Environmental Philosophy

Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2009

Leonard Lawlor
Pages 1-19

Auto-Affection and Becoming (Part I)
Who are We?

This essay pursues a double strategy to transform our human collective relation to animal life. On the one hand, and this strategy is due to Derrida’s thought, it attempts to criticize the belief that humans have a kind of subjectivity that is substantially different from that of animals, the belief that humans have in their self-relation (called auto-affection) a relation of pure self-presence. On the other hand, the essay attempts to enlarge the idea of auto-affection to include the voices and looks of animals in us. Being in us, the image of animal suffering changes who we are. Hence the subtitle. This second strategy is due to Deleuze’s (or more precisely Deleuze and Guattari’s) thought. In fact, a large portion of this essay is devoted to a conceptual reconstruction of Deleuze and Guattari’s important concept of becoming. I argue that there are two central features of this concept. First, the concept of becoming involves a process of desubjectification which allows for the image of animal suffering to inhabit our consciousness as a “feverish thought.” Second, the outcome of becoming is not only that, due to the feverish thought, we change, but also that we write about this experience in order to lead others to it. The essay ends therefore by invoking a kind of writing—folktales—as a way of calling for a “people to come” (Deleuze) or a “democracy to come” (Derrida).