Before and After Humanism: the coming of Posthumans

Michel Foucault teaches that man is an invention of recent date and has neared its end. In his book, the Archeology of Knowledge, he foretold the funeral of man. Post-humanities have already conducted the funeral of humans. The face of a man drawn on the sand at the edge of the seas is almost erased. Man is no longer thought to be the bearer of any privilege. Some critiques already proclaimed that we have become posthuman. Humans are fast-moving from being flyborgs (users of machines) to cyborgs. Technology is now seamlessly implanted within humans. We have become cyborgs. This cyborgization of humans is thought to be taking us to a transhuman future. Transhumanism is based on the notion of human perfectibility which was inherited in the renaissance and enlightenment in the west. Renaissance and enlightenment emphasized empirical science and critical reason rather than revelation and religious authority. It is in this cradle humanism was born with its own dogmas, prejudice and assumptions. All these formed what we may call anthropological universals. Paradoxically, these are not free from superstitions that enlightenment is promising to free us.

Unfortunately, it has set us on the race to become masters of the earth (nature). This drive to seek mastery evolves mastery over human nature. It has also binarized humans and animals as well as the material (embodied nature) and the spiritual. This is why even transhumanism becomes a humanism that wishes to escape being human. Posthumanism does not have to be rehabilitating humanism as well as anti-humanism of all shades and hues. Posthumanism, therefore, is not what we may call a triumphant disembodiment. This is why posthuman is not something that comes after humans. It is posthumanist. It is critiquing our fantasies of disembodiment and autonomy inherited from humanism. It comes before as well as after humanism and is emphasizing embodied and embedded human existence. This is why it embraces the biological, the social and the technological. We see how the human animal coevolved with the help of the technicity of tools and the external archival mechanisms (like language and culture). All this comes before as well as after the arrival of humans. It comes after in the sense that we experience a kind of decentering of the humans on the wings of the technological, medical, informatics as well as an economic network of today. This disappearance of the human from the centre has ushered in what is called posthumanism.

This means humanism was a specific historical phenomena and its end and transition into posthumanism is also a historically intense moment. The drive to continuously create our self in autonomy is brought under suspicion by developments that we name posthumanism. This posthuman moment may bring back the authority of revelation and religion abandoned by enlightenment and humanisms. What we have to critically appreciate is that the concept of human has lost its balance and/ or its foundation. This shift has made it mandatory for us to change our practice of knowing. What we thought was separating us from the world is indeed connecting us to the world. We are always present to our outside. Hence, we have the challenge to give up our false sense of being masters or even inheritors of the world. We are in and with the world and its creator. This understanding has deep ethical implications. We have the challenge to begin with the disarticulation of humanisms of all shades and hues. This leads us to accept our embodiment and embedment seriously. Hence, we are at once drawn to our being in the world in a profoundly ecological sense. While we turn to our embedment in the environment, we have the challenge to understand our embedment to our culture.

The Posthuman future brings us to the affirmative ethics of Fredrick Nietzsche. It is an ethics of saying yes to life rather lives- real, singular and connective. Posthuman ethics sees dividuation of life in opposition to identity. It stresses that the living bodies as sites of ethical address. It is where our shareabilty meets our unsharabilty. It draws us to a response without condition. Such a response is a response of friendship with other humans, non-human life and the non-living world. It does not belong to the calculus of the market. It is excessive as well as transgressive. We are therefore ethically addressed to take our embodiment and embedment seriously. This is a sort of return to Heidegger who is challenged to take his being in the world seriously. By being addressed in Levinasian. Our addressability to take seriously our being in the world becomes imperative to respond to both our dependability as well independence seriously. We are open and closed systems. Our autopsies are independent and dependent. Our being is co-being.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao