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Part 2. Endangered Species and Emergent Identities

Edited by Genese Marie Sodikoff Indiana University Press ePub

Jill Constantino

When we swat flies, eat dolphin-safe tuna, use bug spray, or give money to protect pandas we are deciding which nonhuman beings belong in particular places and which do not. When we fill our universities, issue travel visas, consider the land rights of indigenous people, or prohibit the passage of immigration laws, we are making decisions about human belonging. What are the factors that influence “belonging”? How long must a being exist in one place in order to belong? Do creatures belong after a quantifiable period of time, or is their belonging more dependent on qualitative factors like being the first to a place, being among the last in a place, being unique to a place, or claiming an origin myth involving that place? What characteristics must a being exhibit in order to be protected or eradicated? Clearly, belonging is subject to various cultural factors and scientific findings.

The variables and characteristics that form categories of value differ from species to species and emerge from different time frames. For nonhuman beings, evolutionary time provides a context through which to determine endemism or native status. For humans, historical time provides a ground for the construction of indigenous identities, often connoting special value and special rights. But what happens when the contexts of human and nonhuman creatures merge? In nature reserves, national parks, coastlands, farms, logging sites, and even in our cities, how might we decide which beings have the right to the resources and the privileges of the places they inhabit? When people craft their own identities of value in the arbitrary constructions of belonging, how do they negotiate between and among the frames of evolutionary time and historical time?

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Introduction from Human Nature and Conduct (1922)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

Give a dog a bad name and hang him.” Human nature has been the dog of professional moralists, and consequences accord with the proverb. Man’s nature has been regarded with suspicion, with fear, with sour looks, sometimes with enthusiasm for its possibilities but only when these were placed in contrast with its actualities. It has appeared to be so evilly disposed that the business of morality was to prune and curb it; it would be thought better of if it could be replaced by something else. It has been supposed that morality would be quite superfluous were it not for the inherent weakness, bordering on depravity, of human nature. Some writers with a more genial conception have attributed the current blackening to theologians who have thought to honor the divine by disparaging the human. Theologians have doubtless taken a gloomier view of man than have pagans and secularists. But this explanation doesn’t take us far. For after all these theologians are themselves human, and they would have been without influence if the human audience had not somehow responded to them.

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4. Enchantment

James R. Currie Indiana University Press ePub

(Mozart, La clemenza di Tito)


Food is frequently disgusting, our relations to it haunted by an almost archaic abjection. Few of us can enjoy our fried egg if we simultaneously keep in mind that it has come out of the feathery end of a chicken. And so a careful set of practices has to be kept in place to keep what appear to be real origins at the distance that constitutes denial. But note, only “appear.” Although we are unnerved at the thought that we might get too close to something, that something is often in excess of the literal object of disgust itself or even its origin. Julia Kristeva writes: “When the eyes see or the lips touch that skin on the surface of milk–harmless, thin as a sheet of cigarette paper, pitiful as a nail paring–I experience a gagging sensation and, still further down, spasms in the stomach, the belly; and all the organs shrivel up the body, provoke tears and bile, increase heartbeat, cause forehead and hands to perspire.”1 Yet the milk skin is “harmless.” Our paroxystic reactions are thus not merely born out of pragmatic concerns for cleanliness, even though present cultural obsessions with bacteria work hard to convince us that merely the demands of common sense are being fulfilled. A sort of fascination infects our relationship to the abject, as is attested by the ease with which the most flippant of suggestions can magically make the horror suddenly present–as if secretly we want it here, that Other thing from elsewhere. As if secretly, we are enchanted.

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7 What Words Will

Shane Montgomery Ewegen Indiana University Press ePub

Although Socrates has been playing with words since his entrance into the discussion with Hermogenes Hipponicus, it is only after his elaboration of the Homeric clue concerning the correctness of names, and the corresponding demonstration of that clue through the tragic scene of the house of Atreus, that Socrates transitions into an earnest display of the etymological prowess he claims to have contracted from Euthyphro earlier that morning (396d). Considered most generally, the long series of etymologies that follows generates a dramatic scenario reminiscent of the scene of radical becoming that arose out of the Protagorean doctrine that “the human being is the measure of all things.” As seen in chapter 4, such a doctrine represents an understanding of nature (φύσις) based entirely upon the way it appears to the human being: namely, as a vacillatory play of unstable appearances. Under the sway of such an understanding, the stability thought proper to Being is undermined and supplanted by ceaseless becoming, and both λόγος and knowledge prove to be impossible.1 With certain important exceptions (to which we shall return), the extended etymological section shows how those who supposedly conferred the original names upon beings were people who, like Protagoras, opined all things to be in flux and named beings in accordance with that opinion.

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12. Fallout, 1863–1864

David M. Jordan Indiana University Press ePub

THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC MARCHED BACK from Mine Run and the Rapidan and moved into winter quarters. Warren wrote to Emily, saying, “Our army accomplished but little on the late movement. We drove Genl Lee into his intrenchments when finding him too strongly posted for us to assault we came back.” He told Will, “You must not be disturbed by any attacks you may see on me in the newspapers. I have warning, that there is to be a regular charge on me because I declined to attack the enemy’s breastworks on the morning of the 30th November. But I am master of my position and good will come of it.” He warned Emily of “a grand newspaper assault on me” but hoped that out of it all “things will come before the public and I hope evils corrected that have long affected us.”1

Warren was anticipating the storm that would descend because of the abortive Mine Run campaign, but he was confident that his actions were immune to criticism. “Don’t let the late movements worry you,” he told his wife. “Thank heaven they were all right as far as I was concerned and the failure was to the plans not having been carried out by those with us, and then it fell upon me to decide we should not waste our men’s lives in hopeless assaults to make up for previous blunder. Rest assured I did right and all in the army will say so.”2

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