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Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231147262
ISBN-10: 0231147260
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Editorial Reviews

Review

A valuable resource within continental philosophy and animal studies.

(Brett Buchanan Environmental Philosophy)

Oliver has made a convincing argument that the animal/human divide is much more complex than a simple dichotomy, and that our relationship with animals should be based on commonality, rather than what divides us.

(Anthony J. Dellureficio Quarterly Review of Biology)

There is, indeed, a philosophical counter-tradition dawning in the contemporary posthuman zeitgeist, and Oliver's book clears the decks in preparation for a new enlightenment.

(Randy Malamud Journal of Animal Ethics)

Review

Animal Lessons is the most comprehensive overview of the 'continental' discourse on animals, and it is very original. The urgency of the ideas propels the reader from chapter to chapter. This is truly a philosophy book worthy of its name.

(Leonard Lawlor, author of This Is Not Sufficient: An Essay on Animality and Human Nature in Derrida)

Analytic philosophers have been discussing animals and their rights for decades. However, it is a relatively new theme for continental philosophers. Oliver's book will be the gold standard for this work to which subsequent efforts will have to refer.

(Fred Evans, author of The Multivoiced Body: Society and Communication in the Age of Diversity)

While there is a vibrant and important scholarship on this fundamental question of philosophy and human life, for after all we are the animal that most needs to be educated, Oliver's book is neither a duplicate nor supplementary. It is written in a most playful way, without betraying or sacrificing philosophical rigor and depth. This is clearly an outstanding work, which will win a wide and immediate readership.

(Eduardo Mendieta, SUNY-Stony Brook)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (October 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231147260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231147262
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,245,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in animal ethics. Like many, I became interested in topics of animal rights and animal ethics after reading Peter Singer's Animal Liberation. Although I agree with Singer that our exploitation of animals is unwarranted, I am not a utilitarian, and I don't think pain/pleasure should be the primary measure for our ethical relationship with other creatures. To me, Kelly Oliver's Animal Lessons is interesting and refreshing because, unlike other books on animal ethics, the author does not rely on the language of "interests," "rights," or "speciesism" in her arguments. (In fact, Part I of the book is devoted to the problems and limitations of the rights discourse. I believe every animal rights activist should read Part I--perhaps it's time to reconsider the rhetoric and strategy of the animal "rights" movement!)
I will not rehearse the arguments of the book here. But the main thesis the author is advancing is that animals are our teachers. She demonstrates her thesis by examining the philosophical work of various thinkers (including Rousseau, Freud, Heidegger, Kristeva, and Derrida), and she shows both that animals figure prominently in their work and that, in an important sense, philosophers rely on animals to learn what it means to be human. I think her thesis is instructive to those of us who want to challenge the structure of animal exploitation in our society. Specifically, it's not enough to focus on what "rights" animals have against us humans, as if we could relate to animals only in a competitive way.
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Format: Paperback
I don't know a lot about philosophy, but I am interested in animals and I learned a lot from this book. It made me think about vegetarianism and animal rights in new ways. And, is was funny!
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Format: Paperback
I was sadly disappointed with this book, which I was hoping would deliver so much more. I felt as if there was a lot of rambling for a little content that didn't exactly match the nature of the title. It wasn't so much as what animals teach us as it was a comparison of human behavior to that of animals. If you are looking for a book that questions the divide between human and animal, something that defines where the line is drawn, that is the real question discussed in this book. I am sure someone more familiar with the field would have a better, more critical opinion than this one, but it was a real struggle for me to keep my focus on the text, even though I was honestly curious about the subject matter.
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