published on February 26, 2014
The Time of Animal Voices
Phenomenology’s attention to the theme of animality has focused not on animal life in general but rather on the animal dimension of the human and its contested relation with humanity as such. Phenomenology thereby reproduces Agamben’s “anthropological machine” by which humanity is constructed through the “inclusive exclusion” of its animality. The alternative to this “inclusive exclusion” is not a return to kinship or commonality but rather an intensification of the constitutive paradox of our own inner animality, understood in terms of the anonymous, corporeal subject of perception that lives a different temporality than that of first-person consciousness. Consequently, non-human others speak through our own voices and gaze out through our own eyes. We first consider the proximity of Merleau-Ponty’s early work with that of Max Scheler, who paradigmatically reduces human animality to bare life. Merleau-Ponty differentiates himself from Scheler, in The Structure of Behavior, by insisting that life cannot be integrated into spirit without remainder. Merleau-Ponty’s later work thinks this remainder as the ineliminable gap and delay in the auto-affection of the body and as a chiasmic exchange that anticipates Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “becoming animal.” This remainder of life within consciousness is the immemorial past of one’s own animality. It follows that our “inner animality” is neither singular nor plural but a kind of pack that speaks through the voice that I take to be mine. Furthermore, in the exchange of looks between myself and a non-human other, the crossing of glances occurs at an animal level that withdraws from my own reflective consciousness.