I am getting my butt kicked this semester. I feel like the word: hurtling.

I read half of “But as for Me, Who Am I (following)” and I’ll post on that soon enough. I also read the first chapter of Matthew Calarco’s Zoographies. Calarco writes clearly and very well, but of course I had to question some of his Heideggerian readings.

This is sloppy– I just don’t feel like I have the time to work it out. For now, as always: here are my fragments:


Matthew Calarco examines Heideggerian thought in order to examine the animal and to illustrates the manners in which Heidegger both opened up a space to talk about animals while also marginalizing animals. However, I believe that Calarco’s analysis misses some of Heidegger’s more subtle points about Dasein being uniquely human (of course, I have not read Heidegger’s lectures where he deals with animals). Addtionally, this is not to say that Calarco’s examination is not fruitful and interesting, but I feel he attacks Heidegger too harshly (and again, this is my opinion not having read the essay that Calarco examines).

Calarco points out how Heidegger never directly deals with the question of animal Dasein, but he points out how Heidegger does deal with the question of the animal in general and is therefore useful to begin examining the animal question. Heidegger did not want to equate the animal with human: “In the case of undertaking a properly biological and zoological analysis of animals, the risk for Heidegger would be either reducing animals to mechanistic entities or conflating them with human beings” (20). Calarco examines this distinction that Heidegger is making, and goes on to emphasize, “whether such a distinction between human beings and animals can or even should be drawn is never raised for serious discussion” (23).

Furthermore, I agree with Calarco when he says that the distinctions should not “serve as a guide for further thought in philosophy or science” (23); however, I feel he is being a little unfair to Heidegger’s project of returning to the question of being. For instance, Calarco points out how Heidegger claims that animals are “poor in world,” but I think Calarco is misunderstanding Heidegger’s concept of world. At the very least, Calarco is not examing the distinctions Heidegger tirelessly examined in his concept of world.

I want to examine some of these points Calarco makes because while I agree with him that the question of the animal needs to be re-thought, I feel he could be using Heidegger to re-think the question of the animal in a more fruitful manner. For instance, when Calarco points out that Heidegger says the animal is poor in world, what “world” is Calarco examining? For Heidegger, there are four distinct meanings of world. Additionally, world is broken up into categorical world and world as object. With in these two categories are the four distinctions of world: One, is the world as universe and all the entities present-at-hand with in the universe. Second, the way of being of the universe—entities that do not relate to us. Third, the world we inhabit in everydayness, such as the academic world, business world, etc.—the worlds we cope in. Finally, the world of structures and background—the world that gives us the know how of how to cope in the world. These worlds are very different, and I think it is fair to say that under these terms, the animal, maybe is not “poor” of world, but has a different world than the one human’s inhabit. An animal does not have to decide if it is going to go into the academic world or the world of business. The animal, probably, does not care about the universe and the tools it uses in the world. The difference here is between the world of physics—what physicist engage in and are absorbed in and understand themselves in, and the physical world—the substance that physicist take a stand in/on. A rock has no world for Heidegger because a rock cannot take a stand on its existence. The question should be: can animals take a stand on their being? If one really examines the concept of world in Heidegger, Heidegger actually says Dasein is never “at home,” which is part of the anxiety Heidegger will examine.

The critique of Heidegger not wanting to equate animals to humans, and the distinction Heidegger upholds is more complicated than Calarco relates. That is to say, Calarco does examine how and why the distinction is complicated, but not within a Heideggerian context. Calarco also discusses the “as” structure that animals lack while also returning to the question of world by looking at Heidegger’s discussion of a domesticated animal. His conclusions here, in my reading of Heidegger, are very misleading. He claims that Heidegger’s conclusion is that to some extent, human’s can relate to (empathize with) animals but that the Dasein of humans is different from that of animals. And this is correct, I believe, but I think that the way Calarco outlines this conclusion is misleading. He is looking at these conclusions without examining why Heidegger would reach these conclusions.

The passage Calarco examines needs to be analysed closer and with Heidegger’s question of Dasein in mind. What Heidegger means when he says that the animal lives “with us” in the house, beloning to the house, but not as the roof the house, Heidegger is making a distinction between the way of being of the house and the way of being of a dog. The way of being of a roof is as equipment, which is different than the mode of being of an animal and the mood of being of humans. Furthermore, we “enable [animals] to move within our world.” The last two statements are contentious for Calarco because they specifically point out that animals do not have Dasein. However, looking at how Heidegger examines Dasein, then I would argue that animals, indeed, do not have Dasein because animals cannot comport themselves in the world; Calarco’s Heidegger quote addresses this: “we consider the dog itself—does it comport itself towards the table, towards the stairs as stairs?” Hubert Dreyfus explains comportment: “Heidegger uses ‘comportment’ to refer to our directed activity…He thus takes comportment or intentionality as a characteristic not merely of acts of consciousness, but of human activity in general” (Dreyfus 51). Therefore, the question is if animals can comport themselves, and I do not see how they could. Comportment is an activity that is entrenched in culture and the “as” structure of the world.

The dog cannot comport itself to the table or the stairs because those objects are outside of the dog’s mental structure. This goes back to the concept of the world. Dasein knows that the table is for eating and the chair is for sitting; furthermore, Dasein knows that the “as structure” of the chair is for eating. The question for the animal must become if the dog has objects in its world that it uses in order to take a stand on its being. For humans, I use a table to sit and eat a healthy meal because the way I take a stand on my being is by being someone who eats healthy. In order to do so, I need a table to eat at, a chair to sit in, etc., and I comport myself to these activities using this tools in the world.

Calarco goes on to explore Heidegger’s reading of Rilke and Nietzsche and Heidegger’s disproval of equating animal to human and of reversing animal and human. However, again, Calarco appears to be missing Heidegger’s basic project in exploring the being of humans. Calarco is right in highlighting Heidegger’s anthropormorcism, but Calarco fails at examining why Heidegger does so. Dasein is a being that makes its being an issue for it. Dasein can take a stand on its being. Furthermore, Calarco’s constant critique of Heidegger’s essentialism is troublesome because Heidegger did not believe in essentialism. Heidegger explored how there are many different views of what our “nature” is, which led him to conclude that our nature (essence) is simply to be the kind of being that through activity gives themselves a nature. Whatever the culture we are thrown in tells us we are, we get socialized into it and take that to be our nature. For instance, I am a grad student, so I take a stand on being a grad student by reading everyday, going to class, teaching, and preparing myself for my future. I cope in the world with computers, books, pencils, pens, and others in such a way so as to project myself into my future possibilities. Furthermore, while there is an ultimate goal to my dealings in the world, I just do them because it is how I have taken a stand on my existence. Can an animal be said to do the same? Can an animal chose how it will be in the world? Does an animal comport itself in the world towards a future directed self? I want to say no, but I cannot be certain. Can animals get outside of their “nature?” That is, can a dog, for instance, chose one way of being over another, something beyond training? Although here again, is our socialization just training? I do not know what analogy can be used here between humans and animals? I can decide tomorrow that I want to be a racecar driver and begin to comport myself towards that identity. I can begin to learn about cars, watch Nascar, learn to be a mechanic, and change my way of being, but can an animal do anything analogous?

This analysis of Dasein is what Calarco is missing in his critique of Heidegger. Ek-sistance for Heidegger is uniquely human because humans exist in a unique fashion. For Dasein, probability is higher than actuality. For instance, being a professor with tenure does not give your life meaning but being an educator does. The label does not define who a person is rather life defines who a person is. Teaching is something without a goal that can be actualized. There will never be a point where you can say that teaching is over. It is the thing which gives life meaning in and of itself. It organizes one’s behavior—being a teacher means you have to prepare lectures and read books and so you organize your life around these task. If I say I am a grad student but never go to class or open a book, then I am not actually a grad student. In this way, existence is uniquely human. This look at Dasein is not to defend Heidegger against all of the criticism that Calarco makes. Heidegger, as Derrida had pointed out, is Dasein-centric, and this Dasein-centrism does not bode well for animals. It does mean that animals cannot have Dasein though. Can an animal decide not to be or to be something?