Reading Cora Diamond’s “The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy” and selections from Cary Wolfe’s What is Posthumanism last week in preparation for my presentation for Cyberbodies was an unsettling experience for me. The main issue of discussion in both pieces is animal rights. Both critics have an interesting, philosophical, take on the matter, however:

humans and animals may share a fundamental “non-power at the heart of power,” may share a vulnerability and passivity without limit as fellow living beings, but what they do not share equally is the power to materialize their misrecognition of their situation and to reproduce that materialization in institutions of exploitation and oppression whose effects are far from symmetrical in species terms. (Wolfe 95)

Both critics are concerned with reminding us that we, too, are animals; we are just another species among a plenitude of others. It is the idea of the existential Other that Diamond uses to remind us of our animality, as it is in our shared mortality that we are alike. Moreover, our “morality” is merely a human construction that allows us, in what Diamond calls the “language-game”, to talk about others from a distance. In essence, the separation that we emphasise between mind and body has caused us to view ourselves as different (separate or better) than those that we observe, forgetting that we are animal as well. By placing the animal in the place of the Other, we should find compassion for it, as it is placed in a position of equality.

I was initially intrigued by Diamond’s line of argument. She offers a very different approach to conceptualising the relationship between human and animal than I have seen before. But as a born-and-raised farm girl, I have to admit that there was scepticism rolling around in the back of my mind as I read. The academic in me followed the logic of the arguments, but the farm girl in me found the arguments next to impossible to accept. Accepting the animal as my Other – my equal whom I should treat as one of my own – would rip apart my entire up-bringing. Every cow or chicken I’ve seen raised, and subsequently seen end up in the deep freeze, would be an act of violence against my Other – my equal. I was raised to distance myself from the animal; to treat it with care and respect, but to remain emotionally detached. To change how I conceive of my own animality would change my world, but I suppose that’s what Diamond calls a “difficult reality”.


Diamond, Cora. “The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Reality.” Philosophy and Animal Life.

Wolfe, Cary . “Introduction” and “Flesh and Finitude”. What is Posthumanism.