Paleontologists tell us that no new species was domesticated after the era of animal sacrifices. Were animals domesticated then—that is, made partially human—in order to sacrifice them, with domestication as a structural by-product of the religious? At the beginning of his essay “Goya’s Dog,” László Földényi quotes a line from an aboriginal Creation Myth—“Once upon a time when the animals were still human.” He remarks that, though the ancient aborigines saw an evident kinship between animals and humans, to suggest today that somebody has something “animalistic” about him is a not inconsequential judgment. It might have been possible for these aborigines to have felt that somebody (what we would recognize as a human) lacked the full qualities of being animal. “The animal is for us the extreme point of humanity. For the ancients, however, the extreme point of animality was the human.” Rilke in his Eighth Duino Elegy saw animals as looking out with full sight into the “open,” which is written all over them, our eyes being, as it were, turned back on themselves to form “traps” for the rest of the world as it emerges into our visual field. We are still in Plato’s cave, or in a deeper cave behind what we thought was philosophy’s back wall.

more from Iain Bamforth at Threepenny Review here.