jueves, 16 de diciembre de 2010

The Animal Beyond Being: Science and Metaphysics

- The Animal Beyond Being -

Science and Metaphysics


     This paper examines some of the ramifications which follow from Heidegger’s characterization of the animal as being ‘poor in the world’, for our understanding of the human/animal divide through scientific practice.  I take the enquiry undertaken in the lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics (1995) as a point of departure. I first show how Heidegger attempts to clarify the ontological valence of the human/animal split from the constrictions metaphysically set by his transcendental framework. I then propose to show how Heidegger’s position, as well as the posterior attempts to radicalize his approach, as seen in Derrida’s The Animal that I Therefore Am (2008) and Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal (2003), devolve in a devaluation of scientific reason and practice. This devaluation follows given the construal of objective scientific conceptualization/categories as being derivative from the primacy of subjective conditions of access to the world for human being.

   Lead to the disavowal of being-in-itself, I argue that the transcendental purview dilutes scientific understanding to being a noocentric approach towards the animal; a product whose specificity is relativized to man. According to Heidegger, a progressive ontological disavowal of metaphysical concepts enroots man further down the detrimental obsession for a technical manipulation of the world through scientific categories.  This is later thought of by Agamben as the compulsive disclosure of beings by man, impervious to the co-constitution of man and animal being in their strife. Scientific insight, in construing the human/animal distinction, must thus be confronted and either:

a)     Be provisionally suspended – as in Heidegger’s prescribed attitude of releasement (Gelassenheit), since science is merely a present-at-hand, human-relative caricature of the animal; or Derrida’s prescription for an attitude of ‘letting-be’, dissolving being ‘as such’ and situating the animal outside metaphysically specified essence (‘whatness’, Wassein).

b)      Be integrated within an obscurely defined, modified practice - as in Agamben’s attempt to radicalize the ontological difference, which dissolves the anthropological machine and with it the biopolitical investment carried through the human-animal divide.

   Having accepted that objective specificity and conceptual individuation is merely an ontic/derivative abstraction proper to the human kind, the Otherness which resists ontologization in the animal leaves us with an exceedingly impoverished picture of animality as ‘captive in its environment’. This constriction forces us into accepting the animal’s reduction to an automaton, in spite of Derrida or Agamben’s attempts to wrest Heidegger’s insights from their metaphysical/biopolitical residues. The lack of a transcendental disclosure in the animal, and its intractability by the conceptual means of science or metaphysics, ultimately entails that any ontological ascription becomes in principle refractory from animal (non)-being. The latter is left thus to the anonymity of a quasi-mystical, unknowable Otherness, against which categorical stratification cannot but appear as a violent transgression or imposition from the part of man; a noocentrism worthy of interruption.

    Finally, I conclude that a philosophy which can escape the methodological subordination of science to transcendental conditions of access could contest the reduction of scientific phenomena to human apprehension. Such a view may thereby seek to rescue scientific practice from performing the ontological occlusion esteemed by Heidegger as being responsible for our metaphysical derailment. Science could be rather thought of as penetrating into the being of the animal as it is in-itself, and not merely into how the animal appears for us. This would imply, as Quentin Meillassoux (2008) and Ray Brassier (2007) have proposed, that the correlation between man-world (and therefore the relativization of being to conditions of disclosure) deemed inescapable by philosophies of access[1] is not fundamental with respect to the phenomena described by science. The speculative realist claims that it is on the other hand the latter which explains and provides the conditions for the instantiation of the former; within a univocal ontological field. Science can be taken then to be a cognitively enriching activity on the part of man, informing human practice rather than obscuring our ontological ground.

I – Transcendence and Essence; Metaphysics and Science
    Heidegger’s FCM proposes to secure philosophy’s propriety against science, art, religion, worldview and history. Metaphysics does not concern itself with a particular being (God, the animal, the human…), a stratified domain of beings like science does (biological, physical, social…), or even with all the different beings or domains of beings. Conceptual typologies are delegated to the secondary ontic enterprise expressed by scientific categories, while philosophy in turn unearths their ontological ‘ground’ or enabling conditions through comprehensive concepts (Heidegger: 1995, Pg 9). Philosophy occupies itself thus with the general phenomenon of worldhood, which provides the understanding of beings-as-a-whole, i.e. it thinks the unified, transcendental horizon for human being wherein beings are made manifest:

 “The fundamental concepts of metaphysics and the concepts of philosophy, however, will evidently not be like this [scientific understanding] at all, if we recall that they themselves are anchored in our being gripped, in which we do not represent before us that which we conceptually comprehend, but maintain ourselves in a quite different comportment, one which is originarily and fundamentally difference from any scientific kind.” (Ibid)

   As fundamental, metaphysical comprehension (begreifen) becomes the condition of possibility for the rest of the sciences or merely ontic enquiries: “there are only sciences insofar as there is philosophy”, not the other way around.", or even more dramatically “…all science is perhaps only a servant with respect to philosophy.” (Ibid; Pg. 5) The ontological status of scientific phenomena is thereby deemed derivative from the transcendental structure of worldhood proper to Dasein, and which it falls to philosophy to clarify.
 To ‘fundamentally attune’ (stimmen) oneself in order to gain ontological/metaphysical comprehension requires correspondingly to step back from nature, understood as a categorically stratified domain of beings, and towards the transcendental disclosure of being in general: “This turning away of philosophy proper from nature as one particular domain, from any such domain at all, is a going over beyond individual beings over to this other”. (Ibid: Pg, 39). Since every objective particular must be rendered problematic, even the pure ‘I’ of the Cartesian cogito must be questioned; and with it the idea of cognition or consciousness as a property pertaining to a specific ‘substance’ as the locus for philosophical reflection, i.e. the ‘rational’ animal, the res cogitans, etc (Ibid; Pg. 55). Consciousness of particulars, that is to say knowledge, is thus strictly the opposite of releasing attunements, which awaken Dasein to the general structure of worldhood, away from the slumber amidst beings: “If, however, we make an attunement conscious, come to know of it and explicitly make the attunement itself into an object of knowledge, we achieve the contrary of an awakening. The attunement is thereby precisely destroyed, or at least not intensified, but weakened and altered.” (Pg, 61)
   Since for Heidegger metaphysics must ‘pass over’ beings in order to attune Dasein for unified worldhood, it is the latter which defines Dasein’s being; the peculiarity of its being resides precisely in its being-in-the-world (Ibid; Pg. 24). Given that only metaphysics enquires into the world as such, and since having a world constitutes Dasein’s ownmost being, we may gain clarity on what Heidegger means when he says that “Philosophy has a meaning only as human activity. Its truth is essentially that of human Dasein” (Ibid; Pg 19).  
  This way, in trying to wrest metaphysics from the purely ontic purview of an enquiry centered on consciousness/science over into the general features of worldhood, Heidegger allots scientific representation to being a derivative comportment (verhalten) and its objective phenomena are made ontologically relative to Dasein. As Ray Brassier (2007) notes, in denying the ontological primacy of nature and beings, both debased to something that is ‘present-at-hand’ (Vorhandenheit), Heidegger anticipates the thesis that the world as described by the sciences, and the stratification of beings in it, are mere empty abstractions relative to man: “What is ironic about Heidegger’s critique of metaphysical subjectivism is that it is precisely his refusal to hypostatize the world as present-at-hand object of representation that precipitates him towards the arch-idealist conclusion according to which ‘If no
 Dasein exists, no world is “there” either’” (Brassier: 2007, Pg. 162)

   In doing so, Heidegger inflects Being (Sein) into human being (Dasein) and the latter’s disclosure of the former, thus cementing their indissociability. Whereas man qua essence is but one animal amidst the ontic distribution of species/genera described by science, the ontological ground of his existence (Dasein) as ekstatico-horizonal transcendence is the condition for the disclosure of all beings, from rocks to spiders, from nations to black holes. The specified being of particular entities is thereby made entirely relative to being-at-hand for Dasein; that is, to appearing within the horizon (Horizont) of worldhood disclosed by Dasein, and through the latter’s comportments and attunements:  

  "Being at hand or not being at hand decide concerning being and non-being...the stone, in its being away [in its not being at hand], is precisely not there. Man, however, must be there in order to be able to be away, and only so long as he is there does he in general have the possibility of an away." (Heidegger: 1995; Pg. 64)

  Whereas the stone’s ‘being-away’ implies its non-being, man must always ‘be there’, since being is only for and through Dasein, i.e. in man the crucial distinction is between authentic ‘awakening’, triggered by fundamental attunements, and the inauthentic slumber amidst beings proper to science and ‘idle-talk’ (Garede)
[2]. However, if stones have no being outside relation to human Dasein, then this is because particular beings all belong to the sphere of presence-at-hand objects described categorically; the entire wealth of phenomena described by the natural sciences included. At a loss for a horizon for disclosure, the specificity of animal life must be likewise ontologically relative to man. Nature (phusis) as a whole is in turn ontologically characterized in terms of the givenness of the phusei onta to Dasein within the transcendental opening of Dasein. As Heidegger says: Transcendere means to step over; the transcendens, the transcendent, is that which oversteps as such and not that toward which I step over’ (Heidegger 1982: 299)[3]. Uprooted from its metaphysical ground, scientific phenomena can therefore have no being apart from Dasein’s world-forming capabilities (weltbildeng). There is no being ‘in-itself’, but only being ‘for-us’:
 “Of course only as long as Dasein is (that is, as long as an understanding of Being is ontically possible), ‘is there’ Being. When Dasein does not exist, ‘independence’ ‘is’ not either, nor ‘is’ the ‘in-itself’. In such a case this sort of thing can be neither understood nor not understood. In such a case even entities within-the-world can neither be discovered nor lie hidden. In such a case it cannot be said that entities are, nor can it be said that they are not.” (Heidegger 1962: Pg, 255)

  Having laid out these preliminaries, we will next address how Heidegger attempts to describe by contrast the animal’s ‘poverty in the world’, given the lack for the transcendental structure proper to Dasein which is world-forming.

II – Poverty in the World: Captivated Noumena
      Heidegger attempts to situate animal being somewhere in-between the worldlessness of the stone and the world-forming capacity of Dasein. He first raises the question: what could it mean to say that the animal is ‘poor in the world? (Heidegger 1995: Pg. 186).  From the start, he attempts to establish a crucial dividing line between animals and lifeless stones; while at keeping from the former the full-richness of the world such as formed by Dasein’s transcendental horizon (Ibid: Pg 196). As we will see below, it is precisely this ‘middle ground’ between the rich world of Dasein and worldlessness which becomes impossible to occupy, and which finally seals the animal into being little more than the worldless machinic automaton depicted by the tradition. This will be shown to be a necessary conclusion given Heidegger’s subordination of scientific categorization to metaphysical comprehension. In continuity with his earlier debasement of scientific categories, Heidegger begins the analysis by rendering the ‘essence’ of animality impervious to the path of the natural sciences:
  “For if we follow this path we shall fail to address the question from the perspective of the animality of the animal, and simply misinterpret in turn what has already been misinterpreted and distorted by the physico-chemical perspective, employing a psychology crudely adopted from the human domain”. (Ibid: Pg, 189)

     For Heidegger the suspension of the scientific outlook is esteemed necessary in order to avoid an anthropomorphizing imposition which distorts the essential being of the animal, such as has been the case with the entire philosophical tradition. The ‘metaphysical interpretation of life’ proposed thus must reestablish and clarify the organic continuity between originary philosophical comprehension and positive scientific research. The severed link between these two poles Heidegger deems symptomatic of our contemporary situation, devolved in scientific hyper-specialization and its instrumental technical obsession, already prefiguring the fatalistic vision of the world as seized by modern technology. Oblivious to its metaphysical grounding, “such a state of affairs is symptomatic of contemporary science and represents its innermost danger… science will not allow itself to enter such a crisis because it is already much too preoccupied with the realm of serviceability” (Ibid). Thus the approach to the animal must demand also an attunement or awakening towards the generality of being, and a passive releasement (Gelassenheit) of the scientific outlook centered in beings. In this sense, to say that the animal ‘is poor’ is simply meant to illustrate, Heidegger tells us, that it is deprived of something fundamental, but does not imply a hierarchical value judgment of any sort (Ibid; Pgs, 196-7).  But what is it exactly that is lacking in and for animal being?

   Heidegger specifies his account further claiming that the poverty in question entails particularly a lack of access towards being; that is “…having no access to those beings (as beings) amongst which this particular being with this specific manner of being is.” (Ibid; Pg.  197) The lack of an ontological horizon would seem to imply that the animal cannot ever encounter beings as such; that is, specific entities disclosed within a world. Yet Heidegger sees the danger in conflating the worldlessness proper to rocks to that of animals, or all non-human entities more generally. When the lizard basks in the rock under the sun it surely seems to encounter ‘something’. But instead of the properly ontological disclosure of beings ‘as such’, which is peculiar to Dasein, the animal is said to encounter its own ‘things’:

 “One is tempted to suggest that what we identify as the rock and the sun are just lizard-things for the lizard, so to speak. When we say that the lizard is lying on the rock, we ought to cross out the word ‘rock’ in order to indicate that whatever the lizard is lying on is certainly given in some way for the lizard, and yet is not known to the lizard as a rock…” (Ibid; Pg. 198)

  However, how these anonymous ‘animal-things’ which are void of ontological value can be said to obtain as particulars for the animal, so that they can be said to be things remains obscure. How can there be a stratification of ‘things’ outside being, and more specifically, outside the being of presence-at-hand for Dasein? This is enigmatic, given that the ontic specificity of any entity has been rendered entirely correlative to Dasein in presence-at-hand, as a modality of being. Without a horizon of meaning upon which the malfunction of equipment (Zeug) may devolve in specific categorical abstractions which give particulars, it is unclear in what sense the lizard or the non-human animal can generally encounter ‘things’. This already renders problematic how one can legitimately grant to the animal a minimal horizon of worldhood apart from their categorical construal in scientific reflection[4].
  Heidegger proceeds to depict ‘life’ as the animal ‘form of being’ wherein it sees itself “confined to its environmental world, immured as it were within a fixed sphere that is incapable of further expansion or contraction.” (Ibid). The stratification of this environmental-world is therefore left in absolute anonymity, part of the animal Otherness without ontological specificity, and never disclosed within a horizon of possibilities in the encounter with beings[5]. This is also why the animal is said not to exist properly, but to merely live, insofar as existence is relative to having a horizon of possibilities, and so to Dasein (Ibid; Pg 210). Yet we have seen that Heidegger seems reluctant to reducing ‘life’ to the machinic automatism often described by the scientific instrumentalist conception of organisms and their vital processes: “We must attempt to make biology and zoology recognize that organs are not merely instruments and that the organism is not merely a machine.” (Pg, 217)

   We must note nevertheless that for Heidegger this precautionary move is based on the supposition that scientific accounts of life cannot but be distorting without a proper metaphysical footing. One may therefore ask whether scientific accounts of animality which ‘pass over’ this philosophical exigency must necessarily result in a distorted picture of the animal as a machine, as Heidegger surmises here[6]. Given that accounts of the relations between entities and their properties seem to entail a machinic picture of organic life, we might stipulate that science remains fatally delivered over to a machinic vision of the animal, condemned to denying its autonomy. Whether the instrumentalist conception of science advances here, which makes of its phenomena heuristic fictions or abstractions for human being is tenable, remains open. In any case, this leads Heidegger into rejecting that any enquiry into the essence of animality and organic capacities could deal with determinate causal factors between particular entities or properties through science: “Thus the real problem which is involved in determining the essence of life cannot even be seen because life is now handed over to some causal factor.” (Ibid; Pg. 223) Organic capacities (Fahigkeit) or ‘drives’ (Trieb) are said to precede causal interaction between particular organisms themselves, and so “the organ which arises in and through the capacity is subservient [to these capacities].” (Ibid, Pg. 226) Accordingly, it falls to Heidegger to clarify how these ‘capacities’ obtain outside the ontological framework of disclosure.

  In order to develop his account of animal capacities in contradistinction to Dasein, Heidegger goes on to distinguish more precisely animal behavior (Benehmen) within environments from human comportments (Verhelten) within worlds (Ibid; Pg. 237). Whereas the latter involve the ‘towards’ of ekstatic transcendence reaching out onto beings, behaviors are said to act according to an instinctual ‘driven performing’ (Treiben), void of reflexivity and of any ontological horizon. In behavior, animals are ‘absorbed into themselves’, says Heidegger, retained inwards without reflection. Consequentially, environments are unlike worlds in that they ‘captivate’ the animal without the possibility of refusal or withdrawal (such as is possible in Dasein’s fundamental attunements, i.e. profound boredom, anxiety…). 

   Beings never become present for the animal, but the latter are ‘taken over’ by their own animal-things or ‘disinhibitors’ without explicit recognition: “This being taken is only possible where there is an instinctual ‘toward…’ Yet such a driven being taken also excludes the possibility of any recognition of presence.” (Ibid; Pg. 242) Animal behavior (benehmen) is thus directed by instinctual drives in an unrecognizing movement towards the anonymous things it is excited and captive by. As Heidegger tells us “there is no apprehending but only a behaving here, a driven activity which we must grasp in this way because the possibility of apprehending something as something is withheld from the animal.” (Ibid, Pg. 247). The bee is simply ‘given over’ to the sun; the relations it has with its things are ‘preprogrammed’ as it were, organically and unknowingly, i.e. it has no relation to present-at-hand, particular beings. In captivation, the animal is suspended “between itself and its environment, even though neither is experienced as a being” (Ibid). The crucial question must then become how to characterize these non-ontological ‘things’ which the animal exhibits ‘openness for’., if not ontologically (Ibid; Pg. 248) Heidegger finally describes the animal’s captivation within an environment through the metaphor of ‘encirclement’ in ‘rings’; a holistic and hierarchical system of drives in which the animal orients itself instinctively, in automated fashion.

  We should note that in spite of his precautionary warnings to overcome the machinic vision of animality, Heidegger’s account provides finally a picture of the animal no less ‘automated’ or machinic. For how are we to interpret that the animal is merely captive, incapable of “ever properly attending to something as such”, if not as the claim that the animal simply cannot deliberate between explicit possibilities, but is rather given over to blind instinct and his ‘drives’? One might then raise the question about whether the prescription not to ontologize the animal in present-at-hand relations between particulars and their causal interactions, like science does, is really any more ‘distorting’ or ‘impoverishing’ than the barren description of the animal as captivated. But as we will see, perhaps it is rather the transcendental framework wherein Dasein becomes the sole ‘shepherd of being’ which is in turn impoverishing, reducing the wealth of scientific phenomena to emptying human abstractions.

  Significantly, as is well known, that Heidegger restricts his analysis to insects (moths, bees…) and unicellular organisms seems to obviate the place of higher-end mammals and other animals which, science tells us, presumably engage in deliberative behavior akin that of humans. That Heidegger chooses to stay within the realm of insects is perhaps not simply a matter of convenience, given their comparative ‘simplicity’, but symptomatic of an incapacity to gauge the possibility of attributing any form of ontological horizon for any animal[7]. Since Heidegger has made abundantly clear that being-in-the-world, and thereby existence, is Dasein’s peculiar mode of being, and that only the latter possesses the ‘as-structure’ required for the encounter with beings as such, he seems forced into allotting all non-human animals into the same machinic straightjacket.

   This image of the animal, as we have seen, makes of the animal not just a non-linguistic being, but one which is absorbed into itself, ‘encircled’ in environmental ‘rings’, and captivated by anonymous disinhibitors to which it remains captive through the organic whim of drives.[8] It is of outmost importance to notice that this does not simply mean that animals do encounter beings but are not ‘aware’ of them at a loss for reason/language, but rather that they do not deal with beings at all, i.e. behavior is never comportment: “Yet behavior is not blind either, in the sense in which we might want to say that that beings are certainly there for the animal even though it cannot grasp them because it is not endowed with reason and does not think.” (Ibid; Pg. 253) And yet because it seems impossible to characterize these anonymous ‘animal-things’ without granting them some form of ontological valence, Heidegger finds himself at odds trying to characterize the animal poverty of the world without anthropomorphizing it through conceptual means:

 “The difficulty of the problem lies in the fact that in our questioning we always and inevitably interpret the poverty in world and the peculiar encirclement proper to the animal in such a way that we end up talking as if that which the animal relates to and the manner in which it does so were some being, and as if the relation involved were an ontological relation that is manifest to the animal. The fact that this is not the case forces us to claim that the essence of life can become accessible only if we consider it in a deconstructive fashion.” (Ibid; Pg. 255)

  Since science remains oblivious to its own tacit ‘ontologization’ of the animal, it is thereby blind to the anthropomorphizing violence it enacts, and to the metaphysical exigency it would require to avoid its instrumentalist insertion of the animal into a machinic cog. The attitude of ‘releasement’ and of ‘letting be’ is thus of a piece with the anti-anthropomorphic or anti-noocentric imperative. Yet it is precisely when attempting to overcome the (Cartesian) machinic picture of animality that Heidegger’s account comes up short; in turn reproducing an image of the animal as helplessly captivated, which applies just as easily to spiders as it does to chimpanzees, unable to gauge any relevant dissimilarity between the two, and impervious to anything science might say in this regard. As we shall see in the next and final section, this reduction of the animal is precisely what Derrida and Agamben attempt to overcome. They at once accept and at the same time radicalize the ontological difference between beings and being which secured for Heidegger the inseparability of ontological transcendental speculation from ontic scientific reason, the better to render philosophical conception just as dubious as science. Nevertheless, their attempts are finally incapable of enriching the barren image of the animal as set by the philosophies of access.

III - The Animal Beyond Being
  Both Derrida and Agamben diagnose in Heidegger an unstated adherence to the tradition he wishes to deconstruct. In The Animal that I Therefore Am (2008), Derrida claims that Heidegger’s account is still too ingrained in the Cartesian tradition he claims to have overcome, which as we have seen translates into another machinic vision of animality:

  “When Heidegger’s gesture is to move forward in the direction of a new question, a new questioning concerning the world and the animal, when he claims to deconstruct the whole metaphysical tradition, notably that of subjectivity, Cartesian subjectivity, etc. insofar as the animal is concerned he remains, in spite of everything, profoundly Cartesian.” (Derrida: 2008: Pg. 147)

   Derrida locates the undeconstructed aspect in Heidegger’s edifice in the ontological structure of the ‘as-such’ ascribed by Heidegger only to Dasein (Ibid; Pg, 158). But instead of granting the animal this structure, which would thereby rehabilitate it in order to make it eligible for worldhood proper, Derrida asks if it can be said that even Dasein encounters the ‘as-such’. That is, he questions whether man can indeed be the privileged locus for the openness to the being of the Other; or whether instead it cannot but distort it to an anthropomorphized fiction; even as it metaphysically approaches it:
  “Precisely when it comes to beings or to very determining experiences, those that mark us in particular… can one free the relation of Dasein (not to say “man”) to beings from every living, utilitarian, perspective-making project, from every vital design, such that man himself could “let being be”?... Is there a relation of apprehension to the being –‘as such’- the “ontological difference,” therefore- to the being of the being, such that it lets the being of the being be, such as it is, in the absence of every kind of design, living?” (Ibid; Pg. 160).

    Derrida asks whether it is possible to actually transcend the ‘logocentric’ structure of transposition which as we saw permeated even into metaphysical comprehension. Derrida seems to accept the ontological difference, but anticipates its radicalization, wresting the ‘being of beings’ from the grasp of metaphysical discourse in order to ‘let beings be’, i.e. let them stand as they are outside of the strict correlation to man, wherein it is distorted.

  As we saw, for Heidegger, the strife between inauthentic scientific anthropomorphizing and authentic metaphysical comprehension found its apex in trying to characterize the animal’s relation to the ‘things’ it encounters in its environment. This placed Heidegger in the uncomfortable, seemingly contradictory position, under which animals both have and do not have worlds. However, given that worldhood was for Heidegger entirely subservient to the ontological structure which encounters being (the ‘as such’ denounced by Derrida), strictly speaking, the animal could simply have no world. The ‘animal-things’ or ‘disinhibitors’ described by Heidegger, void of ontological specificity, would not suffice to grant the animal the horizonal structure of transcendence which guarantees world-forming capabilities. And however audaciously he may have struggled to grant the animal a world, impoverished as it might have been, Heidegger’s attempts to do so seem vitiated by the construal of animal captivity; the latter’s fatal absorption into itself. This is precisely the conclusion which Ray Brassier (2007) arrives at in his reading:

   “Heidegger’s attempts to wriggle out of this dichotomy by claiming that the distinction at issue is not between having or not having a world but rather between entities that are ‘rich in world’ (i.e. human beings) and those that are ‘poor in world’ (such as animals) is a desperate sophism since he makes it perfectly clear that there can be no common measure for degrees of ‘richness’ or ‘poverty’ in world and hence no possible transition from one to the other.” (Brassier: 2007, Pg. 254)

    By contrast, Derrida stipulates that metaphysical concepts, and so philosophy altogether, cannot be comprehensive in the sense foreseen by Heidegger, i.e. metaphysics is no different in that it fails to gain traction on ‘being as such’. Therefore, it becomes impossible, within metaphysics, to exceed the anthropomorphizing function proper to the logos. He thus attempts to call into question the pertinence of the ‘as-such’ altogether, rather than re-place it within the animal. Being does not disclose itself transparently to Dasein anymore than it reaches the animal. Or, put differently, there is no ‘being-as-such’ disclosed for any being.
     The Derridean strategy thereby consists in rendering the human equally lacking of any access to being-in-itself, making it just as ‘deprived’ from the ‘as such’, given that even philosophy cannot escape its mediating function (Derrida: 2008; Pg 160). But this must entail, for Derrida, that the animal remains bereft of worldhood, and likewise that the phenomena described by science are, again, nothing but heuristic fictions relative to man.
   Indeed, instead of a subordination of science to transcendental philosophy, Derrida simply reinforces the correlation so that nothing like ‘being as such’ ever enters into it, so that it could then be clarified by the appropriate metaphysical speculation. One does away thus not just with the animal world, but with the world understood as the locus for the disclosure of being as such (aletheia). Yet since this way what ‘withdraws’ from both man and animal alike is not strictly being’s givenness anymore, it becomes impossible to provide a metaphysical description to ground the structural features of ‘worldhood’, even for Dasein. This renders the animal world, or lack of a world, utterly intractable by speculative means.

     It is interesting to notice, however, that for Heidegger the ‘as such’ never meant to imply that being gives itself transparently to Dasein, such as it would be outside the correlation, but only that man alone is given over onto beings. The crucial difference, for Derrida, seems to be that no concept, metaphysical or not, comes closer at gauging anything like an authentic comprehension of being as such. In the end his reelaboration of the ontological difference consists in denying being is ever something which ‘gives itself’ to a privileged locus for disclosure, a ‘gift’ to any being to bear the burden of disclosing it. This finally leads Derrida to consider the generality proper to the concept of ‘animal’ to constitute a ‘stupidity’, occluding the depth of differences in the animal as Other, now rendered wholly impervious to conceptuality, scientific or metaphysical. The latter’s occlusion of depth is rather the root of all violence exerted by humans against the animal:

   “When one says ‘animals’ one has already started not to understand anything, and has started to enclose the animal into a cage. There are considerable differences between types of animals; there is no reason one should group them into one and the same category…  To put them all in one category is a very violent gesture; to put all living things that are not human in one category is, first of all, theoretically ridiculous; and partakes in the very real violence that humans exercise over animals. That leads to slaughterhouses, their industrial treatment…all this violence towards animals is engendered in this conceptual simplification.[9]” (Derrida: Interview, 2004)

    And yet the generalizing function proper to conceptuality, which Derrida esteems as being both symbolically ‘violent’ and at the same time responsible for the ‘very real violence’ enacted against animals, obviously would also apply at the level of species, i.e. to group all ‘apes’ under that term constitutes another generalization, as does any concept deployed by science to describe and stratify phenomena into sets/categories. There are considerable differences between specific apes, and such simplifications can likewise be said to constitute a form of ‘violence’ under Derrida’s own strictures[10]. Extending to the wholesale deconstruction of the ‘as such’, the prescription against textuality’s inscription and violence is thereby no longer targeted merely against ‘animality in general’; but to the entire edifice of logocentric thought. As a result, it is not just the world and the ‘as such’ which gets dismantled, but the animal as such in its ontic specificity, which becomes deflated into a rather unfathomable Otherness to be approached cautiously within a non-metaphysical stance of ‘letting be’. However, jettisoning the in-itself from speculative thought, Derrida’s construal of the animal seems to approach a position of mystical ineffability, while sacrificing thought’s affirmative purchase on being to the constraints of mediation:
  “Hence the strategy in question would consist in pluralizing and carrying the “as such” and instead of simply giving speech back to the animal, or giving to the animal what the human deprives it of, as it were, in marking that the human is, in a way, similarly “deprived” by means of a privation that is not a privation, and that there is no pure and simple “as such.” (Derrida: 2008, Pg. 160)

      For Agamben (2003) on the other hand, instead of contesting Dasein’s privilege as the locus for the disclosure of being, the task becomes to unearth the tacit co-determination between man/animal at work in Heidegger’s text, the better to incorporate the disclosing activity of man to a peculiar iteration of what he calls the ‘anthropological machine’ (Agamben: 2003, Pgs 33-38). The latter becomes then symptomatic not just of an undeconstructed Cartesian remnant in Heidegger’s thought, but one more example of a ‘space of exception’ in which the co-determination of man and animal becomes the nest for biopolitical power to distribute itself[11]. The anthropological machine in particular creates a ‘zone of indeterminacy’ where what lies outside of man is the exclusion of its inside (the ‘non-human within the human’), and at the same time its inside becomes only the exclusion of an outside (the ‘human within the non-human’). We obtain thus simultaneously the animalization of man and the humanization of the animal, as they co-constitute each other:
    “Like every space of exception, this zone [of indifference] is, in truth, perfectly empty, and the truly human being who should occur there is only the place of a ceaselessly updated decision in which the caesurae and their rearticulation are always dislocated and displaced anew. What would thus be obtained, however, is neither an animal life nor a human life, but only a life that is separated and excluded from itself- only a bare life… We must learn instead to think of man as what results from the incongruity of these two elements and investigate not the metaphysical mystery of conjunction but rather the practical and political mystery of separation” (Ibid; Pg 38).

   Agamben locates this zone of indistinction within Heidegger’s discourse in his characterization of the unrevealed ‘disinhibitors’; the non-ontological quasi-things which ‘excite’ animals in their captivity. Lacking access to ‘The Open’ (Offen) in which they are helplessly seized, the animal experiences the constitutive lack of a horizon of possibilities. As we saw, this made the animal’s relation to his ‘disinhibitors’ ambiguous; not transcendentally anchored on being, but neither indifferent to all relations. These ‘quasi-beings’ attest simultaneously to a pure refusal of being and simultaneously to an openness. But an openness for what, if not being? Void of ontological value, the ‘disinhibitors’ of the animal remain anonymous forces outside of them, without the possibility of disclosure; a purely negative refusal of possibility which characterizes their captivity in the open:
  “Plant and animal depend on something outside of themselves without ever “seeing” either the outside or the inside, i.e., without ever seeing their being unconcealed in the free of being. On the one hand, captivation is a more spellbinding and intense openness than any kind of human knowledge; on the other, insofar as it is not capable of disconcealing its own disinhibitor, it is closed in a total opacity.” (Ibid; Pg 57)

     Agamben’s strategy is then to extend the role of disinhibitors to play a constituting function for Dasein’s own relation to being. For Agamben, both Dasein and the animal have their own disinhibitors; the difference resides in that for the former it is being itself which becomes its own disinhibitor, while the animal’s disinhibitors remain shrouded in mystery, foreclosed to any ontologizing function of disclosure (Ibid; Pg. 60). It is through the mediating function of the non-ontological disinhibitors that Agamben locates the ‘zone of indeterminacy’ which broods between man and animal.
     In particular, Agamben compares the animal’s closure to his own disinhibitors to Dasein’s experience of a wholesale refusal of beings, such as experienced in profound boredom. As Agamben says, “in becoming bored Dasein is delivered over to something that refuses itself, exactly like the animal, in its captivation, is exposed to something unrevealed." (Ibid; Pg. 65) This is the space of co-determination between man and animal envisaged earlier. The experience of a wholesale refusal of one’s own disinhibitors reveals that Dasein’s being resembles the poverty of the animal’s captivity precisely where it is most fundamentally attuned to the call of being-as-a-whole. Like Derrida suggested, Agamben thereby makes Dasein victim to a constitutive lack, just like the animal; albeit his own lack remains ontological, unlike the animal’s anonymous disinhibitors.  In ‘being left empty’ from the call of beings, man is ‘left open to a closedness’; in ‘being left in suspense’ he experiences the deactivation of all factical possibilities, and so his own existence as a potentiality-for-being (poter-essere) (Ibid; Pg. 67). Whereas the animal remains seized by his own unrevealed disinhibitors, for Dasein fundamental attunements allow for the suspension of its own disinhibitors and finds the unrevealed as what simultaneously constitutes man and animal:

          “Profound boredom then appears as the metaphysical operator in which the passage from poverty in the world to world, from environment to world, from environment to human world, is realized; at issue here is nothing less than anthropogenesis, the becoming Da-sein of living man…In this suspension, in this remaining-inactive (brachliegend, lying fallow) of the disinhibitor, the animal’s captivation and its being exposed in something unrevealed can for the first time be grasped as such… the jewel at the center of the human world and its Lichtung is nothing but animal captivation” (Ibid; Pg. 68).

       What is most intriguing about Agamben’s construal of the Heideggerean ‘anthropological machine’ is that it relies on making the unconcealment of being for Dasein a particular kind of disinhibitor, since only then it can operate in both animal and man alike. However, as Heidegger has made clear, unconcealment in Dasein is specifically ontological, and not simply related to anonymous ‘human-things’ lurking behind his disclosing, stratified on their own account. For the crucial distinction between the animal and Dasein is that it is only the latter which discloses being; whereas the former’s disinhibitors remain simply ontologically undetermined, separated from man by an abyss of which we know nothing (Heidegger: 1995, Pgs 371-372). If so, then it seems utterly obscure what epistemic warrant solicits the thesis that being is one ‘kind’ of disinhibitor, given that this already tacitly ontologizes the latter within a particular, trans-metaphysical typology. But this gesture threatens to performatively contradict the absolute anonymity of disinhibitors qua non-ontological categories, and thus their separation from Dasein’s world. Just like Derrida, Agamben diagnoses in the specific relation of Dasein towards being (his own ‘brand’ of disinhibitor) the compulsion to disclose, which leads to the forgetful technocratic unbecoming which seizes the anonymity of the Other into the cog of human serviceability:

  "To be sure, such a humanity, from Heidegger's perspective, no longer has the form of keeping itself open to the undisconcealed of the animal, but seeks rather to open and secure the not-open in every domain, and thus closes itself to its own openness forgets its humanitas, and makes being its specific disinhibitor. The total humanization of the animal coincides with a total animalization of man.” (Agamben: 2004, Pg. 77)

     Whereas for Heidegger the compulsion to disclose coincides with the ontotheological forgetfulness of being ‘as such’; for Derrida and Agamben it marks the logocentric transgression proper to all ontology, and the biopolitical obliviousness to how the co-constitution of man and animal wage biopolitical power, respectively.  However, the three agree in that the attempts to approach the animal from the purview of scientific categories (which include metaphysical concepts for Derrida/Agamben) underlie the anthropomorphizing distortion against the animal. By the same token, they agree in that a reasonable ethics which would let the animal ‘be’ in its intractable Otherness requires a suspension of invasive scientific practice, as the latter continues to enact an ireflexive violence against the animal through the generality of the concept. Agamben puts it best, when he says that to let the animal ‘simply be’ would mean “to let it be outside of being” (Ibid; Pg. 91).
    However, neither Derrida nor Agamben seem content to accept utter apathy or inertia towards the animal, such as in the purported ‘three hundred years of silence’ envisaged by Heidegger to repair the damage done by the tradition[12]. For Derrida, the ethics of ‘letting be’ consists in generalizing the structure of privation to Dasein, so as to dissolve the ‘as such’ which grants the latter a horizon towards being itself. It remains entirely undetermined what a practice correspondent to this prescription would be, however, except in that it pulls red lights on philosophy as much as science. For Agamben, the suspension of the ‘anthropological machine’ would altogether suspend the divisions of bare Life which regulate biopower, the better to show the empty kernel which lies at the center of the separation between animal and man: “The suspension of the suspension. Shabbat of both animal and man.” (Ibid; Pg 92)  What both thinkers share is an eventual agnosticism about the animal ‘in itself’, delimited away from the reach of thought. The figure retrieved is that of the animal outside all essence (‘whatness’, Wassein), without ontic specificity, or the figure of “great ignorance” which lets both man and animal be in their incommensurable difference.
    Both Derrida and Agamben thus exacerbate the relativization of scientific/metaphysical categorization to instrumentality, which already for Heidegger entailed the provisional suspension of scientific practice. As we have seen, science was to be rehabilitated from its blind machinic drive after metaphysical clarification had shown their co-dependence and continuity. For Derrida and Agamben, on the other hand, metaphysics above all is paradigmatic of the human arrogance which, by way of the politically invested logos, attempts to close the abyss which separates man and animal, and enacts an immeasurable violence against the animal. It is this philosophically nested fixation on thought which attempts to disclose what ought to remain shrouded in mystery. The “face in the sand” that the human sciences have drawn are thus to be eventually erased, Agamben concludes, in favor of an avowal of the unsaveable ‘mystery of separation’ which sets them forever apart (Ibid).

Conclusion – Science, Materiality, Animality
      In the end, what these post-Heideggerean approaches to the animal share is an unremitting conviction that the circle of correlation is inescapable; that justice to the animal can at best come in the way of a passive, ethical stance towards its opaque Otherness rather than by an  active, cognitive attempt to comprehend it. Radicalizing the ontological difference, both Derrida and Agamben remain skeptical towards conceptuality, rendering it void of its purported ontological value, or overburdened by its biopolitical weight. Science or ontology cannot but be ‘speciesist’, since they illegitimately transpose what is merely relative to us onto the things ‘in themselves’.  They thereby renounce the prospect, envisaged still by Heidegger, of an eventual thought of the ‘essence’ of the animal, where science and metaphysics would converge. Dissolving the logocentric ‘as such’ which attempts to think the animal essence, or shattering the anthropological machine which wagers power over Life, becomes thus continuous with the prescription of releasement and ‘letting be’ which brings science to a halt. What one ‘lets be’ is finally the non-ontological Otherness of the animal, free from the shackles of scientific/metaphysical instrumental reason.

        An alternative approach to the animal could, by contrast, contest the primacy of transcendental conditions of access, so as to describe an immanent plane of material production, within a univocal ontological field. Such a perspective is pursued by thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze or Alain Badiou. Under the former’s ‘vitalist’ panpsychist view, it is science which immanently thinks the material ontological field of intensive multiplicities, in which animal and man are actualized ‘morphogenetically’[13]. For Deleuze this leads to the dissolution of the ontological split between humans and animals, by dissolving the transcendental function of representation and introducing both into the same process of differential becoming. It is therefore science itself which is taken to provide the resources to overcome the anthropomorphizing function of representation and conceptual identity, obviating the epistemological distinction between thinking and reality, concept and object.

    For Badiou’s (2006) radically anti-phenomenological mathematical ontology, experience does not provide the conditions of access to ontic reality. Science is a generic procedure for the production of truths, while ontology is in turn radically asubjective, and just one more situation among many. But the subject still separates from the animal at the point where it resists its local objectivity and incorporates itself into a new truth-procedure, transcending his finitude and ascending to the eternity of the Idea. Under this view, science accesses the being of the animal precisely by virtue of its mathematicity; which Heidegger esteemed as the most empty and removed form of understanding. Endorsing the Parmenidean identification of thinking and being, science can thus never fall into the ‘crisis’  envisaged by Heidegger as necessary, given its dubious foundation in human experience:

  “[T]here is no subject of science. Infinitely stratified, adjusting its transitions, science is a pure space, without a reverse or mark or place of what it excludes. It is foreclosure, but foreclosure of nothing, and so can be called the psychosis of no subject, hence of all; fully universal, shared delirium, one only has to install oneself within it to become no-one, anonymously dispersed in the hierarchy of orders. Science is an Outside without a blind-spot…There are no crises within science.” (Badiou: ‘Mark and Lack’, Pgs. 161-2)

    Yet another alternative route is to insist, contra-correlationism, that it is the sciences which provide the material ground and the conditions for the instantiation for human thought, rather than the other way around. This is the ‘speculative realist’ option, taken by Quentin Meillassoux (2008) and Ray Brassier (2007), among others. For them, the impossible grounding of science in transcendental philosophy is overcome if we situate man’s subjectivity in a homogenous ontological field where the correlation emerges and will perish. In the scientific realist version endorsed by Brassier (following Laruelle, Sellars and Brandom), it is the spacetime described by the natural sciences which provides this univocal field, and imposes an epistemological constraint which forbids invoking entities-processes refractory for all current or future science. But unlike Deleuze or Badiou, this field is obtained by deflating the circle of correlation, and restoring conceptuality’s capacity to gain purchase on being, rather than by dissolving representation. This alternative thinks that scientific conceptuality is not reducible to the instrumentalist vision described by the philosophies of access, nor that its phenomena are reducible to heuristic fictions. Rather, science is thought to be capable of dissolving the empirical-transcendental / ontico-ontological difference, gaining traction on the ‘in-itself’, robustly stratified through conceptual means. Under such a realist view, science would not constitute a cognitive imposition from man upon the animal, but would be a means of gaining insight on animal being in itself, enriching our understanding of it rather than occluding its metaphysical ‘essence’ or transgressing its unfathomable Otherness by logocentric impositions / biopolitical iterations.  This option is sympathetic to the thought that an appropriate ethics towards the animal supervenes on drawing out crucial categorical divides between species or natural kinds, rather than unearthing the ontological essence of animal and man through metaphysical speculation, or preserving the abyss which irremediably separates them both. One may thus not shy away from rejecting the transcendental philosopher’s claim in that gauging the animal through conceptual understanding constitutes an illegitimate transposition, forgetting the metaphysical ground of science. Brassier writes on this account:
      “Instead of cultivating a self-enclosed terrain from which to adjudicate transcendentally upon the claims of the natural sciences, philosophy should strive to rise to the challenge of the latter by providing an appropriate speculative armature for science’s experimental exploration of a reality which need not conform to any of reason’s putative interests or ends. Once we have discounted the claim that the empirical–transcendental division of labor presents a satisfactory resolution of the speculative problems put to philosophy by science, we can re-establish a level-playing field upon which it becomes incumbent for philosophy to rehabilitate the notion of a non-correlational reality the better to explicate the speculative implications of its scientific exploration – rather than continually reigning in the latter by tightening the correlationist leash.” (Brassier: 2007, Pg 63)

       The questions raised by such alternatives are obviously outside the scope of this paper, but they should point towards a range of possibilities available for speculative thought, which are not constrained to the transcendental framework which correlationist philosophies deem inescapable. The realist/materialist alternatives advocate a thought in which conditions of access to the world are perfectly explainable through the resources of scientific discursivity; what the latter describe are not human-relative derivations which must be grounded by the former. Without the burden of having its results reduced to mere abstractions/distortions for humans, science does not have to disown its pretensions to be ontologically clarifying, at a loss for a transcendental ground. Dissolving the ontological difference, the precautionary skepticism against science’s ‘speciesism’, or the agnostic avowal of the ethics of ‘letting be’, appears as the residue of a philosophy which attempts to disown the ontological valence of categorical insight in the process of gaining traction on the being of animality. While these indications do not suffice to establish a scientific realism of this or any sort, they indicate that the correlationist straightjacket may be loosened, its aporias rendered problematic, and with it new, unforeseen options made ripe for thought.

[1] The expression ‘philosophies of access’ was first coined by Graham Harman. See Harman, Graham. Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things, Open Court, 2005.

It may be noted that this implies that for Heidegger there can be no temporal horizon outside Dasein; therefore no time in which there are no human beings or in which the correlation fails, since it is the correlation which makes possible any experience of being: Strictly speaking we cannot say: there was a time when there were no human beings. At every time, there were and are and will be human beings, because time temporalizes itself only as long as there are human beings. There is no time in which there were no human beings, not because there are human beings from all eternity, but because time is not eternity, and time always temporalizes itself only at one time, as human, historical Dasein.” (Heidegger 2000: Pgs, 88-9) This makes Heidegger susceptible to the challenge of the arche-fossil presented by Quentin Meillassoux (2008), and so forced to deny the reality of beings prior to the possibility of the correlation, i.e. ascending ancestral phenomena described by science, as well as descending statements. See Meillassoux, Quentin. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, translated by Ray Brassier, Continuum Press, 2008.

Heidegger notes that the specificity of Nature was given in Greek metaphysics through the concept of Ousia which he translates as ‘essence’ or ‘substance’ (‘whatness’, Wasein). However, this constitutes for Heidegger already a hypostatization of a particular temporal mode of being; being-present, and thus cements the Greek unquestioning of temporality. For Heidegger therefore, as for Derrida as we shall see, the ontological difference between beings and being, must be described without a surreptitious appeal to substance or quiddity. This is why for Heidegger phusis is ultimately a general concept which targets the givenness of being-as-a-whole, and not the stratification of being. It further dislocates metaphysics from the categorization proper to the sciences.  See Heidegger (1995): Pg, 33-36; 1962: Pg. 225.

It also remains unclear how the lizard’s encounter with ‘lizard-things’ differs specifically from the non-ontological relation between plants or between non-living entities and their own environments, i.e. rocks and trees also come into contact with other objects, but Heidegger doesn’t seem to think this entails for the rock/tree any kind of encounter with non-ontological ‘things’[4].  Heidegger’s construal of ‘rocks’ as lacking Life proper to animals does not suffice to clarify how rocks relate to other ‘things’, if they do so at all. A legitimate question arises thus about how are relations between inanimate objects are to be construed in Heidegger’s account, beyond present-at-hand derivations for Dasein. Their independence from human comportments becomes this way also problematic.

As we shall see in the next section, this non-ontological realm of ‘things’ is described by Agamben as the field of ‘disinhibitors’ encountered by each being, humans included. It thereby functions as a more general, non-ontological category, which mediates and co-constitutes man and animal alike.

Although it is beyond the scope of this paper, it must be said that freedom is correlative to the transcendental horizon of possibilities which is Dasein-specific, and so therefore that it becomes difficult to imagine any account of science which could obviate such a metaphysical footing and yet legitimately ascribe freedom to the animal in terms of qualities or powers.

This follows given Heidegger’s characterization of behavior as the essence of animality as such, and not simply of a ‘region’ of animals. Of course, given that he has disavowed the philosophical pertinence of scientific description as a suitable index to base metaphysical speculation on, it remains unclear how exactly Heidegger begins with a concept of the ‘animal’ with coincides with the traditional sense of non-human animals. As we surmised above, we might find perhaps similar traits to those of behavior (Benehmen) in certain forms of plants. For example ‘pitcher plants’ exhibit stimulus-response mechanisms to specific environmental interactions- say when insects land on the septum they close and release acid- which could be said to be instinctual in the sense that they are organically predisposed and non-reflexive. Given the generality of Heidegger’s descriptions, it becomes impossible to gauge the relevance of such distinctions.

For reasons of space, we cannot address here Heidegger’s characterization of drives as essentially eliminative, i.e. they reject things and seek their satisfaction rather than comporting themselves towards beings (Ibid; Pg. 250-253).

ZIERING, Amy; DICK, Kirby. Derrida, Documentary, published by Zeitgeist Films, Interview from 2004, 2008.

One can easily see how this phobia to the violence of the concept can see no end; since one can say ‘ape’ already simplifies differences between its members; and so on without apparent limit.

For Agamben’s thorough development on the concept of the ‘state of exception’ see: Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen, Fordham University Press, 1998; and
Agamben, Giorgio. State of Exception, translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen, Chicago University Press.

[12] HEIDEGGER, Martin. Spiegel Interview, http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~other1/Heidegger%20Der%20Spiegel.pdf 1966.

  DELEUZE, Gilles Difference and Repetition, translated by Paul Patton, Columbia University Press, 1994.