3. detsembril 2018 kell 14.15 kaitseb Silver Rattasepp TÜ Senati saalis (Ülikooli 18) filosoofiadoktori kraadi (PhD (semiootika ja kultuuriteooria)) kraadi taotlemiseks esitatud väitekirja „The Human Mirror: A Critique of the Philosophical Discourse on Animals from the Position of Multispecies Semiotics“ („Inimese peegel: filosoofilise loomadiskursuse kriitiline analüüs paljuliigilise semiootika positsioonilt“ ).
semiootika vanemteadur Timo Maran, PhD
Pauline Delahaye, PhD, Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV, France)
professor Felice Cimatti, PhD, University of Calabria (Italy)
The thesis explicates a certain common philosophical or theoretical understanding of the relations between humans and nonhuman animals, which is widespread. This “common-sense” approach to animal-human relations comprises six aspects, summarised below. Together, they present a narrative which has a detrimental effect on understanding biological diversity, the plenitude of umwelts, and the place of humans in the world. This for the reason that these six aspects show that the primary purpose of this common-sense narrative is to relegate to a lower or more irrelevant position nonhuman animals, thereby expelling understanding of them from a sphere of certain conceptions, topics and beliefs that are thought to be uniquely human. It forms a pattern of thinking amounting to an anthropocentric belief in human exceptionalism, in which human beings are as if excluded from the natural world and instead inhabiting a separate “realm”, be it conceived as culture, language, symbolic thought, etc. The thesis proposes that philosophically interesting results can be achieved by paying more attention to nonhumans.
The six aspects of this philosophical “common-sense” are as follows:
- The uniqueness of human nature can be determined by studying humans alone;
- The most important characteristic of animals is that they lack something human;
- When humans are compared to animals, humans are described as unique, rather than merely different;
- The distinction between humans and animals is mental, or reducible to the mental;
- Animals are discussed as one indistinct, undifferentiated category;
- Humans reach their true nature only when they suppress the animal within themselves.
The thesis makes use of posthumanist approaches for the express purpose of critiquing the above discourse. Posthumanist discourse focuses on the myriad relations that humans have with nonhumans, living and non-living. The most relevant critical conceptions that the thesis applies are correlationism and the anthropological machine. The former describes the situation in philosophy according to which it can have access to a correlation between thinking and being, and not to either part alone. Correlationist thinking is also asymmetrical, since it considers the human side as the primary source of meaning-making. The concept of the anthropological machine describes the discourse according to which the human-animal distinction is not placed on a species-line, but rather as constitutive of humans themselves. This situation is then thought of as necessitating the suppression of the animal side within humans themselves. The thesis also proposes to extend and apply anthropology’s ontological turn to nonhuman umwelts, taking a circuitous look back on human thinking through the eyes of nonhumans, amounting to a “philosophy through the eyes of nonhuman animals”.