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In Search Of Lost Animality – Kassel, November 12-14, 2013

The first meeting of the international “bio-philosophical school” took place November 12-14 at the University of Kassel. It was organized by Kristian Köchy and Francesca Michelini, and involved scholars and students from Italy and Germany. Over the course of the event, entitled “Of Animals and Men”, problems implied by the notion of “animality” were presented and debated under many different perspectives. Despite the wide range of expertise and interests of the participants, the general attention was focused on the necessity of an in-depth discussion of the general framework in which animal life is to be understood. The necessity underlying all discussions was that of a reconsideration of the relationship between animal and human or, more generally, between nature and culture.

Several perspectives were called into question, from phenomenology and psychoanalysis (contributed by A. Esposito and E. Tripaldi, students from the University of Padova, and by A. Tomaino, from the University of Calabria), to Wittgenstein (S. Oliva, University of Calabria), to Searle (P. Garofalo, University of Calabria) and Deleuze. With reference to the latter, the paper presented by Felice Cimatti (University of Calabria) used the concept of becoming animal in order to rethink the man-animal relation in anti-Heideggerian terms. The talks by Arianna Ferrari (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Stefan Sander (University of Kassel) and Peter Kunzmann (University of Jena) were concerned with animal rights and other ethical issues. Another important perspective was one of contemporary ethology, which was tackled by the contributions of M. Wild (University of Basel), M. Böhnert (University of Kassel) and O. R. Salva (University of Trento). On the same theme was the plenary lecture of Giorgio Vallortigara (University of Trento). Finally, all these issues highlighted how the two-cultures debate is still an up to date point for discussion (Marc Seefried, University of Kassel).

These considerations on the issue walked the line of a rehabilitation of classical German philosophy in antagonism with Heidegger, specifically with regard to the relationship between nature and spirit: Luca Illetterati (University of Padova) has gone in this direction. In contrast with views considering animals as the only beings in direct and immediate contact with nature, Hegel stresses the structural features common to humans and animals. In his view, both are in fact characterized by self-reference and freedom, which are the basic tenets of Hegel’s understanding of subjectivity. While the origin of subjectivity is to be found in the realm of nature, its realization takes place in that of spirit, meaning language, political institutions and culture. The latter is defined by Hegel as a “second nature”. Contrary to the doctrine of natural law, however, the overcoming of the “first nature” is not envisaged as its negation, but rather as a redetermining of what is already there in the animal organism (as explained in the contribution by D. Bertoletti, M. Colonnello and M. Ferrari, students from the University of Padova).

In opposition to the common view envisaging philosophy of nature as a closed chapter of Western philosophical tradition, it was thus argued that we still need a nature-philosophical framework if we are to rethink the ontological status of animality (as it was shown in the contribution of A. Gambarotto, from the University of Padova). Several developments in contemporary ecology show that philosophy of nature is far from dead. In fact, they could be used to carry on the program laid down by Schelling and Hegel with contemporary technical tools.

by Daniele Bertoletti, Margherita Colonnello, Alessandro Esposito, Marco Ferrari, Andrea Gambarotto, Elena Tripaldi

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