Environmental Philosophy

Volume 16, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Reading Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign

Kelly Oliver
Pages 35-56

On Sharing a World with Other Animals

Challenging Heidegger’s thesis that animals are poor in world while humans are world-building, in The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume II, Jacques Derrida claims that each singular living being inhabits its own solitary world, its own desert island. There, he claims both, on the one hand, that animals share our world and may be world-building and, on the other, that we cannot be certain that human beings share a world or are world-building (at least not in Heidegger’s sense as set apart from animals). In this article, I trace the ethical implications of Derrida’s seemingly contradictory claims that we both share a world, and that each singular being, like an island, is a world unto itself.