You're an animal, says Dominique Lestel, a French philosopher who opposes the separation of human and animal life.
In a new paper, Lestel reminds sociology readers that we are animals and says animals profoundly influence our culture – perhaps more so than they had initially thought.
Western thought that the human species is highly developed and that sets the human species apart. Lestel instead advocates animality (our animal nature) and says humanization is an ongoing performative practice, rather than a historical threshold that was crossed long ago.
Looking at the relationship between animal and human, Lestel argues that species loss has both an ecological and symbolic consequence on our culture, as every species contributes to our very being, our meaning. He warns that "each species that disappears is a part of our imagination that we amputate perhaps irreversibly".
According to Lestel, the question is "not that of knowing how I share my life with others, but how others shape me and how I shape others," The work focuses on the interrelatedness of all animals (humans included), where more usually we tend to highlight the boundaries between us.
Humans' place in the animal kingdom at a scientific level is obvious but Lestel highlights our essential, existential animality in his opening comments - but how long could a French philosopher go without mentioning existentialism? "A key question now is to know how the human of the 21st century can reactivate his animality and animalize himself anew when all Western thought since the Greeks tells him that he is human precisely because of this rupture with animality," Lestel suggests, building on his critique of the very philosophical foundations of the ethological tradition. "To be human does not mean to have fled animality, but on the contrary to live within it and to let it live within us…we are animals and animals are us."
Published in Social Science Information.