Oh, the Inhumanities…

Via the Inhumanities blog, what looks to be a good event, not least because it maps well onto some things I’ve noted here, namely a divergence of interests in critiquing anthropocentrism in animal ethics and speculative realism—and, though not mentioned here, environmentalism:

animal_index_circleWhile speculative realism has critiqued anthropocentrism in ontology, and critical animal studies has critiqued anthropocentrism in ethics, there has yet to be many productive connections made between the two. With each offering the other important insights, the question to be asked is, what is the relation between ethics and ontology? Does a realist ontology require the suspension of any ethical imperatives? Can ethics and norms be grounded in something real? Are nonhuman actors capable of ethical relations?

Larval Subjects begins to show just what one can expect when questions are formulated well, as here:

I will, however, say that earlier this year those of the various SR orientations had a debate as to whether trees are real. The eliminative materialist-Brassier side of this debate contended that it amounts to “folk ontology” to claim that trees are real. The OOO folk contended that reductivism fails to recognize that objects exist at multiple levels of scale and are irreducible to one another. This was treated as “folk ontology” because it was claimed that we were individuating objects by virtue of how we perceive objects. Long story short, I cannot say that I see much of use for ecology or critical animal studies coming out of the scientistic/reductive materialist side of this discussion. If we can’t even hold that trees are real objects, then I am unsure of what possible use SR can possibly be for the ecologist or the critical animal theorist. Fortunately SR isn’t exhausted by scientism

I think he’s right about the normative side of reductionist accounts. (Or otherwise put, when the reductionists, such as the Churchlands, begin going normative and talking about imprisoning people deemed to have certain types of brain functioning, be afraid, be very afraid.) Besides, as a reader of the Greeks, various types of African philosophy, and Heidegger—well, what’s so bad about so-called “folk ontology”? Or is that a cudgel used to short circuit questions about what role narrative plays even in reductionist ontology?


  1. Damn, we forgot ecology. Though the question is worded in such a way that an ecologist has the same ability answer as a CAS or SR person. And hopefully the ecologists will participate.

    Btw, you and Levi are really giving a good pre-game show. Thanks.

  2. I remember environmentalism being kicked around briefly in the question-formation process, but ultimately being left out so as not to be overly narrow. But PITE I completely agree that it is the middle ground–animal ethics w/o being restricted to animals, ontological openness that puts more than the demand of truth on us.

    I also like the idea of embracing folk ontology. I imagine Johnny Appleseed tossing out being by the handful.

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