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Ciferae: A Bestiary in Five Fingers (PostHumanities)

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Ciferae: A Bestiary in Five Fingers (PostHumanities) Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Greek philosopher Protagoras, in the opening words of his lost book Truth, famously asserted, “Man is the measure of all things.” This contention—that humanity cannot know the world except by means of human aptitudes and abilities—has endured through the centuries in the work of diverse writers. In this bold and creative new investigation into the philosophical and intellectual parameters of the question of the animal, Tom Tyler explores a curious fact: in arguing or assuming that knowledge is characteristically human, thinkers have time and again employed animals as examples, metaphors, and fables. From Heidegger’s lizard and Popper’s bees to Saussure’s ox and Freud’s wolves, Tyler points out, “we find a multitude of brutes and beasts crowding into the texts to which they are supposedly unwelcome.”

Inspired by the medieval bestiaries, Tyler’s book features an assortment of “wild animals” (ferae)—both real and imaginary—who appear in the works of philosophy as mere ciferae, or ciphers; each is there deployed as a placeholder, of no importance or worth in their own right. Examining the work of such figures as Bataille, Moore, Nietzsche, Kant, Whorf, Darwin, and Derrida, among others, Tyler identifies four ways in which these animals have been used and abused: as interchangeable ciphers; as instances of generalized animality; as anthropomorphic caricatures; and as repetitive stereotypes. Looking closer, however, he finds that these unruly beasts persistently and mischievously question the humanist assumptions of their would-be employers.

Tyler ultimately challenges claims of human distinctiveness and superiority, which are so often represented by the supposedly unique and perfect human hand. Contrary to these claims, he contends that the hand is, in fact, a primitive organ, and one shared by many different creatures, thereby undercutting one of the foundations of anthropocentricism and opening up the possibility of nonhuman, or more-than-human, knowledge.

Synopsis:

A provocative investigation into animals, hands, and human identity in Western philosophy

About the Author

Tom Tyler is senior lecturer in philosophy and culture at Oxford Brookes University.

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments

Prelude

1. VALLATUS INDICIBUS ATQUE SICARIIS Surrounded by Informers and Assassins

Like Water in Water

Into Your Hand They Are Delivered

Deciphering Deciphering

Prickly Porcupines and Docile Dogs

An ABC of Animals

If a Lion Had Hands

Quia Ego Nominor Leo

Taking Animals in Hand

2. RIDETO MULTUM ET DIGITUM PORRIGITO MEDIUM Laugh Loudly and Flip Them the Bird

Two Hands Are Better Than One

The Truth about Mice and Ducks

The Philosopher and the Gnat

The Birds and the Bees

The Back of a Tiger

3. MEDICO TESTICULI ARIETINI On the Ring Finger a Ram’s Testicles

The Digestive System of the Mind

An Unknown Something

Praying to the Aliens

Nothing to Phone Home About

From Noumena to Nebula

Those Who Like to Think So

One Ring to Rule Them All

4. DIGITO MINIMO MUNDUM UNIVERSUM EXCITES With Your Little Finger You Would Awaken the Whole World

The Eyes Have It

A Tale of Three Fish

Handing On and Gathering In

Bird Brains

Getting Stuck In

5. MANUS PARVA, MAIORI ADIUTRIX, POLLEX The Thumb Is a Little Hand, Assistant to the Greater

To We or Not to We

If I Had a Hammer

The Rule of Thumb

Four Hands Good, Two Hands Bad

Report to an Academy

Coda

Notes

Bibliography

Publication History and Permissions

Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780816665440
Author:
Tyler, Tom
Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
Subject:
General Philosophy
Subject:
Philosophy : General
Edition Description:
Paperback
Series:
Posthumanities
Publication Date:
20120331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
112
Pages:
376
Dimensions:
8.5 x 8.5 x 2 in

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A provocative investigation into animals, hands, and human identity in Western philosophy

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