The primate body, as part of the body of nature, may be read as a map of power. 1
Nonhuman animals have been conceptually conceived as subjugated 'others' in the dominant paradigm that epistemologically frames life dualistically as nature or culture/politics. (Thus they share the same experience as women.) However, the world human animals inhabit is shared with nonhuman animals; the finite space of earth and fragile flora is our common base. 'Man', historically conceived as the generic term for (Western) human beings, has attempted philosophically and laboriously to distance himself from this ecological context and deny the fact that fundamentally we too, physiologically, are animals. In distanciating and blurring this ontology, politics is epistemologically constructed to reflect this 'transcendent' perception. A focus upon nonhuman animals allows us to see this metaphysical move. A culture of political rationality has been normatively constructed based upon an epistemology of human dominion. Ontological interdependent relations have conceptually and metaphorically been denied. Strangely, modern politics is conventionally theorised from a methodological assumption of positivism that regards the world objectively as universally knowable and instrumental. Yet, ecologically, this chasm between ontological and epistemological premises for conceptualising politics is proven daily; environmental disturbances and the steady depletion of knowledges, species and ecosystems are evident. It is argued here that there is a need to correlate epistemology with ontology for a more sound and just social and ecological politics to emerge. There has been a significant transition in our actual relationship with 'others' in the past; 2 the political challenge is to recognise the movement once again and respond in a contingently sensitive manner.
Ethical considerations can inform political theories and norms differently when the ontological recognition that '[w]e are not just rather like animals; we are animals' is brought to the fore of epistemological conceptualisation. This truism reminds us that although there may be differences, 'comparisons [with animals] have always been, and must be, crucial to our view of ourselves'. 3