[ExI] Posthumanism vs. Transhumanism

Natasha Vita-More natasha at natasha.cc
Wed Jun 17 16:23:37 UTC 2009

Yes, this may all be true, but it does not change the circumstances if it is
only written about on Transhumanist mailing lists. The issue I am referring
to is outside our internal environment.




Nlogo1.tif  <http://www.natasha.cc/> Natasha Vita-More



From: extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org
[mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Stefano Vaj
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 8:01 AM
To: ExI chat list
Subject: Re: [ExI] Posthumanism vs. Transhumanism

On Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 12:48 AM, <natasha at natasha.cc> wrote:

Hayles set it up and academia too a big bite into her literary theory of the
posthuman. Fukuyama brought posthuman into ethics and policy of human
futures without knowing what it means, or transhumanism for that matter.
Ever since, there has been a growing interest among academics (and others)
to turn the posthuman into a theory, and now a philosophy.

There are many similarities in posthumanism's advocates' ideas and suggested
findings.  Many of these similarities link directly to transhumanism. 

I think it is difficult to make a comparison. Apples to oranges.

Transhumanism, thank to the vision of some individuals, a few pivotal works,
and some organised efforts, developed into a proper "culture", not to
mention an active movement, with relatively well-defined boundaries, a
shared jargon and mentality, and a "social", albeit small, following.
Philosophy is only one of the field where it expresses itself, and by far
not the main one.

I would say that posthumanism is instead a broad definition encompassing the
various stances of intellectuals and philosophers, mostly European or deeply
influenced by the European academic scene, who think that old  "humanist"
views should be revised, and possibly overcome. 

This is already an opportunity for misunderstanding, since AFAIK "humanism"
is a word that in the US common usage has strong secular undertones, which
are almost entirely absent, e.g., in Italy (where "christian humanism" is a
very widespread phrase), so that in the US to speak of "posthumanism" may
suggest a going back to thinly disguised religious views. Add to that the
perspectivist and relativist penchant adopted by many "posthumanists" and
this is bound to generate a wariness by many transhumanists who may
implicitely or explicitely adhere to more "neopositivistic" attitudes,
especially at an epistemological or political level. Especially given the
undeniable temptations in close quarters to slip in oracular nonsense,
cosmic pessimism, and anti-science postures (see, e.g., Fashionable
/dp/0312204078/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245243331&sr=1-1> Nonsense:
Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont)

Having said that, my personal opinion that posthumanism and transhumanism
besides the differences of nature and language are already strictly
intertwined by their ultimate roots and by the basic idea that a fixed,
essentialist, specieist view of the man, which we inherit from
judeochristianism, is not adequate any more to epochal changes currently in
place, namely those which pertains to the impact of technology on our own
worldview, life and destiny. And that a posthuman changed should be
embraced. This is very explicit also in American posthumanism, and I
routinely recommend to everybody in this respect Viroid
154359/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245240711&sr=8-1> Life: Perspectives
on Nietzsche and the Transhuman Condition by Ansell Pearson as well as
/0333765389/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245240769&sr=8-1> (Readers in
Cultural Criticism) by Neil Badmington.

Moreover, even though some routine criticism of a few "philosophically
naive" traits of popular transhumanism exists in most of the authors
concerned, bridges already exist, and become ever more numerous.

To make a few examples, I think that it is difficult not to consider
explicitely transhumanist the positions taken by Peter Sloterdijk on
evolution, biotech and reprogenetics, positions which did not go unremarked
by the neoluddite camp and unleashed a harsh response. See the very
controversial "Rules for the Human Park" (in German included in
ef=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245240293&sr=1-1> Nicht gerettet: Versuche
nach Heidegger, in Italian in Non
i.html> siamo ancora stati salvati. Saggi dopo Heidegger, and published
alone in Spanish, Normas
ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245240134&sr=1-15> para el parque humano,
and in French, Règles
ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245240559&sr=8-1> pour le parc humain : Une
lettre en réponse à la Lettre sur l'humanisme de Heidegger; in English? no
chance... :-(

In France, to mention very diverse writers, the proto-transhumanist penchant
of Lyotard (see Moralités
postmodernes, Postmodern
/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245241268&sr=8-8> Fables) has repeatedly
remarked in our camp, e.g., by Riccardo Campa in Dal postmoderno al
<http://www.uomo-libero.com/articolo.php?id=407> postumano. Il caso Lyotard,
and also come to mind Yves Christen (Les
04706/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245241025&sr=1-8> années Faust, ou, La
science face au vieillissement, L'homme
1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245241025&sr=1-4> bioculturel, L'animal
f=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245241025&sr=1-1> est-il une personne ?) as
well as Guillaume Faye (see especially the seminal Pour en
<http://www.uomo-libero.com/images/file/heidegger_faye.html> finir avec le
nihilisme. Heidegger et la question de la technique [full-text], in Italian
Per farla finita con il  <http://www.uomo-libero.com/articolo.php?id=369>
nichilismo. Heidegger e la questione della tecnica). The latter, who also
discussed transhumanist subjects both of a "wet" and a "hard" nature in
L'archéofuturisme (in Italian Archeofuturismo
<http://www.uomo-libero.com/articolo.php?id=313>  [full text]), accepted to
write the appendix to my own book Biopolitica. Il nuovo paradigma
<http://www.biopolitica.it>  (full text), that is La
<http://www.biopolitica.it/biop-appendice.html> soluzione di di Prometeo (La
solution de  <http://www.uomo-libero.com/articolo.php?id=312#SOLUTION>
Promethée), and is now about to publish a long essay on Futurismo e
modernità in the third issue/volume of Divenire. Rassegna di studi
interdisciplinari  <http://www.divenire.org> sulla tecnica e il postumano,
the peer-reviewed "unmagazine" on paper of the Associazione Italiana
Transumanisti <http://www.transumanisti.it> . Lastily a study in French of
ideas and fashions that can be found at the crossroad of posthumanism and
transhumanism is the subject matter Les
re/dp/2916097015/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245243496&sr=1-1> utopies
posthumaines : Contre-culture, cyberculture, culture du chaos de Rémi
Sussan, who I believe might be reading this list.

Coming to Italy, a very influential representative of posthumanist thinking,
besides of course... yours truly ;-), is Roberto Marchesini who wrote the
fundamental Post-Human.
ovi-modelli.html> Verso nuovi modelli di esistenza, where he distanced
himself a little from American transhumanism, only to become at a later
stage a honorary member of the AIT itself, the author of an article (Oltre
il mito della purezza) published again by Divenire, in its
=198> second issue/volume, and probably to be one of the speaker at
Transvision 2010. 

Of course, the language, approach and primary concerns of all those thinkers
and writers is quite different from that of, say, Ray Kurzweil or Gregory
Stock or our Damien Broderick.

But I am absolutely persuaded that a significant chunk of posthumanist ideas
have transhumanism as their only consistent conclusion.

Stefano Vaj

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