Reading the beginning of Coetzee's The Lives of Animals

"We-even in Australia-belong to a civilization deeply rooted in Greek and Judeo-Christian religious thought.  We may not, all of us, believe in pollution, we may not believe in sin, but we do believe in their psychic correlates.  We accept without question that the psyche (or soul) touched with guilty knowledge cannot be well. We do not accept that people with crimes on their conscience can be healthy and happy. We look (or used to look) askance at Germans of a certain generation because they are, in a sense, polluted; in the very signs of their normality (their healthy appetites, their hearty laughter) we see proof of how deeply seated pollution is in them" - p. 21

"I want to find a way of speaking to fellow human beings that will be cool rather than heated, philosophical rather than polemical, that will bring enlightenment rather than seeking to divide us into the righteous and the sinners, the saved and the damned, the sheep and the goats." - p. 22
(on the same point:) "I could fall back on that language, as I have said, in the unoriginal, secondhand manner which is the best I can manage.  I could tell you, for instance, what I think of Saint Thomas's argument that, because man alone is made in the image of God and partakes in the being of God, how we treat animals is of no importance except insofar as being cruel to animals may accustom us to being cruel to men" p. 22 (cf. Summa 3.2.112, quoted in Animal Rights and Human Obligations, ed. Tom Regan and Peter Singer, 1976 p. 56-59)

"Even Immanuel Kant, of whom I would have expected better..."
"Both reason and seven decades of life experience tell me that reason is neither the being of the universe nor the being of God.  On the contrary, reason looks to me suspiciously like the being of human thought; worse than that, like the being of one tendency in human thought. Reason is the being of a certain spectrum of human thinking. And if this is so, if that is what I believe, then why should I bow to reason this afternoon and content myself with embroidering on the discourse of the old philosophers?" p. 23

The relating of factory farms to Treblinka, and Ramanujan to Red Peter, is insane and biting.  Though controversial, I can't help but agree.

"Yet, although I see that the best way to win acceptance from this learned gathering would be for me to join myself, like a tributary stream running into a great river, to the great Western discourse of man versus beast, of reason versus unreason, something in me resists, foreseeing in that step the concession of the entire battle" - p. 25

"In the olden days the voice of man, raised in reason, was confronted by the roar of the lion, the bellow of the bull.  Man went to war with the lion and the bull, and after many generations won that war definitively.  Today these creatures have no more power. Animals have only their silence left with which to confront us. Generation after generation, heroically, our captives refuse to speak to us. All save Red Peter, all save the great apes." - p.25

footnote: "cf. Gary L. Francione: 'However intelligent chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans are, there is no evidence that they possess the ability to commit crimes, and in this sense, they are to be treated as children or mental incompetents.' 'Personhood, Property and Legal Competence' in Cavalieri and Singer, Great Ape Project, 256."

Compare that incredible footnote with the following:
"Sultan knows: Now one is suppose to think. That is what the bananas up there are about. The bananas are there to make one think, to spur one to the limits of one's thinking. But what must one think? One thinks: Why is he starving me? One thinks: What have I done? Why has he stpoped liking me? One thinks: Why does he not want these crates any more? But none of these is the right thought. Even a more complicated thought - for instance: What is wrong with him, what misconception does he have of me, that leads him to believe it is easier for me to reach a banana hanging from a wire than to pick up a banana from the floor?--is wrong.  The right thought to think is: How does one use the crates to reach the bananas?" - p.28

"..leads him to ask questions about the justice of the universe and the place of this penal colony in it, a carefully plotted psychological regimen conducts him away from ethics and metaphysics toward the humbler reaches of practical reason" -p.29
Written on June 20, 2012