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Studia Phaenomenologica

Volume 17, 2017

Phenomenology of Animality

Andreas Beinsteiner
Pages 41-56

The “As” and the Open
On the Methodological Relevance of Heidegger’s Anthropocentrism

Martin Heidegger distinguishes the human—as a world-forming, historical being that is capable of language—from the animal, which, according to him, is poor in world, ahistorical and incapable of language. This clear-cut distinction, which is connected to Heidegger’s anti-biologism, has frequently been criticised. By discussing the criticism of Matthew Calcaro, Giorgio Agamben and Jacques Derrida, the present paper aims to show that in Heidegger (1) the human-animal difference is not a biologically determined distinction, (2) human language is not (primarily) understood as an instrument of expression and communication, and (3) humans are not distinguished from animals on the basis of their supposed access to an “objective” reality. While all three points imply corrections to the reception of Heidegger in animal philosophy, (3) is particularly crucial since it refutes Derrida’s interpretation of the as-structure, which has had a large influence on readings of Heidegger, also far beyond the topic of animality. Taking into account these clarifications, a specific historical response-ability of the human becomes intelligible that is relevant in particular in regard to ethical aspirations in animal philosophy.

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