Animals and humans—a false divide?

June 5, 2013

We don't just share our lives with animals; we are animals – a reality that we often choose to forget in modern Western culture. Research published in the June special issue of SAGE journal, Social Science Information (SSI), delves deeper into our relationship with other creatures, critically examining our own animal nature, and looking at how animals profoundly influence our culture – perhaps more so than we had initially thought.

We have often been told in Western thought that the human species is one that is highly developed, above that of the animal kingdom, a division that is clear cut and one that clearly sets the apart. Yet Dominique Lestel, a highly influential researcher studying animality (our animal nature), opposes the separation of human and . Lestel ask us to reframe the question of animality, asking us to view humanization as an ongoing performative practice, rather than an historical threshold that was crossed long ago.

Looking at the relationship between animal and human, Lestel argues that has both an ecological and symbolic consequence on our culture, as every species contributes to our very being, our meaning. He warns that "each species that disappears is a part of our imagination that we amputate perhaps irreversibly".

According to Lestel, the question is "not that of knowing how I share my life with others, but how others shape me and how I shape others," The work focuses on the interrelatedness of all animals (humans included), where more usually we tend to highlight the boundaries between us.

In addition to humans' place in the at a scientific level, Lestel also highlights our essential, existential animality in his opening comments with fellow editor, Hollis Taylor. "A key question now is to know how the human of the can reactivate his animality and animalize himself anew when all Western thought since the Greeks tells him that he is human precisely because of this rupture with animality," Lestel suggests, building on his critique of the very philosophical foundations of the ethological tradition. "To be human does not mean to have fled animality, but on the contrary to live within it and to let it live within us…we are animals and animals are us."

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2 / 5 (4) Jun 05, 2013
I'm glad to see science is finally taking on the false divide head on as it is a religiously rooted notion.

We are not animals, because the bible tells us so basically.

It should be no surprise that the American research is the one most biased against considering human beings animals, and insisting we cannot understand what animals want or need by looking in the mirror
4 / 5 (4) Jun 06, 2013
above that of the animal kingdom

For a given value of 'above'. It's always suspect when the winning species is the one that made up the criteria by which to judge.

a division that is clear cut and one that clearly sets the human species apart.

Are there really people that still think that (outside religious circles)?

Humans-animals is a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one (much like there is a quantitative difference for EVERY animal from the rest of the animals(including humans) nothing special in that, either)

It's sort of vexing thatit takes a lot of people so long to realize: we're not special - we're just different (like every other being out there). But I guess their minds won't allow that kind of 'fall'. Might hurt their precious little egos (in which case their in for a BAD day if they ever start looking at the sky)

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