This annotation is of Cheng’s essay published in The Kenyon Review; since then she has published a book. I hope to get to it soon,


Cheng, Anne Anlin. “The Melancholy of Race.” The Kenyon Review. American Memory/ American Forgetfulness 19.1 (Winter, 1997): 49-61. JSTOR. Web. 15 July 2013.

Cheng begins by asking if we can ever get over race; she answers her question with no: one merely has to look at the way the “race card” gets played in society to see that the answer is no. She examines the idea of a “race card”—of a card that gets played. The implication is that if one holds a full deck, then they do not need to play the special card. The full deck implies an “idealized version of multiple subjectivity” (race, gender, ethnic, etc) (49). One only needs to play a card if one is outside of the game, “for to play the race card is to exercise the value of one’s disadvantage, the liability that is asset” (49-50). Cheng points out the paradox: the one who plays with a full deck does not need to pull out a special card.

[Or is the race card more like a Wild card? The race card is a card that gets played when you do not have the proper “real” card. A card used to try to get an advantage because your hand is short of the proper card]

Cheng looks at Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Women Warrior where the narrator says she feels most at home when she is not at home. The narrator, who is always sick at home, but feels great in America, reveals the effect of affects. A sick body becomes one of hypochondria. That body only feels good when it is not at home, in displacement.

Freud sets up a distinction between mourning and melancholia, where melancholy is the pathological version of mourning; someone who cannot “get over the loss” (Cheng 50), the loss becomes incorporated into the ego. Remembrance becomes part of the self; since melancholy fails to let go, “is denied loss” [Derrida’s I carry the world of the other], Freud says “by incorporating and identifying with the ghost of the lost one, the melancholic takes on the emptiness of that ghostly presence and in this way participates in his/her own self denigration” (Cheng 50).  Cheng turns to Freud and his distinction between mourning and melancholy. Melancholy is the pathological version of mourning because melancholy does not allow the sufferer to “get over” the loss. As she points out “rather, loss is denied as loss and incorporated as part of the ego” (50). The act of remembering (of not forgetting) becomes part of the self. Freud, she says, reminds us that this taking on of the lost one, means that the melancholic “takes on the emptiness of that ghostly presence and in this way participates in his/her own self-denigration” (50). Taking this idea of melancholy, Cheng wants to apply it to race:

“As a model of ego-formation (the incorporation as self of an excluded other), melancholia provides a provocative metaphor for how race in America, or more specifically how the act of racialization, works” (50). America has a history of forming its identity through exclusionary practices (blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, etc), but America also does a good job of forgetting those practices. Since American identity is caught between these axis, the problem becomes how to remember America’s ugly past without slowing down progress? (51). Cheng presents the protagonist of Invisible Man as an example of the “minority as the object of white melancholia” (51). He represents an invisible body that cannot be forgotten. The ghost of that which society killed but the body remains. Mr. Norton represents the idea of progress. He supports black education and builds a monument on the progress of blacks in America off of the work of young black (ghostly) men. Cheng transitions into Toni Morrison’s critique of the American literary canon. The canon is full of books that look back at America’s past, but the canon is full of white people; therefore “the canon is a melancholic corpus because of what it excludes but cannot forget” (51). We have stories about the history of slavery and racism we cannot forget, but we fail to have very many minorities IN the cannon.

Cheng turns her attention to the melancholic minority. First, melancholy resembles what Derrida would term an undecidable: “. . . it designates a condition of identity disorder where subject and object become indistinguishable form one another. The melancholic object, made neither dead nor fully alive, must experience its own subjectivity as suspension, as excess and denigration—and in this way, replicate the melancholic subject” (51). A good cultural melancholic is the one who has a vision of herself without herself (as in the Kingston example). The idea that America is a melting pot is in itself a contradiction between assimilation and making a difference. The minority subject has to deny her/him self in order to inhabit the majority subject, thus suspending the idea of his/her own “minority” subjectivity.

Cheng goes into the example of Flower Drum Song where the minority, a father and daughter, celebrate their minority through illegality. The movie promotes assimilation. The two, illegal aliens, are actually ideal citizens. The father worries about breaking the law, as he is breaking the law. At the end of the movie, the daughter embraces her illegality in order to assimilate—in order to give herself over to citizenship and becoming the ideal citizen. Cheng states “More than a haunting concept in America, the “minority subject” presents a haunted subject. Minority identity reveals an inscription marking the remembrance of absence” (52). The minority subject is the melancholic one who is forced to renounce herself (instead of the lost object—in this case, the lost object is the minority subject, herself).

[this analysis of the minority embracing the illegality in order to become legal is interesting. The illegal has to assimilate, lose him or herself, in order to be legal. But in Cuban narrative, Cuban subject is here (by dry foot law) always legally. Cuban occupy a different space/place within the immigration narrative. The Cuban immigrant is the embodiment of U.S.’s victory over communism—Cuban represent a win for American ideology].

Freud realizes that even in proper mourning, the subject might suffer melancholy. In order to get over “it” the subject needs to already have been, somehow, over “it.” (53). Freud’s mourning entails a forgetting, which only reinstates the death: “Mourning implies the second killing off of the lost object” (53). Cheng makes an interesting connection between mourning and melancholy, stating that the melancholic integrates the lost object while the mourner forgets the lost object, but in both cases, the result ends up the same, with the disappearance of the lost object: “. . .the production of denigration and rejection, however re-introjection is concomitant with the production and survival of “self.” The good mourner turns out to be none other than an ultrasophisticated, and more lethal, melancholic” (53). The two methods are for the benefit of the subject who is dealing with lost—and in both cases, the subject either kills and denigrates the lost object (mourning), or hangs on to, fails to forget the lost object—both cases, in order to move on. In other words, the difference is that the mourner kills (again), in forgetting the lost object; the melancholic replaces the loss object with the very loss. The melancholic forgets the lost object and hangs on to the idea of loss (53).

In terms of racialization, these two methods deal with boundaries and blurring boundaries. Boundaries establish race; one defines the other against self. By identifying as one race, one identifies “other” races. While the issue of ethnicity is one of boundaries, we will never be able to set matters right. We are already conditioned by what society deems abnormal or broken—the language used to discuss and attempt to free those society oppresses is already caught up in and pre-conditioned by society. Cheng connects this problem to Freud: “In the way of Freudian logic, pathology defines health. Racial identity, as a moment of active self-perception, is almost always simultaneous with the racialization of another, an instance of othering” (53-54). Zora Neil Hurston, for instance, says she feels most black when contrasted with a white background. Where white defines black, “each defining the other’s pathology” (54).

The melancholic minority internalizes (assimilates) dominant cultural demands. This internalization is a matter of desire. What does the minority want? [Cuban culture is an exception of this idea of internalization. Cubans playing domino at Domino Park have intergrated their culture into America—not “internalized” the dominant culture. Indeed, the language, food, and general culture of the Cuban community show how little Cubans, at least initially (first wave Cuban immigrants) assimilated; I am not talking about Perez-Firmat’s 1.5ers who have create a new culture out of mixing Cuban/American].

The point is that the act of racialization, of denying and re-assimilating the other, of self-perception, is a melancholic act. The discourse of compensation denies the problem of how the discrimination was put in place, and fails to acknowledge the physical affects of the discrimination. Cheng wants to explore how racialization works through this melancholic heuristic. The ethnic subject attempts, like the melancholic one, to forget (who she is). Cheng asks, “If the melancholic minority is busy forgetting herself, with what is she identifying?” (54). The minority, as has been said, has “internalized dominant cultural demands” – so Cheng asks: what does the minority subject desire? “When it comes to political critique, it seems as if the desire itself may be what the minority has been enjoined to forget” (54). Cheng looks at Madame Butterfly, where Song, disguised as a woman, seduces Gallimard. Song’s desire is never explored; he is either the object of Song’s desire or critique of it. His performance must remain inauthentic if it is to remain a critique. Cultural assimilation requires relinquishment—a disguise.

This notion of cultural assimilation is common in literature. Homi Bhabha explores connection of assimilation and falsehood: mimicry is a colonial discipline that is doomed to failure. Mimicry means that ethnic other acts a little like the dominant culture but not too much. The attempt by the ethnic to “internalize the other” is for Bhabha an authoritive injunction. An example of this injunction to mimic the dominant culture can be seen in the servant Indian dressed as the English (Babar the elephant?). This imitation serves the purpose of showing that the ethnic is playing the game and trying to fit in, while also keeping the distance of never reaching “authenticity.” However, Cheng says that “The concept of melancholic racialization, however, implies that assimilation may be more intimately linked to identity than a mere consequence of the dominant demand for sameness” (55). This melancholic assimilation (passing, acting like dominant culture) is a fait accompli (an action that is done and cannot be changed). The ethnic subject forms an ego through this acting, but the ethnic other is never considered authentic. “Passing” becomes part and parcel of the ego, of the subject.

Cheng looks at Derrida, who also implies that the “disguise” becomes part of the subject’s identity. The very act of “taking in” the culture of the other becomes an act of self-constitution. This act of mimicry works on both the minority and dominant culture. As Cheng’s Invisible Man example illustrates “If he [invisible man] has assimilated only through his invisibility, then he also renders dissimilar and strange the status of their [white-anglo] visibility” (57).  Cheng sees this type of mimicry as a possible way to challenge and subvert assimilation. Assimilation only goes to undermine the culture assimilated.

This essay then falls into the idea laid out by Derrida on immigration and the breakdown of an in/out binary. Cheng focuses on Rinehart from Invisible Man, who is both religious and pimp, runner and gambler and lover, etc.. “Who you are depends on whom you are talking to, which community you are in, and who is watching your performance” (57). Cheng describes how performing becomes the actual thing; Song in M. Butterfly becomes the lover he was only playing—Zizek elaborates this point in stating that the mask we wear is actually who we are.

Cheng’s argument revolves around a Derridain deconstruction of absence/presence and of inside/outside. She says that “American culture is continually confronted by ghost it can neither spit out nor swallow,” and then later she says that the act of configuring authentic American culture is an act of exclusion that pre-conditions what is included: “The act of delineating absence preconditions presence” (58). What Cheng argues is the melancholy of race, is precisely what Zizek says is the problem with tolerance in racial matters. Cheng says that “ You carry the foreigner inside you. This malady of doubleness, I argue, is the melancholy of race, a dis-ease of location and memory, a persistent fantasy of identification that cleaves and cleaves to the marginalized and the master” (60).

What would Levinas think of this idea of carrying the foreigner inside you? If my subjectivity is predicated on the other, then I am by difference with the other, no?


I finally read Chapter one: “Cogito and the History of the Passions.” Terada begins this chapter by pointing out how deconstructionists are unknown for passionate writing. She points out, however, that Derrida’s writing produces emotions–emotions that overflow and “burst the bounds of his thought” (16). She further posits that emotions fail verbal representation.

Terada examines Derrida’s view of Descartes, Husserl, and Rousseau: “Their awareness that emotion is an interpretative act and that positions on representation influence positions on emotion” (17), and for Derrida, experience includes repeatability–I think of the past and past experiences while I anticipate the future–experience has always-alread just passed; I’ve always just missed it. Since experience cannot be understood outside of language, I can only realize emotions in reflection, which is always-alread a supplement to the experience. Rousseau finds this reflection theatrical; he posits that we need representation in order to have emotions.

Terada then compares Derrida to analytic philosophers, looking first at the “content approach to emotion,” where the content gives the emotion. Emotions are physical and chemical–in the body–and conceptual, so emotions stem from individual beliefs and desires. Stemming from Huuserl’s intention (perception is always the perception of something), emotions work the same way, always about something. In content approach, emotions alway depend on context. Husserl and Rousseau contribute to this thinking; whereas, Derrida:

“describes a surprising consequence: if one does accept that duality [emotions rising to the level of concepts– a connection between the conceptual and the empirical], then our own emotions emerge only through the acts of interpretation and identification by means of which we feel for other . … We are not ourselves without representations that mediate us, and it is through those representations that emotions get felt. Emotions are niether intentional nor expressive… wether they are directed at objects or not, wether we feel them on purpose or not, [emotions[ take place on what must seem to be a mental stage peopled by virtual entities” (21).

The cogito that feels these emotions, can only feel the emotion when it represents itself to itself and reads the self representation.

Terada then discusses Derrida’s deconstruction of emotions. We only feel experiences that are not immediate, and only feel other’s experience to the extent that it reminds us of our own.

The cogito, for Derrida, represents the fictive place of emotions, encouraging a “textualist stance toward life” (22). Furthermore, the cogito’s auto-affection reveals how feeling emerges in my announcing feeling to myself (23). Terada then jumps to look at how other philosophers have critiqued Derrida, claiming that Derrida’s subject differs only in terms from classic views of the subject; however, these critiques of Derrida fail to account for the phenomenological description Derrida provides. Derrida looks at “self-difference–falsely resolved in the Cartesian tradition, rejected as nonsense in the realist tradition–is experience itself, nonsubjective experience” (24). In Derrida, experiencing incompleteness is an experience, itself, and he notes that we shouldn’t confuse mental life with subjectivity. Our mental life is confused with “something else” precisely because of the incompleteness of subjectivity. We would have no emotions, Derrida contends, if there was a subject. (24)

When Husserl descrobes lived-experience, he speaks of interior monologue speaking of interior monologue, with no outside. This experience creates an immediacy, but Derrida deconstructs Husserl, point out that Husserl descrines the living present as delayed. A perception approaching future of retention–both present and different, perception and non-perception. So when I speak to myself (even in Husserl’s interior monolgue that feels immediate), there is always delay. Therefore, consciousness “in the present” is always delayed. Even “the self-enclosure of auto-affection upsets the distinction between conceptual emotion and mere empirical affect” (26).


Terada goes on the analyze Derrida’s deconstruction further. Auto-affection (addressing self) is less immediate that addressing an other. When I address myself in my head, I create a distance that is not there since I am me–I shouldn’t need to address myself; but addressing someone else reduces the distance that is there.

Terada argues that Derrida’s erasure of self makes lived-experience possible. Since immediate experience is impossible, since I have to address myself, represent the experience to myself, illustrates the lack of subject that can immediately have an emotions without filtering the emotion through representation. As Terada contends “Fright and reassurance spring from the Cartesian ego’s inability to complete its project of subjectivity. The similarity of these narratives lies not only in their movement from anxiety to reassurance but in their implication that the very existence of emotive experience assumes the incompleteness of subjectivity” (30).

The analysis then turns to Rousseau and moments of the dangerous supplement (voice, masturbation), where a substitution is needed. The analysis turns to aesthetics and the emotions that arise in fictive situations. A play, for instance, can cause emotions. Then Terada turns to her own critique of the content approach of emotions, claiming “The content approach often looks like a shell game of concepts that clams to establish a subject actually given from the beginning” (39). Mostly, content approach fails to account for aesthetics and imaginary objects. A good deal of our lives are imagined/fictive, and one can hardly deny the “fake” emotions produced by art–also a fiction.

Our words represent the idea of the emotion. For instance, looking at the example of people encountering people in the jungle and calling the people “giants.” Once actually encountering the people–of normal size– the word can change. The word “giant” represents the representation of my fear. Derrida looks at this and posits that “gaint” expresses an idea even if the word fails to indicate the actual person. Emotion is not expressed in the same manner as the idea is. The expression “is the difference between sunjective ideality and the external world, appearing with experience” (44).

Emotion falls outside of representation: “Fear itself exists in the world no more than an idea does” (44). Emotions appear to follow the Derridian trace, failing any actual, present represntation.

I would argue that all of this emotion talk is in language. Wether the experience is immediate or not, in order to understand what I feel about the experience, I have to put the experience in words. Since words only mean through diffårnce, then experience and emotions are always caught up in language and can never be directly experienced nor explained in a manner other than phenomenologically.

Calacro on Derrida

I think I figured out what annoys me so much about Calarco despite his insightful commentary on animals. While looking at dense, very difficult philosophers, Calarco fails to identify and explain just how he reads these philosophers. It appears that Calarco believes his readers know the material he is analyzing well, and he believes that his readers will automatically agree with his readings.

In looking at Derrida, Calarco explores how Derrida stated that his (Derrida’s) philosophy always had the animal in view. Calarco states how Derrida challenges simply binary oppositions and questions the manner in which the Western tradition has separated itself from the animal. And then, he begins to really analyze Derrida’s texts, and this analysis is where he loses me as a reader; for instance, Calarco says that Derrida “gestures” at thinking otherwise about the animal, but “This positive project is… not fully worked out as his critical and negative projects” (105). Why does Calarco not give an example from Derrida’s work of this? What does Calarco mean when he creates this positive/negative critique (project) of Derrida’s work? Calarco goes on to explain Derrida’s strategies, “The first is to develop a series of ‘infrastructures’ (such as ‘diffarence,’ supplement, arche-writing, etc.) that are not exclusively human” (106). Here it would be nice if Calarco would clarify what he means with this statement. My understanding of Derrida’s “infrastructure” is that it is not a structure at all, and that many of these terms overlap, and furthermore, many of these terms, for Derrida, were undefinable. Why doesn’t Calarco explain to me, a Derrida reader, what I have “missed” as Calarco puts it? (106).

I believe Calrco means the loyal Derrida reader has missed that these terms meant to decenter the logos (and the human) apply to more than just humans (Calrco 106). However, any close reader of Derrida’s work on the animal would completely agree. Derrida’s complete project, in fact, has been to expose how ideas of purity (a pure distinction between animal and human, spoken and written language, pure/dirty, etc.) are problematic.

Derrida’s second strategy is to bring the animal “within the scope of the ethical and political” by using the first strategy. Calarco points out how Derrida brings animals within the discussion of ethics and politics, especially when Derrida employs Levinasian ethics to state that animals “confront us with as much ethical force as human beings do, if not more” (Ibid.). However, Calarco points out that Derrida’s work is context and text specific. Calarco goes on to explain that he will not have the time to go into the specific works (thinkers) that Derrida explores. Calarco’s imperative is to examine the ways in which Derrida’s works are theoretically important for the question of the animal. Derrida’s work opens up a space for a “’proto-ethical’ imperative, a “concrete ethicopolitical postion”, and a “reworking of the basic anthropocentric thrust of the Western philosophical tradition” (108). Calarco states that he will explain Derrida’s general positions on ethicoplotical issues, but I wonder how much of this outline a reading of Derrida or actually Derrida? Not that I think it matters because most would agree that Derrida’s is always looking at way to rethink and challenge the Western tradition. Therefore, Derrida’ s proto-ethical stance can always be used to rethink political position, including the anthropocentric and ethicopolitical position in question here.

Calarco examines Derrida’s analysis of why animals are being used for “the so called well-being of man” (Derrida qtd. in Calarco 109), and he states that besides Derrida’s questions, there are a number of other questions to be asked. However, the answers do not appear to be readily available. I would argue that the answer to Calarco’s questions—what besides technology, economy, population growth, and insensitivity could be the cause of so much animal cruelty—is all of the above; furthermore, it is because of all these factors of human chauvinism that the animal has been so radically othered and degraded. When asking these questions, some thinkers have compared the violence of the holocaust with the violence against animals, and here, Calarco has some insightful ideas that Peter Singer addresses in The Lives of Animals. The comparison might be extreme, but, to put it in Calarco’s terms “Perhaps the issue of violence towards animals can provoke thought in this philosophical context only if it is compared with the worst forms of interhuman violence” (111). In other words, the violence may not be one of equality (and comparing suffering, even among human beings, is always problematic), but the question examines how the species in power exercises its power over the weaker of the species. The comparison is searching for an (any) analogy to make and should not be dismissed outright.

Derrida’s position is to undercut the idea of natural and distinct oppositions, so can comparing human to animal suffering not be a way to blur the clear cut distinctions further? Calarco’s analysis is astute on this issue: “The very difficult task for thought here is to bear the burden of thinking through both kinds of suffering in their respective singularity and to notice the relevant similarities and parallel logics at work where they exist” (112). These comparisons break down the human/animal binary and open up a space for thinking about the animal question. Calarco astutely points out that the point for Derrida is that the very comparison, the questions of animal cruelty, and the tension between animal advocates and animal violence apologist illustrates just how important the question has become. However, Derrida remains ambiguous as to a possible solution or answer to these questions, which makes sense because posing an answer can fall into logocentrism and reinforce anthropocentrism. After all, Derrida is very suspicious of absolute answers; therefore, how could he ever propose any? For Derrida, anxiety is the mode of ethics. One can never be comfortable about ethical choices because one can never fulfill the ethical call to the other.

Calarco turns his attention to Derrida’s engagement with other philosophers, first Bentham, explaining that while Derrida would agree with Bentham, Derrida wants to take Bentham’s question of animal suffering further. For Derrida, ethics towards animals should not be limited to suffering alone. The question of animal suffering carries a Derridian trace of the questions that come before it and questions it will lead to. However, Calarco states that to understand what Derrida is explaining here that one has to “pass through this idea of the event” (118). The Standford Encylopedia of Philosophy summarizes what event means for Derrida:

If we reflect on experience in general, what we cannot deny is that experience is conditioned by time. Every experience, necessarily, takes place in the present. In the present experience, there is the kernel or point of the now. What is happening right now is a kind of event, different from every other now I have ever experienced. Yet, also in the present, I remember the recent past and I anticipate what is about to happen. The memory and the anticipation consist in repeatability. Because what I experience now can be immediately recalled, it is repeatable and that repeatability therefore motivates me to anticipate the same thing happening again. Therefore, what is happening right now is also not different from every other now I have ever experienced. At the same time, the present experience is an event and it is not an event because it is repeatable. This “at the same time” is the crux of the matter for Derrida. The conclusion is that we can have no experience that does not essentially and inseparably contain these two agencies of event and repeatability.

And now I am lost again…

It is this kind of analysis that hinders a reading of Calarco’s argument. What does he mean that we have to understand the event? And then he goes on to discuss Derrida’s engagement with Levinas. It appears that Calarco is analyzing how Derrida the encounter with the animal is an “event.” The encounter with the animal is an event (I have an experience with the animal right now, which is predicated in the past but is happening now). In this encounter, I can now immediately experience the animal and this can motivate me to “anticipate the same thing happening again” with the animal. Therefore, my encounter with the animal “is happening right now is also not different from every other now I have ever experienced. At the same time, the present experience is an event and it is not an event because it is repeatable.” Therefore, I am less moved by my animal encounter because the animal embodies such a different from than mine. (maybe?)… I believe the ultimate point is that the question of animal suffering veers away from ethics in that rather than just treat animal ethically, the question demands the answer, and if the answer is no, animals do not suffer, then that answer justifies the mistreatment of animals. This question—and the possible answer—is somplicated because most human do not see the embodied suffering animals endure in the many ways animals are used for science, food, and entertainment. Pushing the Levinasian question further, the encounter with the face of the animal because the locus of animal ethics (just as it was the locus of philosophy for Levinas). The proto-ethical question is how can animals address humans?

Calarco examines Derrida’s statement that the latter has always had the question of the animal in his work. Here, again, Calarco uses loaded Derridian terms without a clear explanation as to how the terms apply for the former’s analysis. Calarco inspect Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am closely. His analysis is insightful; however, there is something uncomfortable about his close reading of Derrida’s insistence that the cat is an actual, real, little cat staring at him. Yet Calarco’s analysis is sound. Calarco takes up Steve Baker’s reading of the cat as cat and comments that Baker is missing the point: “At stake here among other things, are a number of questions that concern not only the problem of employing reductive language to refer to the Other, but also finding a nonreductive way to mark the effects of the Other within the very discourses…that are grounded on a forgetting of alterity of the other” (125). While I agree with Calarco, I also believe that Derrida is referring to an actual cat, and I agree with Baker who analyzes Derrida’s attempt of informing the reader that the cat is an actual cat and not a “figure” of a cat, precisely for the reasons Calarco points out. To refer to the Alice in Wonderland analogy employed, it appears dangerous to follow this rabbit hole to deeply. Derrida does not want to reduce the other (the cat) to a totalized representation of a cat, and Derrida is well aware that the language can too easily lead to such reductions; therefore, Derrida explicitly points out that he is referring to an actual cat and not some (playing with language) image of cat-ness. Other than this slight disagreement I have with this section, I believe Calarco’s analysis of what Derrida is doing in TATIA is extremely insightful.

In “Animal Subjects” the traditional discourses of animal liberation are examined, which Calarco says falls into “fundamentally anthropocentric” categories and thus forces an ethics on to animal studies because it uses the language of inherited scientific, biological, and philosophical language. Peter Singer, for instance, defends animal right by way of analogy (wouldn’t Derrida say all language is analogy/metaphor—never fully present). Derrida, of course, wants to question and examine these inherited ways of thinking. Calarco points out that using these ways of thinking are the same ways of thinking that work against animals. He argues that most humanist and ethicist draw lines and make distinctions and use the very logic that has gone against animals in order to try to argue for animals; he uses Tom Regan as an example, caliming that Regan fails to take into account animals without a higher order cognitive thinking. This critigue of Regan appears valid, but should the question not be how can arguments (even anthropocentric ones) be used as points of departure for animals’ rights. However, Calarco does say that Derrida’s questioning of the Western philosophical tradition is a “novel and provocative” thought in concern for animals.

Calarco then deconstructs vegetarianism unfairly in order to support deconstructionism. He claims that such a diet overlooks other ethical problems in food consumption, and on that point, I would agree with him to an extent. I am sure most vegetarians understand that even their vegetables and fruits might be ethically questionable in terms of who is picking the vegetables and fruit and how, but to say that it is “far from the ethical ideal” might be too strong a statement. While it can be easily argued that it is not “ideal” and that veganism is a more radical ethical statement, I would argue that vegetarianism is an immense political, ethical stance. This point along with what follows begins to come to dangerously close to an absolute; as if Calarco’s approach is the “best” (and it almost sounds like the “only”) way to approach the animal question. The two questions posed appear to be the same question worded differently (136).

And Say the Animal Responded?

Derrida’s main goal is to deconstruct Lacan’s idea of a distinction between human and animal. Derrida says that a more radical critique of the cogito must take place. In other words, a critique more radical than a Levinasian ethics is needed. In “Violence and Metaphysics,” Derrida critiques the idea of such an absolute alterity (or exteriority or distinction, as such); he states that in Levinas’s “face-to-face” encounter is “the emergence of absolute alterity, the emergence of an exteriority which can be neither derived, nor engendered, nor constituted on the basis of anything other than itself. An absolute outside, an exteriority infinitely overflowing the monad of the ego cogito” (Writing and Differance 106). Derrida’s critique of this radical alterity appears again in this essay to critique the absolute distinctions raised by Lacan’s treatment of the animal.

Derrida proceeds to read Lacan and states that Lacan posits that the animal cannot preenter into the symbolic stage because the animal has no language and will never be “prey to language” (120). This Lacanian analysis of the symbolic order leaves humans as animals, but as speaking animals with desires and unconsciouses that are denied the animal. For Lacan, language is central because it is the structure of language that is related to the unconscious and because in the act of language, the unconscious emerges and finds its expression. In the mirror phase, the ego is constituted through its identification with the imaginary projection in the mirror. At the same time, the child meets with the “Law-of-the-Father” (acquires language) and becomes radically split/fragmented. The subject realizes it is different from other things/subjects and starts forming an identity. Derrida points out that there are certain animals that do this as well, however. There are pigeons that are sexed when confronted with other pigeons. Derrida points out that humans receive speech and technics “only inasmuch as he lacks something” (122). Humans only have language because of this radical split of entering language; whereas, pigeon only need a mirror to progress.
The animal is reduced to reaction to stimuli not to response; the animal response is merely an instinct response, and Derrida uses the example of a bee to illustrate Lacan’s point. Derrida has a little fun reading the dance of a bee and questioning the bee’s sign system as language or merely nature’s encoding. Derrida makes the argument that Lacan’s reading of language for animal language and human language are both sign systems: “What he attributes to signs that, ‘in a language’ understood as belonging to the human order, ‘take on their value from the relation to each other’ and so on, and not just from the ‘fixed correlation’ between signs and reality, can and must be accorded to any code, animal or human” (124). What one does through language is seek a response from the other, and both a bee’s dance and a human’s language do that.

Derrida emphasizes that he does not want to erase the distinction between response and reaction; he, on the other hand, wants to question the distinction itself—the binary purity of one thing being a response as opposed to one thing being a reaction. This erasing of distinction might requires to question the idea of responsibility “especially when…the logic of the unconscious is founded on a logic of repetition” which will complicate the idea of original thought especially when the thought is because of language (125). The very psychoanalytic idea of the subject founded in language makes Derrida question the idea of language as response or reaction. Furthermore, by problematizing this distinction, Derrida is afraid of the implication for ethics and responsibility; however, he addresses these concerns, stating that there should always be doubt and concern over question of ethics and responsibility—the very essence of ethics is doubt. Furthermore, it is not a question of erasing the difference rather “of taking that difference into account within the whole differentiated field of experience and of the world of life forms” (126). He wants to analyze the difference between humans and animals. Derrida seeks to establish another logos by returning to Lacan and following the ‘trace’ left by Lacan.

Lacan states that the animal cannot lie. Humans, through language, have the capacity to pretend. An animal can deceive, but it cannot pretend. As Derrida puts it, Lacan states that an animal has the “capacity to trace, to leave a track, but not to distract the tracking or lead the tracker astray by erasin its trace or covering its tracks” (128). Derrida deconstructs the idea of the animal’s inability to lie. It is because of man’s lack—because of the castration complex, because of the signifier’s rule over the subject—that man has language and the animal does not. What the animal lacks is precisely Lacan’s subject’s lack. It is this lack that gives humans their superiority over animals. The big Other allows humans to pretend by believing in something that animals do not partake in. At the end of Lacan’s seminar on the ‘Purloined Letter,’ Lacan states that the letter always arrives at its destination because the big Other reads the letter. The very symbolic order of the big Other—a thing that only exist in so much as the subject believes in it (and because of language) is what is denied the animal; therefore, the animal cannot pretend to pretend to believe in the big Other.

And then, I think, that Derrida wonders if since there is no Other for the Other, just as there is no Other for the animal, then could there not be a case for the animal as Other? Derrida explains: “In order to break with the image and with the likeness of a fellow, must not this beyond of partnership—thus beyond the specular or imaginary duel—be at least situated in a place of alterity that is radical enough to break with every identification of an image of self, with every fellow living creature, and so with every faternity or huma proximity, with all humanity? Must not this place of the Other be ahuman?” (131-2). The animal in the discourse of Levinas and Lacan is so radically other(ed) because of the Law-of-the-Father (Lacan) or because of divinity (Levinas) where, at one and the same time, these discourses fail to take into account the animal while at the same time not taking into account the animal because of these absolute beliefs. The animal is turned into a Lacanian Real (“indissociable figures of the same Thing”).

Derrida goes on to re-emphasize that he does not wish to attack this logic so much as to re-think it. By looking at these moments in Lacan, Derrida merely wants to complicate, analyze, and point out how the limits—the distinction—set up by the discourse becomes complicated. How can we distinguish a pretense, for instance. Again, by looking at Lacan’s discourse on the animal and human psychology, Derrida points out that both are not discontinuous. The animal might not be able to cover its track, but the human does the human actively, consciously cover its tracks? The problem becomes: what gives humans the right to say that an animal does not have something when humans can not be sure that humans can say humans have it; in other words, can humans say that they “possess the pure, rigorous, indivisible concept, as such, of that attribution” (135). This questioning leads Derrida to question “tracks” which leads to an analyses of his idea of “trace.” Can humans say an animal does not cover its tracks any more than a it can be said that a human covers its tracks.

Derrida questions this trace—the trace the human leaves—and wonders if a human can cover (erase) its trace. The very idea of the trace means that the trace is always being erased and always capable of being erased. Derrida says the trace cannot be defined because it is an undecidable. The trace is the presence and absence of meaning. The trace is something like the “mark of the absence of a presence, an always-already absent present.” This trace is always being manifest and always disappearing as the subject uses language; therefore, “In this regard the human no more has the power to cover its track than does the so-called ‘animal.’ Radically to erase its traces, that is to say, by the same token radically to destroy, deny, put to death, even put itself to death” (136). This anthropocentric stance, being able to erase the trace and of keeping the distinctions in place, is a result of wanting to be superior over the animal in the face of Darwinism.
Ultimately, humans cannot know how aware the animal is of pretense, just as humans cannot fully distinguish their own pretense. Derrida wants to break down the idea of a pure distinction among response reaction in order to reveal that there is no clear distinction between human and animal. In interesting kismet, as I finish writing this response, I have just read Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence’s article “Cultural Perspectives of Differences Between People and Animals: A Key to Understanding Human-Animal Relationships” where she posits just how alike humans are to animals. While Derrida blurs the distinctions by way of the trace and continental philosophy, Lawrence does it by science and research.

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?

Jonathan Safran Foer relates a story that historians like to tell about Abraham Lincoln. Once, while leaving Springfield for Washington, Lincoln noticed some distressed birds on the side of the road and forced his party to stop and help the birds. When questioned about it later, Lincoln said, “I could not have slept to-night if I had left those poor creatures on the ground and not restored them to their mother.” Foer goes on to make the observation that Lincoln “did not make (though he might have) a case for the moral value of the birds, their worth to themselves or the ecosystem or God. Instead he observed, quite simply, that once those suffering birds came into his view, a moral burden had been assumed” (267). This moral burden, I believe, is what is behind Derrida’s essay on animals. By looking at the manner in which philosophers have discussed animals in the past, Derrida points out the othering of the animals and the ethical implications of this othering. The main problem with philosophizing animals is that it misses the question that only Bethem asked: “The question is not to know whether the animal can think, reason, or speak, etc,. … The first and decisive question would rather be to know whether animals can suffer” (Derrida 27). While that is the first question, Derrida looks at the all the other questions raised by philosophy as well.

In Derrida’s signature playful manner, he explores the question of the animal by looking at the history of the animal in Western culture from the Bible to Descartes to Heidegger to the classifications of science and always with Levinas’s ethics in the background. Derrida begins his essay with Heidegger’s question, which is “what do I do when ‘I am’” (3). Derrida extends Heidegger’s “I am” by adding to it that he is an animal and explains human’s uncanniness and uneasiness with being animal. With the trace of Levinas and the Bible, Derrida equates this uneasiness with a shame, similar to the fall, in the gaze of his cat. IN thinking about his cat, which makes him think of Alice in Wonderland, Derrida questions what it means to respond, and how we can know an animal’s response. The animal’s response to humans takes up the ethical question of facing the other. People have theorized the animal—“seen” the animal—but, Derrida wonders, have anybody noticed the address by the animal.

These ethical questions, the shame in the face of the cat, I would argue, are already there in Heidegger and Levinas. I am very interested in how Derrida will explore philosopy’s role in the animal, especially Levinas and Heidegger. Derrida equates his shame as a (literal) nakedness in the gaze of his cat, but this shame is also a metaphorical, Levinasian nakedness as well. Derrida is encountering the face of the other (his cat), and by not reducing the cat into the same , Derrida is trying to ethically encounter the cat. Levinas explains this nakedness in the face of the other: “The face has turned to me—and this is its very nudity. It is by itself and not by reference to a system” (75). Derrida is trying to get away from any categorization, such as zoology, biology, or even philosophy, in order to encounter the cat in a true face to face that Levinas promotes; That is to say, Derrida encounters his cat as cat, wholly and singularly, not as a cat in reference to the animal kingdom and not as some alien other. Derrida’s language in describing his cat’s gaze is further suggestive of Levinas when Derrida explains “Nudity gets stripped to bare necessity only in that frontal exhibition, in that face-to-face” (Derrida 11). Derrida appears to extend Levinas’s ethical call to animals. When the cat is face to face with Derrida, the situation recalls Levinas’s assertion that “the Other faces me and puts me in question and obliges me by his essence qua infinity” (207) . Levinas examines the gaze of the other, and Derrida extends that idea to animals because for Levinas one’s subjectivity is constituted in the other, which is why Derrida wants to explore the limits of being human and what it means to be human. The animal’s gaze shows man the limits from where man dares to call himself man.

Heiddeger is also present throughout Derrida’s analysis. Heiddeger rejected what Hubert Dreyfus calls predicate philosophy made popular by Aristotle. For Aristotle, a self-sufficient entity had properties; for instance, a hammer is brown and is heavy as if all intelligible things could fall under this simple predicate model. The predicate model is, after all, what Derrida is exploring in this study. Throughout the philosophical tradition, the predicate model is used to describe the animal/ human divide. For example, the animal has no language or the human is the thinking animal, etc., as if this predicate model explained everything. For Heidegger, the world is not understandable in terms of substances and properties. Knowing this about Heidegger makes Derrida’s reading of Heidegger and the animal interesting; it is also interesting that Heidegger (and other philosophers of Heidegger) missed this obvious connection between Dasein and animals (that is, if one can judge that animals do not have a Dasein).

However, I feel that the question of an animal having Dasein or not is somewhat superfluous, nor do I feel the question Derrida raises about Heidegger’s analysis of the animal which is “living but nothing more,” ultimately, very important. Questions of the animal’s subjectivity and Dasein aside, Heidegger does assert that Dasein is in-the-world. At the very least, animals are a part of that world, which would mean animals are a part of Dasein. What is behind Derrida’s analysis and what I believe Derrida will eventually explore is Dasein’s in-the-world-ness.

Our understanding and interpretation of the world arises from our place in the world. In Being and Time, Heidegger’s central question is the question of being itself, and more precisely, that mode of being that is specifically human. In order to understand how understanding works, it is important to understand the being that is doing the understanding, and that being is Dasein. Dasein is the way of being of humans; This mode of being is one that makes existence an issue for itself, takes a stand on its existence; furthermore, Dasein interprets and is able to take a stand on its existence and understands by using equipment and acting in the world. This Dasein, who is always-already interpreting the world, is in the first place always-already being-in-the-world. Heidegger says “There is no such thing as the ‘side-by-side-ness’ of an entity called ‘Dasein’ with another entity called ‘world’” (81). This analysis breaks down the subject/object binary of Husserl and Descartes. Therefore, if existence is Dasein’s concern, the way it takes a stand on itself, then would it not follow that Dasein should take a stand of not hurting the world it is a part of? Of course, if an animal does have Dasein and can takes a stand on its life, then this analysis wold complicate humans relationship with animals because it would mean that animals would have a towards death, which would mean that when humans kill an animal, humans cause animals anguish and pain.

In an effort to rethink animals, Derrida wants to create a new language, and I believe this desire for a new language and a new way to look at animals comes mostly from Heidegger and Levinas, who both saw and commented on the limits and dangers of language. It is through language that humans put the animal in the category animal—a word that encompasses all “animals” from lizards to dogs and cats, to fish and birds, on through the entire spectrum. It is in this totalizing language that Derrida appears to make a rare universal claim when he says “This agreement concerning philosophical sense and common sense that allows one to speak blithely of the Animal in the general singular is perhaps one of the greatest and most symptomatic asinanities of those who call themselves humans” (41). I read this as saying that the one truly human thing that separates humans from animals is human’s ability to use language in this violent way to subjugate animals and categorize all of them under a single word: animal.

Derrida’s analysis of the animal and his exploration through Biblical stories, Greek mythology, and Western philosophy calls into question the language and thought used to explore the animal. He wants to break down the definition of animals through what the animal does not have and focus and explore rather what the animal ethically calls humans to do. It is interesting to note that Derrida’s title has within it the implication of “The Animal that Therefore I Am (More to Follow) because what has followed is the exploration of animal suffering. While the questions about the animal’s ability to communicate, the animal’s Dasein, the animal’s address to humans, is all very interesting, I think that what follows is Safran Foer’s book which ask the same question Bethem ask about the suffering of animals.

Here is what I am working on in terms of a theory of heartbreak: The poems used here are read literally with none of the irony that Millay intended. I just want to use the words she writes to flush out ideas, so this is in no way meant to be a reading of Millay, but rather a thought experiment on heartbreak:

I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.”
– Ednay St. Vincent Millay “Time Does Not Bring Relief: You All Have Lied”

The Millay poem quoted captures a feeling of heartbreak and of what happens in heartbreak. After being in love and spending time with a loved one, when that loved one is no longer present, the memory of that person lingers. The heartbroken tries to forget, but in forgetting suddenly becomes aware that the ex-beloved has been forgotten and, in turn, the heartbroken is reminded of the loss, which turns the beloved into an object of contemplation. I believe Martin Heidegger can inform this feeling of heartbreak. The beloved is gone and forgotten, “there is no memory of him”; that is, until the heartbroken remembers that the beloved was forgotten, which leads to the heartbroken standing “stricken, so remembering him.” In the one heartbroken, the memory of the beloved resembles Heidegger’s present-at-hand. Furthermore, the heartbroken’s emotions lose their ontological definition or “ready-to-hand[ness].” Heidegger describes the interconnections of Being and all the things Being interacts with in the world. The tools that Dasein interacts with are what is ready-to-hand. As Dasein moves through the world in average everydayness, the things in the world, the ready-to-hand tools in the world, remain unnoticed. In other words, when things are going smoothly, we become absorbed in everydayness in the world, but when something breaks, we notice the interconnectedness of the world, and we also notice how that previously ignored tool relates to the world—that is, the tool becomes present-at-hand. The longer the tool is broken, the more the tool becomes an object of contemplation; as Charles Guignon describes the situation:

As we adopt a stance in which things are explicitly noticed, we can be led to believe that what have been there “all along” are value free, meaningless objects whose usefulness was merely a product of our own subjective interest and needs. Heidegger’s point, however, is that this conception of reality a consisting of essentially contextless objects can arise only derivatively from a more “primordial” way of being absorbed in a meaningful life-world (13)


Guignon goes on to explain how this is a product of the “disworlding of the world” and is not how the world is actually built. I would argue this explanation Heidegger gives informs heartbreak. When heartbreak occurs, is there not a sense that something is being taken for granted in the relationship? People get comfortable and start to treat loved ones as mere objects in the world, as a tool that is merely ready-to-hand, and then with the dissolution of the relationship and the onset of heartbreak, suddenly, the relationship and the beloved become “a meaningless object” who was only used for our own selfish subjective interest and needs. The relationship and the other become objects of contemplation as if something was broken. However, the heartbroken’s contemplation can lead to a “more primordial way of being absorbed in a meaningful life-world.” In heartbreak, the heartbroken becomes aware of his/her world and the lack of the beloved in it.

In order to understand heartbreak and what happens in heartbreak, it is important to understand identity because heartbreak makes a subject confront his/her identity in a radical way. Heidegger posits identity as Dasein. Dasein is the being that asks about its own being. This being is a being-in-the-world-with-others-towards-death. Within this conception, Heidegger explains that Dasien is always a taking up of possibilities. The structure of being that Heidegger outlines is as an always-already being in the world thrown ahead of itself into its potentiality, but being thrown ahead of itself Dasein still has to deal with the past while always having the potentiality of the end ahead of itself. Heidegger describes it as such:

The ahead-of-itself presented itself as a not-yet. But the ahead-of-itself,
characterized in the sense of something outstanding, revealed itself to our
genuine existential reflection as being toward the end, something that in the
depths of its being every Da-sein is (Heidegger 292, italics in original).

In heartbreak, this ‘ahead-of-itself’ as a ‘not-yet’ is manifested because the not-yet—the possibilities that Dasein can take up in the future—is no longer possible. The other has left and with the other leaving, so to do all the possibilities Dasein had with the other. Heartbreak gives rise to the feeling of life being broken, of identity being changed, and of Dasein looking at its life in contemplation as an object present-at-hand.

— I have more ideas about this– so I am going to leave this here and come back to it. This might be what I explore in my dissertation.