the news. Given in evolutionary or scifi terms, the hypothesis (even if only as phantasm) challenged received notions of evolution as an ascending line that put a chimp on our shoulders. Something like an alternate reality shot up the sidelines when, as the new theory presented it, sudden mutation (and not domestication) turned a small number of wolves into a new species driven or programmed to read and follow our nonverbal communications. Presumably the relationship had to undergo a few trials or tests. The dogs approached our encampment to engage us, only to be severely tried by our incomprehension and hunger. Freud's primal father myth thus goes to the dogs. In East Asia, according to DNA testing, is located the single place of origin of all the dogs in the world today. It is also the place where the ambivalent relationship to dogs still gets acted out. At some point we must have realized that the dog approached us as reader and teacher and not as voluntary quarry. Just like (or precisely as) the primal father once devoured by his sons, the hot dog introduced mourning as problem, condition, and legacy (for which his canine heirs then, as emblems of melancholia, serve as mascots).

In Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (1857-59), Isolde curses the Und that binds her to Tristan and separates them—but also lets them live. She seeks to eradicate the Und in their Liebestod: "Yet this little word and—/ were it destroyed, / how else than / with Isolde's own life / would Tristan be given death?" Nothing circumvents mourning (or unmourning) quite so immediately as mass self-destruction. Dick's nonmachinic android adds to these subtractions while already in name or nickname—as andy—subtracting from, personalizing, and plugging into its own possible additions. Only with the survival, the passing, of adolescence does the unique evolution of man transmit.

The superman, Freud corrects Nietzsche, belongs in the past, not to the future. What stands above us remains the primal father of prehistory. But there is also another prehistory, as Adorno advised Benjamin in his letter dated 4 August 1935, again with reference to the Origin book: the recent past is the most repressed period of time that therefore always appears as prehistory and comes toward [End Page 119] us only as catastrophe and return. This repressed recent past is excavated in the time of mourning. Darwin's theory of evolution tends to be received as progressive development of species, which climbs up over corpses that are not counted individually but count only as part of a milieu for the selection of survivor traits. In the span between the recent past and mourning over those closest to us, however, the theory of evolution can be seen at the same time as leaving open the possibility of rapid fundamental changes, as can follow, for example, from the invention and introduction of new technical prostheses. Applied to technological changes, the theory of evolution inspired countless fantasies and fictions of close encounters with animal, plant, and machine species that advanced beyond us via the rewind and playback functions of evolutionary time.

The fantasy of time travel also reckons with the new units of time brought to us by technical evolution. For the most part, however, time-travel fictions show us the past in the future from which we are given the chance to swerve, thanks to the warning.

Dick further differentiated and internalized time travel in his fictions. Here one travels mainly through the recent past in order to pull the dead into media-technological real time or extended lifetime where they can still be visited. As with his administration of time travel, Dick hitched his use of alternate history or alternate reality to the present going on the recent past. Dick dismissed fascination with past lives as generic fantasy. He promoted instead his conception of alternate present realities (which, through time travel, interconnect in the recent past, which can be staggered through alternation but never altered). Within an expanding archive of finitude, then, Dick dismantles the present as vanishing point of the recent past, the big repressed where the dead are.

In Dick's Ubik, "half-life" is a variation on the itinerary through alternate times whereby the dead and the survivors keep in touch. In the condition of half-life, the deceased is suspended as ghostly interlocutor between first and second deaths. In half-life one still dies, but not so fast, or rather the finality is displaced for the time being through contextlessness, as in the creaturely state of Kafka's Hunter Gracchus. As technological fulfillment of modern Spiritualism, half-life control-releases the tomb world around the leak it keeps springing on the survivors and the undead alike. The teenager at heart of undeath drives apart the best-laid plans for reunion and remembrance. Jory, who died a teenager, acts out among the half-lifers by devouring the ones he's with and thus denying finitude even in the secular afterlife of half-life or haunting. Thus for all others he reverses the deferral of the second death and turns the [End Page 120] liminal realm of half-life back into the tomb world, which reaches in turn inside the world of full life. But whenever the full-life world is proclaimed as outside chance or alternative in Ubik, Dick halves it through inclusion of a detail that could only belong inside the delusions comprising half-life. And for those who believe themselves to be immersed in half-life, their relation to those in the full-life world seeking to make contact appears only as ghostly connection:

We are served by organic ghosts, he thought, who, speaking and writing, pass through this our new environment. Watching, wise, physical ghosts from the full-life world, elements of which have become for us invading but agreeable splinters of a substance that pulsates like a former heart.45

Dick's alternate reality of mourning or unmourning as half-life views the deceased and the survivor as always having in common that they both lost each other. Therefore it proves possible to travel through a time in which one cannot decide who died on whom. For the near future, then, the living and the and-dead, die Und-Toten—just like the present and the recent past—remain in interchangeable but incalculable contact.

Laurence A. Rickels

Laurence A. Rickels teaches at the University of California (in Santa Barbara) and European Graduate School (in Saas Fee, Switzerland). His books include Aberrations of Mourning: Writing on German Crypts (Wayne State University Press, 1988), The Case of California (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), The Vampire Lectures (University of Minnesota Press, 1999), Nazi Psychoanalysis (University of Minnesota Press, 2002), and The Devil Notebooks (University of Minnesota Press, 2008). In his contribution to this issue, he develops a portion or advance preview of his forthcoming book, I Think I Am: Philip K. Dick (University of Minnesota Press).


1. Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968; repr., New York: Ballantine, 1996).

2. Philip K. Dick, We Can Build You (1972; repr., New York: Vintage, 1994).

3. Philip K. Dick, The Simulacra (1964; repr., New York: Vintage, 2002).

4. Dick, We Can Build You, 107-8.

5. Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works, trans. and ed. James Strachey, 24 vols. (London: Hogarth, 1958).

6. Victor Tausk, "Über die Entsehung des 'Beeinflussungsappartes' in der Schizophrenie," in Gesammelte psychoanalytische und literarische Schriften, ed. Hans-Joachim Metzger (1919; repr., Vienna: Medusa, 1983), 245-86. Translated by Dorian Feigenbaum as "On the Origin of the 'Influencing Machine' in Schizophrenia," in Sexuality, War and Schizophrenia: Collected Psychoanalytic Papers, ed. with an introductionby Paul Roazen (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1991), 185-220.

7. Hanns Sachs, "The Delay of the Machine Age," trans. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 11, nos. 3-4 (1933): 402-24.

8. Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia," in Standard Edition (see note 5), 14:243-58.

9. Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley, The Exploration of Mars (New York: Viking, 1956), 132. [End Page 121]

10. Ludwig Binswanger, "The Case of Ellen West," trans. Werner M. Mendel and Joseph Lyons, in Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology, ed. Rollo May, Ernest Angel, and Henri F. Ellenberger (New York: Basic, 1958), 237-364.

11. Arthur Bryan Cover, "Vertex Interviews Philip K. Dick," Vertex 1, no. 6 (1974): 34-37.

12. J. R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy-Stories," in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, ed. Christopher Tolkien (1947; repr., London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983), 109-61.

13. Philip K. Dick, Ubik (1969; repr., New York: Vintage, 1991).

14. Ludwig Binswanger, "Insanity as Life-Historical Phenomenon and as Mental Disease: The Case of Ilse," trans. Ernest Angel, in Existence (see note 10), 214-36.

15. Ibid., 215.

16. Ibid.

17. Ludwig Binswanger, "Der Fall Suzanne Urban" [The case of Suzanne Urban], in Ausgewählte Werke (Heidelberg: Roland Asanger Verlag, 1994), 4:210-322, quotationon 281.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., 260.

20. Ibid., 270.

21. Walter Benjamin, Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels, in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser (1928; repr., Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1972-89), 1:1. Translated by John Osborne as The Origin of German Tragic Drama, introd. George Steiner (New York: Verso, 1998).

22. Ibid., 191.

23. Ibid., 253.

24. Avital Ronell, The Test Drive (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 5.

25. Binswanger, "Insanity as Life-Historical Phenomenon," 216.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Giorgio Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal, trans. Kevin Attell (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004).

29. Ibid., 58.

30. Ibid., 59.

31. Jakob von Uexküll, Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten (Berlin: J. Springer, 1933). Translated by Claire H. Schiller as "A Stroll through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds," in Instinctive Behavior: The Development of a Modern Concept, ed. and trans. Claire H. Schiller (New York: International Universities Press, 1957), 5-80.

32. Binswanger, "Über die daseinsanalytische Forschungsrichtung in der Psychiatrie," in Ausgewählte Werke (see note 17), 3:237. [End Page 122]

33. von Uexküll, Streifzüge, 29.

34. Ibid.

35. Philip K. Dick, Martian Time-Slip (1964; repr., New York: Vintage, 1995).

36. Vicki Hearne, Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name (London: William Heinemann, 1987).

37. In my book I Think I Am: Philip K. Dick (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming 2010), Jacques Derrida's crucial interventions in animal "autobiography" are fully in place (see Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, ed. Marie-Louise Mallet, trans. David Wills [New York: Fordham University Press, 2008]). There I advance Hearne's notion of the always-answering animal inside a context Derrida demarcated as the undecidable distinction, often drawn, between the reaction of the animal and the essentially human response (which resounds only in language). Derrida can show, however, that the logic of the distinction Jacques Lacan, too, pursues nominates the animal, in theory, as the one most likely to succeed the symbolic father. Another prong of reflection that inspired my nominationof the dog, the trainable or answering animal par excellence, for the primal father position should be noted here, as well. Akira Lippit's approach to the animal relation follows the logic of the evil eye: before going gone the struck-down animal can inflict a last and lasting blow on the hunter (see Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000]). In other words, animalspectrality is the fallback position for an encounter animal language calls out in us. The animal in exchange may not be understood (until slain by us) but will not be ignored, especially in the prolonged span of parting. Also see my contribution ("Pet Grief") to the catalog accompanying an exhibition of Diana Thater's work at Kunsthaus Graz (Laurence A. Rickels, "Pet Grief," in Diana Thater: gorillagorillagorilla [Cologne: Walther König, 2009], 64-73).

38. Hearne, Adam's Task, 265.

39. Gustav Bally, Vom Spielraum der Freiheit: Die Bedeutung des Spiels bei Tier und Mensch (Basel: Schwabe, 1966).

40. Ibid., 36-37.

41. Ibid., 65.

42. Donna Harraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm, 2003).

43. For English translations, see Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, The Complete Correspondences, 1928-1940, ed. Henri Lonitz, trans. Nicholas Walker (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 66-73, quotation on 69 (translation modified).

44. Ibid., 73-77; and Benjamin, Complete Correspondences, 1910-1940, ed. and annotated by Gershom Scholem and Theodor Adorno, trans. Manfred R. Jacobson and Evelyn M. Jacobson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 470-73, quotationon 471.

45. Dick, Ubik, 211. [End Page 123]

Previous Article


Next Article


Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.