Derrida and Foucault on Humanity and Animality

Throughout the centuries, the animals are treated as beings that have no feelings, emotions, or intellect. Their suffering is nothing for they have no developed senses similarly to humans, which are capable of sensing or analyzing pain and suffering.
However, the philosophers have bred the thought that animals could have been suffering too and they must be treated ethically. That movement is evident as the widespread advocacy of vegetarianism and treating animals humanely.
It was Bentham, a British utilitarian writer who has advanced the idea that animals have rights too and they must be respected (Singer, in Calarco  Atterton p. xi).
This paper intends to examine the thoughts of two (2) well-known postmodern philosophers, namely Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault on how they deal on the problem of the moral obligation of humans to nonhuman animals.
Though, I must clarify that I will just do a comparison and contrast and will not attempt to criticize the idea of the said philosophers. Nevertheless, the analysis on the last part of the paper will be drawn from the opinions of the writers who have devoted their time in analyzing the weaknesses and strengths of the thoughts of Derrida and Foucault on the animal and human moral issues.

Derrida The Animal That Therefore I Am
    The essay that has been included and scrutinize in the book that was edited by Calarco and Atterton, which the thought of Derrida about the difference of a human and nonhuman animal is his famous lecture, The Animal That Therefore I Am.
    On that essay, Derrida expounded the difference of consciousness of animals and man, using nudity, for example. The famous philosopher said that when the human is naked he or she is conscious because of the common concept of shame. This concept of shame is dated back in antiquity, in the book of Genesis for example, where Adam and Eve, after learning that they are naked has developed the concept of malice and they needed to cover themselves.
    Derrida asserts that in animals, there is no such concept of nakedness the animal or that nonhuman animal being ever since does not bother if the people see them naked. This seems that has brought the distinction of between animal and humansthe latter possess a higher state of intelligence while the former is an inferior.
    However, though that is the case, the animala pussycat for examplehas this intelligence that it can communicate with human beings by means of a stare or a purr, whenever they want to go out of the house.
    Going back to the era of Creation as narrated in Genesis, says Derrida, because of the higher intelligence given by Elohim to Adam and Eve, they are given the power over the animals, not to subdue them but to become their overseer. Here comes the issue of the respect to animals as the Lord God has made the man stewards, not owners, of his creation.
    He also said that it is a grave sin to consider the nonhuman creatures, which are called in the general term animal in his essay to treat them as such. Derrida asserts that it is indeed a crime against the said creatures.

Foucault Animality and Insanity
    On the other, Michel Foucault has shed light to the issue of animality on humans that is the inhumane treatment to the insane. The insane, in his psycho-historical essay, Madness and Civilization, which is one of the essays examined in the book about animal philosophy, he narrated how the sane world treated the insane.
    He introduced to us the ship of fools or the symbolic isolation of the insane individuals from the sane society. These people who have gone crazy are said who have fallen short in the Reason of God. Before, the people of the Middle-Ages believe that insanity is a sort of punishment of God, as I understand. Here, he introduced to us the concept of animality, which we later discuss on this part of the essay.
    Foucault, in addition to this, has expounded on the issue of the creation of institutions of exclusion for the non-insane but is considered social outcaststhe vagrants, orphaned, the unemployed, etc.
    Going back to the issue of animality, he said animality is a sudden gush of irrational emotion (Calarco  Atterton, p. 80) which is present to those people who have temporarily gone out of their mind. During the Renaissance Period, insanity is considered a dark animal that has possessed a human being. For him, animality needed some domestication that is a sort of control. Nevertheless, this kind of control must not that violent but humane.

    Ever since, animals were considered inferior with humans thus, they have often been abused and disregarded. In Derridas discourse, we can clearly see that humansbeing superiorneeded to be sensitive to the needs of the inferior beings. Here comes the issue of ethical treatment of animals.
    Believing in the story of creation in the Genesis, as quoted by Derrida, Adam was created by God superior to all creatures but has made him a steward to all creations. This means that he has to treat them and took care of them very well.
    Derrida, using the cat or pussycat analogy, argues that animals do have feelings and intelligence too, just like human beings. It can feel hunger, lust, and can communicate by simply purring or looking at a person, trying to convey its thought, for example, if she wants to go out from the room but the door is closed. The look of the pussycat can bring that message to the superior being (human) that he needed to open the door for her so that she can go out of the room.
    Derrida asserts that even though animals have no capability to feel malice, it is the human beings that must feel that shame whenever they are naked or are becoming irrational.
    On the other hand, Foucaults idea of animality and humanity is far different for Derridas for Foucaults idea deal with the concept animality or insanity among humans. It has nothing to do with the ethical treatment of animals, as animal rights activist want to propagate.
    He rather dwells into the discussion of how the society segregates those human beings that have lost their minds and how they treat them. He did not discuss how people treat the animals but rather put the entire discourse on that wild part of human beings, and that is when that irrational emotion overcomes the person and makes him like animal (savage).
    As the reviewer of Foucaults thought said, he also failed to incorporate the idea of Foucault to the animal philosophy as a whole
In conclusion, then Foucaults discussion of animality in Madness and Civilization tells us a lot not only how animality was conceived in the past but also about how Foucault understood it much more recently. I have argued that the reasonanimality split, fundamental to Foucaults discourse is problematic on his own terms and in terms of the discourse of animals as living biological organisms (p. 84).
With this problem on Foucaults thoughts, therefore we cannot use his theory about animality in discussing on how humans must treat the lower beings, called animals.
    Furthermore, Foucaults idea is more on the psychical or can be applied on discussing the sickness of the human mind but not for discussion or studying animal behavior as a whole.
    Nevertheless, the thought of Foucault can also be used in the context of how a sane person must treat other creation just like animals and his fellow human being. This could be the stepping stone of using the thought of Foucault in the humane treatment with animals.
    Going back to Derrida, the philosopher is teaching us the value of respect to all beings the nonhuman animal andor the human alike. As Foucault puts it, that animality in the human beings must be domesticated or controlled. I believe that Foucault wants us to learn how to control our irrationality or cruelty, especially in treating our fellow human beings and even the nonhuman beings, which are the animals.

    There is a lot of difference between the ideas of Derrida and Foucault. Both have a different insight of how human beings must act in certain situations and how do human beings differ from the animals.
    Derrida, for the reason that human beings are considered as beings of reason, expects that human beings may treat all creatures with rationality, or ethically. It is the human races moral obligation to serve stewards to Mother Natures creations.
    On the other hand, Foucault teaches us how animality can overcome us, that is irrationality and how does it affect our relationship with other beings. I think that Foucaults theory does not only focus on the irrationality that human beings suffer during the stage of his or her insanity, but also on the times of sanity also.
    Foucault, as he criticizes the development of isolation facilities of human beings, also brings the signal to us on how the nonhuman beings also are being treated they are treated with isolation for they are animals per se and considered inferior compared to the human beings that are capable of doing complex things.
    In conclusion, while the two ideas are different, they can be considered as good tools in analyzing how we act and think, especially in connection of how we treat other beings we see as inferior to us. (30)


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