The animal solitude of contemporary man(Prof. Jean-Luc Guichet)
The current man-animals relationship is not at all shaped as during past times. Along a countless course of time, man and animals were narrowly linked by bonds sewed by day-by-day common works, common spaces, common experiences, in brief by a more or less common condition. Lodged at the same hotel of a shared world, living and dying the ones beside the others, they were composing a community. Thus, man’s world was crowded by animals until the heart of towns. In the same time this proximity did not delete a strong belief in their difference, difference which was shaded by the original sin which the supposed consequence had been to animalize man according Christian religion. Yet, mainly because of the growth of man’s power upon nature, the gap between the two beings did not cease to increase from the Middle Ages until the 17th century and the famous Descartes’s thesis of animal machine stressing their ontological discontinuity. At this point, we must remark the importance of the Enlightenment which tied again man and animal as never they had been since the antiquity, some authors as Rousseau and Diderot giving an animal basis to the modern definition of man. Henceforth, even if the first half-part of the subsequent century went back to oldest conceptions for a while, the continuity between the two beings did not stop to be enhanced, mostly with the Darwinian revolution, then genetics and more recently ethology and especially primatology for a few decades. Nowadays, continuity tends to be fully recognized but, in the same time, at least in the western world, the ancient community is disappearing, letting the place to a true animal desert and then paradoxically a new discontinuity. Away from eyes, animals are more and more relegated into confined spaces and do not interact with man any more, whatsoever farm animals or wild ones. Of course pets invade families, especially in France for instance, but - as oasis in the true desert – they do not really replace this past massive animal presence. Deprived of the animal mirror, human beings are now submerged in an only human world, in a solitude which is not only a metaphysical condition but also an historical stage, the one of our age. For the first time from the very beginning of his so long path, man is alone in front of himself. Then, paradoxically again, the least his world is animal the least it is human, given it seems man needs animals to be fully human. In effect, if what can qualify man is his capacity of opening himself on all what he is not, then he finds in animals in front of him an exact balance between identity and complete otherness. So, the gap between man and animals creates another gap between man and nature. Without animals, human beings cannot anymore stand themselves as such in a human world, so much it is true human and animal fates appear to be linked. In this perspective, animal and environmental ethics can be thought not in opposition but deeply interconnected.

Department of Religious Studies, Hsuan Chuang University

Life Conservationist Association

HongShi Buddhist Cultural and Educational Foundation


Ministry of Science and Technology,Republic of China

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, R.O.C.

Ministry of Education, R.O.C.

Hsuan Chuang University


Hsuan Chuang University Research Center For Applied Ethics

Buddhist HongShi College