The 2017 issue of Studia Phaenomenologica will be devoted to the phenomenology of animality. This area can be approached in at least two different ways: one can explore the fruitfulness of the problem of animal being by starting from the fundamental questions of phenomenology; or one can start from issues related to animal philosophy, and explore the explanatory potential of phenomenology in relation to this area.
Depending on the approach taken, the volume’s topic can therefore be understood either as a “phenomenology of animality” which focuses on the distinctive methodology of the phenomenological approach to the animal, or as a “phenomenology of animality” which focuses on the thematic specificity of the animal problem within the vast field of phenomenology. Thus, one might ask, on the one hand, what function can have the phenomenon of animal life within the general framework of a phenomenological research program, whether this is transcendental, ontological, hermeneutical or ethical. And, on the other hand, one might investigate the role phenomenology as such plays in the context of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary contemporary debates about the animal which engage perspectives from biology, animal psychology, ethology, law, etc.
Accordingly, there are two intertwined questions here, and both are equally important: one refers to the significance of the animal being for phenomenology, while the other is related to the significance of phenomenology for the current field of “animal philosophy”. But then, what does the specificity of the phenomenological approach to the animal consist in? How can one identify the dimensions that distinguish and individualize the phenomenological approach in contrast to other forms of animal philosophy? By virtue of which exactly is an approach to the animal a phenomenological one?
Given the fact that the history of phenomenology reveals multifarious approaches to the animal, and thus we are not dealing with one phenomenology of animality, but with a plurality of phenomenologies, one should perhaps attempt to identify a common core or at least central factors that give coherence and unity to this field.
If the phenomenological approach must by definition be carried out in the first person, focusing in a strictly descriptive way on what is given and on what shows itself, and if, furthermore, its paramount task is that of uncovering both the structure of subjective experience and the constitutive structures of the described phenomena, then the same requirements have to be applied to the question of the animal and the diverse experiences we have with animals.
Thus, first, the phase of phenomenological reduction requires a preliminary bracketing of all scientific or philosophical theories about animals in general; in other words, phenomenology should attempt to disregard from the beginning any traditional understanding of the animal that may divert or blur the phenomenological sight.
Second, as an essentially methodical approach, phenomenology raises the question regarding the conditions of access to the being of the animal or to the animal world; from this perspective, it constantly produces a critical discourse highlighting the limits of empathy and the risks of transfer meaning from the human to the animal sphere.
Third, phenomenology starts from everyday experience of and with animals, and investigates the concrete ways these are given to us in our world of factical life, avoiding any artificial construct such as a laboratory setting.
And finally, in virtue of its originally eidetic character, phenomenology focuses on the question of the essence of the animal, the problem of the animality, and the essential structures relating the human and the animal spheres of experience.
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