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  • Writer's pictureCrone

The watcher watched

As can often happen when a cat is present, Derrida finds himself being watched prior to his own watching. He argues that this kind of event—an encounter in which one finds oneself being faced by another animal, in which one receives a gaze and a call from an animal Other that arrives before autonomy can be instituted—has been systematically ignored by most philosophers. Traditional philosophers “have taken no account of the fact that what they call animal could look at them and address them from down there, from a wholly other origin." - Thinking Through Animals: Identity, Difference, Indistinction by Matthew Calarco.


This comes from a book I have just started - it must be pretty short as I am already more than halfway through. I had come across various references to Calarco recently and finally bought this book. It's a readable introduction to thinking about animals in ethics and Critical Theory.


What I love about this is that it reminds us that the animal's subjectivity is already there. We don't bring it into existence. The animal is going about his business, occasionally looking at us. The animal is not there for us or at our beckoning. He is there in his own right.


It reminds me of the quote about being watched by crows which I posted a few days ago.


Now a dog, and so presumably various other creatures who rely on scent... badgers? cats? rats?, is aware not just of where we are when he can see or hear us, but where we were, because he can smell our past. How cool is that?


Charles Fraser, the crazy being-a-badger guy, brought to attention the discrimination of sight and hearing in birds... so, a bird can distinguish much smaller graduations in time... so where we hear a note, she might hear four or five... I'm not explaining well... but I can only hear one sound every however many milliseconds and in that time she can hear three or five or something.I think it's the same with sight - so whereas for me a hummingbirds' wings are a blur, another hummingbird might see the wing flaps. So, in a sense, they might sense us in ultra-high-definiotion. They might almost see us move before a human could see us move. They live faster... or experience slower... I can't work it out.


Easier to think of the dog knowing the past.


Yesterday I scared a group of pigeons on my run. One among the grey was pure white. They all took off and she flew back and all the others followed. Later, she was sandwiched between two greys on an electric wire. They all took off. Because of me? Then I saw a red kite and I thought what an ideal target she was. But she turned back, alone and flew, by herself, away, away. Why was she with them? This dovecote bird? Why did she go? The red kite continued on in the other direction, hardly needing a wing flap to move.

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