Deconstruction is not vegetarianism: Humanism, subjectivity, and animal ethics

Continental Philosophy Review 37 (2):175-201 (2004)
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Abstract

This essay examines Jacques Derrida’s contribution to recent debates in animal philosophy in order to explore the critical promise of his work for contemporary discourses on animal ethics and vegetarianism. The essay is divided into two sections, both of which have as their focus Derrida’s interview with Jean-Luc Nancy entitled “‘Eating Well’, or the Calculation of the Subject.” My task in the initial section is to assess the claim made by Derrida in this interview that Levinas’s work is dogmatically anthropocentric, and to determine whether Levinas’s conception of ethics leaves a place for animals. In the second half of the essay I turn to an analysis of Derrida’s discussion of vegetarianism and its critical relation to the humanism and anthropocentrism that he is calling into question. The main argument that I seek to advance here is that deconstruction should not be strictly identified with vegetarianism (as certain of Derrida’s readers have suggested), but rather that what is needed is a thorough deconstruction of existing discourses on vegetarianism, a project that remains largely to be developed.

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Matthew Calarco
California State University, Fullerton

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