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July 26 , 2008

The Speaking Animal

Ethics, Language and the Human-Animal Divide


Animals regularly populate philosophical texts as a foil to illustrate what it means to be human. How should we understand this human-animal divide? Not only does it inform us of who we are, it also tells us how we should relate to the larger non-human world. The Speaking Animal interrogates the human-animal divide by looking at our linguistic differences – how the speaking human subject is constructed through its opposition to the dumb animal. Alison Suen begins with an analysis of the role of language in animal ethics, with an eye toward the voice/voiceless opposition that is at work in animal advocacy. After offering a critical analysis of the ethical and political significance of speaking for animals, the book takes on a more constructive turn, going against the usual interpretation of language as a capacity that allows us to reason. Instead, it argues that our language capacity is also a relational capacity. Language is that which enables us to develop kinship with others – including animal others.

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