Enlightenment Naturalism and the Animal Voice
This chapter discusses the work of three major Enlightenment thinkers of community—Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau—focusing on the insistent role of creaturely expression, a passionate voice irreducible to semantic convention, in the process whereby the human is constituted as a political, social, or speaking subject. For these naturalistic philosophers, ethical or political community begins in, and remains symbolically organized around, a communicativity that is passionate before it is rational, passive before it is willed. For Hobbes, this communicativity is evident in the persistence of metaphorical language and thus the necessity of sovereign violence; for Hume, it manifests in the capacity of sympathy to transform our “associations”; for Rousseau, the voice of nature awakens a reflective human sensibility. For each philosopher, the initial condition of social identity is a recognition of creaturely substitutability, a recognition mediated by the associative imagination and the affect sign.
Keywords: Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, political philosophy, naturalism, Enlightenment, animals