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This essay highlights Ben-Ami Scharfstein’s major philosophical projects: first, philosophizing that includes nonwestern philosophies, especially Chinese and Indian, and that creates a dialogue between philosophers and philosophical traditions without prioritizing any of them, and without taking western philosophy as the point of departure. Second, a similar, inclusive move in the field of art, art without borders if you wish. Here the inclusivity applies not just to east and west, north and south, but even to animal-made art. Just as he wrote about philosophy in China and India, attempting to say something broader about humanity and humanism, so too does Scharfstein’s argument about animals and art have far-reaching implications, above and beyond the question of the demarcation of art. He aims to tell us something about the human-animal relationship, about lack of solidarity between fellow inhabitants of planet earth, not just humans, and about cruelty and exploitation and blindness to the other, whichever other. And finally, I touch on Scharfstein’s work The Philosophers, beautifully translated into Hebrew as Philosophers as Human Beings, where “he dares to imply that philosophizing is in fact a sublimated expression of the unconscious,” as Yoav Ariel—sinologist and much more—puts it. Such a move, Ariel continues to argue, “dethrones philosophy of its unique position of honor and supremacy, and disperses the atmosphere of conceptual terror that philosophy created generation after generation.”
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