Turning to animals between love and law (New Formations 76, Summer 2012)

Author: Anat Pick



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Format: Article

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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Anat Pick

As an alternative to Utilitarianism, animal ethics turned to the Continental philosophies of Levinas and Derrida that welcome and revere Otherness. While Utilitarianism relies on a ‘closed’ system of ethical calculations, the Levinasian model remains open-ended. This essay argues for a revised approach to animal ethics that combines Levinasian immeasurability, what Matthew Calarco called ‘ethical agnosticism’, with a closed approach that sees ethics as issuing from particular modes of practice. Highlighting some of the problems inherent in the Levinasian ethics of love as well as Agamben’s biopolitical critique of law, I propose a corrective, ‘between love and law’, that avoids predetermining the limits of moral consideration yet insists on the social and normative dimensions of ethical responsiveness. I take the practice of veganism Рbroadly conceived beyond the strictly dietary Рas the heart of animal ethics and consider some of the philosophical and theological dimensions of veganism as neither naïve nor as utopian but on the contrary, as a worldly mode of engagement that acknowledges the realities of violence.