Pets

Pets

Pets

Pets

Synopsis

'When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?' - Michel de Montaigne. Why do we live with pets? Is there something more to our relationship with them than simply companionship? What is it we look for in our pets and what does this say about us as human beings? In this fascinating book, Erica Fudge explores the nature of this most complex of relationships and the difficulties of knowing what it is that one is living with when one chooses to share a home with an animal. Fudge argues that our capacity for compassion and ability to live alongside others is evident in our relationships with our pets, those paradoxical creatures who give us a sense of comfort and security while simultaneously troubling the categories human and animal. For what is a pet if it isn't a fully-fledged member of the human family? This book proposes that by crossing over these boundaries pets help construct who it is we think we are. Drawing on the works of modern writers, such as J. M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and Jacques Derrida, Fudge shows how pets have been used to think with and to undermine our easy conceptions of human, animal and home. Indeed, "Pets" shows our obsession with domestic animals that reveals many of the paradoxes, contra - dictions and ambiguities of life. Living with pets provides thought-provoking perspectives on our notions of possession and mastery, mutuality and cohabitation, love and dominance. We might think of pets as simply happy, loved additions to human homes but as this captivating book reveals perhaps it is the pets that make the home and without pets perhaps we might not be the humans we think we are. For anyone who has ever wondered, like Montaigne, what their cat is thinking, it will be illuminating reading.

Excerpt

Many books focus on our relationships with pets from a personal perspective. Whether in memoirs, psychological studies or philosophical musings, writers use anecdotes to address the nature of the relationship and its meaning. There is, of course, a logical reason for this: pets live in our homes, they are crucial parts of our lives and are therefore significant in those terms. This book recognizes that fact, and acknowledges the importance of the personal mode in writing about pets, but itself does something rather different. It is not written from a personal perspective, and the reason for this choice is very simple: I think that it is time to assess what pets mean in a different way. The personal and anecdotal books that exist on pets have helped me to write what follows, certainly, but I think that it might be interesting, thought-provoking too, to contemplate our personal relationships with pets in more theoretical terms, and this is what I am doing here. What I hope will come out of such an interpretation is a different sense of the significance and meaning of pets in the modern Western world. Indeed, for the writers I look at in Chapter 4, for example, living with an animal forces a rethinking of some of the most important issues involved in what it means to live. By implication, without the animal the rethinking process might not have taken place and philosophy would have been cheated of some fascinating insights. Thus the ideas must be placed in a personal context, but the personal context can be read as just one part of the philosophical intervention that these animals have provoked.
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