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Life beyond Biologism

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In a move that has puzzled commentators, Derrida’s The Animal that Therefore I Am rejects claims for continuity between the human and the animal, aligning such claims with the ideology of “biologistic continuism.” This problematization of the logic of the human-animal limit holds implications for how we are to understand life in relation to auto-affection, immanence in relation to transcendence, and naturalism in relation to phenomenology. Derrida’s abyssal logic parallels the “strange kinship” described by Merleau-Ponty, though only if this strangeness is intensified as “hetero-affection” by incorporating death into life. Following Merleau-Ponty and Elizabeth Grosz, we locate the creative moment of this abyssal intimacy in the transformative productions of sexual difference. This positive account of the excess of hetero-affection reconciles phenomenology with evolution and offers a figure for thinking the thickening and multiplying of the differences between human and non-human, living and nonliving, corporeal and cosmic.

Affiliations: 1: University of Oregon

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