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“Outside of Being”: Animal Being in Agamben’s Reading of Heidegger

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-05-22, 09:56 authored by Simone Gustafsson
In The Open: Man and Animal, Giorgio Agamben draws attention to the fundamental antagonisms and ambiguities that mark the attempt to cogently articulate a definition of man in relation to animal being. Agamben traces the foundational moment of the concept of ―life‖ in the history of Western philosophy to Aristotle‘s isolation of the nutritive function in De Anima. This isolatable ―nutritive life‖ becomes the ground or essential commonality on top of which other faculties are hierarchically organised. This formulation thus makes it possible to separate higher animals from lower ones, as well as identify the ―life‖ within being that is considered ―common or vegetative. It is the possibility of an isolation or separation of this kind that is crucial insofar as it sets up an aporetic relationship between human and animal life, a relation decisive for both Agamben‘s political and ontological thought.


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