Environmental Philosophy

Volume 3, Issue 2, Fall 2006

Christian Diehm
Pages 34-43

Ethics and Natural History
Levinas and Other-Than-Human Animals

This essay questions the place of other-than-human animals in Levinas’s thought. After detailing how animals and animality figure in Levinas’s work, it is claimed that his ethical exclusion of animals is due to a conception of animals as wholly accountable for in terms of species-being, wholly within “natural history.” It is then suggested that Levinas’s position is ill-founded, and at odds with his claims about the importance of suffering and the vulnerable body in the encounter with the other. The essay concludes by arguing that speaking of other-than-human animal “faces” is not necessarily an unduly anthropocentric extension of thinking-of-the-other.