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What Is It Like To Become a Rat? Animal Phenomenology through Uexkull and Deleuze & Guattari

We respond to a phenomenological challenge set forth in Thomas Nagel's "What Is It Like To Be a Bat?," namely, to seek a method for obtaining a phenomenological description of non-human animal experience faithful to an animal's first-person subjective perspective. First, we examine "translational" strategies employing empathy and communication with animals. Then we turn to a "transpositional" strategy from Uexkull's Umwelt theory in which we objectively determine the components of a non-human animal's subjective world of experience and then map those coordinates onto our own subjective world. While this method gives us partial access to the animal's "perception-world" aspect of its Umwelt, it does not inform us about what it is like to live in the interactive, "effectworld" aspect. To better overcome this limitation, we add a "transformational" approach derived from Deleuze's & Guattari's notion of "becoming-animal," in which we take on an animal's manners and capacities for interacting with the other objects and creatures in its world.