The Philosophical Animal

On Zoopoetics and Interspecies Cosmopolitanism

By Eduardo Mendieta

Subjects: Continental Philosophy, Ethics, Political Theory, Literature, Phenomenology
Series: SUNY Press Open Access
Hardcover : 9781438498096, 266 pages, June 2024

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Introduction: The Poetic Species

I. Ceasing to Be Animal

1. Zoopoetics: Coetzee's Animals and Philosophy

2. Political Bestiary: On the Uses of Violence

3. Heidegger's Bestiary: The Speechless and Unhistorical Animal

II. Not Yet Human

4. Habermas on Human Cloning: The Debate on the Future of the Species

5. Communicative Freedom and Genetic Engineering

6. We Have Never Been Human, or How We Lost Our Humanity: From Habermas and Derrida to Midgley and Haraway by Way of Agamben

III. Toward a Companion Species Ethics

7. Animal Is to Kantianism As Jew Is to Fascism: Adorno's Bestiary

8. Interspecies Cosmopolitanism

9. Bestiaries of Extinction: Anthropodicy or Anthropohippology


Argues that humans are animals that philosophize about their condition by fictionalizing other animals.


Humans are animals who fictionalize other animals to asse their "humanness." We are philosophical animals who philosophize about our humanity by projecting images onto a mirror about other animals. Spanning literature, philosophy, and ethics, the thread uniting The Philosophical Animal is the bestiary and how it continues to inform our imaginings. Beginning with an exploration of animals and women in the literary work of Coetzee, famous for his book on the Lives of Animals, Eduardo Mendieta then dives into the genre of bestiaries in order to investigate the relation between humanity and animality. From there he approaches the works of Derrida and Habermas from the standpoint of genetic engineering and animal studies. While we have intensely modified many species genetically, we have not done this to ourselves. Why? Finally, Mendieta deals with the political and ethical implications suggested by this question before ending on an autobiographical note about growing up around so-called animals, and in particular horses.

Eduardo Mendieta is Professor of Philosophy and Latina/o studies at Penn State University. He is the author of several books, including Global Fragments: Globalizations, Latinamericanisms, and Critical Theory, also published by SUNY Press.


"This eloquent discussion brings a range of continental figures and European traditions of philosophy to bear on the question of the animal. From Habermas to Derrida, and all that lies between, Mendieta's discussion is unique and thought-provoking." — Cynthia Willett, author of Interspecies Ethics