Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In this dissertation I establish the possibility of social and ethical relationships with non-human natural (and in particular inanimate) beings. I do so based on the work of 20th century French philosopher Jacques Derrida. In chapter 1 I discuss the relatively sparse secondary literature that addresses the intersection between Derrida's work and environmental philosophy. I also go over some textual indications that show that Derrida has been concerned with non-human beings throughout his career.
In chapters 2 and 3 I establish the impossibility of conclusively excluding any kind of being from the purview of ethical responsibility. While chapter 2 develops the nature of Derrida's ethics, chapter 3 ties this conception of ethics back to more theoretical considerations that we find in Derrida's texts.
Chapters 4 to 6 serve to illustrate in a more positive fashion how Derrida might help us to understand the possibility of social and ethical relationships with inanimate beings. Chapter 4 focuses on the notion of the trace in order to show that the presence qua absence that characterizes our experience of human persons can be discerned in our relationships to inanimate beings as well. Chapter 5 focuses on Derrida's discussion of a human corpse as neither simply alive nor simply dead. I argue that this experience of life/death is possible with regard to non-human inanimate beings as well. Finally, in chapter 6 I argue for the possibility of sharing a common world with non-human (including inanimate) beings based on Derrida's conception of habitat and of the world as fractured and constructed.
Bretz, Thomas Helmut, "“But Who, We?”: Derrida on Non-Human Others" (2016). Dissertations. 2121.
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Copyright © 2016 Thomas Helmut Bretz