Animal Relatives, Difficult Relations

Barbara Herrnstein Smith

in Scandalous Knowledge

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780748620234
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671670 | DOI:
Animal Relatives, Difficult Relations

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This chapter considers two sets of difficulties involving humans' relations to animals: first, those arising chronically from our complex and ambivalent psychological relations to the animals we variously encounter as livestock, pets, game, food, vermin and fellow creatures and, second, the difficulties reflecting the radical intellectual disparities and ideological conflicts among the various discourses currently concerned with human-animal relations, including evolutionary psychology, primatology, humanism, post-humanism and the movement for animal rights. The chapter argues that these difficulties, including efforts either to mount or to dismantle a strict species barrier, are not resolvable by appeals to the norms-ethical or intellectual--supposedly given either by nature or reason and that the significant contribution of contemporary (or “postmodernist”) thought in this regard has been to allow the inevitability and power of these ambivalences and perplexities to be acknowledged as such.

Keywords: human-animal relations; animals; ethics; norms; species; animal rights; evolutionary psychology; humanism; post-humanism; postmodernism

Chapter.  8270 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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