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.
Acknowledgments / Introduction / 1. Giving Animals a Hearing: Rights Discourse and Animal Representation in Animal Ethics / 2. From Animal Father to Animal Mother: A Freudian Account of Animal Care Ethics / 3. The Poverty Of Kinship: Heidegger on The Human-Animal Linguistic Divide / 4. Animal Identity: The Problem of Difference in the Animal Rights Discourse / 5. Racialising Cruelty: Dehumanisation in the Name of Animal Advocacy / Epilogue / Bibliography / Index
Offering nuanced criticisms of rights-based animal advocacy, Alison Suen fosters new understandings of animal ethics while insightfully reframing key debates. Suen’s innovative relational account of the human as a speaking animal challenges human exceptionalism even as she suggests that humans can most responsibly acknowledge kinship with animal others in our speech. An important book distinguished by its empathic vision.
The Speaking Animal offers a profound analysis of the relationality and responsibility that lie at the heart of language. Through dazzling readings of a wide variety of texts and media, Suen develops an inspiring vision for animal ethics that centers on affirmative, respectful, and loving engagements. This is an essential contribution to the fields of animal studies and animal philosophy.
Alison Suen is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Iona College, USA.