chapter  10
13 Pages

Like potatoes: the silence of animals

WithELISABETH DE FONTENAY

Introduction It seems that we must proceed along a double line of enquiry if we are to determine the thought and passion of the animal. These are two somewhat divergent directions that tend, however, to coincide, not in the service of private or secret interests or to satisfy a taste in doublings, but for objective reasons and inasmuch as the aim of this study is to allow the animal to make its mark in the fields of history and philosophy. First, there is a Lucretian, pagan orientation that consists in subduing, indeed in abandoning, subjectivity – the subjectivity of metaphysics and reflexive practices – to a force that moves from distortions to identifications. These displacements are, of course, organised according to a system of philosophical deconstruction, but, above all, they depend for their organisation on an innocent wandering, the secret of which the Greeks and the Romans sealed mystically within the names of Dionysus and Bacchus, and philosophically under the concept of a ‘plurality of worlds’. This deflection of individuality and subjectivity is played out within a tragedy that mixes pleasure, pity and cruelty, a cruelty that has nothing in common with that of modern times. Here, one can be drunk nostalgically on the multiplicity of living forms that are habitable and with which one can associate. The other orientation – Jewish, Christian, or, to put it bluntly, Republican, concerned with justice and compassion, perpetually full of pathos and always in danger of adopting an apocalyptic tone – asks where and when it was decided that animals must suffer unimaginably (through our deeds, for eternity and today more than ever), for the good of the techno-scientific, food-processing omnipotence of calculated self-interest.