Apophatics of the Human and the Animal Binary

Anti-humanism is gaining currency. Gills Deleuze and Felix Guattari signal it, when they position becoming-animal, as the higher moral goal in their book, Thousand Plateaus. Anti-humanism is not all that is to be detested. There is a lot of light that we can draw from the anti-humanism of some contemporary Philosophies. We can find shades of anti-humanism in Derrida too. There is Derridanimailty . Derrida has rightly taught that we cannot simply oppose animal as the category to what we deem ‘I think, therefore I am’. He draws our attention to our primordial experience through the succinct title of his book: animal therefore I am. Derrida, thus, deconstructs the animal/ human hierarchical binary.

While Derrida deconstructs the binary of animal/human hierarchy he brings forward a theological mystical moment. Derrida feels naked in front of the cat that is looking at him. In this sense of confrontation of being confronted by the cat, he feels that he is ashamed in the presence of God as if having eaten of the tree. In a moment Derrida feels that he has become the first naked man, Adam who in the presence of a cat that also doubles up for him as God. Derrida recalls Adam, the naked man naming the animals in the presence of God who gives Adam, Eve as his companion after his exercise of naming the creature. Derrida finds the absolute other in the fact of being confronted by the little black cat. Maybe Derrida sees God in the cat because it is the God in the Bible who interrogated the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Moreover, Derrida is led to the unnameable and irreducible alterity of the animal other in contrast with the act of naming the creatures by Adam.

This means Derrida encounters what we may describe as a zootheology. Derrida as the naked man, standing for Adam, names the ahuman, the animal other and this act manifest a divineanimality opening us to encounter the Holy Spirit in the dove. Derrida positions divinanimality as the ‘excluded, foreclosed, tamed and sacrificed foundation of what it founds as the symbolic order, the human order, law and justice. The excluded foundation of the symbolic order of law is the Spirit that gives life. This is why in the contest of this reading of the Bible, the theo-zoological humans are hyphenated between God and the cat/dove. Thus we come into the theo-anthropo-zoological offer of the life of God in the Holy Spirit.

We have to understand the theo-anthropo-zoological in an unCartesian manner. Humans are not spirits trapped in a body as Descartes will like us to think. There is the Divine-human-animal, the divinanimality in each human. Therefore, being unCartesian, we have the challenge to accept our humanimality. We can no longer de-animalize humans or keep our animality under erasure. This is why the notion, of humanity that keeps our animality in dialectical binary opposition, is untenable. It is already deconstructed. We cannot understand the man in that category. Such a man is dead and we have done his funeral. Hence, the return to humanimality is a return to divineanimality.

Therefore, perhaps we have the challenge to open our mystical eyes and see that God manifested in the dove as the Holy Spirit is opening to the truth of our life that we have called humanimality. This means that there is no pure anthropology. What we have is anthrozoology or anthroanimality. This is why pneumatology has to consider how the Holy Spirit manifested in the dove shows humanimality of humans and opens the way to a creaturely theology of the animals. Pneumatology has the challenge to illumine us how the spirit flows where the wind blows. In a word with the notion of divinanimality, ‘wildness’ of the divine becomes immanent in the creatureliness of an animal. Therefore our experience of the animals before us and with whom we live and by whom we are addressed has to be taken seriously by humanities and theologies. We have to embrace our wounded animality by our original sin and have to take the courage to theologize from the position of vulnerable humanity.

While theology and humanities have to come to inhabit humanimality of our experience, we also have to understand how some animals stand for all that is not what is deemed as human. Wolf, snake and fox are used as signifiers that human wickedness, cunning and revenge show that humanimality is indeed a rich concept that embraces both human greatness and weakness. Derrida does invite us to deconstruct what he calls carnophallogocenrtism which subordinates animal to a subject who is not only human and male but also virile and carnivorous. This ‘carnophallogocentric’ exclusion of nonhumans from the linguistic and thus ethical and theological realms leaves them vulnerable to ‘a noncriminal putting to death’. This is why we have to embrace the fact that after the deconstruction of the animal/ human binary, we are left with only humanimality.

Coming to the notions divineanimality and humanimality, we have the challenge to abandon the solipsist anthropologies and theologies. Even our Christologies have the challenge overcome their de-humanimalizations and come to integral Christologies by including humanimality in theologizing. This new thinking summons us like Abraham to walk to the promised land where there is milk and honey for our theologizing. We have to hyphenate our animality with our humanity and do theology and anthropology. This means we have to unburden our thinking of traces and slippages of human/ animal binary opposition. We do have to do what may be Christine as zoo-apophatics that wash clean both notions, human and animals of all the traces of anthropomorphisms on them and come to embrace humanimality. Thinking in this manner with Derrida, we are in a great position to bring about a Copernican revolution in Theology and Humanities.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao