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Captivated by a monkey and suspended in the open air, Gulliver once again finds himself grappling with the question of what he is. The question has been on his mind, as he has been "thrown" into worlds where the hosts' inhuman sizes make it almost impossible to tell if he is of the same species as his hosts. Up to this moment, however, he has managed to render himself comparable, and more or less akin, to them. Of course, it has not been easy, especially since he landed in Brobdingnag, where he is constantly and frustratingly perceived as an animal. So, while proving his comparability to the Brobdingnagians, Gulliver also has to fight off this false perception, and he literally gets into fights with animals such as a kite, a linnet, and a frog. Yet, he seems successful in these fights for his humanity, as Michael McKeon commends by saying that "Bestialized at every turn... it is testimony to his resilience that he is yet able to identify as fully as he does with his enormous human hosts" (2002, 331). This monkey incident appears to be yet another test for his "resilience." But this time, something is different. The monkey, he says, took him up "in his right fore-foot and held me as a Nurse does a Child she is going to suckle," since the animal, reasons Gulliver, "took me for a young one of his own Species... stroking my Face very gently with his other Paw" (Swift 2002, 101-102). Recognizing that the monkey perceives him as the same primate species, Gulliver "thought it more prudent to submit" to that perception (102). This time, in other words, he becomes the animal.

Of course, the question of what Gulliver is has drawn many critics' attention since Swift's Gulliver's Travels was published in 1726, especially with regard to the meaning of the protagonist's misanthropy and the author's intent behind it, and James L. Clifford famously divides the critics into two--"soft" and "hard"--schools.' Staying tangential to these literary debates, and informed by the recent developments of animals studies and posthumanism that critique anthropocentrism ingrained in the way humans distinguish themselves from nonhuman beings, a more philosophical approach has also appeared, rephrasing the question as "what is man?" so as to expound Gulliver's notion of man, especially in comparison with animals. A fine example of this approach would be Ann Cline Kelly's "Gulliver as Pet and Pet Owner," where she argues that the ambiguous relationship between Gulliver and animals destabilizes "the fundamental binaries inherent in the Chain of Being paradigm, namely the oppositions of human to animal and nature to nurture" (2007, 323). From the last journey in particular, Gulliver learns the lesson that "English and Houyhnhnm horses occupy a continuum where variety is not produced primarily by nature but by nurture" (330). While mostly agreeing with Kelly's insightful analysis, I find it troublesome that she, briefly touching on the above monkey incident, comments, "the monkey has no empathy with Gulliver and treats him as though he were a brute animal or an insensate doll" (335). Kelly may be commenting on just this monkey, neither the entire primate species nor so-called "brute" animals in general, but it remains a restrictive view of the monkey, given what we now know empirically and scientifically about animal emotions--that animals, at least such evolved ones as chimpanzees and monkeys, (2) do have emotions and empathies toward other species as well as their own. Is she assuming that "a brute animal" is incapable of giving and receiving empathy? Then again, what is wrong about the monkey treating Gulliver as "a brute animal" when it perceives him as one of its species? Does the animal carry and feed Gulliver in any way different from the way it does with one of its own? If not, and I think not, why does Kelly have to ascertain the animal's privation of "empathy," especially when the "binaries inherent in the Chain of Being paradigm" are destabilized and thus nothing is inherently fixed?

Raising these questions, I am not so much critical of Kelly's comment as of the notion of man that Gulliver forms by accentuating certain abilities that animals lack. As Kelly suggests, Gulliver's peculiarly ambiguous position as both "a pet" and "a pet keeper" unsettles "the binaries inherent in the Chain of Being," thus breaking the ground for Swift's satire of humans who cling to "the binaries." While the Laputans, the only human-sized (or human-shaped) hosts in the novel, can be easily ridiculed as such humans, it is not so simple with Gulliver, however loyal he seems to "the binaries" in the end. In fact, if the monkey incident is any indication, "the binaries" are rarely available to him, and he struggles to figure out what he is in the penetrating presence of other inhuman or nonhuman creatures that is devastating to "the Chain of Being." Gulliver's struggles are no doubt pertinent to Swift's time: the early modern period when "the Chain of Being" was crumbling and the question of how to define man was "a matter of pressing importance" (White 1976, 48). Yet, as it happens, they also matter much to the world since that time, for the notion of man coming out of them has been responsible for so many problems such as extinction of many animal species, exploitation of natural resources, and animalization of certain humans, just to name a few. To interrogate the notion of man that Gulliver develops in the novel is thus to speculate on the implications of Swift's satire that extend far beyond his own time and into our own, ones that deserve our close attention more than ever.

To conduct this rather far-reaching speculation, I recruit as Swift's philosophical counterpart Martin Heidegger, who was arguably one of the most attuned philosophers of our time to the question of man. The connection has already been tried, but the precedents come with some complications. For instance, Iain Thompson turns to the "striking image of the Laputans' dual gaze, a gaze directed simultaneously inward and outward, with one eye looking for truth within while the other searches for it beyond the heavens," so as to build up the question if "Heidegger credit[s] the great metaphysicians with an unjustifiably exalted role in establishing and maintaining intelligibility, thereby ignoring the broader and deeper historical and material forces that shape the world out of which even the great metaphysicians think their loft thoughts" (2011, 120, 123). He then answers in the negative, citing "some common misunderstandings of Heidegger's view," and argues that the philosopher in fact works toward "a more thoughtful awareness of the relation between our fundamental ways of conceiving our reality, on the one hand, and our basic experience of our selves and our worlds, on the other" (122,130). Referring to the same image of "the Laputans' dual gaze" and bringing in Heidegger to discuss Swift's view of man, however, Dennis Donoghue draws a rather different conclusion. That is, observing that Heidegger "expressed some resentment, on man's behalf, against the classical description of man as 'the rational animal,'" he insists that "The relevance of this to Swift is clear" because, for the latter, "man is merely a particular kind of animal" (1969, 163, 164).

Purporting to examine Swift's novel alongside with Heidegger's philosophical work, I am encouraged by these previous discussions, but also advised to approach his work carefully by their conflicting interpretations of Heidegger and his relation to Swift. The conflict no doubt stems from the complexity of his philosophical thoughts, and I am far from attempting a comprehensive and definitive interpretation of them here. Instead, my reading of Heidegger in the next section focuses on how he, by utilizing Jakob von Uexkull's biology, configures the essence of man in comparison with animals, and I will later in the essay try to measure the weight of this configuration against his controversial association with Nazism. But the conflicting interpretations are also due to the difficulty of the question itself, that is, the notion of man. However "striking" it is, the "image of the Laputan's dual gaze" is obviously oversimplifying that question, and any connection between Swift and Heidegger made from there could face the same risk. This is why the connection should be drawn upon Gulliver's harrowing travels as a record of man's struggles to find his place in the collapsing "Chain of Being." Once the connection is thus established, we might be able to see what Gulliver really is, one whom I would call Heidegger's man and whose prestigious status as man stands on the ruins of animals and animalized men. Only then will we have a better understanding of how perceptive Swift's satire is and why his novel can be read as a thoughtful speculation on the future of the world, human and non-human alike.


Captivated and suspended, this is the state the monkey is in, not Gulliver--that's what Heidegger would have said, grasping this moment as illustrative of the essence of the animal and, by comparison, the essence of man. In a series of lectures published as The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, Heidegger successively transformed the question, "What is metaphysics?" into "What is man?" and then into "What is world?" This last question isn't exactly intended to "pursue... the historical development of the concept [of world]" or "provide a preliminary characterization of the phenomenon of world" (1995, 176-77). Rather, it is to better answer the question concerning the essence of man by conducting "a comparative examination" of how material object, the animal and man respectively relate to world and showing "certain distinctions [that] manifest themselves" (177). He "formulates these distinctions in the following three theses: [1.] the stone (material object) is worldless; [2.] the animal is poor in world; [3.] man is world-forming" (177). Having defined "world as those beings which are in each case accessible and may be dealt with," Heidegger explains that while the stone is "worldless" because "it has no possible access to anything else around it," the animal has a limited access to world because it behaves in "an instinctual drivenness" (196-98, 237). In other words, "The animal can only behave insofar as it is essentially captivated" by what it is instinctually drawn to, and Heidegger goes so far as to claim that captivation is "the inner possibility of animal being itself (239). Thus captivated, and consequently deprived of access to beings in the world except for those that captivate it, "the animal finds itself suspended, as it were, between itself and its environment" (248).

The "analysis of captivation as the essence of animality" proves to be important, since it "provides as it were a suitable background against which the essence of humanity can now be set off" (Heidegger 1995, 282). Like the animal, man has access to world; but, unlike the animal, he is not captivated in "instinctual drivenness." Heidegger has already made this distinction by saying that "The specific manner in which man is we shall call comportment and the specific manner in which the animal is we shall call behaviour" (237). And he further clarifies, "The behaviour of the animal is not a doing and acting, as in human comportment, but a driven performing"(237). How is man's "doing and acting" different? Man admittedly does certain things instinctually or without thinking, but Heidegger has offered an example even earlier when discussing "the possibility of man's transposing himself into another being" (201). By "transposition," he means neither "the factical transference of one existing human being into the interior of another being" nor "the factical substitution of oneself for another being" (202). Yet in "transposition,"
...the other being is precisely supposed to remain what it is and how
it is. Transposing oneself into this being means going along with what
it is and with how it is. Such going-along-with means directly learning
how it is with this being, discovering what it is like to be this being
with which we are going along in this way. Perhaps in doing so we may
even see right into the nature of the other being more essentially and
more incisively than that being could possibly do by itself. (Heidegger
1995, 202)

This "ability to transpose" is unique in man and, more importantly, essential to "man's Dasein... for the being-there of Da-sein means being with others, precisely in the manner of Dasein, that is, existing with others," so much so that "The question concerning whether we human beings can transpose ourselves into other human beings is," Heidegger claims, "a meaningless, indeed a nonsensical question because it is fundamentally redundant" (205). Transposition pertains to the essence of man, and it may be Heidegger's answer to "What is man?" And the conclusive remark of his lectures underwrites this supposition: "Man is that inability to remain and is yet unable to leave his place.... Man is a transition" (365). In other words, man for Heidegger or, if I may, Heidegger's man is a being that is always in transposition and transition.

There is, however, a certain risk in Heidegger's "comparative examination" whereby man's essence is found. The examination shows that a man comporting in ambiguity is fundamentally different from an animal behaving in captivation, and the difference is such that Heidegger would declare, "the animal is separated from man by an abyss" (1995, 264). But how could it be possible to compare two beings in such abysmal difference? Doesn't their comparability itself already testify to there being no "abyss" between man and the animal? As if aware of this complication, Heidegger expects that there might be "the fundamental question whether we should talk of a world of the animal" (264). He brushes off this question "for a variety of reasons" that he doesn't particularly articulate, but he nevertheless appears to be certain of captivation as the essence of the animal (264). His certainty is mostly indebted to the investigations of contemporary biologists, specifically those of Uexkull, whom Heidegger praises as "one of the most perceptive of contemporary biologists" (215). (3) Initially, as Brett Buchanan notes, "Heidegger is drawn to Uexkull's research because he finds in him an accomplice in biology in order to think through the concept of the world" (2008, 38X (4) In particular, Heidegger "was so taken by" Uexkull's characterization of "the relational structure as inherently necessary to understanding both organism and environment" that, in addition to the 1929-30 lectures, "he references him some ten years later in his 1939 graduate seminar on Herder's On the Origin of Language, and even as late as his 1967 course on Heraclitus" (52).

What impressed Heidegger about Uexkull is mainly found in the latter's primary work, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans. Uexkull first observes that the female tick after copulation climbs on the tip of a branch and takes the butyric acid odor of a passing mammal as "the signal to leave its watch post and leap off" (2010, 45). Once landed on the mammal, the tick uses its tactile sense to find "a spot as free of hair as possible" and "pumps a stream of warm blood slowly into itself," after which it will "fall to the ground, lay its eggs, and die" (45). But this simple observation of the life cycle of the tick is not what it seems, since it concerns neither "the chemical stimulus of the butyric acid" nor "the mechanical stimulus" but "the fact that, among the hundreds of effects that emanate from the mammal's body, only three becomes feature carriers for the tick." Uexkull thus asks, "Why these three and no others?" (50). The answer lies neither in the tick nor in the mammal, but in the way the tick selects and interprets many signs given by the mammal, that is, in their biosemiotic exchanges. The tick perceives only those signs that have meaning for it, and its so-created world is accordingly a subjective one, which Uexkull calls "Umwelt." Uexkull observes that even time and space, which are often thought to be "objectively consistent," change in the tick's world, and adds, "With this observation, biology has once and for all connected with Kant's philosophy" (52). In the end, the lesson for humans is:
We comfort ourselves all too easily with the illusion that the
relations of another kind of subject to the things of its environment
play out in the same space and time as the relations that link us to
the things of our human environment. This illusion is fed by the belief
in the existence of one and only world, in which all living beings are
encased. From this arises the widely held conviction that there must be
one and only space and time for all living beings. (Uexkull 2010, 54)

The illusion that Uexkull criticizes is no doubt a man-made one that serves those humans who have no regards for animal Umwelten. And his criticism could help establish him as a pioneer in ecology and, to a certain extent, posthumanism where concerted efforts are made to critique and move beyond anthropocentrism.

Unfortunately, Uexkull himself developed little of his work's philosophical potentialities. (5) It may be because he simply thought of himself as a biologist, seeing no need to see his work otherwise, but this justification weakens when one considers the facts that he frequently referenced Immanuel Kant as the inspiration for his work and that Darwinism, which he criticized for its "too-random planlessness," was rapidly expanding its influence beyond scientific communities (Buchanan 2008, 16). Whatever the reason, the underdevelopment of Uexkull's "investigations" is quickly noticed by Heidegger, who thus comments, "they have not yet acquired the fundamental significance they could have if a more radical interpretation of the organism were developed on their basis" (1995, 263). Yet, the fact is that Heidegger shouldn't be--and isn't--complaining about Uexkull's shortcomings, since he needs the latter only to confirm captivation as the animal's essence, and, by "a comparative examination" to endow man with an essence that the animal, due to its essence, cannot have. This is precisely what Giorgio Agamben means when he says, "Heidegger moves away from Uexkull to elaborate a strategy in which the understanding of 'poverty in world' and the understanding of the human world proceed at an equal pace" (2004, 51-52). (6) This "strategy" is, Agamben further explains, to turn on "the anthropological machine" that performs "the production of man through the opposition man/animal, human/inhuman" and establish the primacy of man through that opposition (37).

But how definitive can man's essence be if it is to be defined as the opposite of the animal's essence? And even if transposition and transition are in themselves definitively opposite of the animal's "world-less" captivation, why should they belong only to human Dasein? Agamben indirectly offers an answer by telling us that whenever "the anthropological machine" turns on, "the human is already presupposed every time" and that what the machine "actually produces" is "a kind of state of exception, a zone of indeterminacy in which the outside is nothing but the exclusion of an inside and the inside is in turn only the inclusion of an outside" (2004, 37). To rephrase, Heidegger, who Agamben argues was "the last [in history] to believe... that the anthropological machine... could still produce history and destiny for a people" (75), may have felt it "redundant" to raise the question of belonging simply because he was "thrown" into the all too anthropocentric world of the twentieth century. But can we say the same for Gulliver, who is "thrown" into the early modern world where, as the old "Chain of Being" is collapsing, his humanity is not presupposed but must be earned?


Man, according to Heidegger's "comparative examination" is always in transposition and transition. If so, by transposing himself into an animal, hence "going along with" it, Gulliver is then doing exactly what is expected of Heidegger's man, perhaps more so than when he tries to transpose himself into his supposedly human hosts, which is, Heidegger would chide, "meaningless" and "redundant." Gulliver's transposition should be considered successful, for the gullible animal, on "finding himself almost encompassed," doesn't throw him away but safely "let[s] me [Gulliver] drop on a ridge Tyle" before it flees (Swift 2002, 102). In fact, thrown into the "zone of indeterminacy" many times throughout his travels, this would-be Heidegger's man turns on "the anthropological machine" and proves himself capable of establishing his humanity. When he first sees a Lilliputian that is "not six Inches high," he instantly determines, "I perceived it to be a human Creature," an indeterminate appellation suggestive of the fact that Gulliver recognizes characteristics of his species in the Lilliputians but still feels their miniscule size troublesome (17). Now, Gulliver must animalize these creatures to safeguard his humanity against them or humanize them to share it with them. The choice is clear when, having described their acts of capturing and feeding him, Gulliver reciprocates:
I confess I was often tempted, while they were passing backwards and
forwards on my Body to seize Forty or Fifty of the first that came in
my reach, and dash them against the Ground. But the remembrance of what
I had felt, which probably might not be the worst they could do, and
the Promise of Honour I made them, for so I interpreted my submissive
Behaviour, soon drove out these Imaginations. Besides, I now consider'd
my self as bound by the Laws of Hospitality to a People who had treated
me with so much Expence and Magnificence. (Swift 2002, 20)

Just like the Lilliputians who do not act like beasts, Gulliver does not act on his temptation to treat them as if they are small animals. Instead, by forgoing the Lilliputians' inhuman physicality and instead emphasizing their "Laws of Hospitality" that he can reciprocate, Gulliver locates a humanizing distinction that he and the Lilliputians share, thus establishing that they are of the same species, that is, the human. How much he values this distinction becomes apparent when the Lilliputian court decides to put out his eyes, which they think "too easy a Censure," as a punishment for his crimes (59). Describing the punishment as "inhuman" yet acknowledging that he is thinking "perhaps erroneously" because, "having never been designed for a Courtier either by my Birth or Education," he may be "so ill a Judge of Things," Gulliver continues to uphold the reciprocity between them "by remembering the Oath I had made to the Emperor, the Favours I received from him, and the high Title of Nardac he conferred upon me" (60).

The distinction of "the Laws of Hospitality" becomes a must in Brobdingnag, where Gulliver can survive only by rendering himself eligible for the laws. When he first sees a Brobdingnagian, Gulliver calls him "a huge Creature" or a "Monster" (Swift 2002, 71). But he quickly changes his mind and refers to the Brobdingnagians as "human creatures" (71, 72). By making himself comparable in this way, he creates "a zone of indeterminacy." Yet, just as he has done with the Lilliputians, these gigantic creatures could regard such a miniscule being as Gulliver as a small animal, thus unworthy of their hospitality. Apparently, Gulliver is well aware of this problem, since he continues to imagine himself animalized in the eyes of the Brobdingnagians. When a Brobdingnagian farmer sees him, he thinks the farmer "considered a while with the Caution of one who endeavor to lay hold on a small dangerous Animal" (73). And when picked up by the same farmer, Gulliver "apprehended every Moment that he would dash me against the Ground as we usually do any little hateful Animal" (73). In the same vein, when a boy is punished on account of him, Gulliver becomes "afraid the Boy might owe me spight," since he remembers "how mischievous all Children among us naturally are to Sparrows, Rabbits, young Kittens, and Puppy Dogs" (75). All this while, however, he keeps de-animalizing himself so as to show them he is nothing like these animals. He thus "place[s] my Hands together in a supplicating Posture, and... speaks some Words in an melancholy Tone"; when placed by a Brobdingnag "on the Ground upon all four," he "got immediately up, and walked slowly backwards and forwards"; he also "made a low Bow" and "fell on my Knees, and lifted my Hands and Eyes, and spoke several Words as loud as I could" (73). In short, he does all he could to present himself as a bipedal creature with culture and language and, subsequently, to convince the Brobdingnagians that he is "a rational Creature" worthy of their hospitality (74, emphasis added).

But the monkey ruins everything. The monkey, not just the monkey in question but the whole primate species, is supposed to provide the most "suitable background against which the essence of humanity can now be set off," for it stands right next to the human in the "zone of indeterminacy." The animal's proximity may pose the greatest challenge but does guarantee the biggest dividend, since "the anthropological machine" will conduct the closest "comparative examination." Heidegger would have regarded Gulliver's transposition into the animal as a success, since he is in a sense being more human by proving that he can pretend to be an animal, that he can be human and not human at the same time. But it doesn't appear to matter to the Brobdingnagians, who have already "concluded unanimously" that Gulliver is "Lusus Nature" (Swift 2002, 87). To them, he is "a carnivorous animal" that is too weak to belong to "Quadrupeds," too developed to be "an Embrio, or abortive Birth," and too little to be "a Dwarf (86-87). And the monkey incident only reaffirms their conclusion. Shortly after the incident, the King asks Gulliver what he would do if he were in his "own Country," and Gulliver answers "in a firm Tone, like a Person who was jealous lest his Courage should be called in question that he would be able to deal with a dozen of them [monkeys] together" in his country and even in Brobdingnag (103). In other words, he declares that he would not pretend to be the animal but act with human dignity. However, it turns out that his "Speech produced nothing else besides a loud Laughter," which, Gulliver later laments, "made me reflect how vain an Attempt it is for a Man to endeavour doing himself Honour among those who are out of all Degree of Equality or Comparison with him" (103). Honour or "the Laws of Hospitality" may have seemed like a good enough distinction to save his humanity, but what Gulliver comes to realize is that nothing matters when he is "out of all Degree of Equality or Comparison" with those presupposed as humans, that is, when his humanity is not presupposed.

The realization is once again confirmed when, after hearing Gulliver's discourse, delivered "to celebrate the Praises of my own dear native Country," on the laws, politics, economy, and history of the world wherein his humanity is not questioned, the King only replies, "I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth" (Swift 2002, 106, 111). Even the technology of gun power that Gulliver proudly "offered to his Majesty as a small Tribute of Acknowledgment" is turned down by the King who "was amazed how so impotent and groveling an Insect as I (these were his Expressions) could entertain such inhuman Ideas" (112, emphasis added). It appears that once his animality is predetermined by the Brobdingnagians, there is nothing that "the anthropological machine" can do to change it. Although "the human world," as Lawrence J. Hatab reiterates, "is marked by a radical openness and differentiated otherness that does not seem to be evident in the animal realm" (2012, 108), it is not so for those coming from "the animal realm." In Heideggerian terms, "Dasein is surpassing" (108), but only on the precondition that it is thrown into "the human world." Heidegger says that questioning whether this precondition exists is "fundamentally redundant," but Gulliver, finding the precondition lacking, learns that it is after all fundamentally necessary.

An easy solution for the privation of the precondition might be living in a world where one's humanity is already presupposed, where the precondition is indeed "redundant." Uexkull would have referred to such a world as the "soap bubble" of man. Likening Umwelt to "a soap bubble," in which animals "remain permanently enclosed," Uexkull adamantly underscores the fact that every species, including the human, has its own Umwelt into which other beings cannot penetrate as such--they can do so only when transformed into a sign that makes sense to the hosting species (2010, 69). He thus asserts, "Only when we can vividly imagine this fact will we recognize in our own world the bubble that encloses each and every one of us on all sides" (70). Heidegger of course agrees with Uexkull only insofar as the animal is concerned. Describing what captivates the animal as what "disinhibits its capability for [being open to that which is instinctively drawn], Heidegger states that the animal "encircles itself as long as it lives" with its disinhibitors, thus creating its own "disinhibiting ring" (1995, 259). What Uexkull refers to as Umwelt is "nothing other than what we have characterized as the disinhibiting ring" but Heidegger warns, "the whole approach does become philosophically problematic if we proceed to talk about the human world in the same manner" (263). It is because the "openness" within the "disinhibiting ring" of the animal "is still fundamentally different from the manifestness of beings as encountered in the world-forming Dasein of man" (277). Unlike the animal that is related to beings in a certain, captivated way, the human is accessible to beings in all their possibilities and, as each human relates to beings differently, his or her world is being formed "in each specific case" (281). Therefore, man is not to "remain permanently enclosed" in the given world and take it as complete; as Heidegger insists, "man is world-forming."

Now the question of whether to stay in his "soap bubble" or to continue to be in "transition" shouldn't bother Heidegger's man; one would even call the question "fundamentally redundant" since "man is a transition, transition as the fundamental essence of occurrence" (Heidegger 1995, 365). If he is Heidegger's man, Gulliver can't help continuing his transitory existence. Indeed, when he returns to England, he refuses to perceive his home in a way that would make it his "soap bubble," and acts as if he is still in transition. For instance, having perceived himself as a human in Brobdingnag in which humans are gigantic, Gulliver keeps to the same perception even at home, so when his wife "ran out to embrace me,... I stooped lower than her Knees, thinking she could otherwise never be able to reach my Mouth" (Swift 2002, 124-25). Also, he relates, "My Daughter kneeled to ask me Blessing, but I could not see her till she arose, having been so long used to stand with my Head and Eyes erect to above sixty Foot" (125). It is not certain how he has managed to keep the Brobdingnagian (mis)perception during the whole nine months he has been on the ship with normal-sized humans after his escape from Brobdingnag. What is certain, though, is that Gulliver will never be content to remain in his "soap-bubble," that he will leave his home again soon.

And he does, taking two more journeys afterwards, and the second one brings him to the land of the Houyhnhnms. On landing in the land and seeing the Yahoos for the first time, he doesn't hesitate to call them "Animals," not even "human creatures," and then exclaims, "I never beheld in all my Travels so disagreeable an Animal, nor one against which I naturally conceived so strong an Antipathy" (Swift 2002, 189-90). His immediate and strong detestation is suspicious because it is difficult to imagine that he has not recognized his physical resemblance to the Yahoos--after all, on seeing Gulliver without clothes, the Master Horse classifies him as "a perfect Yahoo" (201). Rather, his reaction seems to express a resolute denial that is based not so much on the certainty of his difference from the Yahoos as on the fear of their kinship being exposed. With the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver expresses a different kind of denial. He dismisses their equine form and instead says, "the Behaviour of these Animals was so orderly and rational, so acute and judicious, that I at last concluded, they must needs be Magicians, who had thus metamorphosed themselves upon some design" (191). Such "orderly and rational" qualities only befit humans, so when the horses are not "metamorphosed" back into humans, Gulliver cannot but resort to the ultimate form of denial: "I might be in a Dream" (194).

Gulliver's prolonged stay, however, reveals that no "Necromancy and Magick" are involved, that the Houyhnhnms are really horses while Yahoos are humans in this land (Swift 2002, 194). This revelation undoes his denial, and once again he has to rely on "the anthropological machine" to produce a distinction that helps retain his humanity in this topsyturvy reality. In fact, the situation offers an ideal testing ground for the machine, since there has been created "a zone of indeterminacy," where Gulliver is placed between an animal that is not the animal and a human that is not the human. Gulliver's words perfectly describe it when he juxtaposes the Master's reply to his descriptions of humans "that I said the thing which was not" with his reflection that if he happens to be back in his "native Country" and talks about the Houyhnhnms, "everybody would believe that I said the Thing which was not" (199, 202). (7) Interesting to note here is that he refers to what concerns humans "the thing" and what concerns the Houyhnhnms "the Thing," as if there are two kinds of truth--one being a mere fact of life while the other representing the transcendental Truth. He then denounces humans against the Houyhnhnms' "Virtue and Reason" to the extent to "view the Actions and Passions of Man in a very different Light, and to think the Honour of my own Kind not worth managing" (217).

Does this mean that Gulliver gives up his humanity entirely? Is his journey to figure out a notion of man coming to its premature end? It may appear that way, as he denounces his "own Kind" and wishes to be like the Houyhnhnms. But to be like them is not the same as to be one of them, which is in all likelihood impossible. In other words, it is not transformation but transposition that Gulliver desires, an act that, according to Heidegger, only man does. To legitimate his transposition, Gulliver plays down the Houyhnhnms' equine physicality and instead emphasizes their "Virtue and Reason," abstract qualities that are transferrable across species lines and therefore accessible to him. In so doing, he forms a new "Chain of Being," in which all creatures are distinguished not by their non-transferrable physical traits but by the distance that each creature has from "Virtue and Reason." This distance, this abstract passage from truth and Truth, is what Gulliver must traverse, and he can do so not only by showing that he aspires to acquire the qualities, that he is willing and able to be enlightened of them, unlike "the Yahoos [that] appear to be the most unteachable of all Animals." In this way, he renews his journey, redefining his humanity in such abstract terms and distinguishing himself from animals and animalized men in the new "Chain of Being."

That he is committed to this new journey becomes apparent when his physicality once again gets in the way of his transposition. One day, as Gulliver takes off his clothes and takes a bath in a river, "a young Female Yahoo... leaped into the Water within five Yards of the Place where I bathed" and "embraced me after a most fulsome manner" (Swift 2002, 225). Even after all the shipwrecks and mishaps he has experienced, Gulliver finds himself "never in my Life so terribly frighted," and realizes that "I could no longer deny, that I was a real Yahoo, in every Limb and Feature, since the Females had a natural Propensity to me as one of their own Species" (225). And as with the aforementioned monkey incident, this incident becomes "a matter of Diversion to my Master and his Family," which should easily dissuade Gulliver from continuing his transposition into the Houyhnhnm (2002, 225). But surprisingly, Gulliver drops the whole incident rather quickly, making nothing but the brief observation that the female Yahoo is not "so hideous as the rest of the Kind" and "could not be above eleven Years old" (225). While it is understandable that he wants to point out the female Yahoo's relative comeliness, his emphasis on her young age highlights his assumption that the Yahoos degenerate as they grow up, but this assumption goes even further than that. If one recalls Gulliver's previous travel through Glubbdubdribb where, having summoned the dead and listened to them, he makes "melancholy Reflections to observe how much the Race of human kind was degenerate among us within these hundred Years past" (172), the degeneration encompasses the entire humanity as well. For Gulliver, therefore, it is worth mentioning that the Yahoo is young, since it means that she has not so degenerated as others and that her "natural Propensity" to him might not have been entirely driven by her base instinct. That is, the female Yahoo, being so young, still retains a tinge of the aspiration for "Virtue and Reason," so she is naturally drawn to him because he is less degenerate than her. More significantly, the same logic dictates that Gulliver's aspiration for the same qualities is quite natural, a legitimation that he has desperately needed after hearing the Master say that those not "born with equal Talents of the Mind, or a Capacity to improve them... continued always in the Condition of Servants, without ever aspiring to match out of their own Race, which in that Country would be reckoned monstrous and unnatural" (216). (8)

Placing himself in the "zone of indeterminacy" that is open to the Yahoos on the one end--but forever closed to them, for they are "the most restive and indocile" (Swift 2002, 228)--and to the Houyhnhnms on the other end, Gulliver establishes that it is his "natural Propensity" to traverse the distance to reach the realm of "Reason and Virtue" in which the Houyhnhnms reside. "In satirizing Gulliver's love of the Houyhnhnms," Mary P. Nichols points out, "Swift indicates his criticism of philosophy to the extent that it leads to a denial of the body and the passions in the name of an abstract universality" (1981, 1168). (9) But the denial, I would add, is also enacted in order to retain his universal primacy as man in the collapsing "Chain of Being" and, more importantly, to form a new "Chain of Being," wherein all the creatures in the world are to be rearranged. In a sense, Gulliver is genuinely proving himself worthy of Heidegger's man. As "Heidegger conceives of Dasein and world as forming a circle," David Couzens Hoy posits, "Dasein's understanding of its world is... not distinct from its understanding of itself (1993, 172-77). This means that in the "circle" it forms with the world, Dasein lives and acts, changing the world as much as it changes itself. Likewise, Gulliver will be never satisfied with the world at hand but keeps transforming the world into a home for his disembodied and impassioned self. And, he will have no moral qualms about his actions, since the world he forms or, to quote Warren Montag, "the political ideal that takes shape in Gulliver's Travels," is not "a matter of reciprocal duties or obligations (imposed externally through the mechanism of the law) but rather of natural inclinations that arise from the heart" (1994, 145). Transposing himself and acting on his "world-forming" essence, Gulliver finally becomes Heidegger's man.


Upon returning to his home from the Country of the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver finds himself embraced and kissed by his wife, and "having not been used to the Touch of that odious Animal for so many Years," he "fell in a Swoon for almost an Hour" (Swift 2002, 244). "During the first Year [of his return]," he then announces, "I could not endure my Wife or Children in my Presence, the very Smell of them was intolerable," and he continues to "keep my Nose well stopt with Rue, Lavender, or Tobacco-leaves" (244, 249). He will never overcome his detestation of "that odious Animal" that is another human being unless his admiration of "the Houyhnhnms, who live under the Government of Reason," ceases, which is, by all appearances, highly unlikely (250). Is Gulliver then doomed to live such an unfulfilling life, even after he has learned how to be Heidegger's man, whose "world-forming" essence dictates that he continue to transform the world into his Umwelt? Is there anything that he can--rather, given that essence, should--do to lift himself out of his doomed life?

At least, believing in the cause of "Nature's overall plan," the Houyhnhnms seem sure that more can be done. They designate the Yahoos as "the most filthy, noisome, and deformed Animal which Nature ever produced," as Nature's mistake, and they debate "Whether the Yahoos should be exterminated from the Face of the Earth" (Swift 2002, 228). The Master then suggests the "Castrating" of "the younger Yahoos" as an alternative to the immediate extermination, since "besides rendering them tractable and fitter for Use," it "would in an Age put an end to the whole Species without destroying Life" (229-30). It is horrifying to think that the Houyhnhnms are contemplating de facto genocide or eugenics, all in the name of "Nature" or "Reason," and that they have a loyal follower like Gulliver. One may take comfort in the fact that Gulliver's Travels is to be read as a satire on the overly logical and scientific tendency of Swift's contemporaries (10) or that Gulliver, obsessed as he is with the Houyhnhnms, is only a single individual. But the history of modern society whose beginning Swift anxiously observed and whose collapse Uexkull and Heidegger witnessed tells a different story. So, Barnard Harrison insists, it is far from being "absurdly anachronistic" to "see the Houyhnhnms as precursors of modern totalitarianism," because "Modern capitalism... represents the flowering of political and moral ideals which began to take serious hold of the European mind in Swift's day" (2003, 40, 59). In fact, the Houyhnhnms represent "the real misanthropes whose own hatred of mankind is hidden from them by their love for an imaginary 'mankind' distilled out of the solemn fantasies of rational politics" (62).

In that same nightmarish story of modern society, there are also some troubling legacies left by Heidegger and Uexkull--in the name of "the essence of man" or of "the Nature's overall plan." As for Heidegger, there has been a prolonged controversy surrounding his connection with Nazism. In the "Foreword" to Victor Farias's Heidegger and Nazism, Joseph Margolis and Tom Rockmore commend Farias's work for calling "into immediate question the received or official version of Heidegger's link to Nazism," which suggests:
The link between Heidegger and National Socialism was never a
principled adherence but at best a necessary compromise; the main
reason for the assumption of the rectorate [of Freiburg University in
1933] was to defend the German university; Heidegger severed his links
to the movement when he realized its true nature and criticized it in
his later writings; he was never a racist and went out of his way to
defend various Jews, including Husserl; he never abandoned the
discipline of serious philosophical inquiry for any more immediate
political goal. (Margolis and Rockmore 1989, x)

The convenience of this "official view," which more or less characterizes Heidegger's Nazi connection as a political misstep, becomes questionable against Farias's thorough reading of Heidegger's writings, including those written before and after his official involvement with the Nazis. Farias thus argues that "Heidegger's decision to join the NSDAP [Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei] was in no way the result of unexpected opportunism or tactical considerations" and that he "always remained faithful to a whole spate of doctrines characteristic of National Socialism" (1989, 4, 7). Karl Lowith likewise states that "it would be inappropriate to criticize or exonerate his [Heidegger's] political decision in isolation from the very principles of Heideggerian philosophy itself," and concludes that "The possibility of a Heideggerian political philosophy was not born as a result of a regrettable 'miscue,' but from the very conception of existence that simultaneously combats and absorbs the 'spirit of the age'" (1991, 182, 183). From what Lowith, Farias, and many other have observed, it would be hard to deny that Heidegger, at least initially, saw in Nazism the possibility of actualizing what he in Being and Time calls "authentic potentiality-for-Being" (Lowith 1991, 173). (11) As a philosophizing man who knows of this "potentiality" and whose activities must be "world-forming" Heidegger may have felt like, to quote Richard Wolin's assessment of the later Heidegger, "a prophet who views himself as standing in a position of immediate access to Being" (1991, 11).

To a lesser degree than Heidegger but still in an irrefutable way, Uexkull is also seen to have sympathized with Nazism. Having endowed each animal with its subjective Umwelt that remains impenetrable to others, Uexkull nevertheless claims that all the Umwelten are penetrable to "Nature's overall plan" (2010, 86). To enforce this plan, there needs to be "a pioneer of biopolitics and state-enforced immunization initiatives," and Uexkull thus demands that "medical and biological experts be acknowledged as the resident experts and unquestioned leaders in the attempt to cleanse the national, ethnic, or racial biomass," a demand that was realized, though it may not have been what he had in mind, in the form of "Nazi zoopolitics directed against human animals" (Winthrop-Young 2010, 227). Quoting Uexkull's reference to Jews as "An utterly alien people," Geoffrey Winthrop-Young draws a cautious yet revealing conclusion:
To be sure, Uexkull was not an eliminationist racist. A lot of what he
says about the necessity to maintain and respect racial diversity, not
to mention his critique of the belief that racial mixing produces
inferior offspring, is clearly at odds with Nazi doctrines. The problem
is that for reactionary modernists like Uexkull, who strove to
reconcile their preference for premodern societal structures with
up-to-date developments in technology and the sciences, Jews
represented the most irritating incarnation of the ills of modernity:
rootlessness, the dissolution of time-honored communities and
traditional belief systems, and the apotheosis of money.... To coin a
Uexkullian-Heideggerian neologism, Jews were to Uexkull the epitome of
Umweltvergessenheit or the "forgetfulness of Umwelt"--an inability to
grasp and experience one's own preordained environment that is both
brought about and glossed over by vague appeals to universal liberty
and justice. (Winthrop-Young 2010, 228-29)

In their connection with Nazism, Uexkull and Heidegger are thus regrettably brought together, and so are the Houyhnhnms and Gulliver in their detestation of the Yahoos, which is eerily akin to "Nazi zoopolitics." Formed "under the Government of Reason," their world appears to be a terrible place to be thrown into.

Is their coming-together an unfortunate coincidence? I am not sure--after all, they are all here because they have imagined themselves forming the world according to "the Government of Reason." Coincidental or not, one thing is for sure: they all have missed opportunities to do things differently. Dennis Todd points out that meeting "the monstrous inhabitants," Gulliver "tends to take the monsters as normative and to assimilate himself into their realities" (2002, 416). Yet, what should also have been mentioned is that Gulliver discriminates "the monstrous inhabitants." That is, he rejects the monkey and the female Yahoo that are more willing to assimilate him into their "realities" than the Brobdingnagian King and the Master Horse. What if he didn't reject? What Michael J. Franklin says of the female Yahoo may help answer the question. "By recognizing, and being attracted towards, her likeness," Franklin insists, "she is made to highlight Houyhnhnm blindness to their own kin: their fellow equids, the asses" (2005, 5). And when the Master proposes to the assembly "to cultivate the Breed of Asses," instead of the Yahoos, the Houyhnhnms are in fact considering "the enslavement of a closely related species [which] seems infinitely worse than their fettering of the Yahoos, almost as reprehensible as man's enslavement of a fellow Homo sapiens" (6). If the female Yahoo shows Gulliver how "reprehensible" the Houyhnhnms are, the monkey, by allowing Gulliver into its Umwelt, is giving him a chance to forgo his humanity, or, to quote Agamben, "To render inoperative the [anthropological] machine that governs our conception of man" (2004, 92). This rendering, adds Agamben, "means no longer to seek new--more effective or more authentic--articulations, but rather to show the central emptiness, the hiatus that--within man--separates man and animal, and to risk ourselves in this emptiness" (92). But, having apparently stepped into this "emptiness," they--not only Gulliver but also Heidegger and Uexkull--have left as soon as they found "new... articulations" for themselves, and they then try to form the world according to those "articulations." The irony is that as they use, kill, or forget about those misarticulated or unarticulated; they all have deprived themselves of access to whatever possibilities these beings might have offered. This is what Swift's satire ultimately says of all these Heidegger's men: distinguishing themselves from animals in captivation, they become the ones captivated by their essence and suspended in their Umwelt.


(1) Clifford explains, "By 'hard' I mean an interpretation which stresses the shock and difficulty of the work, with almost tragic overtones, while by 'soft' I mean the tendency to find comic passages and compromise solutions" (1974, 33). For an attempt to negotiate between the two schools, see Neil Chudgar (2011). Chudgar proposes a gentle reading of Gulliver as a way to negotiate between the two schools, according to which Gulliver, the "gentle Yahoo" who turns into "the most hardened misanthrope" in the end, "can still hope to escape from categorical fear and attend, somehow, to the literal presence of individuals" (158).

(2) See Preston and de Waal (2002, 19). While admitting that empathy can be observed in many animal species, Preston and de Waal distinguish cognitive empathy from the more rudimentary kind, reflex empathy, and note that chimpanzees show the former, whereas "Monkey displays of empathy" are "more automatic and emotional" (19).

(3) For further criticism of Heidegger's certainty, see Mathew Calarco. Calarco denounces Heidegger's evocation of "abyss" as the "hyperbolic rhetoric of abysses and essential differences," and criticizes him for pursuing "a more rigorous humanism, what could be called (following David Krell) a 'hyperhumanism'" (2008, 23, 48).

(4) Buchanan further clarifies Uexkiill's appeal by comparing his research to those of the nineteenth-century biologists that Heidegger knew. For instance, Karl Ernst von Baer, whose influence on Uexkull was significant, doesn't go deep enough to examine "the structural relation between animals and environments," while Charles Darwin's "analysis of organisms is found to be too mechanical in how it dismantles the organism without respect for keeping the organism as a whole in mind," which suggests that "Darwinism never fully considers the intrinsic relation between the animal and the environment" (2008, 51). Likewise, Hans Driesch, whose view of "the organism as a whole, rather than... as an aggregate or composite of functional parts" is highly valued by Heidegger, "also fails to appropriately conceive the organism in its environment" (52).

(5) Uexkull's work has been studied for its potentialities for non-anthropocentric thoughts and practices. Riin Magnus, for instance, argues that Uexkull "warns us about falling into... an anthropomorphic fallacy" by theorizing "the subjective time-plans of all organisms," which "could enrich the debates of bioethics as well as the philosophies of nature conservation, by showing how the subjective timings of different organisms are essential for the biodiversity of the natural world" (2011, 52). Meanwhile, focusing on Uexkull's technic of "the Picture Book," by which he "allows for an intensification of tertiary memories of childhood aesthetic experience," Stephen Loo and Undine Sellbach posit that "we are invited to imagine the unknowable worlds of the grasshoppers through over-determined anthropomorphic frameworks that collapse logical sense to perform an alternative logic of sensation and affect" (2013, 54-57). In this way, Loo and Sellbach conduct "post-humanist readings of Uexkull, which emphasize the de-centering effects of animal Umwelten" (59). Finally, Morten Tonnessen develops "Umwelt ethics," based on what Jesper Hoffmeyer says of Uexkull: "by admitting interpretative process to be a core phenomenon of life in general, one can reach the conclusion that living creatures should be considered as moral subjects" (2003, 283-84).

(6) Buchanan likewise makes a note of their divergence by saying that "Heidegger, despite his praise, in fact pulls out the ground from beneath Uexkull" because the latter "never really appreciated the concept of world insofar as he has not dealt with human existence" (2008, 54). And "it is through the 1929-1930 comparative analysis," Buchanan adds, "that Heidegger can eventually state so matter-of-factly... that humans are on one side of a line, while everything else is on the other" (64). Calarco goes further to say, "Nearly all of Heidegger's remarks on animals in his early work are made with an eye toward understanding what he considers to be the unique essence of human Dasein" and "It is this focus and this priority," which gives rise to his anthropocentrism "that forms the chief limit of Heidegger's thought" (2008, 29).

(7) For further discussion of the particular passage, "The Thing which was not," see Robert M. Philmus. Philmus finds the gap between "Gulliver... the type of the satirist devoid of ironic self-regard" and Swift who "demonstrates his discovery that the ironic indirection of saying 'the Thing which was not' as a means of saying what is can rightly be called a necessary strategy" (1971, 65, 75). Philmus further points out that Gulliver, so long as he is committed to the Houyhnhnms' "community grounded upon reason and truth-telling," unwittingly "embodies a serious threat to the Houyhnhnm universe" since "He does not easily fit into the classifications that the neat dichotomies of that universe afford" (66, 67).

(8) The question of degeneration is also expounded by John B. Radner (1992). Noting that "the degenerate Nature of Man" is mentioned as early as in Lilliput, Radner points out that this phrase "is echoed throughout the rest of Gulliver's Travels,? and argues that the degeneration could not be stopped because of the "lack of genuine religious faith, understanding, and wisdom" (1992, 53, 55).

(9) For Heidegger's position on the human body, see Frank Schalow (2006). Schalow insists that behind "much of the vagueness in Heidegger's approach to the body" is something that helps "recover the body as an explicit concern of his phenomenology" (38, 1). Unlike Schalow, who sees the retrieval as an opportunity to align Heidegger with the question of animal freedom, I would argue that this retrieval only contributes to accentuating Heidegger's anthropocentrism. This problem, I think, becomes apparent when the pronounced human body highlights human beings' tie to the earth as their "dwelling" and the necessity to share this dwelling with animals. Schalow sees in this necessity that humans, in their "commitment to allocate space in behalf of our animal counterparts," "become 'liberators' of animals whose domain gradually shrinks at the hands of technological progress" (113).

(10) Swift's attitude toward contemporary science is well-explained by Douglas Lane Patey (1991). As he places "Swift's satire... within the conceptual terrain of the early eighteenth century," when "the quarrel between Ancients and Moderns" led to the emergence of "our notions of 'science'--of the 'sciences' as distinct from and opposed to the 'arts' and 'humanities,'" Patey asserts that Swift, "as an Ancient... satirizes the new division of knowledge from the point of view of an older one" (810). 11 For further discussion of this problem, see Charles B. Guignon, who doesn't shy away from expressing his feelings about Heidegger's Nazi involvement, which he finds "disgraceful and contemptible" (1993, 4). Discussing "the 'turn' in Heidegger's thought in the thirties," Guignon divides the "turn" into two strands, one being Heidegger's "shift away from a Dasein-centered account of being to one that starts from the history of being" and the other "his involvement with the Nazis" (26, 27). Closely related to the first strand, in which "History is seen as a monolithic 'happening' that, springing from primordial origins, passes through a 'dark night of the soul' of forgetfulness, yet embodies the prospects for a redemption in the final recovery of its concealed origins," Heidegger's admiration of the Nazis reflects his conviction, Guignon speculates, "that conditions had reached such a desperate state that only an act of violence could lead to a breakthrough to a purer, more stable form of life" (32). It is because of this undeniable philosophical grounding that Guignon has "moral worries" about Heidegger's Nazi involvement and, furthermore, his thoughts (36).


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DONGSHIN YI is Associate Professor of English at Seoul National University, South Korea. He is the author of A Genealogy of Cyborgothic: Aesthetics and Ethics in the Age of Posthumanism (2010), and has published articles on posthumanism, contemporary science fiction, and twentieth-century American novels.
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