In praise of the crevice. Humanities following the wolf
We live at a time when the relation between humans and animals has once again, and in a new context, become particularly relevant. Post-humanistic threads of modern contemporary culture are echoed by attempts at a socio-biological definition of the boundaries of human nature and certain consequences of the ethical turn, especially the issue of animal rights promoted by utilitarians. This has revealed anew the discord between two narratives about the world — one told by natural science (especially following the breakthrough discoveries in ethology and genetics) and one by humanities, hardly defining (or questioning) its identity in the changing conditions. An animal such as the wolf, omnipresent in human culture, may serve as a classic and trivial example of the danger posed by the symbolic “culturalisation of nature”: the biological image of Canis Lupus, established through modern research, can hardly recognise itself in the distorted mirror of culture. This biologically dangerous reductionism, which has almost led to the extermination of the species, is now showing its reverse side in the form of “naturalisation of culture”, a project of great neo-Darwinian narrative reducing culture to the form described in the paradigm of natural science, that is without having to resort to two separate narrative practices. Paradoxically, both projects, each in its own way, reduce by assimilation the phenomenon of alienation, which both of them exhibit to an equal extent, by emphasising the continuity between the realm of humans and the realm of animals. The reflection is then focused on the relation between humans and animals as a hermeneutic substrate (seen in the traditional terms of distance, alienation, trace, encounter) and its ethical implications. The attempt to defend the distinctiveness of the perspectives of humanities and natural science, and the ethics of encounter based on that distinctiveness is made by a doubly involved: professionally, in humanistic reflection, and voluntarily, in monitoring the population of wolves recolonising the areas from which they have been driven away by humans.