INSTITUTO DE ESTUDIOS SOCIALES
Unidad Ejecutora - UE
capítulos de libros
Deconstructing the Dispositif of the Person: Animality and the Politics of Life in the Philosophy of Roberto Esposito
ROSSELLO, DIEGO; SAIDEL, MATÍAS
Animality in Contemporary Italian Philosophy
Año: 2020; p. 115 - 142
Roberto Esposito has become one of the most influential Italian political philosophers of the last three decades. His writings on topics such as the impolitical, community, immunity, biopolitics, personhood, the impersonal, politics and negativity, as well as the specificity of Italian philosophy in the history of modern and contemporary political thought, are been widely read, discussed and translated. In this context, animality is a key element in his more general reflection on the relationship between politics, life, historicity, language and thought. Rather than confronting the question of the animal head on, Esposito introduces this problématique as an element that traditional metaphysics and political philosophy have not been able to properly reflect upon. In fact, the tradition of metaphysics and political philosophy, widely understood, often misrecognizes, and at times even denigrates, the potentialities of animality in and beyond humanity.On the one hand, animality appears in Esposito?s early writings somewhat obliquely, as a feature, for example, of the Centaur: the mythical figure, half human and half animal, introduced by Machiavelli to characterize the skills a virtuous prince should have in order to remain in power. The figure of the Centaur suggests the necessary connection between human action and animality, and seeks to account for the corporeality, vitality, and contingency of politics. The Centaur as a figure is also linked to Esposito?s reflections on the impolitical as a realistic and agonistic perspective on politics, aimed at deconstructing the neutralizing function of the modern theory of sovereignty. In this sense, and as an alternative to the Hobbesian tradition, the Machiavellian republic can be the place of the immanentization of antagonism instead of the realm that excludes conflict as such. At the same time, the Centaur is also a figure of contamination and continuity between animality and humanity; of de-hierarchization of different forms of life, leaving behind the Hobbesian renunciation of our animality in order to become political subjects. In this sense, beyond the traditional hierarchy between bios and zoe, inspired by Aristotle and criticized by Agamben, Machiavelli and other Italian philosophers analyzed by Esposito in Living Thought (2012b) like Bruno, Vico, Leonardo, and Leopardi, will help us see that both politics and philosophy are not the realms of pure logos, in which our animality must be excluded. On the contrary, politics and philosophy itself cannot be fully understood without taking into consideration animal drives, passions, life, and their place in historicity.On the other hand, animality is a crucial element in order to deconstruct a tradition in the philosophy of law and metaphysics that invests in the notion of the person, making ample room for a politics of de-personalization and of animalization, therefore reifying certain aspects of human life (reason) while denigrating and objectifying others (drives, affects, bodies, etc.). Thus, if immunitary philosophy makes use of animality to deny personhood and humanity to certain groups of people, that can therefore be reduced to things and are excluded from the community (depersonalization), Esposito will introduce a critical philosophy of impersonal life and flesh that recognizes our animality in terms of living corporeality and its positive relation towards things. This deconstruction of personhood implies the deactivation of both the theologico-political and the anthropological machines that parcel living beings in terms of value or worth, by introducing metaphysical, juridical, scientific, and political hierarchies between humans, animals and things. These hierarchies have legitimized different historical dispositifs of power (Christian, totalitarian and/or liberal) as well as the domination over our own bodies and over other human beings considered to be less than human, including colonized peoples, women, Jews, Gypsies and people with disabilities, and also ? and this seems to be beyond Esposito?s explicit concerns ? over other non-human living species.In that sense, Esposito?s philosophy suggests that if we want to leave behind an immunitarian politics over life (politica sulla vita) that has produced subjection, suffering and death of different groups of humans, animality should neither be thought as what can be destroyed with impunity, nor as that part of humanity that must be rejected and controlled by higher spiritual and mental human abilities. On the contrary, Esposito shows ? reading together Italian ?Living Thought? and French post-structuralism ? that it is only by establishing a new political and philosophical framing of existence in which corporeality and spirituality, animality and humanity, zoé, techné and bios are not severed, that a politics of life (politica della vita) can be both thought and experienced.In what follows, and drawing on the work by Esposito, we will focus our discussion on two alternative paradigms for thinking about the relation between the personal, the animal, and the political. These alternative paradigms are represented precisely by the two mythical figures discussed above: Machiavelli?s Centaur and Hobbes?s Leviathan. According to our reading, the Centaur and Leviathan show alternative ways of thinking and organizing what counts as human and what counts as animal in the realm of the political. We will defend the thesis that whereas Machiavelli, as read by Esposito, is hospitable to the animality of the human being for thinking the political, Hobbes is concerned with keeping animality at bay in the state of nature, at a distance from a pacified and well-ordered political society. Finally, we will also explore Esposito?s deconstruction of the notion of the person, as a kind of apparatus that controls and domesticates the animality of the human being. Drawing on Esposito?s notion of the impersonal we will examine the potential of such category for reconceiving the relation the human can have not only with his or her own animality, but also with non-human animals and nature in the realm of the political.