Anti-speciesist criticism corresponds more broadly to that of “post-humanism”, which has known a certain development with the social sciences which draw their source from Rousseauist thought and of which Claude Lévi-Strauss is, for example, the most illustrious representative :
“It is now […] that, exposing the flaws of a humanism decidedly incapable of founding the exercise of virtue in man, Rousseau’s thought can help us to reject the illusion of which we are, alas! able to observe in ourselves and on ourselves the disastrous effects. For was it not the myth of the exclusive dignity of human nature that first mutilated nature itself, from which other mutilations must inevitably follow? We began by cutting man off from nature, and by constituting him a sovereign reign; it was believed that this erased its most indisputable character, namely that it is first of all a living being. And by remaining blind to this common property, we have given free rein to all abuses. Never better than at the end of the last four centuries of its history has Western man been able to understand that by arrogating to himself the right to radically separate humanity from animality, by granting to one all that if he refused the other, he opened a cursed circle, and that the same frontier, constantly pushed back, would serve to separate men from other men, and to claim for the benefit of ever smaller minorities the privilege of a corrupt humanism immediately born for having borrowed to the self-love its principle and its notion.”
—Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology Two (1973), p. 53.
Philosophical critique of the terms “animal” and “property of the man”
In parallel with antispeciesism, the term “animal”, in the singular, is rejected by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in its generality, because it is a “conceptual simplification” seen as a first gesture of “violent repression” at the towards animals on the part of men, and which consists in making a total break between humanity and animality, and an equally unjustified grouping between animals which remain living beings radically different from each other, from one species to another:
“Every time ‘one’ says ‘The Animal’, every time the philosopher, or anyone else, says in the singular and without more ‘The Animal’, claiming to designate in this way any living being man […], well, each time, the subject of this sentence, this “we”, this “I” says something stupid. He confesses without confessing, he declares, as an evil declares itself through a symptom, he gives to diagnose an “I say a stupidity”. And this “I say a stupidity” should confirm not only the animality he denies but his committed, continued, organized participation in a veritable war of species.”
— Jacques Derrida, The Animal that therefore I am
Thus, in this work, Derrida conceives the question of the “animal” as an answer to the question of the “property of the “man””, and questioned the right of the latter to always assert himself at the expense of the “animal”, while it seems that this conceptual reflex is, in essence, a prejudice, and not the fruit of a philosophical reasoning guaranteeing this right:
“It is not only a question of asking whether we have the right to deny this or that power to the animal (speech, reason, experience of death, mourning, culture, institution, technique, clothing, lie, feigning feigning, erasing the trace, giving, laughing, crying, respecting, etc. – the list is necessarily endless, and the most powerful philosophical tradition in which we live has denied all this to the “animal”). It is also a question of asking whether what is called man has the right to attribute in all rigor to man, to attribute to itself, therefore, what it refuses to the animal, and if he ever has the pure, rigorous, indivisible concept of it, as such.”
— Jacques Derrida, op. cit., p. 185
Antispecism and humanism
Because of the double definition of humanism, on the one hand described as the generalization of compassion and on the other as a concept of human royalty, antispecism can be seen as a compassionate humanism and at the same time as the antithesis of humanism, since antispeciesism calls into question the superiority of man. Antispeciesist morality can therefore be seen either as a generalization beyond the borders of the human species of humanism, thus a kind of universalism of compassion; either as anti-humanism, in the sense that it denies human beings an essence that would place them above other animals (for example, in Hindu culture, unlike Christian culture, humanity has a difference of “degree” with other animals, not of “nature”).
Includes texts from Wikipedia translated and adapted by Nicolae Sfetcu