Being, eating and being eaten : deconstructing the ethical subject
This study constitutes a conceptual analysis and critique of the notion of the subject, and the concomitant notion of responsibility, as it has developed through the philosophical history of the modern subject. The aim of this study is to present the reader with a critical notion of responsibility. This study seeks to divorce such a position from the traditional, normative view of the subject, as typified by the Cartesian position. Following Derrida, a deconstructive reading of the subject’s conceptual development since Descartes is presented. What emerges from this reading is that, despite various re-conceptualisations of the subject by philosophers as influential and diverse as Nietzsche, Heidegger and Levinas, their respective positions continue to affirm the subject as human. The position presented in this study challenges this notion of the subject as human, with the goal of opening-up and displacing the ethical frontier between human and non-human. It is argued that displacing this ethical frontier introduces complex responsibilities. These complex responsibilities resist the violence inherent to normative positions that typically exclude the non-human – particularly the animal – from the sphere of responsibility.