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The status of the animal raises a number of critical questions — for psychology, for political economy, but also for philosophy, gathering together the problem of the meaning of the animal as well as the question of the nature of the relationship between human beings and animals.

We shall attempt to explore the problematic status of the animal through the investigation of the status of animals in antiquity. What might ancient beliefs in metempsychosis, and the ancient practices of ritual animal sacrifice, indicate about the meaning of animality?

We submit that philosopher of technology Gilbert Simondon, as well as philosopher Gilles Deleuze and militant psychoanalyst Felix Guattari offer singular insights, although in different ways, into these problems. We shall have occasion to turn to both the tenth plateau of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus “Becoming-intense, Becoming-animal…”, as well Simondon’s Two Lessons on Animal and Man.

For each of these thinkers, the question of the animal becomes an empirical and pragmatic matter suitable for a radical ethology: how do spiritual and natural forces enter into composition with one another? What assemblages do animals and humans compose, and in what ways do they pass into one another? What movements and speeds characterize the abstract machine driving the process of becoming-animal, and what intensities and affects do they involve? What happens to these intensities, becomings and assemblages when they enter into new frameworks of composition?

We will try to demonstrate that there is a revolutionary dimension to metempsychosis that was negated by the theological demands of Christianity. The metaphysics of metempsychosis involves a pre-individual soul capable of transmigrating to another body after death, while the eschatology of a final judgment requires a soul be individualized once and for all, with no transmigration.

[This is an abstract written in response to a CFP. The presentation is provisionally entitled, The Metaphysics of Sacrifice: Metempsychosis and the Pre-individual Spiritual Milieu.“]

About the Authors:

Taylor Adkins is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at Emory University.

Joseph Weissman is a computer programmer and blogger. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Georgia College and State University.

The Author

mostly noise and glare


  1. Sounds very compelling, do you intend to post it here as a pdf later on?

    By the way, there’s a little detail with which I had a slight difficulty: the “pre-individual soul” in the last paragraph. That reminds me of the introduction to Simondon’s thesis, in which he criticizes the idea of hylomorphism on the basis that the form is itself an individuated notion. Wouldn’t it be the same for such a soul? To me it would seem that the very notion of preindividual would have to stay apart from any particular entity, such as an identifiable soul.

    • Diego,

      Thanks! If we do develop it further we definitely plan to share it here.

      Your question is a good one, and is in fact — if I am understanding you correctly — one of the ways of stating an aspect of the thesis here. That is to say that under a metempsychotic scheme the soul is “pre-individual” in the sense that it becomes-individual over and over again, repeatedly de-individualizing and then taking up a new body, a new existence again. Now, this is very different from the spiritual scheme demanded by an eschatological Final Judgment regarding an immortal soul. Note that in both cases the soul is at least effectively immortal, and “pre-exists” the life with which it is composed; it is just that it is “fixed” in one case and fluid in the other. It is this fluidity, or plasticity and existential freedom implied in the metempsychotic arrangement that seems to me to indicate a certain kind of pre-individuality. Perhaps in a different sense than Simondon when he is discussing hylomorphism, though I think not entirely unrelated (though this would of course have to be elaborated.)

      I hope this begins to address the concern — thanks again for your comment!


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