Eläimen tuttuus ja vieraus: Fenomenologisen empatiateorian uudelleentulkinta ja sen sovellus vieraslajisia eläimiä koskevaan kokemukseen

Dissertation, University of Helsinki (2011)


Within the field of philosophy, animals have traditionally been studied from two perspectives: that of self-knowledge and that of ethics. The analysis of the differences between humans and animals has served our desire to understand our own specificity, whereas ethical discussions have ultimately aimed at finding the right way to treat animals. This dissertation proposes a different way of looking at non-human animals: it investigates the question of how non-human animals appear to us humans in our perceptual experience. The analysis focuses on the empathetic, embodied understanding of animals diverse movements and other expressions. The theoretical point of departure for the research is phenomenological philosophy, in particular Maurice Merleau-Ponty s phenomenology of the body. Edmund Husserl s and Edith Stein s analyses of empathy and embodiment are also crucial to the work. In this tradition, empathy means understanding the other s experience through her bodily expressions and seeing the other body as living, as well as motivated and directed towards the surrounding world. The dissertation both explicates and criticizes the earlier phenomenological notions of empathy and human specificity. In order to elucidate the fundamental structures of our experience of non-human animals, it also applies the phenomenological method, which consists of a phenomenological reduction and a free variation of the different aspects of experience. It is shown that our experiences of non-human animals involve a recognition of both similarities and differences. This recognition, however, is not primarily based on intellectual comparisons but is lived as an embodied relationship to another body, and its manifestations vary from one instant to the next. The analysis also reveals that the object of empathy is not the other s experience as such, not even as it is manifested by the other s movements, but rather the other s embodied situation, enriched by elements that remain outside the scope of the other s experience. The dissertation shows that human existence is intertwined with the existence of non-human animals on four levels: those of empathetic sensations, reciprocal communication, experience of the surrounding world and self-definitions. The animals different modes of perception prove to expand our understanding of what is perceivable and how things can be perceived. The presence of non-human animals in our perceptual world is revealed as something that both shows us the limits of our own embodiment and enables us to overcome these limits in empathetic acts. Finally, it is demonstrated that the life of non-human animals is intertwined with ours in a far more complex way than has been presupposed in traditional descriptions of human-animal differences.

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