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The Duck is the Übermensch


It’s just been scientifically proven that ducks have abstract thinking. The discovery neither alters nor surprises ducks, since they’ve known this fact, since they are ducks. The discovery just reveals that we, non-ducks, are deeply fascinated by sharing traits that are relevant to our idea of rationality with ducks. If taken really seriously, the discovery is a revolution, marking, in a very nice, duckish way, the impossibility of taking the premises of humanism and humanists seriously. And following this argument, only those who still believe in humanism—and the controlling, man-taming humanists with their corresponding animalistic and technological representations of the world—are going to see this as a minor discovery. Those who are unable to let go of the false contest between culture—simplified to literacy—and the beast—the ignorant—will be unable to embrace these ducks as the true coming of the Übermensch. But don’t dare consider ducks’ abstract thinking as less important than our own! On the contrary, this revelation only shows that animals, to use Nietzsche’s perspective, may be able to perform a maximization of all that is very human. Think about animals—and plants—as beings who bring to light the dangers of the humanistic horizons of sitting and reading and breeding and taming and training. The duck is the Übermensch, who takes into consideration the intimate constraints of our humanistic hopes and opens up a spacious new arena that, in light of the previous long millennia, offers us a (sufficiently) radical suggestion: the encouragement to reflect anew on the need, more than ever, for philosophy. True, this turning-into-others, into animals, this continuous expansion of gender, this impossibility to return to the concept of man as a rational animal, at first unleashes a feeling of decline in awareness as presented by hermeneutical criticality. The fear produces the claim that statements like, “the duck is the Übermensch,” may just be a new twist of a premeditated anthropotechnology in disguise. But if one wants to speak anthropologically, one could say that humans of the historical period were animals, while the animals of today suggest possibilities for future humans.

You might think it’s a trend to embrace them, but it’s a true evolution, one that, once and for all, proposes to challenge the way we see all existing and functioning organs—not just the brain—as producers of a radical mutation of our culturally acquired ideas of experience. There’s undeniably an element of kitsch here, since the jump from one form of life to another is so big that even in literature it’s a difficult illusion, one only achieved by Greek myths or ambitious minds like Kafka’s. How wise it was of Anderson to propose a Little Mermaid; we all imagine her being half fish, half girl, but we should see her fish tale in place of legs and female sexual organs first instead of her little girl’s head. All kinds of ideas related to her not being sexual might appear in that image of her as a virgin-fish, with all the beauty of youth, all the appeal of the female gender, and all the freedom of an animal living in a realm beyond the laws and institutional restraints of the humans’ earth. At least in theory, look more closely at the tale, that fish tale. Having had a normal sexuality and digestion all its life, the mermaid body is now under the pressure of a head that aspires to air and language imposing itself upon the fish tail and its animal sexuality . Why on earth do we think about these two bodies in contradiction? They’re just not. These two creatures together are in fact one, and it is this possibility of merging lives of different kinds that has been announced since ancient times as the very form of future intelligence. We keep reading this story metaphorically, but reading it literally would be a true act of revolution. A revolution that will involve a radical metabolic change with incredible epistemological consequences.

Apparently the architect Louis Kahn once posed the question to a brick, “What form do you want to take?” He used to tell his students:

If you are ever stuck for inspiration, ask your materials for advice. You say to a brick, “What do you want, brick?” And the brick says to you, “I like an arch.” And you say to the brick, “Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel.” And then you say: “What do you think of that, brick?” The brick says, “I like an arch.”

Read the full article here.