Man, the Explicit Animal

  • Michael Grant


This reading, taken from The Explicit Animal (1991, 1999), addresses the question of what it is for human beings to be aware of themselves as human, which is inseparable from the question of how to characterise human consciousness. Man has repeatedly defined himself as a kind of animal, but one with special qualities, as an animal who in certain vital respects is not an animal at all. There is in effect an irreducible distance between the human and the animal and it is a distance that for Tallis derives from the fact of human explicitness. Man is the being who questions his own being. Man has been defined as the rational animal, the moral animal, the metaphysical animal, the tool-making animal, the spiritual animal, and so on. However, explicitness, or the power to make things explicit, is something deeper and wider than any mere faculty, such as reason. It is that in virtue of which the faculties themselves develop to the degree that they do. What makes us unique is the fact that we know what we are doing. Tallis makes it clear that the evolutionary explanation of the development of the human body is not in question; but none the less, he insists, the emergence of explicitness cannot be explained in terms of the Darwinian picture. He returns to his central point: the power of explicitness is sui generis, underivable. It cannot be reduced to anything else, nor can the existence of consciousness be explained. And to grasp this fact is to provide a further level of defence against the all too pervasive temptation to explain consciousness as though it were a machine.


Human Language Human Consciousness Rational Animal Discriminant Behaviour Arbitrary Sign 
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Copyright information

© Raymond Tallis 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Grant
    • 1
  1. 1.Rutherford CollegeThe University of KentCanterburyUK

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