Tom Tyler: Research
Research Interests
I undertake research in three broad areas: the history of ideas, particularly different varieties of anthropocentric thought; animals, particularly their mistreatment both in theory and in practice; and videogames, particularly the values and roles that they offer players.
For reviews of my work, see the Reviews page.
Tyler, Tom. "Exchanges." In Regimes of Capital in the Post-Digital Age, edited by Szymon Wróbel and Krzysztof Skonieczny, 143–56. Abingdon: Routledge, 2023.
Tyler, Tom. Game: Animals, Video Games, and Humanity. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press, 2022.
Tyler, Tom. "The Exception and the Norm: Dimensions of Anthropocentrism." In The Palgrave Handbook of Animals and Literature, edited by Susan McHugh, Robert McKay and John Miller, 15–36. London: Palgrave, 2021.
Tyler, Tom. "Difficulties." Parallax 25, no. 4 (2019): 446–70.
Tyler, Tom. "Meanings of Meat in Videogames." In Literature and Meat Since 1900, edited by Seán McCorry and John Miller, 231–47. London: Palgrave, 2019.
Tyler, Tom. "Trojan Horses." In Thinking Veganism in Literature and Culture, edited by Emelia Quinn and Ben Westwood, 107–23. London: Palgrave, 2018.
Tyler, Tom. "Playing like a Loser." In Beyond the Human-Animal Divide: Creaturely Lives in Literature and Culture, edited by Dominik Ohrem and Roman Bartosch, 141–49. London: Palgrave, 2017.
Tyler, Tom. "Enumerating Ruminants." Trace 1 (April 2017).
Tyler, Tom. "Cows, Clicks, Ciphers, and Satire." NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies 4, no. 1 (Spring 2015): 199–208.
Tyler, Tom. "Misanthropy without Humanity." Paradoxa 26 (2014): 239–45.
Tyler, Tom. "A Singular of Boars." Antennae 30 (Winter 2014): 35–38.
Tyler, Tom. "Donestre." In The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters, edited by Jeffrey A. Weinstock, 170–72. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014.
Tyler, Tom. "New Tricks." Angelaki 18, no. 1 (March 2013): 65–82.; reprinted in Being Human: Between Animals and Technology, edited by Ron Broglio and Frederick Young, 62-79. London: Routledge, 2015.
Tyler, Tom. "An Interview with Tom Tyler." Animals & Society Institute, January 2013.
Tyler, Tom. "We Happy Few." Unpublished. Presented at Victoria University, Australia (2012), Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, UK (2013), University of Warwick, UK (2014).
Tyler, Tom. CIFERAE: A Bestiary in Five Fingers. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press, 2012.
Tyler, Tom. "Becoming What We Are." Unpublished. Presented at Charles University, Czech Republic (2011), Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, UK (2012), Utrecht University, Netherlands (2012), University of Warsaw, Poland (2012), University of Melbourne, Australia (2012), Macquarie University, Australia (2012), University of Würzburg, Germany (2013).
Tyler, Tom. "The Rule of Thumb." JAC 30, no. 3–4 (2010): 435–56.
Tyler, Tom. "The Test of Time: McLuhan, Space and the Rise of Civilization." In Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, and Nature, edited by Sid Dobrin and Sean Morey, 257–77. New York: SUNY, 2009.
Tyler, Tom and Manuela Rossini, eds. Animal Encounters. Leiden: Brill, 2009.
Tyler, Tom. "A Procrustean Probe." Game Studies 8, no. 2 (December 2008).
Tyler, Tom. "Deviants, Donestre and Debauchees: Here Be Monsters." Culture, Theory & Critique 49, no. 2 (Autumn 2008): 113–131.
Tyler, Tom. "The Quiescent Ass and the Dumbstruck Wolf." Configurations 14, no. 1–2 (Winter-Spring 2006; published Summer 2008): 9–28.
Tyler, Tom. Review of The Animals Reader, by Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald. Frieze 108 (June–August 2007): 50.
Tyler, Tom. "Monstrous Mixture: The Archaeology of Teratology." Unpublished. Presented at Western Michigan University, USA (2007), Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, UK (2010), Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil (2011).
Tyler, Tom. "Quia Ego Nominor Leo: Barthes, Stereotypes and Aesop's Animals." Mosaic 40, no. 1 (March 2007, "The Animal, Part II"): 45–59; reprinted in Roland Barthes, edited by Neil Badmington, 195–208. Vol. 1. London: Routledge, 2010; reprinted in Dialogue and Universalism 1 (2014): 193–208; reprinted in The Animals in Us - We in Animals, edited by Szymon Wrobel, 241–58. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2014.
Tyler, Tom. "Snakes, Skins and the Sphinx: Nietzsche's Ecdysis." Journal of Visual Culture 5, no. 3 (December 2006): 365–85.
Adams, Carol J. "An Animal Manifesto: Gender, Identity, and Vegan-Feminism in the Twenty-First Century." Interview by Tom Tyler. Parallax 12, no. 1 (January–March 2006, #38 "Animal Beings"): 120–28.; reprinted in The Carol J. Adams Reader: Writings and Conversations 1995–2015, edited by Carol J. Adams, 331–46. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.
Tyler, Tom. "Four Hands Good, Two Hands Bad." Parallax 12, no. 1 (January–March 2006, #38 "Animal Beings"): 69–80.; reprinted in Kafka's Creatures: Animals, Hybrids, and Other Fantastic Beings, edited by Marc Lucht and Donna Yarri, 175–89. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010.
Tyler, Tom, ed. "Animal Beings." Special issue, Parallax 12, no. 1 (January–March 2006, #38).
Tyler, Tom. "Like Water in Water." Journal for Cultural Research 9, no. 3 (July 2005): 265–79.; reprinted as "Como a água na água" in Pensar/Escrever O Animal: Ensaios de Zoopoética e Biopolítica, edited by Maria Esther Maciel, 55–73. Florianópolis: EDUSC, 2011.
Tyler, Tom. "If Horses Had Hands..." Society & Animals 11, no. 3 (2003): 267–81.; reprinted in Animal Encounters, edited by Tom Tyler and Manuela Rossini, 13–26. Leiden: Brill, 2009.
Exchange takes place, Marx tells us, when, by mutual agreement of their owners, commodities change hands (Hände wechseln). The development of money out of the process of exchange permitted qualitatively different commodities to be equated, facilitating the accumulation of profit, the rise of capital, and all the inequalities and iniquities that are thereby engendered. Signs of the Sojourner (Echodog Games, 2020) invites players to travel between the communities of a near-future world and attempt to acquire goods for sale in their shop. Contrary to expectations, however, the game does not in fact concern itself with commodity exchange, but draws our attention instead to a very different kind of exchange in which, although questions of power and privilege do indeed arise, nothing changes hands at all.
The word game can refer to a particular kind of animal (birds and mammals hunted for sport, such as ducks and deer); an activity (games people play, such as Monopoly and Pac-Man); or an attitude (when applied to those who are eager or willing, for instance to try something new). The thirteen essays which comprise this collection examine, then, how the animals encountered in videogames challenge the adventurous player to think differently about both. From Dung Beetles to Dog’s Life by way of Ridiculous Fishing, Super Meat Boy, Trojan Horse and a miscellany of other games, essays interrogate conventional thinking about winning and losing, vitality and vulnerability, virtuality, rumination, difficulty settings and more, and, as a result, reconsider the ways in which we can or should understand humanity.
Anthropocentric thinking assumes or argues that humanity is Nature’s “most prominent object,” that animals are means to human ends, or perhaps that human beings are an inevitable or necessary axis for reflection. The grounds of these claims for human-centering have been many and varied, but two indispensable conceptions can be identified. On the one hand, it is frequently asserted that humanity is exceptional; on the other, that it is the norm. Within these conceptions, it is possible to distinguish six separate dimensions of anthropocentric thought: humans have been understood as a high point on a spatial hierarchy; as the culmination of a temporal sequence; as fundamentally different in kind; as a bodily standard or measure; as a mental constraint on apprehension; and as a self-evident identity.
A videogame’s difficulty settings provide a means of balancing the expectations placed on players, and help to increase the number of people who will be able to play and enjoy it. Between “easy” and “hard,” the default “normal” setting aims to accommodate what we might think of as the “everyplayer,” the ordinary or typical player. Taking as a case study the Half-Life series, however, with its unassuming everyman hero Gordon Freeman, we find that such a conception is inauspiciously normative, implicitly positing as it does a model human being, against whom all others are measured and found to be deficient. By exploring alternative understandings of the possibilities offered by games, we discover that the players that are thereby implied are not, as it turns out, human at all.
Meat is ubiquitous in videogames and, when consumed by avatars or their agents, will frequently confer some aid or benefit. In many games it serves as the most nourishing form of sustenance for those who are hungry, but it can also operate as the most effective restorative for those who are injured, as a potent source of temporary power-ups and enhancements, or as a valuable resource to be spent on permanent improvements and upgrades. In short, in so far as it functions as an indispensable, life-giving food stuff, meat comes to represent vitality. As a common condition of humans and animals, however, meat can also take on a rather different significance, as is illustrated by the game Super Meat Boy, and the ambiguous claim that its protagonist is a "boy made of meat."
In the videogame Trojan Horse, players are given the task of defending the ancient city of Troy from invading Achaeans, who attack the city both at ground level and by scaling the walls by means of their massive wooden horse. The frontal assault depicted in the game thus bears only passing resemblance to the traditional tale, in which wily Odysseus and a select band of warriors enter and ultimately capture the city by secreting themselves inside the horse. Much work has been done in the genre of what might be called vegan apologetics, the explicit defence of veganism against the attacks of its opponents. In this essay, however, I consider an alternative, complementary tactic, which eschews confrontation in favour of a less direct stratagem.
The well-established mechanic within videogames which permits players to respawn immediately after an untimely death and try again is often characterised as definitive of the medium. Players become accustomed to the promise, and perhaps inevitability, of their ultimate victory. There are games, however, which do not operate according to this repeat-to-win formula. So-called “endless runners,” for instance, are, in truth, anything but. Players begin each play-through knowing that, no matter how many times they play and how proficient they become, they will always lose. Thus does the zombie runner Into the Dead require us to adopt what the environmental philosopher Val Plumwood called a “prey perspective,” an awareness that we are not destined always to be dominant, but are, in fact, merely food: juicy, nourishing bodies for others.
Since the early 1980s, the independent videogame designer Jeff Minter has created, revisited and revised a raft of classic and influential games, including Llamatron: 2112, Tempest 2000 and Gridrunner. The games often feature innumerable sheep, goats, llamas, oxen, camels, giraffes, and other ungulates. Is it possible to count the sheep who appear in Minter's games? Can we enumerate the ruminants? Is it even feasible to list the different games? Starting with an oft-repeated tale of an insomniac king and his storyteller, I explore in this essay the concepts of enumeration, the identification of one individual after another in a series of their kind, and rumination, the sustained turning over in one's mind of some indistinct matter.
The social network game Farmville, which allows players to grow crops, raise animals, and produce a variety of goods, proved enormously successful within a year of its launch in 2009, attracting 110 million Facebook users. The game has been criticized, however, for its mindless mechanics, which require little more than repeated clicking on its colourful icons. By way of parody, Ian Bogost’s Cow Clicker permits its players simply to click on a picture of a cow once every six hours. In this essay I extend Bogost’s critique, and suggest that Cow Clicker highlights not just the soulless inanity of Farmville’s gameplay, but also the paucity of that game’s portrayal of the painful reality of a dairy cow’s punishing daily existence and untimely end.
Representations of misanthropy have frequently attributed it to one or both of two motivations. On the one hand, the misanthrope is often depicted as being ruled by passion, their intense, emotional abhorrence of humanity the result of personal affronts or misfortunes, like Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. On the other, the misanthrope will be portrayed as guided by unbending principle, their reasoned disdain deriving from a high-minded moral code, like Molière’s Alceste. The videogame Plague Inc., which casts players as a pathogen with the objective of annihilating the human species, offers an alternative misanthropy, however. Inviting us to invest in the values of a virus, bacterium or parasite, without emotional investment or underpinning rationale, it entertains the possibility of a misanthropy without humanity.
Treatises of natural history, when discussing a population or species, often refer to an animal by means of the definite article, e.g. "the boar." They invoke thereby a curious creature which is at once both singular and plural, an example of what Derrida would call the general singular. We are given an ideal, Platonic boar, an essence which effaces the specificity of individuals. Similarly, digital games like Titan Quest depict each of their animals by means of a single character model: every boar is indistinguishable from her fellows. The virtual animals of Titan Quest, however, are encountered by players as individuals: we meet each time a particular adversary or ally, and we experience, to our cost or benefit, their personal strength and power (virtus).
The Donestre were one of the many exotic races described in the medieval Liber Monstrorum and Wonders of the East. These fearsome creatures of mixed nature were depicted with a human body but the head of some unspecified animal, perhaps a dog or lion. They were said to live on an island in the Red Sea, and to be able to speak the languages of all nations. Should a foreign traveller chance upon a Donestre, the monster would speak to them in their own language, naming their kinsmen and acqaintances and thereby gaining their trust. Having tricked the unwary individual, the Donestre would capture his victim and eat them raw, after which he would take up the remaining head and weep over it.
The digital game Dog's Life attempts, by means of its "Smellovision" feature, to communicate the alterity of canine perception. At the same time, it encourages players to identify with the game's protagonist: you 'are' Jake, digging up bones, marking territory and chasing chickens. In this essay I argue that Dog's Life effectively comprises an "anti-environment" of the sort described by McLuhan, which altercasts players as dogs and thereby prompts them to notice conventional, anthroponormative assumptions regarding the pre-eminence of human modes of perception. By insisting on an experience both of alterity and identity, the digital game medium here combats clichéd notions of animality and subjectivity, whilst requiring players to reconsider the complex and uneven nature of interspecific, interpersonal control.
Animals are variously and endlessly fascinating, baffling, beautiful, impressive, and, as Bob McKay has said, "way cool." Scientific and other kinds of knowledge about the physiology, capacities and behaviour of animals is inherently interesting. Who could fail to be interested in the fact that the earliest tetrapods, the four-footed fish, had six, or seven, or even more fingers on each hand, and that evolution has seen a gradual loss of digits, so that most creatures today have far fewer than this number (just one in the case of horses); or that mammalian hiccups may well be the result of our descent from fish and amphibians, and the less-than optimal breathing apparatuses that we have inherited as a result.
We Happy Few
Interpellation, according to Althusser, is the means by which cultural institutions and processes 'hail' us. The policeman shouts out, abruptly, "Hey, you there!" and, in turning, individuals (mis)recognise the call as directed at them, thereby implicating themselves in their own subjection. The term interpellation can mean not just an interruption or summons, however, but also an appeal or entreaty. In this essay I examine the varied ways in which a selection of films address audiences not with a peremptory "you" but rather invite and inveigle viewers into identifying themselves as part of a collective "we". Microcosmos, Crash and Planet of the Apes all attempt forms of anthroponormative interpellation, whilst Earthlings, Finding Nemo and Green Porno exhibit quite different, more-than-human solicitations.
Tyler, Tom. "We Happy Few." Unpublished. Presented at Victoria University, Australia (2012), Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, UK (2013), University of Warwick, UK (2014).
Protagoras famously asserted that "man is the measure of all things". CIFERAE investigates the supposition that one's understanding and awareness of the world will always be conditioned or determined by a distinctively human perspective. The five-fingered hand is often considered a singular and defining part of this unique, human being, an incomparable appendage on which human supremacy depends. Over a span of five chapters, CIFERAE takes in hand the work of diverse thinkers, examining the alleged inseparability of anthropocentrism and epistemology. The text is accompanied throughout by a number of "wild animals" (ferae), creatures who manage, in a variety of ways, to resist the reductive appropriation of imprudent scholars. These unruly beasts persistently and mischievously question the humanist assumptions and arguments of their would-be employers.
Read reviews of CIFERAE: A Bestiary in Five Fingers.
Becoming What We Are
Sartre's account of bad faith describes the practice by which individuals deceive themselves into believing that the identity on which they have settled fully defines and delineates them. A particular form of bad faith is to be found in the work of diverse writers who persistently self-identify as human, thereby acknowledging only a narrow, limited part of themselves. In order to complicate this over-hasty self-conception, I draw on Nietzsche's great imperative to "become what you are," ordinarily invoked as a spur to individual self-enhancement, and here deployed toward more encompassing goals. By outlining a number of alternative, nonhuman collectivities to which we each belong, and which extend far beyond an impoverished self-identification as merely human, I argue that we must become all that we are.
Tyler, Tom. "Becoming What We Are." Unpublished. Presented at Charles University, Czech Republic (2011), Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, UK (2012), Utrecht University, Netherlands (2012), University of Warsaw, Poland (2012), University of Melbourne, Australia (2012), Macquarie University, Australia (2012), University of Würzburg, Germany (2013).
The opposable thumb is commonly considered to be a unique and defining component of the human hand, itself the perfected endpoint of accumulated ages of evolution. Aristotle, Galen, Macrobius, Montaigne and many others have all sung the praises of this magnificent digit, which makes possible the indispensable variety of grips and grasps on which human supremacy depends. The anatomist Charles Bell argued that the hand evinces intelligent design, and that the superficial similarities of this incomparable appendage with those of other creatures are by no means indicative of homological affinity. Vestiges of this anti-evolutionary taxonomic nominalism persist in the work of contemporary writers, whose belief in human exceptionalism manifests as an uncritical, oppressive and ultimately unsustainable 'rule of thumb'.
McLuhan probed and explored the social and cultural environments created by media technologies and the modes of perception engendered in those who found themselves immersed therein. In this essay I argue that digital games produce a form of electronic "acoustic space", an instantaneous, inclusive, decentred environment quite distinct from their carefully realised but ludologically irrelevant backstories. Taking as my case study Sid Meier's complex and involving Civilization series, I examine the 'aural' mode of engagement that digital games can encourage and even require. I close by evaluating the equivocal environmental rhetoric of this enduringly successful title, and the continuing relevance of McLuhan's provocative and fruitful analyses.
Animal Encounters presents a multidisciplinary selection of essays in which nonhuman animals meet with philosophers, literary scholars and cultural theorists, scientists and historians, feminists and environmentalists, artists and activists, who are interested in the productive potential of interspecies exchange and collaboration. Brought together under six strategic headings, the collection constitutes a series of encounters not only between animals, human and otherwise, but also between different disciplinary methods, theoretical approaches, and ethical positions. Animal Encounters includes essays by Carol J. Adams, Steve Baker, Monika Bakke, Pamela Banting, Jonathan Burt, Donna Haraway, Randy Malamud, Manuela Rossini, Laurie Shannon, Robyn Smith, Susan Squier and Tom Tyler.
Read reviews of Animal Encounters.
The brigand Procrustes dispatched his victims by stretching or trimming their bodies in order that they be made to fit his bed. Considered as a scientific theory, McLuhan's four "laws of media" risk violating communications research in a dangerously Procrustean manner. Conceived as an exploratory probe, however, this "tetrad" can provide illuminating insights into the social and psychological effects of individual technologies. Applied to digital games, the tetrad reveals the particular ways in which this distinctive cultural form enhances diverse modes of play, obsolesces traditional television viewing, retrieves lost means of participation, and reverses into pervasive and persistent play. The tetrad helps, in short, to situate digital games within the broader technological and cultural environment of which they are a part.
St Augustine suggested that monsters (monstra) serve to show or to signify (monstrare) something, whilst Foucault argued that one ancestor of today's abnormal individual was the human monster, a class of being characterised by a composite nature. In this essay I examine what two very different mixed human monsters can show us. The donestre, a medieval race of fearsome lion-headed polyglots, exhibit a corporeal violation of natural and social law. The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, meanwhile, illustrates the modern monstrosity of deviant, instinctual character. The careful study of monsters helps to debauch our minds with learning and thus, in the words of William James, to make the natural, explanatory power of 'instinct' seem strange.
This essay examines two key ways in which animals function in the texts of philosophy and contemporary critical theory. On the one hand they frequently appear as ciphers, mere place-fillers within a philosophical argument. I look briefly at J. L. Austin's cipherous pigs before discussing the different ways in which Buridan's overburdened ass is put to work. On the other hand, animals often appear as indices, obliging guides who point out productive avenues of thought. Here I examine Austin's multi-coloured fish, and then Freud's curiously quiet wolves. I conclude by suggesting that, despite their silence, these animals are able to tell us a good deal about the thoughts and theories of their respective employers.
Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald, eds, The Animals Reader: The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings (Oxford: Berg, 2007)
The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss once suggested that 'animals are good to think', and, as the editors of this timely collection argue, there has indeed been a great deal of significant thinking about animals in recent years. The burgeoning field of animal studies has sought to address what Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald call 'the animal question': how shall we rethink, rebuild and recast our relationships with other animals in light of this explosion of new research. Faced with such a range of potential material, Kalof and Fitzgerald present 35 carefully chosen texts, drawn both from contemporary studies and from the long history of thinking about animals.
Monstrous Mixture: The Archaeology of Teratology
It is little known that St Christopher, the popular patron saint of travellers, was a member of the ferocious Eastern race of Cynocephali (dog-heads) and was martyred in barbaric manner by King Dagnus of Lycia. In this essay I explore Foucault's account of the correlation between monstrous beings and monstrous practices during the medieval period: as obdurate mixtures, monsters transgress both natural and social law, thereby requiring of sovereign power a spectacularly violent punitive response. Drawing on Isidore of Seville's meticulous taxonomy of portentous monsters, I argue that Foucault attributes to the Middle Ages a notion of monstrous mixture more appropriate to later centuries.
Tyler, Tom. "Monstrous Mixture: The Archaeology of Teratology." Unpublished. Presented at Western Michigan University, USA (2007), Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, UK (2010), Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil (2011).
Taking Barthes' discussion of Aesop's lion as my starting point, I examine the notion of the stereotype as it applies to the use of animals in philosophy and cultural theory. By employing an illustrative selection of animal ciphers from Saussure, and animal indices from Peirce and Schopenhauer, I argue that theory's beasts are always at risk of becoming either exemplars of a deadening, generic Animal or mere stultifying stereotypes. Gilbert Ryle's faithful dog, Fido, as well as a number of Aesop's edifying animals, help to demonstrate that these two dangers are not inescapable, however. I close by indicating two strategies for preventing the unnecessary inhibition of the creatures of critical theory, focusing on Derrida's individual and gently unruly cat.
Foucault claimed that Nietzsche's philosophy constitutes "la grande rupture" from Kant's conception of knowledge. The break occurred, however, only after Nietzsche had shed his own Kantian skin. This essay examines both the debt that early Nietzsche owed to Kant, and the nature of the break evident in his later work. It highlights three key facets of the mature Nietzsche's epistemology: (1) there is no disinterested truth, only a range of evaluative perspectives; (2) these perspectives must continually change and multiply; and (3) the subject of any perspective need not be human. As Nietzsche's own eyesight deteriorated, he saw more, and he saw more clearly.
In this interview for the Parallax special issue on Animal Beings, Carol J. Adams discusses the contributions of feminism to thinking beyond "definition by negation", the means by which those considered lesser beings, animal or otherwise, have so often been characterised in opposition to the human. Stressing the importance of acknowledging our own animal bodies and those of others, she outlines a four point vegan-feminist "animal manifesto". She goes on to contrast Derrida's considered and compassionate relationship to his cat with the limitations and compromises of Haraway's own Companion Species Manifesto. She closes by suggesting that animal rights is a modern movement in a postmodern age.
In this essay I investigate the taxonomic classification of human beings and the temporal preeminence on which it has depended. Starting with short works by Kafka and Borges, I highlight two contrasting forms of disorder that taxonomies have been created to dispel: the incongruous and the heteroclite. Drawing on critiques by Dawkins and Diamond of the traditional classification of humans and great apes, I argue that Linnaeus' binomial system of nomenclature has been employed to inappropriately anthropocentric ends. This species-narcissism must be tempered with the recognition and invention of multiple, inclusive narcissisms, both incongruous and heteroclite. A revised nomenclature for Homo sapiens is impertinently proposed.
Many writers have sought to tell us what animals mean to human beings. But what kind of animal is this human being? In what kinds of animal being does the human animal engage? What is it to be, rather than to represent, an animal? This special issue of the cultural and critical theory journal Parallax addresses the question of human beings as animal beings. What happens when novelists and scientists, philosophers and cultural theorists, write not about animals but as animals. Animal Beings includes essays by Hélène Cixous, Derek Gatherer, Simon Glendinning, Margot Norris, Anat Pick, Tom Tyler, Lisa Uddin and Cary Wolfe, an interview with Carol J. Adams, plus nine book reviews.
Read a review of Animal Beings.
In this essay I examine the anthropocentrism evident in key texts by Bataille and Heidegger. Starting with Bataille's treatment of animality, I show how a contrast is drawn between animal experience, which is immediate and immanent, and human experience, which cannot help but transcend its environment by imposing distinctions. Heidegger, meanwhile, suggests that it is by means of the hand's "disclosive assimilation" that humanity enters a unique and privileged relationship to Being. I argue that both authors assume, without demonstrating, a qualitative difference between human and animal. This starting point might thus usefully be described as an "anthropocentric assumption" in the sense that, although neither author suggests that human experience is superior to that of animals, each considers it first-and-foremost.
In this essay I examine the contentious and confused notion of anthropomorphism, the inappropriate attribution of distinctively human characteristics to other entities. Beginning with an overview of the term's historical and current uses, I go on to examine the arguments both of those who believe it to be unscientific and demeaning, and those who contend that it is an inevitable and useful pragmatic strategy. Heidegger raises the more serious objection, however, that it is not at all clear what is even meant by the charge of anthropomorphism. I conclude that use of the term commits one to an undesirable anthropocentrism that shackles thought concerning human and animal beings.

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