Monday, May 31, 2010

The portrait of a realist

Philosophy and Animal Life is spearheaded by Cora Diamond's essay, "The Difficulty of Life and the Difficulty of Philosophy," in which she reads [JM Coetzee's] The Lives of Animals, not as a kind of argument in favor of animal rights, but as a study of "a woman haunted by the horror of what we do to animals. We see her as wounded by this knowledge, this horror, and by the knowledge of how unhaunted others are. The wound marks and isolates her". What kind of knowledge is this, and what can philosophy say about it? Not much, it appears. The difficulty, Diamond says, is that such knowledge "pushes us beyond what we can think. To attempt to think it is to feel one's thinking come unhinged. Our concepts, our ordinary life with our concepts, pass by this difficulty as if it were not there; the difficulty, if we try to see it, shoulders us out of life, is deadly chilling". Diamond notes that neither the philosophers inside Coetzee's story, nor those in real life who responded to the Tanner lectures, see any difficulty here. Instead they convert the difficulty of Costello's experience into a philosophical problem about the moral status of animals – a problem that arguments can allegedly resolve. Diamond, however, seems to take Costello's side against philosophy as a practice of moral evasion. At all events, for her Costello is a portrait of someone in a condition of undeflected exposure to the world and to others in it – a true realist.
From Gerald Bruns' review of Philosophy and Animal Life and Stephen Mulhall's The Wounded Animal.


Please email me at steve dot mitchelmore at gmail dot com.

Blog Archive


Contact steve dot mitchelmore at Powered by Blogger.