The Lacanian Animal - A Psychoanalytical Perspective on Anthropocentrism and the Ambivalences in the Human-Animal Relationship

Doctoral project by Andreas Aigner

The doctoral project analyses different forms of anthropocentrism as well as ambivalences in the human thinking and acting related to non-human animals on the basis of the psychoanalytical theory by Jacques Lacan. This refers, for instance, to the phenomenon that humans eat some animals while they keep others as beloved pets and are fascinated and amazed by still other animals. The project investigates how this ambivalence is linked to unconscious processes and structures of the human psyche that slip conscious reflection. The interdisciplinary setting of the project at the interface between psychology and philosophy also deals with the question of the "ontological and epistemic basic conditions" of the "becoming" subject from an Lacanian perspective. This implies that also the concept of anthropocentrism and its doubtful overcoming are questioned because Lacan's complex theory of human subjectivity radically renders the concept of "anthropos" as a "centre" of thinking a problem. With regard to Lacan's later theories, the aim is to show that the different ways in which humans refer to animals and treat them can be associated with unconscious structures that are not "neutral" towards the Other. This does not only prove that, according to Lacan, the anthropocentrism towards animals, which is criticised in animal ethics, is a worthy subject for debate, but also any intended overcoming of it. The vital question is how far any relationship to this Other is co-determined by a certain unconscious interest or desire of this Other or borne by a specific form of unconscious enjoyment.

An analysis of this subjective structures will contribute an important new perspective to the philosophical debate about anthropocentrism. This project will give insight into the connections between different implicit normative ideas which regulate the ambivalent relationships to animals and unconscious desire and enjoyment. The aim is to better understand the problems of supposed contradictions in human-animal interactions which are discussed in animal ethics.

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